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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Stuart Anderson, 93, hoping seniors focus will spur sales of his book


The need to be remembered is an urge that beats strongly in the breasts of those who have experienced fame. And the need tends to grow with the forward march of years beyond the time of fame.

That reality helps explain Stuart Anderson's quest to sell copies of his second book, Corporate Cowboy, and his distress at the fact that the Black Angus Steakhouse chain that is descended from his Stuart Anderson's Black Angus/Cattle Company won't carry or promote his book.


Anderson is quick to admit sales have not gone well for the book, his second. And he is convinced the reason is that it's not coming to the attention of those who dine at the restaurants, which now number 46 in six western states, but mostly California. The company has several times rebuffed his and Helen's efforts to put up posters and sell the book.

In fact, for reasons unknown but that sadden Anderson and Helen, his wife of more than 40 years, he wasn't invited to any of the events surrounding the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the chain in April of 2014, the month in which Corporate Cowboy was published.


So Anderson, 93, is going where he is most likely to find those who will remember him and where some will recall that he was the man who built a chain of 122 restaurants that was, for a string of years in the 1980s, ranked Number One in the nation among full-service restaurants.

The strategy is one of outreach to the seniors who represent a major share of the population of most communities in the Coachella Valley. It's a plan conceived by Brenda Lynn Martin, a longtime friend of the Andersons, who has a high profile in the desert for her promotion of various non-profit and community activities and events.

Explaining her decision to come to the aid of the Andersons in the effort to sell copies of his book, Martin, who has been friends with Stuart and Helen for a dozen years, told me: "My main goal is to fulfill his dream to get those books sold as a part of his leaving a legacy."

So Thursday evening a book signing and jazz fest at the Backstreet Bistro in upscale El Paseo will serve as the debut of a campaign, with Martin partnering with the restaurant's owner, Lavane Hause, to bring the book to the attention of gatherings of seniors at the restaurant each week, with jazz and a book signing.

"If this goes well, we can plan on a series of such gatherings, inviting seniors from a variety of locations, even snowbirds wintering here, to join the jazz and book signngs" Martin added.

"I hope this is the first of many," says Hause, who says of Anderson: "he reminds me so much of my dad. He and Helen lunch here frequently and I can't not try to help him."

I visited in recent days with the Andersons at their Rancho Mirage condo, looking west toward the San Jacinto Mountains, as I try to do each winter when Betsy and I get to spend time with friends in the Palm Desert area.

Anderson, who speaks softly and slowly from the effects of age as well as of a stroke he suffered seven years ago but retains a firm gaze, usually from beneath his cowboy hat, wanted to talk about the book and the challenge selling copies is presenting.

It is the story of how he built the restaurant empire that became a best-recognized national company with 10,000 employees and annual revenue of $260 million. The book actually has a longer official title: "Corporate Cowboy. Stuart Anderson: how a maverick entrepreneur built Black Angus, America's #1 restaurant chain of the 1980s."

He first tried his hand as an author when in 1997 he produced "Here's the Beef! My Story of Beef," a book he described to me as "fun and informative," but most importantly to him, thousands of copies were sold in the Black Angus restaurants. The book was meant to be an answer to the highly popular McDonald's commercial of the time in which an elderly lady asks: "Where's the Beef?"

At that point it had been a decade since he had retired after five consecutive years of his Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurants being named the top steakhouse chain in the nation by USA Today in a poll by industry publication Restaurants & Institutions. He admitted candidly, in an interview we did a few years ago, that new owners took the fun out of his job.

But the time of his first book, he was still well-remembered, in Washington state in particular, including for a series of television commercials he did in the Seattle area for a senior housing organization.

After retiring, he and Helen retired to their 2,400 ranch sprawled along Interstate 90 west of Ellensburg. He had bought the ranch in 1966 with the intent of raising the black angus cattle that would be served at his restaurants. But it turned out to be too great a challenge, for various reasons, so he continued to raise the cattle until he sold the ranch to Taiwanese interests, though to most travelers going past, it remains the Stuart Anderson ranch.

It's clear that Stuart and Helen nurture the hope that a focus on retirees and the strategy that Martin has put together may eventually create for Corporate Cowboy success like his first book experienced.

The challenge of travel for Anderson now means they seldom get to visit Seattle or the Ellensburg area any more.

But many of those on their way across Washington State on Interstate-90 will still note "that's where Stuart Anderson's cattle ranch was" as they pass the acreage stretched out along the highway.

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