N. Lawrence looking to benefit from publicity for CBS drama

Rick Renfro, owner of Johnny's Tavern, 401 N. Second St., says a promotional project for a CBS show called Jericho could be great news for North Lawrence.

Call it Jericho, the neighborhood formerly known as North Lawrence.

Sometime in the next few weeks, CBS television will blow into North Lawrence, ready to film a massive earthen artwork, a decorated grain elevator and, perhaps, a renamed North Lawrence, all to promote a new fall TV drama set in the fictional Kansas town of Jericho.

“We’re bringing the nation’s attention back to Lawrence,” said Stan Herd, the renowned crop muralist commissioned to carve out the show’s logo in a field of sweet corn.

CBS officials confirm something is planned but for now are saying little else about the project, set to tout the new show, set in a Kansas town after a nuclear disaster in neighboring Colorado.

But Herd, who’s been working closely with promoter John Roush of Wisconsin-based Geronimo Promotions, said the North Lawrence doings could include multiple facets:

¢ An earthen artwork, presumably depicting a man standing on the roof of a house watching a mushroom cloud rise in the distance. The artwork is already in progress in a patch of already-picked sweet corn at Bismarck Gardens, 1616 North 1700 Road.

“It will depict, graphically, some of the themes of the show,” Herd said.

¢ A mural or logo of the show’s title, “Jericho,” painted on a grain elevator in North Lawrence. Herd said that this phase of the project is still under consideration, and that he has yet to ask any elevator owners for permission.

Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn., hopes the CBS drama Jericho, which is set in a fictional town in Kansas, will benefit North Lawrence.

¢ The possibility of North Lawrence renaming itself “Jericho” for at least a day as a publicity stunt. That’s something Herd suggested city officials would likely weigh in on. Neighborhood and business leaders in North Lawrence have already been approached about the promotion.

Roush said it was too soon to be talking publicly about what all might be involved in the publicity push.

“We’re going to promote a show called ‘Jericho’ that is set in Kansas,” he said. Aside from that, “It’s too soon to say here are all the things we are doing.”

Roush has been in contact with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ office in hopes she would make an appearance – maybe arriving by helicopter – on the yet-to-be-announced day CBS officials show up for the unveiling of the artwork and accompanying festivities.

Nicole Corcoran, Sebelius’ spokeswoman, confirmed the governor had been asked to participate in the event, but that it was too soon to know all the details or whether Sebelius would attend.

A spokesperson at CBS would only acknowledge a marketing event is planned for Lawrence and that it would happen near the show’s premiere date.

The show is tentatively slated to premiere Sept. 20, but a leaked copy of the show’s pilot episode is available on the Internet.

For neighbors and businesses in North Lawrence, the thought of a national spotlight shining down on them was appealing – even if it meant renaming the area for a day, a week or a month.

‘The day after’

“Jericho” wouldn’t be the first time network television used Lawrence to help tell a story about nuclear disaster.

In 1982, ABC filmed the “The Day After” in Lawrence.

Jason Robards starred in the made-for-television movie that aired in 1983. The movie focused on a Lawrence family and how they lived in the midst of Cold War nuclear strikes, including devastation to the Kansas City area.

Lawrence city leaders and residents took advantage of Lawrence’s fame gained from “The Day After” and organized a Meeting for Peace with about 250 Soviets in Lawrence in 1990 – near the end of the Cold War.

In conjunction with the meeting, former President Gerald Ford also spoke at convocation ceremonies at Baker University in Baldwin.

“My name’s Rick, but people have been calling me Johnny. So that doesn’t bother me,” said Rick Renfro, owner of Johnny’s Tavern, 401 N. Second St.

Renfro said he talked with Herd about the project briefly earlier this week and said discussions would continue. But, at least initially, the idea of North Lawrence basking in the kind of publicity CBS could generate seemed like a a good deal for businesses and neighbors.

“This sounds like it would be all good publicity,” Renfro said. “I really hope we get some things done.”

Movers and shakers at the Flamingo Club, 501 N. Ninth St., appear to be on board as well. Owner Wesley Kabler got a note from Herd on Wednesday, and though he didn’t know details, he said it seemed like it could benefit the community.

“If it’s something that’s good for North Lawrence, I’m in favor of it,” Kabler said.

North Lawrence Improvement Assn. President Ted Boyle said that from what he’s heard so far, he’s on board.

“What they want to do, and the benefit to North Lawrence, is a positive thing, or we wouldn’t be helping,” Boyle said.

Now, Boyle said, he is just waiting for more details about the project to emerge – including the length of the promotional renaming, the events that would surround the CBS visit and what all it might mean for North Lawrence.

“We’d like to see it happen, but we’re cautious,” Boyle said.