Great mate, Tony McManus, now Breakfast radio king in Cairns, has just written, reminding me of the Audi A4 launch I dreamt up way back in 2001, his words; “… I recall the BEST Audi A4 launch was presented by you at Midland? Not long after I arrived in Perth? Still never been to a better car launch.”
Audi A4 Launch
Audi wanted the launch to be something different, away from the dealership showroom, so I poured myself a large glass of Shiraz and ‘thunk.’ I decided I wanted a desolate, wrecked sort of place. Went to visit the old East Perth Power Station but it was too derelict, too dangerous for people. Then after a day or two of searching, somebody suggested I take a look at the old Midland Railway Workshops. I rang the guy (Kieran Kinsella) heading up the newly established Midland Redevelopment Authority and arranged an appointment – he seemed bemused / intrigued.
When I got there, there was this massive shed, several of them, long and vast enough to park several Indian Pacifics in, huge! “Hmm,” said I to myself. “I like this. What could I do?” I noticed there was a railway line into the shed and said to Kieran, “Can I get a real train in here?” He said yes, quizzically, asking me what I was thinking. I couldn’t tell him just then, as a mad, mad idea was fermenting in my pea brain. I needed more red wine.
Back at the bar, the concept formed … in the fog! I wanted to have the invited guests inside the building, sipping champers and nibbles, then a train whistle would sound outside the building. The roller door would go up and a real steam engine would charge in pulling one carriage. The carriage would be full of ghouls and vampires, who would descend and walk through the crowd. Planted in the crowd, would be ‘the beautiful blonde victim”. Then as the ghouls surrounded her, Dracula would appear above everybody, demanding the girl. I know, I know, at this stage, I should have been locked up!
Then as Dracula just about claimed the girl, way down in the depths of the other end of the shed, literally about half a kilometre away, headlights would switch on and out of the darkness, the hero would come speeding up to rescue the girl.
Kieran liked it, (he was looking to have something happen there for the publicity), my boss thought, quite rightly, that I was off the planet, but Audi loved it and gave me permission to go with it.
There were almost insurmountable problems, but hell, that’s never stopped me, not the least being no power on site (more of that later!!) and finding a working steam engine was almost impossible. But I found the Leschenault Lady, a little old steam engine enthusiasts were slowly putting together. They needed funds to compete the restoration, easy. Then I needed actors, WAAPA was the answer. Then there were safety issues, we had to have volunteers to protect people – bringing a live steam engine into the middle of a crowd has certain complications, especially when they’re not expecting it! We also needed a real driver – racing a speeding car up to guests inside a shed has it’s own complications!
Driver lined up, we took the exhaust off the Audi – sound effects inside the shed, besides, the steam engine would be making a fair bit of noise, letting off steam as it were – and started practising. If I say so myself, the car looked spectacular, coming out of the blackness at a thousand miles an hour and David got the end slide perfect.
The big night arrived. We had signs up on the Great Eastern Highway, as most people had no idea where they were going. The debonair, impeccable, unflappable Peter Holland was MC (more of that later). Guests were ushered in through a small door, into a very modern setting of eclectic Audi things and associated luxury goods – watches etc – we had to have guards on duty as some things were very valuable – not that the invited guests would have touched anything! As always, in my events, Faith Nicholls from Comestibles did the catering.
So there it was, guests had wandered through the displays with drinks and food, then eventually found themselves in the vast shed, lit with a few lights, and candles and candelabras everywhere. Then as they were all wondering when the usual boring reveal would be, the lonesome whistle sounded outside the shed, most people didn’t take too much notice, as the major east – west rail lines are very close. Then the roller door opened and in came the steam train right into the crowd. The crowd went wild, more so when the vampires and ghouls came out of the carriage all heading for the blonde girl in white, who’d just been amongst the guests. I used the soundtrack from Francis Ford Coppola’s magnificent Dracula film.
With the girl surrounded, the music built to a crescendo and then way above everybody, on a scissor lift, was Dracula, bathed in a red spotlight. He beckoned for the girl and slowly descended. Just as he was about to take / bite the girl, way out in the blackness , headlights went on and the Audi without any exhaust, started speeding towards the crowd. Great theatre if I say so myself (sorry!, I’m just laughing remembering it all). The car swooped to a stop in a fantastic broadside, a James Bond type bloke jumped out, grabbed two bits of wood, shaped them into a cross, warded off Dracula, grabbed the girl, threw her, elegantly! – into the car and they sped off.
The crowd loved it, wild applause broke out, then … then … the lights, sound, power, everything, except the steam engine went out. I panicked, this was not in the script. I ran / stumbled over to the generator, it was still going but no power. The manager I’d hired to oversee everything was baffled and panicking, bosses were yelling at me, I had no idea what to do, so I did the only thing possible. I thought, “I don’t know anything about power generators, they’ll fix this, I can’t contribute, so I’ll pour myself a wine and get some fresh air, while the experts deal with it.”
Within about five minutes, they fixed it – some dry ice, from the container next to the smoke machine, had fallen onto a connector point and blown a fuse. Most in the crowd thought it was all part of the show, Comestibles kept serving food and Peter Holland was completely, wonderfully, unfazed.
The next morning, I got a phone call from Inside Cover at the West Australian and found myself in a starring role the next day!
I’ve posted some photos I’ve still got of the event, they were taken by a Sunday Times photographer – Stuart? Apologies, I just can’t recall his name and from memory, there were just on 500 guests. Audi always said it was the best launch. And as a postscript, I now live in an apartment that’s part of the old railway workshops complex, indeed the railway line that goes right past the balcony, is the same one the steam train came in on. The Leschenault Lady went up to Kalgoorlie to do tourist runs on the Kalgoorlie – Boulder line, but I’m not sure where the grand little lady is these days.