Here’s a good one. Mary Hart (and her million dollar gams) was – and I believe, still is – a big motorcycle fan and, as such, the show she hosts, “Entertainment Tonight,” has long been very good to HD. If there was a major HD event in southern California, and if it involved celebrities, E.T. would cover it. Millions of folks watch that show, so we also appreciated, and benefitted from, the coverage, especially at a time when nobody else paid any attention to us.
Having had the, uh, pleasure of working with just about every major national and international media outlet in existence, I fast outgrew the running down the halls and cheering routine that communications people do upon learning that their company is about to be the subject of a major feature story that will be seen or read by millions.
In 1989 the Motor Company became the takeover target of an investment group led by gazillionaire Malcolm Glazer (if the name rings a bell, it may be because he owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, quite unpopularly, the English Premier League’s Manchester United). Nobody saw this one coming. Glazer swiftly began acquiring large amounts of HD stock and filing documents making his intentions official: He was seeking to acquire a controlling interest in the company. Uh oh.
Here’s one of those unintentional leadership lessons wrapped up in a great story. I’m sitting at my desk at HD headquarters on a Monday morning. A gal from Harley Owners Group comes into my office, fresh from working at the national H.O.G. rally out in Estes Park, Colorado over the weekend, and I ask how it went. She says something really amazing happened on Sunday morning and proceeds to tell me about it.
Leaving (fleeing?) Bethlehem, we’re whisking our way to the Old City of Jerusalem to see the Western Wall – or Wailing Wall, the holiest of holy spots of the Jewish faith – and, eventually, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where it is believed Christ was crucified and entombed. Would we see it? Or, like our earlier experience, just run past it?
Over beers at the hotel with David, we got to talking about our home lives, which has always been my hands-down favorite dividend of international travel. What’s better than asking new friends, from cultures you know nothing about, what they do for fun, what they watch on TV, what their kids are into? I asked David how his family life changed in wake of the Gulf War and the horrific terrorist attacks that were never far from the mind. What he said cost me any chance of sleeping that night.
Later that day, we arrived at the dealership just in time to see riders gathering in preparation for a dusk charity ride to a local hospital to visit some children and present toys; a “Toy Run,” in HD vernacular, but entirely different from any of the many we’d experienced. We were struck by the clothing almost immediately as we enjoyed great, “How are ya?” conversations with riders from all over the area – locals plus folks from places like Jordan, Egypt and Jerusalem. Some robes and headwear.
My first visit to Tel-Aviv, Israel, a three-day journey to mark the grand opening of what was then Bar-On Harley-Davidson (Tel-Aviv’s dealership is now called G.B.R . Harley-Davidson Israel) gave me a lesson in real-world nastiness -- and kindness -- the likes of which I couldn’t possibly have imagined. As you read this account, my ignorance (that’s the only word for it) about the horrors that millions of people on this planet have endured while I was busy looking the other way should come sharply into view.