The year was 1997. Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" topped the music charts, and moviegoers flocked to see Titanic.
It also was the year that plastics executive Bill Patient, who died on Feb. 25 at age 85, threatened to fight Plastics News Editor Don Loepp.
At the time, PN was covering both sides of the debate over the safety of PVC resin. The material was under attack by Greenpeace and other groups, and it was being defended by the Vinyl Institute and PVC makers including Geon Corp. Patient was the CEO of Geon, which also was a major PVC compounder.
Patient was concerned about PN's coverage of the topic and asked to meet with some of our staff. We met for lunch at a restaurant near PN's office, which at the time was in Akron, Ohio.
The lunch was attended by Patient and a Geon spokesman, as well as by PN's Don Loepp, managing editor at the time, Bob Grace, who was then editor, myself and another reporter. Like me, the other reporter had been with Plastics News for less than a year. We were new to the industry, but lunch is lunch.
The conversation started out OK but soon became heated. At one point, Don compared the problems of the PVC industry to those of the tobacco industry. He wasn't equating PVC with tobacco, but that's how Patient took the comment.
At this point, I need to point out that Don is fairly tall, while Bill … well, let's just say he probably was never picked first when choosing up sides for a basketball game.
"Now wait just a minute," Bill said to Don. "I don't care how big you are, if you're comparing PVC to tobacco, I'm coming across this table right now."
This automatically became my best work lunch ever. I previously had worked at daily and weekly newspapers, so I had been threatened before, but this was like a city council president threatening a city editor.
Things soon cooled down, so we didn't get to see the spectacle of Don and Bill trashing the restaurant in hand-to-hand combat. But to this day it's a reminder to me of how much of a character Bill Patient was and how passionately plastics pros like Bill, who worked in the industry for more than 30 years, feel about the plastics market.
Frank Esposito is a Plastics News senior reporter. This column originally ran in his "One Good Resin" blog on PlasticsNews.com. Follow Frank on Twitter @fesposito22.
Plastics News editorial cartoon by Rich Williams. Cartoons are available for purchase at www.plasticsnews.com/data-lists/cartoons