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ROGER TREMBLAY MAGAZINE EXEC'S HOUSTON LIFE IS LOOKING UP

By Published on .

"A lot of people were amused by my short-lived career as a car salesman," admits Roger Tremblay, who has bounced back from a series of misfortunes to resume a place in the magazine publishing world.

Mr. Tremblay, 45, spent some time late last month savoring the premiere issue of Houston Life, a 172-page independent magazine distributed in The Houston Post (AA, Sept. 29). As associate publisher of Houston Life, he has gotten the upscale monthly off to a roaring start with more than 70 pages of advertising.

Unem ployed a year ago, he took up a friend on an offer to work at Ron Carter Auto land in Alvin, Texas, selling Cadillacs and even an occasional pickup truck.

"I wasn't a very good car salesman," he says. "In fact, I was awful. Even though I wasn't particularly successful, it was sort of fun. On Saturdays, I'd put on the jeans, the polo shirt with the Ron Carter symbol and sell pickups to bubba. That will make you humble."

What it did do was to make Mr. Tremblay set on getting back into the ad sales side of the business, where he started in 1971 with The Wall Street Journal. After three years, he moved on to Southern Living as district ad manager and later became regional ad manager of the Dallas office.

By 1982, he had joined Texas Monthly as Southwestern ad manager and later moved up to associate publisher-ad director. In 1987, Mr. Tremblay became publisher of Chicago, where he spent three years before returning to Texas, this time Houston, to become publisher of Houston Metropolitan Magazine.

Then life took a difficult turn.

Mr. Tremblay was forced to resign in 1992 after a former editor filed a sexual harassment suit-later resolved out of court-against him and Communications International, the magazine's former owner.

He weathered the difficult time with the help of friends, colleagues and Gayle, his wife of nearly six months. He decided to stay in Texas and get on with his life.

After his departure, Mr. Tremblay quickly landed a job in town as publisher of L'Entree, an upscale lifestyle magazine. But a non-compete clause in the contract with his former employer forced him to leave after a mere 31/2 months.

By last April, Mr. Tremblay was down in Alvin selling cars.

"I felt I had hit the bottom of the barrel on days when it was hot and sweaty and working 15 hours and not selling a car," he recalls with surprising amusement.

Luckily, his old friend Mark Inabnit, who in the early 1970s created the weekly Houston Business Journal and in 1985 started European Travel & Life, which was later sold to Rupert Murdoch, was about to launch Gulf Breeze Associates. He hired Mr. Tremblay as VP.

In an ironic twist, the start-up company in September bought Houston Metropolitan, the same magazine that had forced Mr. Tremblay out, from Metro Networks President David Saperstein. For Mr. Inabnit, it was a full circle in buying the magazine he founded in the 1970s as Houston Home & Garden and sold in 1983.

Mr. Tremblay welcomes a hectic workday, starting with a four- or five-mile run before logging 12 hours at Houston Life. Then there's the frequent entertaining with his wife, who's manager of Neiman Marcus at Houston's Galleria.

Upon reflection, Mr. Tremblay says after thrice being a publisher, now he's "happy as a clam" doing what he really likes: selling ads.

Anyway, that time at Ron Carter Autoland paid off.

"Now, when I go to automobile accounts, I find I really speak their language," he says with characteristic good humor.

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