Answer Man: What's St. Louis' connection with MidAmerica Airport?

News-DemocratNovember 12, 2013 

I've been reading a lot in the BND lately about MidAmerica Airport near Mascoutah. Several times it has been referred to as "MidAmerica St. Louis Airport." Do you know the background and logic on that? Is there a real relationship with St. Louis? -- W.A. Malec

Even before the dedication ceremonies on Nov. 8, 1997, PR execs were hard at work devising the best way to lure people to a brand-new airport in "East County."

Back then, of course, hopes for the facility were soaring as high as a Boeing 777. In May 1997, a study commissioned by St. Clair County predicted that the airport would serve more than 1 million passengers in just two years.

With those kind of numbers, members of the county's Public Building Commission at first felt little need in mentioning St. Louis in its advertising. Let MidAmerica stand alone and allow the spotlight to shine on Illinois, they figured. Why remind people that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was the area's long-established airline mecca?

But PR folks saw the bigger picture. If you didn't come from St. Louis and were told about a flight that landed at "MidAmerica," you'd probably think where the heck is that? Kansas City? Memphis? Podunk, Neb.?

That's what Ron O'Connor, who was in charge of marketing, discovered. In talking to 30 people around the St. Louis area, he found all agreed that St. Louis must be added to ad campaigns because it would enable people unfamiliar with the area to understand where it is.

"We're going to have to identify somewhat with the St. Louis region," then-building commission Chairman Richard Sauget finally relented.

As a result, the airport motto before it opened was "Fly the Easy Choice." But after they cut the ribbon on the $220 million project, the slogan was changed to "St. Louis' Easy Choice."

Two years later, the airport further cemented the tie. In early 1999, it released a new marketing brochure with a logo that showed an airplane flying through the Gateway Arch with "MidAmerica St. Louis Airport" underneath.

Some staunch East Siders were appalled.

"From the very beginning, we've fought St. Louis," building Commissioner Thomas "Skip" Hennessy said. "Now we're more or less giving them credit."

County Economic Development Director Terry Beach, however, argued that adding St. Louis was vital -- especially with the opening of the similarly named MidAmerica AirPark in Owensboro, Ky. So, today, you'll continue to find St. Louis prominently included at

On TV, in papers, etc., I constantly hear flashy jewelry, watches, etc., referred to as "bling." Where did that word come from? It's not in my dictionary. -- Robert Day, of Fairview Heights

It might be time for you to flash some bling and invest in a new dictionary.

After popping up decades ago in a toothpaste advertisement parody, "bling bling" entered the lexicographers' bible -- the Oxford English Dictionary -- in 2003. Merriam Webster followed suit three years later.

As best researchers can tell, the idea for the term came from the old Ultra Brite toothpaste ad of the 1960s, which boasted, "Ultra Brite gives your mouth ... sex appeal!" And just before you saw the voluptuous woman or handsome hunk smile in the commercial, you heard a bell ring.

Comedians began associating this ting-a-linging with the "sound" of light hitting not only teeth but also gold and diamonds. Martin Lawrence, for example, would parody the Ultra Brite smile while saying "bling-bling." He reportedly also used the term on his TV series "Martin" to describe Jerome's stereotypical pimp jewelry.

The word quickly found a home in the hip hop culture to refer to any ostentatious jewelry or accessories, whether they be carried, worn or implanted (gold tooth caps). It then crossed over into general pop culture in 1999 when rap artist B.G. and the Cash Money Millionaires hit the Top 40 with their song "Bling Bling": "Every time I come around your city bling bling; pinky ring worth about 50 bling bling ..."

Now the word is everywhere -- even in places you might not expect. During a 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, Republican presidential nominee-to-be Mitt Romney admired a baby adorned with a gold necklace and said, "Oh, you've got some bling-bling here!"

Today's trivia

Who is often credited for inventing the football huddle?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: Sitting across the Snake River from each other are Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash., named for famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Lewiston was founded in 1861 as part of an ongoing gold rush and became the first capital of the Idaho Territory. Clarkston, however, wasn't incorporated until 1902 and was called Jawbone Flats before that. Ironically, it is thought that Lewis and Clark never stepped foot on the Clarkston side of the Snake.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 618-236-2465.

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