Terror In Tokyo!

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Roppongi-Christmas-2010-013-G2824-600x400

Or for fans of Japanese Literature puns:    がいじん ものがたり (Gaijin Monogatari)

Yes, that is a giant spider (statue) terrifying residents of the Roppongi District of Tokyo. I will let you know later how I was almost destroyed in this neighborhood.

Things were going swimmingly working on the Honda account. Co-workers were great, clients were great, my free car was great.  I didn’t think that things could get any better…but they did. Bill Hagelstein told me that we were going to Tokyo to visit Honda’s world headquarters and to attend the Tokyo Motor Show. On top of everything else, we were going to fly Business Class. Cool!

After an eleven and a half hour flight, which only seemed like half a day, we were transported to our hotel, The Okura. The Okura was a beautiful hotel situated across from the American Embassy. Built in 1962, it was to be a showcase hotel for Tokyo’s 1964 OkuraSummer Olympics. Sadly, they began to tear it down about a year ago to build a high rise hotel in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. While I was checking in, I saw Don Hufford and Don Cooke, the Publisher and Ad Director of Car & Driver Magazine, walking toward me. Many magazines carrying import advertising  sent staff to cover the Tokyo Motor Show. Bill and I caught their attention.  Of course, being great media  reps, they immediately invited us to dinner.

There would be five of us for dinner. Don Hufford knew of a wonderful teppanyaki place in an area called Roppongi. Our cab stopped in front of Amakawa. Teppanyaki restaurants prepare your food on a hot grill  in front of you. Think of a Japanese version of Benihana. Kobe beef TeppanyakiAfter two rounds of $15 Chivas, it was time to order dinner. Don said the kobe beef here was delicious. I looked at my menu and did the ¥/$ exchange math in my head.  A 12 oz. Kobe steak was $150…a la carte!! I looked for something cheaper, like Spam. Don then removed my cloak of guilt. You MUST try the Kobe beef. Sounds good to me. The tab for the five of us came to over $1500 in 1983 dollars. I guess this wasn’t Car & Driver’s first Tokyo Motor Show.

In the cab on the way back to the hotel I mentioned that there seemed to be a lot of bars and clubs in the area. My hosts told me that there were a lot of “hostess” bars in Roppongi. They had been to one the night before, and made the offer to take me with them the next time they went. For those who don’t know, Japanese Hostess Barhostess bars are establishments where one can go for a drink and have a hostess assigned to you who will drink with you, flirt with you, light your cigarettes, sing karaoke, and listen attentively to your blather. The ladies are known as kyabajō, cabaret girls. There is no sex…Tokyo has other places for that. There are a number of these bars in L.A. and NYC. I know. The first one I went to was in Little Tokyo in downtown LA. I was the guest of the President and Executive Vice-President of Mazda. I should point out that these places are obscenely expensive. That is why 90% of bills at hostess bars are put on corporate credit cards. Corporations are more than happy to have their executives spend five or six hours together after work talking business and having a good time.

The Tokyo Motor Show is gargantuan in scope. Housed in several exhibition halls of the RK012618Tokyo Convention Center, the TMS is a ten day event where manufacturers from around the world present their visions of the future of transportation. Over one million people will go through the gates. It’s a little like trying to get into a Super Bowl every day. One hundred thousand people every day pushing each other trying to get a glimpse of the latest from BMW and Toyota.

By the end of the day you think your arches have fallen. Looking at prototypes all day takes its toll on your body. That’s why I decided to make an appointment for a massage in the Hotel Okura’s spa. It was rumored to be world-class. I entered the spa waiting room and was shown to a chair to wait for my name to be called. A few minutes later an elderly woman dressed in white opened a door to one of the rooms and said, “Cavanagh-san?” I was surprised by the size of the room, and all the equipment. In addition to a massage table the room had a small soaking tub, a very short wooden stool next to a woodensteam-cabinet-with-steam-generator-500x500 bucket, and some contraption that looked like it was a discarded prop from a David Copperfield show. We smiled and bowed. She pointed to a closet. We then held a brief discussion using the universal hand signals for, “Do I take all my clothes off?” She nodded. OK. Go with the flow. The lady then led me to the magic box.  She opened it and motioned for me to climb inside. Was she going to saw me in half? I then found out that it was steam cabinet. She cranked up the steam and watched as I poached. After ten minutes, she let me out and guided me to the very short stool. She had me sit on it, and as I figured out they weren’t going to bring in a cow for me to milk, this was part of the spa treatment. She began pouring buckets of warm, soapy water over me. Then she brought out a brush and went to town on me. Then more buckets of warm, clear water. I should have asked for the sealant and the wax buff.  I think you get a car deodorizer with the special. I was then led to the small pool that was filled with warm water.  I was about to fall asleep when she pulled me out, dried me off, and put me on the massage table. I did fall asleep about half-way through the massage. When I was done, I was refreshed, my arches were no longer fallen, and I decided to take up Car & Driver’s offer to go with them to a hostess bar.

Club Morena was a hostess bar in Roppongi. I knew of it because it was the favorite hangout of the American Honda executives. They said that I should go if I ever had the chance. I now had the chance. And making it better, the folks at Car & Driver were going to Roppongi-69432host me. I called them and said that we cold meet there at 8:00. The cab driver dropped me off in front of a tall, narrow building. Fortunately, I found the words Club Morena among the jungle of gaudy signs with flashing lights. The sign said that Club Morena was on the 4th floor. I entered the building to see a very narrow stairway…no elevators! After much huffing and puffing, I arrived at Club Morena. As I entered the bar the mama-san (yes, that’s what they’re called) approached me with a “Hey, gaijin (foreigner), what are you doing here?” look on her face. She spoke English so I began rattling off the names of the American Honda executives.  Her face lit up. “Welcome to Club Morena!  Are you by yourself?”  I told her that I was meeting two other people. She hustled me to a large table in the corner as she barked orders in Japanese. By the time I got to the table, we were joined by three hostesses and three small trays full of wasabi peas and Japanese rice crackers. My hostess sat down next to me, while the other two kept a respectable distance at the table. She valiantly tried to ask my name in English. I told her, and asked hers.  She said, “Tiffany.” I had a hunch that Tiffany was her nom de hostess. I ordered a beer.

