How Elizabeth Taylor and 24 “Most Comfortable” Chairs Put Anthony’s Pier 4 on the Map

                      Great Food. Most Comfortable Chairs. “I sent her a dozen to Switzerland.”- AA

These days, many marketers don’t consider public relations as a valuable marketing tool. I think they feel that just by doing something on the Internet they’re getting PR. However, it’s not that easy. Any way you look at it though, there’s no better PR in social media or the Boston Globe than having a credible world-famous celebrity rave about your restaurant, even if the thing she likes most are your chairs.

In 1997 Anthony Athanas asked Wallace & Washburn to conduct marketing research and determine how he could motivate past customers to return to the Pier. Our marketing research revealed that his numerous famous clients (pictured all over the lobby), and their stories offered a good opportunity. Anthony was a great story teller too. So I interviewed him a dozen times at five AM when he was the sharpest. My interviews were then edited to create a dozen terrific radio spots which had a dramatic impact on his business. My favorite was the Elizabeth Taylor story. (Please see link below.)

Elizabeth Taylor loved Anthony Athanas and his Boston restaurant. She helped publicize Pier 4 nationally over the years (no charge). In fact, once when a local Boston restaurant critic suggested that Pier 4 wasn’t sanitary, Elizabeth flew in from Hollywood and held a press conference right in the kitchen. How dare anyone question Anthony’s reputation!

Elizabeth first visited Anthony’s Pier 4 in 1963 with her fifth husband, Richard Burton, just after they filmed Cleopatra. In one of the radio spots he described how much Elizabeth enjoyed the restaurant’s padded leather chairs…so much so that (at her request) he shipped a dozen to her villa in Switzerland. Then, years later, in 1978 she visited Pier 4 with Senator John Warner (husband number seven). Again at her request Anthony sent her another 12 chairs to Washington, D.C. (Click the link below for a laugh to find out who got the chairs when she and Warner split up.)

Kim Wallace and the story teller himself, Anthony Athanas

Anthony Athanas is one of my all time favorite marketing research clients. Once when someone asked why I was interviewing him so often, he told them I was doing his “life story.” In a way it was. He had so many interesting stories about famous celebrity guests. That was his life.

He was so pleased with the sales and positive feedback from the radio campaign that for many years he refused to let me pay for a meal. What a guy! What a meal. And those most comfortable chairs…

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