“You looked so nice I almost didn’t recognize you.”

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‘Appearances can be deceiving. Or something like that.’

So. Today is February 14. And yes, I did get something red and shiny for Valentine’s Day: my nose. Maybe by next week — when it’s (fingers crossed) only a miserable memory — I’ll find this cold amusing enough to write about. We’ll (sniff) see. In the meantime, I’m going with what I originally planned.

Which is a riff on Being Compared to Someone Else.

You know. Like when someone comes up to you at a family reunion and says something along the lines of “You remind me so much of your Aunt Net”. (A real Aunt of Mine whose name was Annette. She wore a hairnet, which is how she got that nickname. Or so we kids thought.) Continue reading

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

(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.)

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The Jerk and The Dude

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‘The Summer I went out with two Wild and Crazy Guys’

Yup. One of the two Wild and Crazy Guys I went out with that wild and crazy summer was indeed Steve Martin. The other one, though, was not Dan Aykroyd. (For those of you who are Very Young, or were living under a cultural rock during the late 70s, I have included links so that you can find out who the heck I’m talking about. But if you need to click on them, you probably won’t ‘get’ this story, so might as well stop reading now and go to your hot yoga class.)

This story is all about my date with Steve, who was famous, besides being a Wild and Crazy Guy, for his role in a seminal film called ‘The Jerk’.  And whose phone message, incidentally, I kept on my answering machine (remember those?) for years. (‘Hi Alice. It’s Steve. Please call me. I really want to go out with you. [Phone number goes here.] Click.’)

Classy art-house poster for Steve's most famous early film.

Classy art-house poster for Steve’s most famous early film.

Continue reading

General Foods, we salute you

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‘Drinking the Kool-Aid (and Country Time) in the 80s’

Those of us who worked on the General Foods account at Ogilvy used to kid around a lot (big surprise; see ‘Short Men and Flat-Chested Women’ for evidence). We used to say that nothing General Foods made was really a ‘food’. You know, something that could actually sustain life. If you were stranded on a desert island with only GF products to eat, you would, basically, starve.

Because everything that General Foods (or GF as it was fondly known around the shop) was actually a powder. A powder that you stirred into water (Kool-Aid, Tang, Country Time Lemonade-Flavor Drink Mix), brewed with water (Maxwell House Coffee), shook up with meat (Shake ‘n Bake), or mixed with other assorted stuff (Good Seasons Salad Dressing Mix). I don’t mention Jello here, even though it was in fact made by GF, because it (and Bill Cosby) were Y&R’s problem, er product.

My first Ogilvy commercial was one for Shake ‘n Bake. This was in the early 80s, so it actually did not use the famous ‘and I helped’ line. Nope, I got to do commercials with this spokesperson called Pete the Butcher. The 80s were replete with spokespersons: Cora (Margaret Hamilton, who was the Bad Witch in the Wizard of Oz) for Maxwell House, Grandpa for Country Time. And those were just some of the Ogilvy GF spokespeople. (Don’t forget Bill Cosby for Jello; as if you could.)

Here’s a typical example of a Shake ‘n Bake Pete the Butcher spot that I found. I’m not sure if I did this one or not. That tells you something right there, I’m afraid. Continue reading

The most fun you can have with your clothes on

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‘More Ad Biz Fun, on the Left Coast this time’

I usually try to mix things up a bit, topic-wise. But somehow I couldn’t get psyched for a riff on Tax Day. So, since people seemed to get a kick out of my Mad Men critique, I thought I’d mine my Ad Biz memories for more material. When you’re on a roll, you’re (ahem) on a roll.

This one is about going on ‘Shoots’. Where you’d fly to some nice warm location, say Los Angeles, and film, i.e. ‘shoot’, a television commercial. I’m pretty sure that this still occurs. Some people at the agency where I am freelancing right this very minute, in fact, just went on a ‘shoot’ in ‘LA’.

But I’m thinking they probably didn’t stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel and nibble raspberries poolside while pretending not to eye Tom Selleck in his speedo.

Tom ordering more raspberries while ignoring the eyes of the creative types in the next cabana

Oh, and we used to rent convertibles and drive down Sunset Boulevard to watch the (yup) sunset. And eat in really expensive trendy restaurants. All courtesy American Express or Country Time or Hershey, or whoever the client was at the time. Trust me, the clients weren’t complaining. They were totally in on it. And in their bathing suits, in the next cabana, also pretending not to eye Tom Selleck. Continue reading