The Whole Deal
I backed into the ad business.
It wasn't a dream I'd always had; wanting to join the circus or play for the Brooklyn Dodgers... or be in advertising.
No. Not in the cards.
My decades-long career in the ad game was all about financial survival.
I won't bore you with yet another recounting of my, well, challenging childhood; I really focused on avoiding the end of life as I knew it by reading minds. I was a prizefighter in the ring, anticipating my opponent's next move; never had any thought of winning, just not getting killed.
So, zipping right along: grade school, high school, and within six months of my college graduation, war broke out in Korea. I spent a few months in my father's business—robotic; not a decision, just, what else was there?—and I was drafted.
Basic training and assignments posted: pages upon pages of names to Korea, with just a handful of us to France and the WWII airbases we still maintained.
For those of my guys sent to Korea, it was a living hell.
For me in France, it was almost two years of peace, beauty, and a reawakening of my creative self.
An insane contrast for me: waves of guilt that I wasn't with my pals; interspersed with honest relief and thanks to the Someone in charge.
When I was discharged, I immediately started cartooning, and I remember my first sale, to a now-gone, weekly magazine, The Saturday Review and the note—which I have—from the editor, along with the cartoon: Two men in my idea of Greek costume, standing next to a structure of stone, one of the men saying "It's for walking under; I call it an arch."
In the months following, my cartoons appeared in Collier's, Look, Esquire, the Saturday Evening Post; satisfying, but infrequent, paying very little, and for sure, no way to build a family. Came frustratingly close with a weekly cartoon idea for a newspaper: close, closer, and then—that same Someone in charge—they bought a new comic strip instead.
That was it for me: the straw that did what straws do and at that same time, I saw a TV storyboard, used then—and maybe still—by advertising agency art directors, working with copywriters to present TV commercials.
I bought some TV pads, sat down, wrote and illustrated a couple of commercials. I had a meeting with an agency group head, who asked if I could hang around for a while, he showed it to his supervisor, and late in the day, I met with the agency creative director who offered me a steady income and fun: the Stage Delicatessen, improvising comedy sketches in the park, turning out light-hearted TV commercials; dog food mostly, and of course—no secret—for me, dogs are the best people.
Piece of cake; then, I was promoted, and promoted again, with each promotion up the ladder, being further and further away from actually creating anything.
More products to advertise; big money for the agency, but not on my personal fun list: drugs and cigarettes.
More income, zero fun, zero sense of creative satisfaction.
To another agency as creative director; more money, whining and sniveling to my wife, a no-shit lady, who simply said; "Why don't you quit?" and came up with a great connection; as newspaper editorial cartoonist.
It was a whole other world; a joy.
Three years of great satisfaction: the Nixon years. Some elevating comments, from a Supreme Court justice, a governor, a newspaper editor.
Then, the newspaper sold.
Back into the ad game: my own agency this time, with a totally different product: furniture. No cigarettes, no drugs, just lovely furniture. Mostly family businesses; years of helping dealers all over the country.
Real people, real product; no fast talk, no quick bucks; business, but clean: one-on-one.
Then, enough's enough. Retired.
Now here I am.
Me, myself and I.
Talking my brains out.
Whatever comes to mind.
Spilling the beans.
Just me talking to you.
Really satisfying for me.
OK for you?