Morty Matz
Morty Matz

In the early 1960s New York was in the midst of an egyptology craze. Everything Egyptian was hot and trendy. Everyone was talking about mummies, tombs, hieroglyphics and Cleopatra haircuts. And I came up with an idea to get my client, the popular news radio station WINS 1010, on the everything-Egyptian radar screen.

I planned a “stunt,” a staple of the PR guy’s repertoire in those days -- like wrapping the pinup girl Bettie Page in sausage to promote, well, sausage.

So I contacted a curator and expert in Egypt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and asked him to write, in hieroglyphics, a certain phrase I thought up. Next I went over to a dealer in headstones near Riverside Chapel on the Upper West Side. I gave him a copy of the hieroglyphic the expert had written for me and asked him to carve it onto a slab of granite measuring three feet by three feet, Aswan granite that actually came from Egypt. It was no problem. He quickly did the job for a couple of hundred bucks.

The next day I gave the granite, now wrapped in a big towel, to two salesmen from WINS 1010 and instructed them to hail a cab from the 42nd Street airlines terminal to 666 Fifth Avenue, about 10 blocks away, where I would be waiting to hail it. I told them to leave the slab in the cab when they got in. They carried out their mission with James Bond precision.

Once in the cab I “discovered” the granite slab and immediately told the driver to head for the police precinct on West 54th Street so that, like the good citizens we were, we could turn in the lost property.

As the cabbie carried the granite into the precinct, I ran to a phone and called all the newspapers and television stations in town. I alerted the media that a valuable piece of something from an Egyptian tomb had been lost and found in a taxicab.

Within minutes the desk sergeant’s telephone was ringing off the hook. Photographers were pulling up outside the precinct. My work done for the time being, I slipped into the shadows and went back to my office at WINS 1010.

I had launched a media frenzy. The Daily News, which back then sold more than a million copies a day, headlined its story “Mystery on W. 54th St.” and ran a picture of a cop examining the tablet with a magnifying glass. Television news ran the story and showed the stone. Even a WINS 1010 news reporter covered it.

The lost stone was the talk of the town. “Who lost such a valuable artifact?” everyone wondered.

But my client, WINS 1010 had yet to appear in the story. The two salesmen from the station asked me what the punch line would be. But I held the answer close.

The next day the New York Times brought an Egypt expert from the Brooklyn Museum to the police station to examine the stone and translate the hieroglyphics. The rest of the press concentrated on finding its owner, speculating it was probably an absent-minded professor now out thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the cabbie waited to see if he would get some kind of reward.

The expert from the Times confirmed that the granite was indeed from Aswan. But he claimed the writing was gibberish and indecipherable, admitting it might be a dialect he did not know.

So, as we entered the third day of press coverage, the mystery of West 54th street deepened. Meantime, no one in the media had connected the artifact to WINS 1010, the client who was paying me to get its name in the papers.

Late that day, I called a friend on the city desk at the News. Playing dumb, I told him I did not understand what all the fuss was about with that hieroglyphics business. I informed him that two salesmen from WINS 1010 had purchased the stone as gift for its station manager, Hap Anderson as a coffee table.

The sharp assistant city editor asked me the right question, namely what was the translation of the hieroglyphics. I told him I knew what it said and swore I could get an expert from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to back me up.

I told him it said, “Everybody’s Mummy Listens to WINS 1010.”

My editor friend cracked up and said he was sending a “fotog” to the station. The story got big coverage for a fourth day, especially in the News. I was uncovered as the mastermind, which was good for my growing business.

WINS 1010 is today a highly successful all-news station. The stunt became part of New York’s journalism folklore. But the station’s iconic place in history is forever embedded in Aswan granite.

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Morty Matz, who has practiced public relations for 65 years—and who still represents clients to this day—is due to turn 100 years of age on July 23, 2024. Morty is credited with inventing the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest and the five-borough New York City Marathon. He has performed PR services on behalf of many illustrious figures and organizations, including politicians, real estate developers, lawyers, district attorneys, unions, high-end restaurants and socialites.