hostess005I figured that I could nurse it until my friends got there. Tiffany kept giggling and filling my glass.It was now 8:45 and I was starting to get a queasy feeling that I was on my own. I could hear the meter running…ka-ching, ka-ching. The mamasan came over and wanted to know where my friends were. She asked not so much out of concern, but because I was taking up a table for three. Fifteen minutes later she came back.  “It’s raining outside, maybe your friends are delayed.” She asked where my friends were staying.  Like an idiot I told her. She wanted to know their names saying she would call them for me. I blurted out, “Room 1207!” This was my room, so there would be no answer. She went and called, coming back to say that they must be on their way as she put another beer in front of me.  The other two hostesses had already been reassigned. I finally arrived at the terrifying truth.  I was on my own in the quicksand of overpriced booze!

A waiter walked by and I asked for my bill.  It came. $160 for a beer and some wasabi peas. I left the amount in yen and waited for the mamasan to go into the kitchen. Whispering “Sayonara” to Tiffany I bolted toward the door. As I hurtled down the stairway, I heard someone yelling, “Stop!  Stop!” It was Tiffany.  Was she going to drag me back to the mamasan?  It was then that I noticed that she was carrying an umbrella.  We walked out Taxionto the street.  It was pouring! She dutifully held the umbrella over me while I tried to hail a taxi. She informed me that the scores of cabs parked in the street were pre-booked by bar guests so they knew that they could get home. Tiffany handed me the umbrella and jumped in front of a moving cab. I heard what I guess was Japanese profanity coming from the driver as Tiffany motioned for me to get in. I made my escape.

As I walked through the lobby of the Hotel Okura, I spotted my Car & Driver friends at the bar. “What happened to you guys?” I asked. They informed me that they were very tired from being at the show all day and visiting Club Morena completely slipped their minds. I told them about my terror.  They laughed and asked if I wanted a drink.  I said yes.

NEXT:  Bless me Father, for I have sinned. Can you stash 60 Hondas for me?

 

I Shut Down New York City

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Television commercials require quite a bit of planning to come in on-time and on-budget. Television commercials shot on location require even more planning. But, no matter how well one plans, anything that can go wrong…will.

The 1982 Honda Accord was restyled and featured some new technology. Accords were now being built in the U.S. Auto writers were calling it an engineering wonder. The decision was made to produce a TV commercial having Burgess Meredith discuss the Accord’s ad_honda_accord_hatchback_blue_1982engineering mastery while the vehicle was filmed cruising past notable U.S. engineering wonders: The Hoover Dam, The St. Louis Arch, The Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

The shoot would require precise planning as the film crew and the vehicle would move the shoot across the U.S. Time was money even back then. A small group of agency people would accompany the flying circus. We would shoot one location for a day. We’d then wrap the location and put the vehicle on a car prep truck to meet us at the next destination. The agency was represented by the writers and art directors who conceived the spot, an agency producer who had worked up the budget and schedule with production company, and an agency technical specialist who made sure that the vehicle was properly prepped for each shot. The producer and production company were also responsible for getting all the necessary permits from the local governments for shooting and traffic control. I went along as the “designated suit.”  This was an account person who would have the opportunity to fall on his career sword if anything went wrong.

We left Los Angeles and headed to Henderson, Nevada, full of optimism and high spirits. The Accord looked smashing as it drove across the top of the Hoover Dam. The footage was “in the can,” and after a brief cultural visit to Las Vegas, we set out for St. Louis.

White, puffy clouds greeted us in St. Louis. The helicopter camera caught great views of the car passing the St. Louis Arch. We wrapped and took off for New York City.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, it was named after Giovanni da Verrazzano who in 1524 became the first European to enter New York Harbor USS_Leyte_Gulf_(CG_55)_under_the_Verrazano_Narrows_Bridgeand the Hudson River. He discovered a narrow passage that carried him from the Atlantic Ocean into the harbor. And, no, that’s not a typo in his name. For some strange reason, when they named the narrows after him, map makers decided to leave out the extra “z” in his name. The bridge connects Staten Island to Brooklyn and the rest of Long Island.

We landed at JFK and settled into our hotel in Manhattan, not noticing the gathering storm clouds. Being the last location, we decided to find out whether they sold steaks and Irish whiskey at The Palm on 2nd Avenue.  They do!

Our call was for 6:00 AM on the Staten Island side of the bridge. The heavens had opened and were pouring sheets of rain and showers of lightning down upon us. Visibility was very poor. We were all there, setting up all the equipment. Well, almost all of us were there. The car wasn’t!  A quick call let us know that the car was stuck in Pennsylvania. A quick look let us know the the Port Authority Police were setting up roadblocks to stop traffic on the bridge’s upper level. The truck drivers whose trucks were now backed up for a mile were becoming a bit choleric. One of the production assistants told us that it would be at least another hour before the Accord arrived. The backup at the entrance to the bridge horrible-traffic-jam-picturesgrew. Truck drivers and commuters were getting angry. A police supervisor walked toward us and asked, “Who’s in charge here?” I suddenly felt sixteen fingers pointing at me. The police captain wanted to know why we weren’t filming anything. I explained that the car was delayed. A great idea came into my head.  “Why don’t we let these folks use the bridge until the car arrives?” The captain reached inside his trench coat and pulled out a very official looking document. He perused it for about 15 seconds and said, “Sorry, pal, no can do. It says right here that we have to close the upper level off from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Youse guys still got five hours of closure.” I protested, but the policeman said, “Orders are orders,” as he walked away. What the public servant didn’t catch was that the permit allowed the bridge’s upper level be INTERMITTENTLY closed between those hours. Our producer ran into the Port Authority Maintenance building, which sat next to us, to make frantic calls to some nameless bureaucrat who was in charge of traffic pandemonium permits and have him call the police captain.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 9.26.04 AMNew York City was effectively shut down. Well at least Brooklyn and Queens. Unfortunately, Chris Christie was only 20 years old at this time. It would have been easier to blame this “Bridgegate” mess on him.

