The marketing minds at JC Penney cooked up three months of nearly daily activities to christen its first Manhattan store -- from a Paul Frank bike giveaway to specialized bra fittings -- but the place was really um, cooking, yesterday as season seven "American Idol" winner (who incidentally has collected a fair share of bras thrown onstage) showed up to sign autographs.
Penney's goal is to get shoppers to bypass Macy's on 34th Street and about 1,000 faithful seemed to do so as they crowded the Manhattan Mall for an audience with David Cook, in town to play the Nokia Theater tonight. Topping the queue was a mother-daughter duo from New Jersey waiting since 8:30 a.m. But by 4 p.m., when Cook was set to arrive, the crowd -- primarily women of all age groups, including a lot of squirming teenagers -- had taken over the entire atrium of the mall, with lines snaking around the ground floor and onlookers lining the upper levels.
The appearance was brokered by Skechers, which signed the rocker as frontman after his "Idol" win, and the autograph table was loaded with Skechers signage and product. Yet when Cook and his coterie of handlers arrived -- fashionably late -- he sported well-worn cowboy boots.
The Skecher-less Cook appeared to take the chaos in stride, left-handedly autographing CDs for adoring fans (some so adoring they actually sobbed at being in his presence), accepting gifts (homemade T-shirts, boxes of Cheez-Its among them) and cheerfully posing for pictures -- even with Ad Age editors.
In a brief interview, the gracious Cook -- who clearly knows where his bread is buttered -- warmly praised the brand and its chairman-CEO Robert Greenberg. Rick Graham, senior VP-sales, said the company is in discussions to continue its relationship with the singer. "You couldn't ask for anyone better as a celebrity endorser," Graham said. "He's done a lot for our men's business. Our demo has gotten younger. We've always had a young demo, but he brought some hipness to it, some cool to it."
So given his evident popularity, what other brands might Cook get into bed with beyond Skechers and Gibson, which provides his guitars? When asked by Ad Age about future partnerships, he demurred, preferring not to eliminate any possibilities. "I'd be willing to look into anybody," he said. "Any organization that I believe in what they're doing, I'm on board with."