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Friday, August 21, 2009

Ray Ridder Saga ... the Flower Caper


Here's a great story, one that I had never heard in all the years that I've known Josh and Ray. Enjoy -

How persistence and flowers landed a job in sports

OAKLAND - a story published last March, by Lowell Cohn

This is a story of good old American know-how, a story of grit and determination under fire, a story of never-say-die and other stuff along those lines.

It is the saga of Raymond Ridder, executive director of public relations for the Golden State Warriors, and how, long ago, he fought his way to becoming an intern in the PR department for the Los Angeles Lakers, and how that eventually led to the job of assistant public relations director for the Lakers, and how in 1998 that led to his current job with the Warriors. It is a story of narrowing in on your desires and never losing your focus or your concentration, but mostly this is a story of refusing to accept the word “no.”

In 1986 Ridder was living at home, a freshman at Cal State San Bernardino, and naturally, he was listening on the radio to a Lakers game because he was absolutely nutso for the Lakers. At halftime Chick Hearn, legendary and really great Lakers announcer, would interview people and on this particular evening he was interviewing Josh Rosenfeld, director of Lakers public relations.

Rosenfeld happened to mention the Lakers gave out internships in their public relations department.

In certain novels you read about the moment someone’s life changes utterly. An ad salesman is catching a train at Grand Central and suddenly he sees “her” in a flaming red dress and nervously introduces himself and they court and marry and live happily ever after, except it’s tough paying for little Johnny’s braces to correct an overbite. This was Ridder’s life-changing moment — a PR internship. It was love at first sight — well, at first listen.

When some people fall in love they mope and get moony and stay in bed — not Ridder.

“The very next day I sent my resume to Josh and called his secretary.” Ridder explained all this to me the other day at Max’s Deli in Oakland.

“I was so na├»ve I stayed home all day waiting for Josh’s call,” he said.

Rosenfeld didn’t call back that day or the next 10 times Ridder phoned.

In fact, Ridder called Rosenfeld’s secretary once every three weeks for a year and never heard from Rosenfeld.

“Josh was dealing with Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy,” Ridder said. “The Lakers won five championships in the decade of the ’80s and Josh was probably the busiest PR guy in sports and I was phoning about being an intern. What were my chances of getting a call back? After a year, Ridder noticed his approach wasn’t working.

“Get creative,” he told himself. “How can I convince the Lakers PR director to call me back?”

Understand Ridder was trying to land a job that paid $25 on game day, nothing on non-game days. He would be driving 160 miles roundtrip – that’s two and a half hours in the car each way in L.A. traffic. He didn’t care. He knew one thing — he needed to distinguish himself from every other young gushing fan gaga to work for the Lakers and, as they say in sports, he took it to the next level.

“I knew a florist down the street from the Forum in Inglewood, Conroys Florist,” he said. “I would drive there and give my resume to the florist and send the resume and a plant to Josh. It cost me $50 each time. I thought if he gets the plant it would have to go to his desk.”

To this day Lakers TV analyst Stu Lantz calls Ridder “Conroy.”

Did the flower caper work? No way.

Did this bother Ridder? No way.

He went to a Lakers game and before tipoff worked his way to the court and introduced himself to Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld’s response?

“Oh yeah, I know all about you. I have a full cabinet in my office with your resumes.”

And then Rosenfeld gave Ridder the usual corporate blah-blah. We have nothing available now. Keep in touch. Before the season is the best time to contact me.

Did Ridder feel daunted?

“Not at all,” he said. “I felt challenged.”

Over the next year of what he calls his “journey,” Ridder continued to send plants with just a letter. He figured Rosenfeld had enough resumes.

“In the second year of my journey, I bought plane tickets to Phoenix, Seattle and to Vegas for a preseason game,” he said. “I wanted to put my face in front of Josh at road games to prove how badly I wanted to be an intern.

“I never got to see him at the game in Vegas but I bumped into him at the airport the next morning. The whole team was walking by but I didn’t go up to Magic or Kareem. I walked up to Josh Rosenfeld.”

Now we come to Year3 of the Journey, 1989.

“I had a professor, Larry Barkley, for English 495,” Ridder said. “He was a huge Lakers fan. I’d have him say hi to Josh and tell him what an asset I would be to the Lakers.”

Now Ridder was using his professor as an operative. He still heard nothing from Rosenfeld.

Things changed radically at a summer-league game when Ridder had a stroke of genius. Some Lakers were playing at Loyola Marymount on a hot July afternoon, the temperature 90 degrees.

“I show up at the gym,” Ridder said, “and everyone’s wearing shorts and flip flops. I’m in a two-piece suit and a tie. I want Josh to think I’m professional. I go up to him and say, ‘I want to touch base again. You always said before the season is the best time.’”

Rosenfeld took one look at him and obviously realized Ridder never would go away, would be there decade after decade with resumes and flowers and handshakes and smiles, Ridder tireless, unshakeable, intent, inevitable.

“Just show up on Monday,” Rosenfeld said.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular go to the Cohn Zohn at blog.pressdemocrat.com/cohn. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at 521-5486 or lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.


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