To deflect blame, I told the production assistants to start the rumor that the bridge was closed because a despondent Boston Red Sox fan was threatening to jump off the bridge. The boiling anger was lowered to a simmer.

Finally! The police captain was summoned to the phone inside the maintenance building and was told to open the bridge until the car got there.  He told his men to remove the barricades.  It was just then that the car prep truck carrying the Accord arrived.

We raced to unload it as traffic slowly began to move across the bridge again. The production company let us know that the helicopter with the cameraman was on its way. When it was ten minutes out, we closed the bridge again, further enraging the drivers who had been miles out in the back-up. The shot was to show the Accord driving across the bridge toward Brooklyn. The helicopter flew alongside the car and then pulled back when it reached the bridge’s midpoint to show the entire bridge and the Manhattan skyline in the background. Close the bridge. Shoot the car.  Open the bridge. Close the bridge. Shoot the car. Open the bridge. Repeat as necessary.

We were close to wrapping when something happened. Noon. It was time to feed our crew. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union, to which all of our crew belonged, required that we feed them after specified periods of time. They had been working in the cold and rain for six hours. The catering people had been setting up tables and chairs for the lunch. On-location catered meals rival those of the finest restaurants. We were trying to squeeze in one more shot before breaking for lunch. Everyone was starving. Someone shouted, “Oh no!” I turned around to see hordes of Port Authority mobmaintenance workers pouring out of their building and racing toward the food. For some reason they figured that the food was for them. We shouted for an assistant to go tell them to back off. The assistant quickly returned, being told by the workers exactly what he should do to himself. This situation was getting worse. Our guys were still working. The maintenance guys were feeding.  Think school of piranha and a cow. I then thought of the only thing we could do. I would have to speak “unionese” with them.  It would be the only thing they would understand.

I trotted up the hill. I needed to know what union they were in so I could speak their dialect. Then I realized that we probably had a mix of IBEW, Teamsters, SEIU, and IABSORIW (steel workers) gorging themselves. I needed to use the Esperanto version of “unionese.” This dialect was universally understood. “Hey everyone, this is IATSE food. You wouldn’t want them to file a grievance with the AFL- CIO would you?” They all looked at me, Coquille St. Jacques dripping from their lips. They immediately realized that they were all committing a cardinal sin: You don’t eat another union’s food! They backed away from the table like roaches from Raid. “Thanks guys, you can have anything that’s left.” They were all smiles as they ambled back to their pens.

We finished the shoot. Wrapped everything up. Left the food in foil chafing dishes and raced across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I looked out the rear window of our car and saw every piece of the food being devoured.Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 7.42.51 PM

 

 

Next:  Terror In Tokyo

I Leave Home

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child walking along road

 

As in many other industries, ad agencies follow a certain protocol when poaching talent from another agency. Rather than use a “scorched earth” policy that leaves behind bad feelings, reputable agencies rely on oblique seduction.  Thus it was when I was approached about leaving the bosom of Foote, Cone & Belding/Honig. Bill Hagelstein of Needham, Harper & Stears, called me one sunny afternoon.  Bill was part of the original immigrant wave from Detroit who ventured to Southern California to make ads for Japanese cars. In fact, we had worked together on the Datsun (now Nissan) account at Parker Advertising…for about 15 minutes. Bill had been working there for some time.  Datsun fired Parker 15 minutes after I was hired. Fate was attempting again to bring us together.

One sunny May afternoon in 1982 I received a call from Bill. After we exchanged pleasantries, Bill asked mMouth at Phonee if I might be able to help him with a favor. I immediately agreed. The folks at Needham were looking for an account supervisor to work on Honda. Bill outlined the responsibilities, salary range, and benefits.  I told him that I would “make inquiries.” I sat at my desk, staring at the narcotics officers busting crack dealers in the park across the street. It was then that a thought crossed my mind.  “Why should I offer someone else for this plum job.  Why don’t I go for it?” I went home and discussed it with the family. I was going to go for it.

I called Bill early the next morning. Like two sand cranes performing a mating ritual, Bill and I danced around the issue for a few minutes.  Then I said, “Bill, I thought of someone who would be perfect for the job at Needham. Me.” He laughed and said, “I was hoping you’d say that. I couldn’t come right out and ask you.” Plausible deniability. By me asking him, Needham couldn’t be accused of poaching. The agencies and clients would be calm about it.

It was tough leaving FCB/H. They are the ones, after all, who had plucked me from the Slough of Despond. I felt a great deal of loyalty toward the co-workers who had taught me that Tanqueray  was a damn fine gin. But I had to face facts. I didn’t see much chance for imminent upward mobility. The client was struggling to find a new identity afteMoney Stackr being known for their rotary engines. At the time, Mazda was split into two American companies. One headquartered in Rancho Dominguez, CA., the other in Jacksonville, FL. Consensus on creative was often a rocky road. Oh, who am I kidding? I did it for the money.

Honda and NH&S were whole different worlds from where I was. Accords, Civics, and Preludes were flying out of dealer showrooms faster than the trucks could deliver them. It was like printing money.  Actually, a few years later something like that was going on. But enough has been written about that chapter that I don’t need to go there.

