We just got the sad news that Justin Camerlengo, a veteran Panasonic communications and public relations exec, died this week.
Justin was a pleasure to work with even when you got a scoop, such as details on a product that a company didn’t want to talk about yet.
I once called him on that type of a scoop in the late 1980s. I found out about a “breakthrough” Panasonic product (maybe a non-VHS camcorder?) via retail sources back when I was working for Home Furnishings Daily (HFD).
I was calling on a Thursday, our print deadline in the days before the Internet. Justin couldn’t discuss this on Thursday but the product would be announced on Monday, the day HFD came out.
We had specs, model number, pricing and delivery dates, all from retailers. But our sources might be slightly wrong on some particulars.
Justin and I negotiated. Panasonic couldn’t comment on the record, but unofficially he would confirm the story for accuracy. HFD wouldn’t quote Panasonic, but would write that retailers and “other sources” confirmed the existence of the product and the features.
I had to check with HFD’s editor at the time, to see if using anonymous sources was okay and he approved.
Justin wanted me to call back one way or another if the editor approved and stipulated I had to speak directly to him, without speaking to anyone else at Panasonic’s PR department. I asked, “What happens if someone else picks up your line?” Justin said, “Use a codeword … say you’re the guy with the Giants tickets.”
Of course, when I called, someone else picked up the phone. Not knowing if it was someone who might know me (this was also before caller ID became popular), I put on my best Brooklyn guttural organized crime accent and said, “Tell Justin I’m da guy wid da Giants’ tickets.”
Justin then got on the phone, and I said the same line the same way.
Over the years, whenever I would see him at some industry event Justin would smile and greet me by saying, “Hey, if it isn’t da guy wid da Giants’ tickets!”
He was a pro with a great sense of humor. We will miss him, and our condolences go to his family and many industry friends and colleagues.