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Jewish World Review June 5, 2003 / 5 Sivan, 5763

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

OUT of GAS | It goes without saying that oil companies have to think about money - lots of it. They produce so much money that they feel guilty about it, so occasionally they do a good deed.

For 63 years, one of the good deeds for Texaco, now called ChevronTexaco Corp., was to broadcast the great operas live every Saturday afternoon from the Metropolitan Opera House. It brought culture and joy into the hearts of millions of Americans who might otherwise never hear an opera - and it also sold millions of barrels of oil to people who believed Texaco cared.

The other day, ChevronTexaco announced that as of 2004 it will no longer be the sponsor. Its reason: The company's focus has changed. No one knew what that meant. You don't have to read between the lines to know that there is a serious brain drain at ChevronTexaco. The whiz kids have decided they can save the company $7 million a year and spend the money on lobbying for drilling in Alaska.

Is another sponsor going to pick up the tab and the good will that goes with it? You bet your Traviata it will.

The Heavenly Oil Co. is very excited. The president of Heavenly called me. "We never thought we could get a chance to sponsor the opera."

"Why is ChevronTexaco quitting?"

"Because they are stupid. The people who buy gasoline are opera lovers. On Saturday after the performance, everybody went out and bought Texaco gas and oil and even tires. We could feel how loyal the listeners were. Then they produced a public relations disaster. We realized it was coming when Chevron bought Texaco.

"Our mole infiltrated one of their meetings and told us a smart-alecky 25-year-old vice president said, 'Now that we own Texaco we have to play hardball. Operas used to drive me crazy at the Harvard Business School when I was studying mergers and acquisitions.' "The mole told us an older vice president said, 'Are we going to get any backlash when we announce what we're doing?'

"Our mole reported that an advertising manager said the damage control division could take out ads in the newspapers explaining the reason they did it was to cut down on noise pollution."

I asked the Heavenly Oil president, "Did your company come up in the conversation?"

"Texaco apparently said we would be suckers to pick up sponsorship. They said culture is changing in America and Mozart is a dead duck."

"What did you have to say to that?" I asked him.

After talking to the president of Heavenly Oil, I called around and found many sponsors who said they might be interested, including Sprint, Nike sneakers, Alpo dog food, Head and Shoulders shampoo, and even Viagra.

ChevronTexaco made a $7 million blooper and the next time I drive past one of their gas stations I'm not even going to stop to fill up my tires with free air.

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Art Buchwald's latest book is "We'll Laugh again." To commnt on his column click here.

06/03/03: Liars can make money
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05/28/03: The Democratic solution
05/09/03: Suits on television
04/30/03: Americo-Shaft Airlines
04/22/03: More time with the kids
04/03/03: Rebuilding Baghdad
03/25/03: The Five Saddam Husseins
03/04/03: Tax free defense
02/27/03: Yelling at the TV
02/20/03: The fight for duct tape
02/14/03: Losing your identity
02/05/03: Whose reality is it?
01/17/03: Foreign Affairs for Dummies
01/15/03: No-news stories
01/13/03: The last pill
01/08/03: Come fly with me
12/20/02: Snooping for America
12/13/02: Give 'til it hurts
12/06/02: Pre-nursery is rough
11/20/02: The Princess and the butler
11/15/02: Preaching democracy
11/04/02: The blame game
10/30/02: The threat of golf
10/11/02: The wives of Hidden Valley
10/04/02: Will the real Saddam stand up?
10/01/02: To shred or not to shred
09/20/02: Plea-bargaining crime
09/17/02: Jack and Jane
09/12/02: Signing books is half the fun
09/10/02: To lose one's center
09/05/02: Moot court
08/29/02: I spy-you-spy
08/27/02: No smoking --- I love you
08/23/02: Ashes to ashes
08/14/02: Wall Street good news
08/09/02: Things in my attic
08/01/02: Damage control
08/01/02: Another icon
07/30/02: Draft all the lawyers
07/25/02: House for rent
07/23/02: Doin' time
07/19/02: The loophole game
07/16/02: Money as a game
07/11/02: Just desserts
07/02/02: So you want to win?
06/19/02: Homeland security parking
06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
05/19/02: White collar prisons
05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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