One of the first things I noticed in my new world was that American Honda actually
Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.20.03 AMmirrored what their advertising slogan was: Honda – We Make It Simple. No onorous creative and budget presentations to countless levels of committees . For major presentations we would be in front of four people: Joe Haight, the Honda Ad Manager, Tom Elliott , at that time the VP of Marketing, Cliff Schmillen, SVP of the automotive division, and Yoshihide Munekuni (known affectionately as “Moon”), the President of the automotive division.  Back then, Honda was using the avuncular, soothing tones of Burgess Meredith as the voice-over talent in the commercials. Once the storyboard had been presented, we would read the copy, starting with the words, “And then Burgess says…”

Honda also gave NH&S responsibilities that went beyond the “normal” client/agency relationship. Working with Porter/Novelli Public Relations, we put on their new product short-lead press previews. One of our account people was the “The Honda News Bureau.” We produced their major meetings, including their annual dealer meetings.

In previous posts I’ve gone on about how great it was to have a job that gave you a free car. This job went a step further. It allowed you to hobnob with the rich and famous. Honda was coming out with a completely new iteration of the Accord.  They wanted to dazzle their dealers at the dealer meeting where the car would be revealed. Honda asked us to handle the meeting. Honda knew that most of their dealers would attend with spouses and/or girlfriends in tow. Honda wanted to invite industry thought-leaders. J.D. Power (Dave Power) would attend with his Associates. I was glad Dave was coming because he loved cigars as much as I did. Honda Motor Ltd. executives from Tokyo would be there. A lot of people would be there. We needed a massive venue. Bob Welsh was the titular head of the Honda account at NH&S.  He also was the producer of the Honda meetings and shows. He put Sol Hurok to shame.

The first thing Bob did was to take over the Las Vegas Hilton. They could accommodate thehilton-las-vegas 2000+ rooms that would be needed. Then he booked a “surprise mystery guest,” to boost attendance. Then he used the leverage that comes with booking thousands of rooms to coerce the kitchen and chefs to do the near impossible. When I checked in three days before the event, I was told by reception that I only needed to provide ID. I said, “Don’t you need a credit card for incidentals?” I was told that wouldn’t be necessary as my entire stay was being comped.

Very impressive.  I immediately tried to determine how many pay-per-view movies I could watch during the six days I would be there. The new Accord presentation went off without a hitch. When the commercials were shown in the darkened ballroom, our agency plants in the audience were able to start the cheering and applauding. Almost as impressive as the show was the dinnerBobHope that night.  After a few words from Cliff Schmillen, dinner started.  The Hilton chefs had prepared Beef Wellingtons for 2,000, all of them served warm. Dessert was flaming Baked Alaska for 2,000, all of them done correctly. After dinner Cliff introduced the “surprise mystery guest” to the musical strains of “Thanks for The Memories.” Bob Hope walked
out to thunderous applause. Hope was great. A few hours before the dinner his people had asked for the names of the Honda president, the largest dealer, the worst golfer, the highest ranking executive from Japan, etc. He seamlessly worked all of them into his routine. After the dinner, several of us from the agency and Honda were told to be in the lobby the next morning by 9:00 AM. We were also told to bring swimsuits.

The next morning, six of us assembled in the lobby. The Hilton’s Director of Marketing came up to us and said, “Follow me.” We went out the front doors and were escorted into waiting limousines. I breathed a sigh of relief as the limos turned toward Lake Mead and were not heading out into the desert. We were’t going to be whacked! The Marketing VP Hilton Yachttold us that the Hilton Hotel wanted to thank us for our “hard work” over the last few days by letting us spend the day on Barron Hilton’s yacht. The crew saluted as we boarded. A light breakfast was laid out in one of the state rooms. The bartender was able to supply much needed Bloody Marys. I spotted a box of pampers, guessing that those were for baby Paris. We cruised to a small cove on the other side of the lake where the captain dropped anchor. A diving board was attached to the stern section of the upper deck. Lunch was served onshore. After an afternoon of Glennfiddich-fueled cannonball dives off of the diving board, the captain headed back to the marina where the waiting limos took us back to the hotel. Hmmmm. This Honda gig was pretty neat!

 

Next: I Shut Down New York City

 

 

 

 

 

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!!!

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Crowds flood Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans

New Orleans (every time you see this word in this post you should pronounce it in your head as Nawlins), the Big Easy, the Crescent City, was founded in 1718 by French settlers. It has become, for car guys, a Holy City demanding pilgrimages to its holy sites. Every four years the National AutomobilesuperDome_1700883c Dealers Association (NADA) convention is held here. Super Bowls are held here. It’s no coincidence that of the 48 Super Bowls held, almost 21% of them have been in New Orleans. Car companies hold their annual dealer meetings here. Auto dealers in New Orleans are probably visited by home office people more often than dealers in any other city. And, naturally, car ad guys, being the remoras to the car industry’s host animals, go along for the ride. Dear reader, I am going to break from the chronological order of previous posts to tell you about my experiences in this city all at once. To parse them out individually, over time, would lessen the awesome impact this city has had on roving bands of car guys.

Much of the mayhem occurs during the previously mentioned NADA conventions. They are usually held in late January, or early February. This timing often coincides with the annual Mardi Gras celebrations. There are many fine eating and drinking Hand Grenadeestablishments there willing to aid you on your trip to unconsciousness. One such place is Tropical Isle. Their famous signature drink is called the Hand Grenade. This green monster is a nasty combination of Midori, vodka, coconut rum, Bacardi 151, and pineapple juice. Each grenade is equal to 4.5 cocktails. Because this is the house specialty, it came as no surprise that the musicians could get away with some pretty raunchy lyrics. Two guys named Bill and Dave featured a song about a young man who, after a night of unusual lovemaking, woke to find something disgusting on a part of his body. The song was so ribald that the Tropical Isle had to close their doors which opened onto Bourbon Street, lest the lyrics thoroughly disgust passersby. 

