Although the events described in this account are undated, they appear to have occurred in late 1928.
I Looked and I Listened, Ben Gross, 1954, pages 104-105:
Programs such as these called for the expenditure of larger sums than NBC had anticipated. It became more essential than ever to bring new sponsors into the fold and to hold those who were already in. The mortal sin of radio was any act of omission or commission displeasing to an advertiser.
That is why the president of NBC had to dance for his salary! It was the president himself, Deac Aylesworth, who told me the story.
He had succeeded in persuading George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, to broadcast a sponsored hour of Saturday-night dance music on behalf of Lucky Strike cigarettes. Anyone who has read the novel, The Hucksters, in which that eccentric genius of business, thinly disguised, played a leading role, may realize what a formidable task that was. But he became NBC's most profitable advertiser and Aylesworth guarded his account with the tender care a movie actor bestows on his thinning locks.
One hot Saturday afternoon I called his office about an important story and was informed that Deac could not be disturbed. I ventured up to NBC at 711 Fifth Avenue and a typist in the president's anteroom told me that the boss had gone to the board of directors' suite.
"But it won't do you any good to go there," she added, "because he won't see anyone."
Nevertheless, I did go there and found the door locked. I knocked repeatedly but my pounding was ignored. And yet the room was obviously occupied, as from it came loud sounds of fast-paced dance music. Just then an executive strolled along the corridor, gave me the facts I needed and, still wondering about the mystery of Deac's behavior, I left.
Later, I learned that a few Saturdays before, Aylesworth had come to his office to pick up some golf clubs, en route to an afternoon of relaxation on Long Island. As he was about to leave, he was surprised by the entrance of George Washington Hill, accompanied by a strikingly beautiful blonde. She was the famous Lucky Strike Billboard Girl, whose features were familiar to millions throughout the United States, a glamorous creature who had been denounced in many sermons, as her picture was the first one of a woman ever used in cigarette advertising.
Hill, as was his wont, got down to business immediately. "Deac," he said, "the Lucky Strike Orchestra is costing us a lot of money. It's supposed to give the people good dance music; but how do I know it's really good?"
Aylesworth pointed out that Ben A. Rolfe, the moon-faced musician who led the band, was one of the greatest cornet players of his day. Also that the listeners obviously liked his tunes.
But Hill was not convinced. "There's only one way to tell whether Rolfe's music is danceable," he said, "and that's to dance to it."
The NBC president could find no flaw in this logic and agreed.
"Very well," said Hill. "Your board room has a good loud-speaker. B. A. is in the studio now rehearsing his band. We'll tune in his music and this young lady and I will dance to it."
Deac, who always addressed Hill as "Chief," opined that was an excellent idea. But his face fell when Hill added, "Of course, Deac, you'll join us?"
"Yes, certainly," said Aylesworth.
"Send for Bertha Brainard!" Hill snapped.
Deac did and Bertha joined them. An attractive and exceptionally able program executive, she took Aylesworth's arm and was one of the foursome who marched into the board of directors' sanctum.
There, in that stately paneled chamber, Deac turned on the loudspeaker and to the rapid-fire, rivet-hammer rhythms of Rolfe's music the quartet danced and danced around the enormous director's table. The president of NBC and his program assistant soon showed signs of weariness but not the tobacco tycoon and the beautiful billboard girl. In fact, at the conclusion of the rehearsal, Hill announced that he and his partner would return the following Saturday!
"And do you know," Deac said to me mournfully, "Hill and that girl came back not only the following Saturday but for several Saturdays after that. Bertha and I had to join them and it ruined my week-ends!"
"Couldn't you have found an excuse for staying away?" I asked. "I wouldn't have dared," Deac said. "We couldn't afford to lose that account. So even though I was president of NBC, I had to dance for my salary!"