King Lou

By Harry Miller -- Those of you who read the pages preceding the Final Turn on a regular basis have noticed something different in the last few issues of The Blood-Horse. Something is missing. Where is Lou's ad?

For more than 22 years, the first ad in the Classified Advertising section each and every week was always for Lou Salerno's Questroyal Farm.

Lou was there every week, every year, without exception. He never missed an issue. He changed the way horses are marketed by showing that you could buy horses at public auction, advertise them in the Classifieds, and turn a profit.

He didn't just prove it; he proved it over and over and over again. He became a master at it.

There are those who think he would purchase a particular horse just because he knew he could write a good ad about it. Don't laugh; it just might have been true. Lou never needed help with the wording for his ads. He was a natural. An ad agent's dream account.

He became Lou, King of the Classifieds, and a figure of speech in the industry.

Other people would call in ads and request that their ad be "next to Lou" or "under Lou." People would routinely ask: "Have you read Lou's ad this week?"

It was almost like Red Smith and Joe Palmer in the glory days of newspaper writing. For many people in the Thoroughbred industry, Lou's ad became required reading. Whether you bought a horse from him or not, you wanted to see his ad, to read the copy about what he had for sale this week.

There were many "Lou wanna-bes" who came into the industry and did not experience the success that Lou achieved. It is hard to copy an original, as they quickly found out.

I think I had worked with Lou over the phone for about six months when I was at one of those Sunday afternoon sales Joe Johnson had at Kenington. While I was talking with someone I could hear a person with his back to me having a conversation with another person. I immediately recognized his voice and he must have recognized mine.

He turned around and said: "You must be Harry Miller," and I said to him: "You must be Lou Salerno."

We had spoken so much on the phone that we felt we knew each other. That's the kind of person he is. Once you meet him, he is your friend.

At a Keeneland sale a few years ago, one of our other advertisers asked why Lou always got the first spot in Classifieds.

I replied: "He's sitting over there. Why don't you ask him?"

The gentleman, probably helped by liquid courage, went over to Lou's table and asked him.

I think the reply was something like: "When you advertise every week for as many years as I have, you deserve a good spot."

End of discussion.

Over the years, King Lou has tried several other unique ways to make his ads stand out. He was the first one to use color in Classified ads. Color Classifieds in The Blood-Horse now are commonplace.

Lou did not restrict himself to Classifieds. Another idea of his was to use model/actress Lauren Hutton in his single-page or spread display ads. He ran two "teaser" ads and had the whole industry trying to guess the identity of the star he would later reveal.

The ads created controversy, and whether you liked them or hated them, at least you read them. After all, the basic tenet of advertising is always the same--to get noticed.

Make no mistake about it, Lou always got noticed.

Lou has now decided to devote all his energies to another of his passions, fine art. He has passed the torch to Chris Bernhard, who calls his farm Hidden Lake.

I will miss Lou as an advertiser and a friend and I wish him the best of luck in his new venture.

There are few men who leave their indelible mark. Lou is one of those men.

Long live The King.

Harry Miller is The Blood-Horse Classified and Real Estate Advertising Manager.