To truly enjoy New Orleans, one must eschew good taste, common sense, and most of your reserves of human decency. I should add that it also helps to keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. Case in point… One year during Mardi Gras, a Ford dealer friend and I were trying to work our way down Bourbon Street. The crowds were so thick, it was hard to move. It was impossible to stand without being pressed up against another reveler. I pointed out to my friend that this was a great bourbon-street-mardi-gras-2011-horizontaljpg-43b60d89613ad0b6opportunity for pickpockets.  The current trick was to use a razor to slit the bottom of a victim’s back pocket and let the wallet slide straight out. I told him that he should put his wallet in his front pocket as I had done.  He agreed. He reached back to get his wallet, only to feel the slit in his pants were the wallet used to be. Having already consumed several Hand Grenades, he seemed unfazed, telling me that he had a wad of cash in his front pocket. We continued, as flotsam, down the street.

This was my friend’s first trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. He noticed the people on balconies throwing strings of beads down to the mob in the street. He asked me, “How do you get them to throw beads to you?” I told him that there were several ways, but I counseled him to not try pulling his shirt up, as that might cause the balcony to collapse from people scrambling to get back inside the building. Suddenly, the human tsunami stopped in front of a balcony where a group of guys were holding strings of very large and expensive beads. Filming lights came on. The crowd starting howling. Videographers from “Girls Gone Wild” appeared from inside the building. The guys on the balcony started shouting, “Show ’em! Show ’em!” My Spidey-sense Mardi-Gras-flashstarted tingling. This was not going to end well. Just then I heard a young woman’s voice from right behind me squeal, “Let’s do it!” I turned around just as several young co-eds from Alabama pulled up their tops and let them all hang out. I turned to grab my friend and beat a hasty retreat. Nothing good could come from this. The revelers around me were already foaming at the mouth and panting heavily. As I turned, I saw him leap in the air. “They’re throwing them to me,” he exclaimed. Thinking that the rain of beads were for him, he jumped up, caught them all, and fell backwards into the sweet young ladies, knocking them over.

The first fists hit us about a nanosecond later. The women were screaming, the mob was howling, and my friend couldn’t understand why were were being set upon. mardigras09-27I explained to him the etiquette of street flashing for beads. If a lady wants to show them to the crowd, the beads belong to her. I apologized for my friend, gave the beads to the ladies, and quickly pushed our way forward toward the semi-sanity of Canal Street. To the crowd, we were old news. They were now ogling the next group of co-eds striving for “Girls Gone Wild” immortality. I just hoped that neither of us wound up in the video.

The parades are part of the pageantry that is Mardi Gras. Some are held at night, others during the day. One year, during an NADA/Mardi Gras eclipse, I was staying at the very stately Lafayette Hotel on St. Charles, just Lafayettewest of the French Quarter. My room had french doors that opened onto a small balcony overlooking the street. My day was filled with visits to the Desire Oyster Bar, Pat O’Brien’s, The Old Absinthe House, Commander’s Palace for dinner, back to Bourbon Street for more pub crawling and expense account abuse. At midnight, at bar called The Dungeon opened to serve its mind altering concoctions of Dragon’s Blood and Witch’s Brew…don’t ask. Heading on to Chris Owens’ Show Bar after Preservation Hall, I thought that the street lights were illuminating the night better than usual. It was then that I realized that the sun was coming up!

I hustled back to the hotel as fast as I could lurch. The day’s debauchery was already beginning to take its toll, manifesting itself as a throbbing headache and an extreme sensitivity to light. I stripped my clothes off and fell forward onto the bed. Shortly after, I began to hear music. Was I dreaming? I opened my eyes to pitch black darkness. Had I gone blind? It was then that I realized thatmardi-gras-float I had closed the blackout curtains over the french doors. The music got louder. A parade was coming down St. Charles. I whipped open the doors and went out on the balcony. The shocked look on the faces of the people lined up across the street alerted me to the fact that I hadn’t put any clothes back on. I didn’t want to miss the parade, so I threw on a white t-shirt, a pair of khakis, and some loafers and went down to the street to watch the parade, after buying a New Orleans power breakfast of a Lucky Dog sausage and a Cajun bloody mary from a street vendor.

I found a spot at the curb in front of the hotel, bloody mary in my right hand, left hand ready to catch the trinkets, coins, and beads that the krewes on each float would throw out to the crowd. As the first float passed, I caught several strings and put them around my neck. About a dozen guys from a Tulane fraternity were lined up behind me, jumping up with me trying to catch souvenirs. I noticed a young boy behind me trying, in vain, to catch something. We all agreed to place him right in front of me so I could catch some beads for him…without spilling a drop of my drink. From down the parade route we could hear a frenzied roar. Approaching us was a float whose members weren’t throwing beads, they were throwing ladies’ underpants. Before I knew it, Crowd with Arms Raisedthe float was in front of us, and a pair of lace panties were headed my way. A tidal wave of humanity pressed against me as hands reached out to catch them. I started to fall forward on the little boy. He turned to face me as I fell toward the street, terror on his face. As we came crashing down, two things crossed my mind. I didn’t want to crush him to death, and I didn’t want to spill my drink. I placed my elbows next to his ears and bent my knees to straddle his waist. About 2500 pounds of frat boys from Sigma Upsilon Kappa came crashing down on us. The boy and my drink, however, were safe. The underpants had somehow trickled through the pile and were now sitting on the street next to the boy. As people climbed off of us, he scuttled out from underneath me and ran away. I refused any help to get up as both knees and both elbows were now bleeding profusely. Fortunately, the bloody mary hadn’t spilled…and the boy had left the panties behind. The parade was over, people left. I slowly rolled over to one side, too sore to move.

I heard someone approach. I opened one eye to see a pair of feet clad in wingtip shoes. The man said, “Tom? Tom? Oh my god Linda, it’s Tom!” I had been discovered. I tried to look up and see who it was. The couple was backlit by the sun, so I could onlyDrunk Guy squint up at them and utter a grunt through the pain. Once they had helped me to my feet, I finished my drink and got a better look at them. They were friends I had gone to college with at MSU. He was now a big media muckety-muck in Detroit, here for the NADA Convention. They asked me how I had come to such a sorry state of being. My t-shirt was now filthy, my bloody pants were torn at the knees. I looked a mess. I decided that they weren’t going to believe the truth, so I told them that I was now living on the street in New Orleans and asked them not to tell anyone that they saw me in this condition. They wanted to give me money. I said that I couldn’t accept charity. I shoved the panties in my pocket, threw my now empty cup in the trash, and hobbled away, knowing that I would see them both at his company’s huge reception that evening.

