Behind the scenes with ‘Barack’

Did you see the coverage of “President Obama’s” ride on the F-line?  Besides the big Chronicle story, the TV coverage got replayed all over the country; really great tourism promotion for the city, just when we need it.  The back story here is that it all sprung from the imaginative mind of our newest board member, David Perry, one of the best publicists in the city.


When David learned that his client, the Wax Museum, was getting the first “Barack Obama” on the west coast, he thought of another client, the owners of the USS Potomac, FDR’s old presidential yacht, a wonderful piece of historic preservation by Marti Burchell which she operates as a charter boat on the Bay.  Why not have “FDR” himself escort “Obama” on his yacht.  Turns out, there’s a great FDR impressionist that sails with the Potomac.  Booked.  But then how to get the presidents the rest of the way to the Wharf?  Enter Market Street Railway, David’s most recent (and pro-bono) client.  We loved the idea and helped David put together the plan with Muni’s own PR chief, Judson True, to use the open top Blackpool “boat tram” on one of its regular shuttle runs from the Ferry Building to the Wax Museum.  Done.

The whole thing came together in a great spirit of conviviality and good cheer, spurred in large measure by David’s easy-going, tongue-in-cheek approach to the event, which was, as he cheerfully acknowledged, an old-fashioned PR stunt. Perhaps seeking a break from the endless stream of bad news these days, everyone, including the reporters and photographers, loved playing along.
In today’s world, of course, there’s no chance a President would be permitted by the Secret Service to cruise The Embarcadero in an open-top vehicle, but David took no chances even with this inanimate version, providing a suitably suited “agent” to guard the inanimate Obama.
But perhaps the best part came when “Muni One,” as the presidental tram was dubbed, pulled up to its first passenger stop at the Ferry Building. The presidents and paparazzi were in back, leaving the front empty. But the would-be passengers just stood transfixed at the stop platform, reluctant to board even after being waved on board. As one out-of-town rider got on, he said to your correspondent as he paid his fare, “Only in San Francisco.”
You got that right.
By the way, we owe our readers an apology for not promoting this event in advance.  No excuses, just a screw-up.  Sorry to anyone who might have wanted to see it live. But you can still relive it by watching the great video David made for YouTube.