Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Chaos in Houston


Back in the early Nineties, I was with a Houston P.R. firm charged with  generating publicity about their latest master-planned community.

My boss decided to bring in a real-live Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle  to the grand opening of the new community center.

At that time, hiring a real Ninja Turtle was only slightly harder than getting the Beatles back together.

We has to work directly with the licensing agents in New York City to “sign Leonardo”.

Turtle cropped cowabunga

Or at least to sign a New York actor who was licensed to wear the official Leonardo turtle gear.

As I recall, the ridiculous contract required a first class tickets for the actor AND a first class ticket for the Leonardo’s suit.

It was ridiculous, but we signed the contract, and promoted the heck out of Leonardo’s appearance.

When Saturday morning came, you would’ve thought we were giving away $1,000 bills. And ponies.


We know we had a problem when the new community center was packed  before Leonardo was picked up at the airport (some 45 minutes away).

At 10 a.m. — an hour before the show was to begin — there were maybe 500 adults on hand, each with two or three wide-eyed children.

It was 110 degrees outside, and the packed building was getting more crowded and hotter by the minute.

There was NOTHING for the kids to do except cry.

And there was NOTHING the parents could do except fantasize about killing the idiot P.R. people who had organized this nightmare.

We tried to stall, to avoid being ripped limb from limb.

But there are only so many times that you can say:

“Leonardo has landed! And he’s on his way! Maybe he had to stop for pizza. Hahaha.”

Finally, just before a full-blown riot broke out, Leonardo arrived.

We briefed the actor back stage as he put on his Leonardo suit.

We cued the SUPER LOUD Ninja Turtle Music, and Leonardo showed himself.

The kids went absolutely berserk! We were saved!

It was like the Red Sea parting when Leonardo strutted to the middle of the building.

He put down his boom box and pushed play.

Then 100% authentic and fully authorized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tunes began to blare.

Leonardo was all kinds of awesome, spinning and kicking and doing totally rad Ninja Turtle stuff.

Just like in the movies!

This was the greatest P.R. idea ever!

For about three minutes.


And then Leonardo had done his dash and wanted to sit down backstage, because he was hot.

He was union.  His contract specifically said he would do NO TALKING. And he was not about to sign autographs.

So we were dead.

My quick-thinking boss grabbed a mike and explained that we had boxes of cool TMNT stuff.

So if everyone could just be patient…

But by then, pretty much every kid in the place was crying.

The first wave of parents lunged toward the boxes. They grabbed handfuls of gear, then fought their way through the crowd back to their kids.

The rest of the parents soon realized there wasn’t going to be enough Turtle Swag to go around.

It got ugly.

I have an abiding memory of my 6-4 boss trying to wade through the angry sea of humanity, holding the only remaining box of Turtle Swag just as high as he could get it, maybe eight-feet in the air.

He was trying to make it to a big table in the corner.  He never had a chance.

It’s a shame that the New Yorker in the turtle suit didn’t get torn to shreds like that box, is all I’ve got to say.

Other than Kowabunga, dude.  


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