We all had a good laugh when I told them the real story. It’s amazing how a nap, a shower, clean clothes, and several Wild Turkey sazeracs can improve one’s station in life.

Next: Hanging With The Rich And Famous 

We Go To The Mattresses

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Mattresses

Mid-summer, 1978, was approaching. Something unimaginable happened! A lowly account executive (me…or I, to use better grammar) was asked to help develop the upcoming year’s marketing strategy. People actually sat down and hammered these things out. Up until this point, I had always believed that new car model year marketing and creative strategies were left underneath the table of booth #3 at the London Chop House by the Strategy Fairy. The advertising agency scrutinized the documents, then instructed their account people to write creative planning requests, which the creative department dutifully turned into great advertising. In late June, Mazda give us a presentation outlining their objectives and strategies for the coming model year. We were briefed on the new models, and what competitive advantages they had. They told us their demographic targets. They then left the room with a hearty 頑張ってね! Bonne chance! Our keeping the Mazda account depended largely on how wonderful our presentation would be. The work on the 1979 Plan would begin in earnest. My guess is thatBoring Presentation we would commandeer one of the conference rooms, probably the main one, for the next month or so.  This would be the “War Room” my friends at other agencies had described to me. Sixteen-hour days going over data, looking at consumer trends, swilling coffee, ordering Big Macs, and wondering what daylight looked like. I was up for the challenge. Long, tedious hours that would test the mettle of any human. Would I be able to stand up to the challenge? I was soon to discover that I would, and enjoy it!

Denny Remsing, my boss, told me that we were NOT going to build a War Room in the main conference room. Instead, we would be “going to the mattresses.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this was used by Mafia families when they wanted to hide out from the police, from other mob families gunning for them, or to just “disappear” for a while. Our purpose was the last one. Denny said, “Tom, we have to stay away from the distractions of the office, from telephone calls, from mundane meetings, from sales calls, and from the ‘pressures’ of an ordinary work environment.” Made sense to me. The next day, we took out adjoining lanai rooms at the Sheraton Town House. Since the agency was only about 200 yards away, assistants could run messages and mail over to us. Armed with briefcases full of data, legal sized notepads, pencils, changes of clothes, and our swim suits, we checked in. I Pooldid mention that the rooms were poolside, didn’t I? Room service sure beat Big Macs, and the margaritas beat cold coffee. I did, however, have to go buy some sunscreen. I planned on expensing it.

We worked slavishly away. After work, the secretaries and account assistants would selflessly drop by to help interpret the data, analyze trends, empty the mini-bars, and check the chlorine levels in the Town House pool. Denny and I were employing the FCB “Know The Consumer” process to develop the finished document. We would examine each aspect of the marketplace, distill the information to a key fact, then use the assembled key facts to develop objectives and strategies. We would also use distilled agave juice to help us arrive at an overall conclusion. Our work was so powerful, I think that Datsun and Toyota sent spies over to try and steal some of our insights. Whenever we had the account team over to help us _DSC3170 (Custom) (2)out by playing and dancing to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger, Abba’s “Take A Chance on Me,” and the soundtrack to “Grease” while checking the chlorine levels in the pool, these spies, dressed as aluminum siding salesmen from Des Moines, would emerge from the bar in their cheesy suits, and just sit and stare at us for hours and hours.

July 11, 1978, a day that will live forever in the annals of women’s rights. I also remember that date as it was the day of the 49th annual MLB all-star Game, the broadcast of which is also part of this story. Denny and I finished the 1979 Marketing and Advertising Plan. We would, along with the Creative Director and the Associate Media Director, be presenting to Mazda at our offices. The Associate Media Director was presenting, even though the Geisha_Kyoto_Gionactual Media Director had put the media portion of the plan together, because he was a male and the Director was a woman. The erroneous prevailing thought back then was that, because Japanese women had no or little role in business in Japan, our Mazda client might be reluctant to deal with a woman. The Associate Media Director was put forward as the agency’s Mazda Media Man. Of course, this did not sit well with the Media Director. She sat in the back of the room for the presentation.  As the clients filed out to join us for lunch at the Wilshire Country Club, one of them asked the Media Director if she would be joining us.  She immediately said, “Yes!” A quick call to the club added another chair at the table. Everyone’s spirits were running high thanks to the cocktails, wine, and the excellent marketing plan Denny and I had written. The lunch was winding down, and the table talk was getting louder, when the EVP of Mazda asked our Media Director a question. “If you are the Media Director, why haven’t we seen at any meetings?” She had to almost shout across the table to him because of the other loud conversations. “It’s because management thinks I’ll say “sh%t” at a meeting.”  What she didn’t know was that all the Mazda clients had heard the question and they all stopped talking just in time to hear her answer. The last “t” of her response was still echoing through the room when our president looked across the table at her and said, “Yes, my dear, that’s exactly why we keep you away from our Mazda client.” This was followed by three seconds of awkward silence. Then all of the Mazda clients broke out laughing. “We think this is wonderful,” they said. “We don’t get to work with female executives in Japan.” These presentation lunches were always followed by golf or tennis.  “Are you going to play golf or tennis with us?” they asked. “Well,” she said, “I don’t play golf but I can run home and get my tennis stuff and meet you on the courts.”

