The boss who got banished to Belgium

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‘Dealing with ‘sexual harassers’ back in The Day’

Okay. A couple of weeks ago I told a story about politics. And last week I wrote about religion. So I guess this week I have to (gulp) live up to my promise and deliver that tale about sex.

Sometimes a waffle is just a waffle. Unless it’s Belgian, perhaps

It’s pretty timely, since the news has been chock-full of stories about a Certain Candidate for President Who Shall Remain Nameless and his predilection for pouncing on people in the workplace (actually, make that pouncing on people practically any place: on planes, at pageants, on back lots pre tv guest spots). [Note: I am so not going to provide links here, since you know perfectly well where to find stories about this guy.]

Oh, to be perfectly clear, it’s female people he pounces on. But not just any female people. These are females who rate, oh, at least a 7 or an 8, if not an all-out 10, in his personal scale of pounce-worthiness.

Dah dum. Dah dum. Dadum Dadum Dadum Dadum. Dah...dum.

Dah dum. Dah dum. Dadum Dadum Dadum Dadum. Dah…dum. Nope, he doesn’t think she’s a ’10’. But he’s stalking her anyway

Oops. There are exceptions, of course. See above photo.

But no no no. There are no politics in LutheranLiarLand(!) Let’s get back to my story. Continue reading

Garry Shandling was right

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‘Why we loved Mary, spunk and all’

It seems that the late great Garry Shandling and the still-with-us Jerry Seinfeld were not only Big Buds, but they were both huge fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I discovered this while watching a very hilarious episode of Jerry’s highly addictive web series, ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’.

In the episode, which is rather eerily titled ‘It’s Great that Garry Shandling is Still Alive’, Garry and Jerry drive around, drink coffee, and reminisce about making landmark TV shows at the same time at the same studio. (This episode is more than just eerie, it’s amazingly hilarious. Don’t miss G and J ‘doing’ those Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials.)

Anyway. At one point Garry and Jerry take a break from cracking each other up to agree that the Mary Tyler Moore Show was right up there with their own personal shows in the landmark category. Continue reading

Radio Days

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‘Did I just hear somebody say “sushi”?’

The Dude and I grabbed some sushi last night. (Why is it that one ‘grabs’ sushi, I wonder?) And, as I deftly dipped a chunk of inside-out California Roll into a little dish of sodium-reduced soy sauce, I was transported back, in a rather Proustian tasting-the-madeleine-like way, to one of the very first times I ever had sushi.

It was in Chicago, back in those golden years of traveling around the country on somebody else’s dime. I was working in advertising, natch. On this radio project that involved interviewing people who had lost their money because they were silly enough to be carrying actual money instead of American Express Travelers’ Cheques.

We were using this interviewer named Alan Kalter (he got to be pretty famous as an announcer on Letterman, but, trust me, this was way before that). Anyway, Alan was in a glass-fronted room talking to a group of losers (er, people who’d lost their money) while the producer and I watched and listened and prompted him (via a tiny wireless earpiece mic) to ask certain questions, or to get the interviewee to repeat a phrase more clearly or loudly.

See, we were recording the interviews so we could piece together some ‘it-could-happen-to-you’ radio commercials. So we needed certain phrases, like ‘I lost my money’, ‘My vacation was ruined’, and, of course, ‘I wish I’d been carrying American Express Travelers’ Cheques’ to come out nice and crisp and clear. Continue reading

‘Here’s your trouble’

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‘My upside-down Kit Kat Birthday’

It’s a well-known fact that Swedes don’t age, we just shrivel and sort of turn into the human equivalent of beef jerky. But we do have birthdays, whether we like it or not.

By this point in my birthday-blessed life, I’ve had all kinds: dressed-up and dressed-down birthdays in restaurants (one was at our favorite Japanese place where the waiter, dressed in a bunny costume, presents you with some fruit with a candle stuck in it) and extremely-dressed-down birthdays in jammies.

I’ve celebrated birthdays at work, on vacation, at my Mom’s. I even spent part of one natal day waiting in line at Immigration. (Taciturn customs agent checking my passport: ‘Why, happy birthday, Alice Henry Whitmore.’)

The birthday spent trying not to cower with fear on top of the Duomo in Florence

The birthday spent trying not to cower with fear on top of the Duomo in Florence

Sunday’s was a drinking-champagne-in-sweatpants-while-watching-the-Mets-lose-the-World-Series kind of birthday. (Sorry Mets. Maybe you should have sent me a card.) Continue reading

(im)Perfect Pitch

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‘The Hemlock Room, the round brown hotel, and the cookies in the crinkly wrappers’

It all started when this Big Client had a New Product all shined up and ready to go. The Agency Bosses got wind of it, and got really excited. We wanted that account. We were gonna pitch it.

I guess I should explain. You ‘pitch’ a client when you want their account. Maybe it’s up for grabs, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s your agency’s account already, and you have to pitch it to keep it. Which is sort of like trying to convince your husband to stay if he’s already ‘looking around’. Even if you do manage to convince him (or the wayward account) to stay, you worry all the time they’re going to leave anyway. Which, most of the time, they do.

Anyway. This was a Biggie. We were gonna pitch the heck out of this one. Wow them, in fact. A Pitch Team was duly formed, and guess who was put in charge. Silly me, I was actually flattered and thrilled by this. Continue reading

The naked boss and the Pussycat Lounge

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‘Doing business in New York, the old-fashioned way.’

Two talented Ogilvy friends of mine came up with this great tagline for an investment firm back before investment firms all started to go belly-up. It was: ‘At Smith-Barney, we make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it.’ And let me tell you, we Ad Girls back then had to earn our money too. And I don’t mean just by writing great copy. We had to be smart enough, and deft enough, to deal with all kinds of stuff that (most of) the guys didn’t have to.

Let me give you an example. This was when I was still living in the Midwest and working at what was then the largest ad agency in Kansas City. Now, before you scoff, this was actually a pretty great job. For one thing, I worked on an account that was based in New York. Which meant that I got to go on business trips paid for by Somebody Else, and stay in that classy hotel pictured at the top of this post. It’s the St. Moritz, and it’s still there, right on (sigh) Central Park South. (I’ve heard from Colleagues Still in the Biz that now you’re not only expected to stay at a Motel 6 when on a business trip, but to share a room — sometimes with the client.)

Continue reading

Pantene, Queen of the Desert

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‘The Mojave was hot; the Best Western was not’

Every time I’ve considered whining about the heat this particularly-hot Northeastern Summer, I remind myself of the August I spent shooting a Pantene commercial smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

I can hear you now: ‘Deserts aren’t so bad; after all, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity‘. Well, let me tell you — and this is coming from a girl who grew up near St. Louis, where hapless souls from the British Foreign Service got hazardous duty pay on account of the steamy summers — ‘Uh-uh, in the desert, my friends, it most definitely is the heat.’

Okay, you’re probably wondering Why On Earth anyone would shoot a shampoo commercial in the middle of the Mojave Desert at all, much less in August.

Well, let me digress a moment to tell you that shooting hair is notoriously tricky. You get your flyaways, your frizz, your fluffy nimbus (nimbi?) When it comes to hair, it truly is a case of ‘it’s the humidity‘. So, if you don’t want humidity (and if you have the good sense the creative gods gave you) you shoot the darned stuff in a studio. Or you drag everyone — director, cameramen, gaffers, PAs, craft services, creatives, models, and even the clients — to the Mojave Desert. Continue reading