Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lawrenceville as a Tourist Destination!

I see in this morning's AJC that Gwinnett County will be opening a new Welcome Center for tourism and trade right here in beautiful downtown Larryville.
Jay Markwalter, executive director of the association, said the opening of the center is another piece in the city’s downtown revitalization efforts “to market Lawrenceville as a destination.” Plans also call for housing the city’s tourism and trade association’s offices there.

Now I'm all for encouraging tourists to, in the words of C. Montgomery Burns, "scurry in, empty their pockets and scuttle out". But we need to provide marks visitors with an incentive to come here. And part of that involves creating a "unique brand indentity" (as marketing folks like to say).

So what's unique about Larryville?

Well...there are numerous Civil War War Between the States sites which are potentially of interest to suckers guests, but Larryville isn't alone in that regard 'round these parts. And let's face it...the whole reenactment schtick has been done to, erm, death elsewhere.

While I'm not well-versed in the history of the area, there's one event for which Larryville is fairly well known on the national stage: the attempted murder of Larry Flynt on March 6, 1978. So my plan is to market our town as the "Attempted Assassination of Pornographers Capitol of America", given that he was shot near the courthouse right smack in the middle of town.

The confessed shooter was one Joseph Paul Franklin, who was born James Clayton Vaughan in Mobile, AL. He claimed that he was motivated to shoot Flynt because he was outraged over an interracial pictorial in "Hustler" magazine. According to Wikipedia:

In 1976 he changed his name to Joseph Paul Franklin. He selected Joseph Paul in honor of Paul Joseph Goebbels and Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.

As early as high school he had become very interested first in Evangelical Christianity, then Nazism and later held memberships in both the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan.

Franklin was a drifter, roaming up and down the East Coast, always looking for chances to "cleanse the world" of people he considered inferior, especially blacks and Jews.

Franklin's level of violence continuously escalated; before he committed his first known murder, he fire-bombed a synagogue and sprayed mace at a racially mixed couple. Starting in 1977, he went on a continual murder spree, supporting himself by robbing banks. He admitted his racist ideology; God, he said, wanted him to start a race war.

Franklin killed at random, and may have begun in Madison, Wisconsin. His target of choice were mixed-race couples, which he called "MRCs." In interviews, he explained that he planned the murders and his exit in advance, often changing his hair style and color, as well as changing clothes and vehicles often. He would listen to a police scanner during his escapes.

On one occasion, he threatened to kill President Jimmy Carter for his pro-civil rights views. He had also intended to shoot Jesse Jackson, but Jackson's security detail made an assassination attempt impossible; he changed his target to Vernon Jordan.

So how does all of the above present marketing and merchandising opportunities for Lawrenceville? In no particular order:

1) A daily courthouse tour culminating in a reenactment of the Flynt shooting. Local merchants could sell a variety of cheap souvenir pennants so that folks could root for Flynt, Franklin or neither.

2) Instead of renting Segways to tourists, we can rent them powered wheelchairs. These could also be used by visitors to participate in races, obstacle courses, etc. for cheesy souvenir prizes.

3) A combination Jim Crow/Holocaust museum and gift shop. (Which should, along with my status as the son of a Holocaust survivor, attract the "New York money men".)

4) Another gift shop selling memorabilia such as DVDs of "Falwell v. Flynt", Rodney A. Smolla's book Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial (which is actually an excellent tome re the legal aspects of the case) and featuring replica copies of the "Hustler" issue which precipitated the entire event.

For an additional fee, tourists could purchase copies of the above autographed by Franklin, Flynt or both. (Not so sadly, Falwell's no longer available to sign copies of the book.)

5) A Hustler Lingerie shop.

6) (As suggested by an anonymous local hott redhead): A "dunk tank" featuring an actor portraying a paraplegic Flynt.

7) A tasteless carnival-like shooting gallery.

8) T-Shirts, T-Shirts, T-SHIRTS!!! ("The juiciest plum of all" - Krusty the Klown)

9) The opportunity for local eateries and bars to create and sell themed meals and beverages.


That's just off the top of my head; I'm going to get started working on a formal proposal to the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association later today.

WTH...they can only say "no". (Before running me out of town.)

Hey...I'm just trying to be a helpful citizen; sex and violence always sells! I've merely come up with a way for Larryville to leverage its history to create a unique brand and a one-of-a-kind tourist destination.