The golf and tennis came off without a hitch. The golfers showered and changed for dinner at the club. The tennis courts were at the Sheraton Town House, so the tennis players used my lanai room to change and have some refreshments. A lot of refreshments. The Media Director showered and changed first, while the rest of us gathered around the television to watch the All-Star game. She soon joined us, as the next person went off to cleanse himself. I ordered more towels. The room had Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 10.23.24 PMbecome thick with cigar smoke and shower steam. The game was tied going into the bottom of the 9th. Goose Gossage was brought in to pitch for the AL. Steve Garvey led off with a triple, scoring on a Gossage wild pitch. A walk, and error, and three singles scored three more runs.  The NL fans in the room were going wild. Mazda’s Marketing Director, a rabid NL fan, was in the shower when the shouting started. Clutching a towel in front of himself, he came into the room to watch.  After about five minutes, he realized that he was standing behind our seated Media Director. So did everyone else. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I was raised with three brothers.  You don’t have anything I haven’t seen a lot of before.” From that day on, she attended every presentation.  

Next: T&E Heaven

These Guys Are A Lot Different From GM!

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teaHippie

I landed at LAX at 3:30 PM, and it already felt different. This was to be my new home. There was no thought that someone would walk into my office and tell me that I was being transferred back to Detroit. I was filled with giddy anticipation, looking forward to working with new people, new clientsTown House  new cultures, and…a new FREE CAR! Even though it was a bottom-of-the food-chain Mazda GLC (the Great Little Car), it was free. FCB/H put me up at the Sheraton Town House Hotel. A beautiful, faded-glory hotel situated next to Lafayette Park, on Wilshire Blvd. The Town House was declared a historical landmark in 1993, and is now a low-income apartment building. Upon checking in, I received a note from FCB/H, welcoming me to LA. Classy! Having no idea where to grab a bite to eat, I ordered room service, kicked off my shoes and turned on KABC News and Jerry Dunphy. At this time, FCB was located at 2727 West 6th Street…right across Lafayette Park from the Sheraton Town House.  It is now the home of South Baylo University (not to be confused with the school in Waco, TX) a school teaching acupuncture. It was maybe two hundred yards away.  A simple walk, or so I thought. I would discover that getting across the park was a little more challenging than driving down Woodward Ave.

Dawn dawned. I was showered, shaved, and English Leathered. It was 8:45 AM when I strode out the door and into the park. I had to diagonally traverse the park to get to the front door of FCB. As I left the safety of the sidewalk, I immediately encountered three young men sitting on a picnic table, smiling at me.  Being a good son of Michigan, I smiled back. The largest of the three got up and approached me.  A lot of non-verbal cues told me that he was not part of the agency welcoming committee. He slowly opened his left hand to show me several one inch by one inch plastic packages that seemed to contain some kind of white powder. Sensing that it might not be Bromo-Seltzer, I quickly moved on. A few yards later I heard some shouting that seemed to be getting closer. A woman was screaming at a man who was carrying a purse while he ran away from her. Maybe he’d dropped his wallet.

Lafayette

I quickened my pace.  I could see the safety of the 6th Street sidewalk just steps away. I turned quickly and headed down the sidewalk for the crossing signal. An elderly lady approached me from the other direction. She stopped directly in front of me, screaming “You can go to Hell, Lewis!” She then moved her legs apart, bent her knees slightly, and relieved herself on the sidewalk and my new Thom McAns. She was definitely NOT from any welcoming committee.  I crossed the street and made my way toward the FCB front doors. There is a long hedge in front of the building. While passing it, I Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.07.16 AMheard a noise come from the bushes. I stopped, stupidly, to inspect it.  From within the bush came a voice, “Sir, keep moving. You’re interfering with an LAPD drug action.” Suddenly, his radio crackled…”It’s going down. Go! Go! Go!” The hedge gave birth to an LAPD undercover officer dressed as a homeless person. He raced across the street as other undercover officers emerged from trees, dumpsters, and out of cars. As they ran into the park, I could see that they were chasing the three young gentlemen selling Bromo-Seltzer. I’m going to love working here!

I entered the lobby and introduced myself. Denny Remsing came out, greeted me, and took me to my office…which had a glorious view of Lafayette Park. I told him about my park adventure. He said, “Stick to the sidewalks.” He then began to explain the Byzantine organization of our Mazda client. In the beginning, there was Toyo Kogyo of Hiroshima. They started out as a rock drill company at the start of the 20th Century, but began manufacturing motor vehicles. Toyo Kogyo came to North America riding on the success of rotary powered cars. In the U.S., they established three importing/distribution companies. One in Jacksonville, FL. One in Chicago. And one in Compton, CA. When the first gas crisis hit, the not so fuel efficient rotary engine cars suffered.  Toyo Kogyo was going broke. They sold the Jacksonville importing company to the C. Itoh Trading Company.  Toyo Kogyo’s bank, Sumitomo, took over Chicago. Toyo Kogyo held onto Compton. There was a slight gordian_knotproblem. C. Itoh and Sumitomo were major competitors. They had different ideas on how to package, price, and market Mazda vehicles. To compound the issue, Toyo Kogyo had to shut down their Compton operation, with Sumitomo taking it over, and moving the executives to Southern California from Chicago.  In the U.S. , Mazda was now really two companies: Mazda Motors of America – Central (Sumitomo decided not to change the name of the company when it moved to the West Coast); and Mazda Motors of America – East headquartered in Jacksonville and owned by C. Itoh. Toyo Kogyo still made the cars, but sold them to Sumitomo and C. Itoh to market in this country. MMA – C covered two-thirds of the country, MMA – E the East and South. 

Denny asked, “Are you still following me?” I lied and nodded my head. He continued on to explain that the two importers had different base prices and option packages. This pretty much eliminated any network television ads featuring price. Also, Toyo Kogyo, Sumitomo, and C. Itoh all contributed to the ad budget, requiring three separate sets of budgets. Ads had to be approved by representatives of each company, requiring frequent trips to the dank heat and humidity capitol of America, Jacksonville, FL.  I was also informed that I would be in charge of providing budget information to the clients. Yippee!!

