I just read this morning in the New York Times that Ray Lumpp died last Friday at 91 in Mineola, NY. He was a basketball star at New York University in the late 1940s, played for the Knicks in the early 1950s and was the much loved athletic director of the New York Athletic Club for nearly half a century.
He was also the guy who fired me for doing too good of a PR job for the NYAC. This is one of those times that I would love to turn back the clock and have a new shot at speaking my mind to Lumpp and the rest of his NYAC cronies who wanted to witness the firing of the gal they didn’t want to hire in the place. It was only Lumpp and one or two other NYAC executives who decided to hire HWH PR a few months earlier because they wanted to attract potential members in the 20s and 30s.
It all started when the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) honored John McEnroe as its 2005 Man of the Year. The McEnroe dinner was going to be my chance to show them just how well I can attract the press to one of their functions. HWH PR was the first outside PR agency they had ever used.
Hundreds of NYAC members attended the dinner held in the Raymond G. Lumpp Gymnasium. I actually filled two tables with sports and entertainment press. One of those who showed up was Lloyd Grove, the NY Daily News gossip writer.
All was going well until the friends of the honoree, who attended the dinner to pay tribute, gave long drawn out speeches that seem to never end. The audience had been pretty patient until someone yelled out “Is John here?” during Patrick McEnroe’s turn. He retorted, “Don’t you people have any manners?”
Things only got worse from there. The audience gave up and started talking amongst themselves. The exhausting speeches toward the end of the 90-minute presentation from McEnroe’s longtime broadcast partner Ted Robinson, and WFAN radio personality Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, couldn’t be heard.
When John McEnroe was finally called to the mic, he said, “I feel a bit off center about the reaction my brother and friends got up here on the dais. I had a speech. I’m not sure I’m even going to read it at this point.” With that, he motioned to the members of the dias and to the table of his family right below him. They all stood up and followed him out the door.
Lloyd Grove ran to their nearest phone booth (remember those)? The next morning, the NY Daily News ran the entire fiasco in detail. The board of directors were fuming. I was called in to a special emergency meeting and fired on the spot. I had been pretty friendly with Lumpp but that didn’t stop him from saying, “Girlie, you’re done.”
To this day I am sorry that I didn’t speak up. I should have told that executive team that they knew nothing about running an event and the tributes were a big bore.
They were the ones who should have been fired. RIP Ray. Sorry we didn’t work together longer.