What It Takes

What It Takes

Connectin’ Like Hendley

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 8, 2016

Shady and not as dashing as Hendley, but scroungers just the same. Image credit: MGM

Shady and not as dashing as Hendley, but scroungers with connections, just the same. Image credit: MGM

Luther and Bobby used to put small baggies of paint in the middle of Aiken Road.

The cars flyin’ by would end up splattered, in need of a paint job.

Lucky for them, the body shop Luther’s daddy worked at was just down the road.

This was before Google and Angie’s List — when the Yellow Pages still doubled as booster seats for toddlers and people relied on word-of-mouth recommendations, and/or the closest locations, when choosing contractors, mechanics, restaurants and pretty much everything else.

The two did a fine bit of referral work for Pop, who gave ‘em a cut to keep ‘em incentivized. “Extra honey to keep ‘em happy.”

On the side they had a pest management operation. Before being fired, Bobby stole a few canisters of some sort of spray from his old job. He’d spray the neighbors’ yards at a cut-rate, then Luther would go in and spray sugar water around their houses every few months to get ‘em callin’ Bobby again. Sort of a forced subscription service. “Call when you need me,” Bobby would say. Fortunate for Bobby, they always needed his services when he needed money.

They reminded me of Hendley from The Great Escape — just the shady, not- as-dashing-as-James Garner versions.

They were scroungers with connections. If you needed it, they could get it. And if someone else needed it, you’d best guard it with your life because they’d thieve it back. They could steal a song from a mockingbird just the same as paint from a fence.

I didn’t agree with Luther’s and Bobby’s ways, but they sure did hustle. Rare to catch ‘em playin’ possum. And . . . They were saleman. They could sell sin to a Sunday School teacher.

You could say they were the first guerilla marketers of sorts that I ran into. Again, just the shady sort…

While I distanced myself from them decades ago, I do think back to them quite a bit. Yes, they went to jail. Yes, they couldn’t be trusted. Yes, they’d have your back one day and stab it the next. But . . . They were successful in their own way. Not in a millionaire with a hefty retirement sort of way, but if they had a need — or could benefit from the needs of others — they were good at gettin’ it done.

What it really came down to was that they were always available, always out front — and they were known and referred often. Need something? Call Luther and Bobby (just keep your wallet deep in your front pocket, where it’s harder to pick).

Today, you’d call them “connected,” with a well-developed mailing list of sorts. They kept in touch with “customers” and made sure their services and availability were known.

As I said, I didn’t agree with them, but I learned from them. Those connections and relationships make a difference. I just shoot for the version that’s minus the back-stabbing, thievin’ ways.

Posted in What It Takes

5 Responses to “Connectin’ Like Hendley”

  1. Mary Doyle
    January 8, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Thanks for a great post Callie – it’s good to see you back in the New Year. The Luther’s and Bobby’s of the world have their “selling points” (pun intended) even though our moms cautioned us to stay away from bad boys like them.

    P.S. And thanks for the photo of James Garner – I’ve been in love with him for about forty years give or take. Happy New Year!

    • LarryP
      February 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I’ve always thought that if Charlie Madison (Garner’s character in The Americanization of Emily) had been captured and sent to a POW camp, he would have been another Hendley.

  2. January 8, 2016 at 6:31 am

    You painted a great portrait of con men in this post, Callie. Really enjoyed it! Lately I’ve been thinking about the old days of snake oil salesmen, cure-all linaments, etc. What’s happening on the web and in email marketing is similar, isn’t it? Sifting through my emails for a genuine offer (such as the incredible Black Irish book bundle – LOVE IT!!!) is a needle-in-a-haystack daily exercise. I choose to subscribe to certain mailing lists just to keep track of what NOT to do. It’s cheap education…

  3. January 8, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Um, … what kind of connections are you suggesting we make here? 😉

    Looks like my New Year might be off to quite a different start… OK, I’m off to meet a “friend of a friend.” Wish me luck!

  4. January 8, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Callie,
    Thanks for the post. Great. Made me think of the punk shit we’d do as kids. Our favorite was the invisible rope trick, or putting a dummy in the road (learned that from an old movie “Kenny & Company–hilarious).

    As I was reading, I realized that I wasn’t nearly as productive, ambitious, nor fiscally successful as Luther & Bobby. Just your typical pre-teen/teenage punk.

    Philosophically speaking, I think maintaining relationships is akin to Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. Maintaining a relationship (at least from this perspective) is recognizing the reality that it is the relationships between us, not us as individuals, that is the base element in life.

    Buber would have told Descartes, “That’s cool Rene…I dig on the whole “I think therefore I am” idea…but who taught you the French so you could create such a pristine thought?

    Have a great weekend!
    GO HAWKS!!!!!
    bsn