Denny then asked me a question that would change my life. “It’s almost noon.  Do you like Mexican food?”

Next: Pink Margaritas in Beer Flutes

“Have You Met Any Movie Stars?”

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Cornell

Hollywood!  I was 26 years old and working in Hollywood.  I knew nothing about California except for what I saw out of the cab window on my way to start my first day of work.  Dick Byrne greeted me and took me back to his (soon to be mine) corner office.  He brought me up to date on what was going on in the two zones I would be covering.  He introduced me to everyone in the office.  I asked him about his retirement.  He was going to live in his condo in Apple Valley, near Victorville in the Mojave Desert.  His wife was already out there, and Dick was living in a motel for the next week until his retirement became official.  He couldn’t wait to start playing golf every day.  Dick then took me to lunch.  As we walked out onto sidewalk, I immediately realized that I was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Treading lightly on the names of long-deceased celebs, we soon reached the Musso & Frank’s Grill.  I had never heard of it.  I will never forget it.  Opened in 1919, the dark interior features red leather and mahogany.  The waiters, many of whom have been there for years, sport red jackets and black ties. Faulkner used to go behind the bar to mix his own mint juleps, Fitzgerald would manny-aguirresit in a booth and review his writing.  Their nonpareil martinis are served in carafes.  Gore Vidal described the place, saying,  “Coming into Musso’s is like stepping into a warm bath.”  It was during lunch with Dick that I saw my first movie star: Cornell Wilde!  He was sitting alone at the next table, quietly eating his Shrimp Louie.  He was probably contemplating whether or not to appear on “Dean Martin Presents The Goldiggers.”

As our lunch was finishing, Dick asked me where I was planning on living.  I told him that since this was my first trip to LA, I didn’t have a clue.  He suggested the Park LaBrea complex.  “It’s very close to work. My wife and I lived there for 22 years. You should really consider it.”  I told him that I would. When we got back to the office, Dick went off to make some phone calls. Some of the other staffers also asked me where I was going to live.  I mentioned Park LaBrea. “Noooo!!,” they said as one. They explained that even though Dick and his wife had lived there for 22 years, when his lease term was up the first of April, he had to either renew for another year or move.  They didn’t allow month-to-month leases. They moved out, with Dick’s wife going to the desert condo, and Dick staying in a cheesy local motel.  On top of that, there was no central air conditioning at Park LaBrea, and window air conditioners were prohibited.  Since it was 102 that day, Park LaBrea was crossed off my list.  Just then, Dave Koontz, one of our TV producers came up with a suggestion. Dave’s wife, at the time, was Christina Crawford of “Mommy Dearest” fame.  “Hey man, do you have any kids?” We didn’t at the time.  “You should check out a place called Marina Del Rey.  It’s on the water, and it’s a non-stop party place.”  That sounded very good to me.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 12.05.50 AMThe next day I drove to the Marina and visited one apartment complex: Mariner’s Village.  It was right on the main channel into the Marina. It truly was a village, or at least my imagery of one.  It even had its own on-site dry cleaners!!  The two bedroom unit they showed me was perfect.  The living room sliding glass door went out to a balcony with a breathtaking view of the water.  Sailboats slowly cruised by right on front of me.  “I want it,” I screamed. “I’ll be back in 48 hours with my wife to sign the lease.”  I ran to the nearest pay phone and called my wife in Kansas City. “I have found the promised land! It’s an apartment right on the water. I’m flying home tonight to start packing, and then we’ll fly back here tomorrow.  You’ll love it”

Timing is, truly, everything.  Bad Timing Item #1: When we got off the plane in LA, it was 104 degrees with a Stage 3 smog alert.  I think Stage 3 meant that your skin would start blistering if you were outside for more than ten minutes. My case for moving to LA wasn’t helped by the fact that my wife’sla-smog-jordansmall_462 eyes were burning and she had developed a nasty hacking cough in the last ten minutes.  Bad Timing Item #2: When we got to Mariner’s Village, I found out that my dream apartment had been leased to someone else that morning. “But I told you I was coming right back,” I sobbed. “Sir,” they officiously scoffed, “we don’t ‘hold’ units without a deposit.”  “Is there another one?”  “No, they said.  We have no more vacancies. We’d be happy to put your name on a waiting list.”  I stormed out.  There had to be other really cool Marina apartments for rent.  After driving around for three hours, I found that there weren’t.  We stopped for lunch.  My wife bought the current issue of Newsweek.  When I returned from the bathroom to join her at our table, she threw the magazine at me.  “Now I know why you want to move to LA!!!”

Bad Timing Item #3

Games 

The cover story of the current issue of Newsweek was an expose on the anything-goes, swinging sex scene lifestyle found in a place called Marina Del Rey.  To top it all off, the cover picture was taken at the pool at Mariner’s Village, the place I had been dying to make mine.  “You can move here if you want.  But I’m not coming with you.”  Hmmmm.  I realized that I had some selling to do.  And I only had 24 hours to do it. I desperately suggested, “Let’s drive around for a while. We might find something.”  I was clutching at straws. I managed to get lost as we drove in ever-widening arcs away from the Marina.  “Why don’t you give up?  We’re not going to find anything we like,” she said.  Just then, I saw it.  The sign that said “Luxury Apartments and Townhouses just ahead.”  Last chance.  I pulled into Raintree. It was just off Jefferson,east of Overland in Culver City.  MGM was selling off Raintreemany of their backlots.  Raintree was no exception.  Many of the exteriors from the Elizabeth Taylor movie, Raintree County were filmed on this lot.  MGM left the small lake which was now the centerpiece of the complex.  The units were brand new, unoccupied.  We could have our pick.  Once you passed the guard gate, the air was cooler, cleaner. Large willow trees shaded the walkways.  The resident managers were from Ohio, and spoke Midwestern.  They told us that Telly Savalas and Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) were residents in the townhouse section of Raintree. My wife said, “This will do.”

Next:  Chita Rivera Saves The Day