I cursed Ann Curry for a decade

But I never wished her a broken leg.
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Verdelli Farms on Today cropped

Verdelli Farms’ parfait cups (foreground) share the stage with NBC’s Ann Curry and ‘Supermarket Guru’ Phil Lempert in this 2002 photo from a “Today” broadcast.

Let me just say that I never wished on NBC’s Ann Curry a broken leg, the fate that befell her on a recent hiking trip.

Not that I can remember, anyway.

I have cursed her many times in the past decade, however, after what she did, wittingly or not, to a client of mine.

I was at Neiman Group in Harrisburg at the time, and the client was Verdelli Farms Inc. of Hummelstown. Family-owned Verdelli initially grew its business on the strength of spinach, but at that time in 2002 the product at issue was fresh fruit.

Verdelli had come out with a new line of 16-ounce plastic parfait cups containing cut honeydew, pineapple or cantaloupe, along with some mixed-fruit versions, all in all-natural grape juice.

‘Supermarket Guru’

I don’t have any records from that period, but I found a reference to Verdelli’s product on Google. It borrowed from the news release I wrote, in which I described the “upscale, fluted” cups that fit “most cars’ beverage holders.”

It sounds like me; I do like to have a beverage at the ready.

So we sent the news release, and it got the attention of Phil Lempert, the self-styled “Supermarket Guru” who was a regular contributor to NBC’s “Today.” His assistant contacted me seeking samples of Verdelli’s parfait cups for an upcoming “Today” appearance.

We put out another news release to announce the day that Verdelli’s product was to be on “Today.” I remember a small gathering of us huddled around the TV at Neiman, eagerly awaiting the moment when Verdelli would gain its few seconds of fame.

For the segment, Lempert was joined by Curry. They were outside, standing behind a table adorned with varieties of fresh produce. Some of the produce overflowed baskets. They moved left to right across the TV screen, talking up one item after another.

Lemonade out of lemons

I recall that Verdelli’s cups weren’t immediately visible. But then they came into view, standing out as the only packaged item. Curry’s hand repeatedly came close to the cups but never picked one up; neither she nor Lempert said anything about them.

That was it. Our fruit cup did not runneth over, but we sought to make lemonade out of lemons. We issued another news release noting that the cups had “appeared” on “Today.” We may have included the photo that you see at the top of this page, taken from the TV broadcast.

Later that day, I got an angry phone call from Lempert, who had gotten the news release and insisted (incorrectly) that it suggested his endorsement of Verdelli’s product. The Guru was not to be placated, complaining that the cups had leaked anyway and threatening legal action.

Nothing came of it.

Something to say to the ‘Guru’

Verdelli is now part of Chiquita Brands’ Fresh Express subsidiary. NBC fired Curry from “Today,” but she is still with the network.

It was kind of funny to chide her for getting oh-so-close to the Verdelli cups but never closing the deal; I didn’t really hold her responsible. I actually felt kind of sorry for her given the very public nature of her “Today” firing.

But Lempert was a jerk. Clearly we were trying to promote Verdelli’s product, went to some effort to get it to Lempert, and it was on the set with him and Curry.

We got what we could out of the situation, honestly and fairly. We had nothing for which to apologize.

A decade on, I still have this to say to Lempert: take a hike.

 

 

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