Trevino’s Tattoo

Trevino’s Tattoo a Tom Watson recollection

In the 1970s’, I was a Creative Director for Scroggin, Reed Advertising in S.F., and we acquired a new account called Westcoaster Golf Carts. Later, Otis Elevator Co. bought Westcoaster, and suddenly the ad budget skyrocketed. We created an ongoing national ad campaign, including brochures and specification folders requiring a multitude of photographs. We decided that with a substantial annual budget, we could now approach a dynamic golf star to endorse the golf cart, and photograph him with the product.  Lee Trevino was one of most charismatic and popular golf stars the sport had ever seen, and he was our first choice. After an hour of negotiations, myself and the account executive cut a $400,000. deal with Lee Trevino Enterprises, which was his endorsement ventures, separate from his golf profession. Lee was actually the last to know about it, since his manager did all the endorsement negotiations, and had authority to okay the deal. Lee signed it, and we had our man in the bag, so to speak. Technically, we had our man in an Otis Elevator golf cart, with a different beautiful model each time we scheduled a photo session. The photo sessions had to dovetail with Lee’s pro-am tournament schedule, where he didn’t have the pressure of playing against the top pros. I had to follow a star golfer around the various courses, with a photographer, a beautiful model and an Otis Elevator golf cart during the pro-am tournaments. Well, someone had to do the tough assignments! When he had a spare 30 minutes or so, I would find a scenic location for the cart, pose the model and Lee inside or outside the cart in various situations.. while fans looked on with interest. Lee was amiable, cheerful, told jokes and would flirt with the model, who eagerly flirted back. He lived up to his reputation as a ladies man and a fun loving, easy going guy.

Lee had been in the Marine Corps, and had the Marine Corps symbol of an eagle and globe tattooed on his arm. In most of the photos, part of the tattoo showed. The owner of the agency became concerned, and wanted to have the tattoo airbrushed out, before the client saw the photos. My dad was a “leatherneck” Marine as a young man, and I knew the pride and independent attitude that is typical of a Marine. I knew that tattoo was probably a source of pride to Lee, and he wouldn’t understand airbrushing it out. It was a part of who he was. I took the photos to be approved without removing the tattoo, hoping the client would not find it a problem. As it turned out, not only was it NOT a problem, but the client had also been in the Marine Corps, and thought it added character to the endorsement. So, “Trevino’s tattoo” remained, and appeared throughout the campaign. Later I found out that Lee had a tattoo of his first wife’s name removed from his forearm, but apparently that was before. Getting approvals from the client was “a walk in the park” after that, and Lee gave up a total of about 20 (twenty) hours of his time to earn almost a half a million dollars, which his manager requested be spread out over a four year period ($100, 000. per year) for tax purposes. Lee’s 20 hours of time fell within the first six months of the contract, and then his obligation was essentially over. Not bad for a guy who started working in the cotton fields of Texas, at age five.