With the country in the grips of a recession, a small AM radio station in Allentown began a promotional contest that turned into a global spectacle that lasted nearly nine months in 1982.
Three men lived on a billboard platform above a busy highway, determined to outlast each other to win a mobile home. Not since Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast had such a seemingly ridiculous gimmick resulted in mass hysteria.
“This was Survivor before reality TV, and a true example of something going viral long before the concept ever existed,” said Director Pat Taggart of Southwest Philly. “This extraordinary story of ordinary men is a fun ride filled with success and failure and the ever-present pursuit of the American Dream.”
The unexpected national and global media frenzy, along with the release of Billy Joel’s “Allentown” during the contest, set the stage for what amounted to the best & worst radio promotion of all time.
BILLBOARD BOYS, a documentary directed by Taggart and produced by Roxborough native Frank Petka, tells the fascinating and bizarre true story of three men who went up and wouldn’t come down.
“What really will make this night special for us,” Petka says, “is the unique opportunity to work with two amazing organizations in Lisa’s Army and North Light Community Center. Pat and I were raised here, and giving back means more than even the success of the film itself.”
With guest host, ESPN’s Mike Missanelli, the premier Philadelphia screening will take place on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, 7:30pm at Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk. Tickets are $20 and include a free drink of choice along with appetizers from 5:00-7:00pm at Cactus Cantina, 4243 Main Street. Proceeds will go to community organizations Lisa’s Army and North Light Community Center.