Obituary: Pilhofer used words and wit to promote events at Met Center

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2014 - 7:30 PM

Margery Pilhofer used her words well.

Her nimble use of the English language, combined with her spunky personality, wit and tenacity, made her a master of the events marketing and promotions industry.

Known by most as “Gigi” (pronounced GIG-ee), she was one of the first women to handle events for a major sports arena when she promoted everything from North Stars hockey games to concerts and truck pulls at the former Met Center in Bloomington. She made each one sound like an event not to be missed, said those who knew her.

“She was a great writer and funny,” said Carolyn Huble, former senior vice president of marketing for Vee Corp., the producer of “Sesame Street Live” shows. “She was so effective. She was one of those people we could count on. And her attitude was priceless.”

Pilhofer, 86, died of natural causes on Jan. 24 in Sun City, Ariz., where she had been living in recent years, said her daughter, Nancy Pilhofer, of Minnetonka.

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pilhofer lived in Chicago, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Oklahoma City before attending elementary and high school in Albert Lea, Minn. After graduation, she studied German at the University of Salz­berg in Vienna. She also worked in Nuremberg, Germany, where she helped book entertainment for soldiers. While there, she met her former husband, pianist and composer Herb Pilhofer.

She returned stateside in the early 1950s and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota. To put herself through school, she wrote stories for newspapers in Albert Lea and Stillwater. She also wrote copy for TV news broadcasts at WCCO-TV and WTCN-TV (Channel 11 before it became KARE) where she later became the station’s promotions director.

Pilhofer took on many jobs to make ends meet, including penning speeches for former U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey, and promoting events such as the Minneapolis Aquatennial and the World Figure Skating Championships. Often the single mother had her daughter at her side.

“I learned from one of the best, “ said Nancy, who also went into the events promotion business. “I was the only kid at camp that got letters on typewritten press releases with letterhead of the Globetrotters or a truck pull. She used the skills she had and she could write like nobody else.”

She was hired in the 1970s to handle events at Met Center. For the first “Sesame Street Live” show in 1980, she invited marketers from 10 other arenas to Bloomington to discuss challenges facing the industry. That meeting evolved into the annual Event and Arena Marketing Conference, which now attracts more than 350 attendees. Each year the organization presents the Gigi Award to a person for contributions made to professionalize and educate event marketers in the entertainment industry.

After leaving Met Center, Pilhofer moved to Phoenix where she and her daughter co-founded an entertainment-marketing company called Ad Lib Marketing Services. Pilhofer returned to Minnesota in 1990 to take a position at Vee Corp.

In 1991, a medical complication left her paralyzed, and she became an advocate for people who use wheelchairs. Sharon Sayles Belton, who was then Minneapolis mayor, appointed Pilhofer to the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities in 2001. She also was on the Minnesota State Council on Disability under Gov. Arne Carlson.

Besides her daughter, Pilhofer is survived by a son, Eric, of Minnetonka, and brother Bob Brown, of Roswell, N.M.

Services have been held.

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