Tuesday, March 06, 2001

Chamber boss has Speedo retirement

        Hmmm . . . 16 years of service and this is the thanks he gets: A Speedo with a pair of suspenders. John Williams, we mean.

        The newly retired president of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce had a little send-off last week where 80-something people gathered (“Jeeze, do you have to retire to get the staff to show up for a meeting?” he wondered) in the Chamber's presentation center for gifts and testimonials.

        Testimonials not only for him, but also for Vickie Stump, his assistant and the woman who Chamber staffers say actually ran the place. She and Williams started and retired on the same day.

        So anyway, one of his gifts was a new Speedo (he and his wife, Francie, are off to the Caribbean for an extended trip), given to him by a local newspaper publisher who should probably remain nameless, lest he jump up and down on our desk and refuse to sign our paycheck.

        And yeah, Williams did model the Speedo — over his crisp blue suit — and worried that his image as a Marine (two purple hearts and a bronze star) would be blown forever.

        Could be. Photo whiz Paula Norton documented the whole sordid affair.

        At least Williams didn't model the 20-year-old “Blue Chip City” pantyhose he found while cleaning out his desk. Remember that campaign? It was designed to attract new business. Blue Chip buttons and pantyhose were handed out as promotion.

        He gave his old pantyhose to Marge Rotte and Kathy Keyes, two staffers who started in 1977.

        Nor did he model his new tattoos. Stump had a set of temporaries made with the Chamber logo on them, quietly drawing attention to the tiger tattoo Williams claims not to have on his derriere.

        Michael Fisher, meanwhile, the new president who has been working in a windowless cubicle, now has an office. But no panty hose.

        Sweet dreams: Here's something you don't see on your pillow everyday: A box of Girl Scout Cookies. . . . Unless you're staying at the Westin.

        Turns out general manager Wayne Bodington bought 588 boxes, all varieties, to use for turn-down service. Instead of chocolate strawberries or whatever.

        Cookies will go to the hotel's frequent customer — Starwood Preferred Guests, they call them — throughout March and April.

        “We did this last year,” Bodington says, “and I can't tell you how many guests told us what a nice departure it is from the amenities they get everywhere else. I'm sure we'll do it again next year and for many years after that.”

        Bodington buys the cookies from urban troops that would otherwise have trouble selling them. Last year it was three troops in Avondale. This year, it's three in the Fairview area.

        E-mail jknippen@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/knippenberg


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