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Pitchman Wires Airwaves for Sound--N-O-W-Now!

Where to find the most notorious vocal cords in San Diego? Why, in the throat of Tom Campbell, the D-O-W-Dow man, the ubiquitous stereo-video emporium barker who might rattle off, auctioneer-style, the entire Audio Magazine annual guide in a single breath.

We found him at DOW’s El Cajon Boulevard headquarters late last week, drinking in the hubbub of a manufacturersliquidationandnewmodel- sale and singing the praises of a completeindashdeluxesystemworthclose- toeighthundreddollars and priced at $299!!!

He turned out to be a tall drink of water--6-foot-1--41 years old, blue eyes and a quick, toothy grin. Born with the vocal equivalent of a Stradivarius, he made his debut in his St. Louis neighborhood at age 9 behind the microphone of a home radio station.

Three years later, he went commercial on KATZ, Campbell said, spinning rock ‘n’ roll platters between the weekend soul and gospel hours. Since then, he has been a deejay, TV interviewer, game show host and the voice in teases for summertime soaps.

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Now he fills the Southern California airwaves with the verbal version of Evelyn Wood speed-reading, logging in five years as DOW’s wired spokesman. His special skill is to cascade over insignificant phrases, lingering only on essentials: “INDASHDELUXE! $299! D-O-W-Dow, N-O-W-Now!”

The voice, it turns out, is natural--a 45-rpm speaking style spinning on adrenaline at 78. In conversation, Campbell’s cadences ride the same roller coaster. So heads spin on sidewalks and trains, he says. Satisfied customers invite him to dinner, and he goes.

A while back, Campbell told us, Peter Sellers waylaid him on Rodeo Drive and launched into a Campbell imitation. Robin Williams once regaled PSA passengers with a vintage Campbell on-air interview: “Well, wheredjashop? Wheredjago? Whohadthelowestprice?”

Like it or loathe it, the voice gets around. Tom Campbell is an in-dash celebrity.

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Undercover in Style

This tantalizing item turned up Monday deep in the adoption agenda for the San Diego City Council: Awarding a contract for the purchase of two cars for the Police Department. Total cost $66,755.21.

Limousines equipped with swimming pools? Batmobiles for nabbing jaywalkers? As Assistant Chief Bob Burgreen explained patiently to a curious caller: “Obviously, they’re not for patrol work.”

No, they’re for copping dope deals, netting prostitutes and other duties of undercover detectives. Their vital statistics remain confidential, but suffice it to say they are one hot, American-made, sports coupe and one top-of-the-line luxury sedan.

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Included in the department’s fleet of 30 to 40 undercover roadsters are a few Porsches confiscated from evildoers as well as pricey items like the ones that surfaced Monday before the council.

“You better look like you have a car that takes a little money to buy,” Burgreen said. " . . . If you pull up in a four-door Ford painted one color with antennas on the trunk, you’re not going to buy much dope.”

McDream Come True

Hard to imagine that a chain with a name that is synonymous with fast food, and with 61 sets of golden arches in San Diego County alone, would need to hire a blimp with a full-time ground crew of 17 on the off-chance of inspiring a craving for Chicken McNuggets.

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But McDonald’s did, and McBlimp wafted into the skies over San Diego last week on a six-month, transcontinental tour. At 193 feet, McBlimp is 12 inches longer than the airships used by “the other company that flies blimps,” as crew members coyly refer to Goodyear. McBlimp cruises at 35 m.p.h. at 1,000 feet, on the strength of 211,888 cubic feet of helium and two Rolls-Royce engines.

The ground crew travels in a specially equipped bus worthy of Dolly Parton on the road--microwave ovens, VCR, sound system and TV for those long hauls through the Heartland. Up above, the rotating pilots take in the topography, watch traffic jams and daydream.

“That’s a nice house down there,” mused pilot Jim Dexter Friday afternoon, gazing out the wide-open window next to the instrument panel at the bluffs of La Jolla.

A former Army parachute rigger and aeronautical university graduate, Dexter became a blimp pilot after striking up a conversation with one from Goodyear. Now 29, he put his life in Kissimee, Fla., in storage last May and signed on for the McBlimp national tour.

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Now he spends his days hovering over middle-sized American cities, chatting with McDonald’s VIPs and avoiding dust storms and fog banks. He hasn’t been home in a year. Scudding over Scripps Pier on Friday, Dexter had no regrets.

“I love this job. I can’t think of doing anything else,” he confided soberly, spinning the big wooden altitude-control wheel at his side and heading toward the heavens. “I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world!”

A Big Mess Indeed

The San Diego City Council was debating Monday whether to proceed with the beleaguered waterfront convention center or throw in the towel and rebid it. Councilman Uvaldo Martinez, under indictment for alleged abuse of his city credit card, was ticking off the problems that have plagued the project.

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He cited the cost projections that have climbed steadily. Then there were excavation problems that caused lengthy delays. Then there were questions about the land’s stability, boiling down to whether the center would sink into the bay.

All of which prompted the councilman to snort in disgust: “This has got to be the biggest mess . . . that I’ve ever been a part of!”

Oh, yeah?


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