Friday, September 21, 2018

Uncle Slappy's Friday Slap-of-the-Week.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yom Kippur and young people.

I read an article in the Times the other day, the day before Yom Kippur to be precise, about how important it is to think about the life you're living. You can read the article here.

The article was called "A Dress Rehearsal for Our Deaths," and it advises you to confront your mortality head-on. To think about it. To consider, I'm quoting Sartre in "The Wall" here, if you lived as if you "had forever."

Too many people, most people maybe, go through life as if they're filling out a baseball card full of stats. How much money they make, the vintage of their German car, the size of their apartments and so on. 

How many people think about how they're really doing?
You know, the elemental things. In Jewish lore it comes down to this: will you or will you not be inscribed in the book of life. ie, are you a good person?

Last night, Yom Kippur, with our kids out of town, my wife and I invited over a bunch of our office children and their significant others to break the Yom Kippur fast. It was two 60-somethings hosting six 20-somethings. The age gap didn't matter.

We broke bread, ate smoked salmon, had apples dipped in honey and talked about our lives. It's a beautiful thing seeing beautiful young people as they make their ways in the world.

When they had left our place--and they stayed just the right amount of time--I did what people do: I checked my Facebook and I saw that a friend from the business, like me, just 60 years old, had just died. There was a short tribute to her on my feed. Not long ago I had tried to help her daughter find a job in the business, and now she was dead.

I'm at that stage in life now--ten years short of the Torah's "threescore and ten," but, my friends on the far left side of the bell curve are beginning to go. Three, maybe seven, already, including my sister Nancy. Dead at 47 in a motorcycle crash.

It's a sobering thing to see on something as dumb and ephemeral as social media. Someone who meant something to you gone like a leaf blowing down the pavement in a storm. Gone.

You count your limbs. You listen to your breathing. You secretly feel for bumps or lumps or unexplained wheezing or a pain that wasn't there the day before. You say, this can't happen to me. I ran for half an hour today. 

But guess what? It can happen.

So do what you should do. Have some young people over for lox and bagels. Dip some apples in honey. Take your dog to the beach and walk far without once looking at your watch or your phone. Laugh as much as possible.

And most of all, try to be kind. To others, to yourself, to your kids and spouse and your craft.

Rabbi Hillel, in the great Jewish book "Ethics of the Fathers," asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?"

Not to top Hillel, the Lou Gehrig of Jewish thought, but there's this I just read: "Who is wise? One who learns from every person." That's something to think about, too. Learning from every person. Learning from people younger than your kids.

Whether you're a member of the tribe, or not, have a happy, healthy, and wise 5779.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Herb, Herb, Herb, Herb, Stan and Violet.

“Herb Goldberg,” Herb Levin began, “he played the guitar. He was a regular Charlie Christian, or Barney Kessel.”

“He could play,” I added, letting Herb know I knew my jazz guitarists.

The old man took a sip of coffee from a small elegant cup, then rested the cup back on its matching coaster.

“Cold,” he said, then sipped at it again. “Herb Strauss, he played the bass guitar. Herb Schlesinger played the clarinet—the second coming of Benny Goodman. And I played the saxophone.”

“Four Herbs,” I added, “in one band.”

“Then there was your dad,” Herb Levin continued, “He played the drums and we practiced at his house.”

“How did he fit in,” I asked. Like me, my father wasn’t much of a joiner. In fact, I can scarcely think of anything in his life that he joined. And I am much the same. I hardly get into an elevator if there’s someone in the car before me.

“Like I said,” the old man continued. “We’d practice in the parlor of your grandmother’s apartment. She was nearly deaf and didn’t mind the racket.”

“I’ve noticed a lot of music lovers are deaf,” I joked.

“Politicians, too. He paused, I believe for effect. And wives,” he said as he padded to the kitchen and filled his cup with another dollop of coffee—this time hot.

“We were big in West Philadelphia in the 40s. We played at weddings, bar mitzvahs, school dances. We were making good money. We even played on WFIL, the 50,000 watt clear-channel station that broadcast from the ballroom of the Bellevue-Stratford. You could hear us all the way in Nebraska.”

Now it was my turn to refill my joe. I was back in a jiffy.

“So what happened,” I asked. “What happened to the band? You weren’t exactly Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd?”

The old man took a sip then laughed gently.

“We weren’t even Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge.”

Now it was my turn to laugh.

“It was your father’s fault the band went belly-up,” Herb said. “Even though we practically named the group after him.”

“What was the name?” I realized I had forgotten to ask the obvious question.

“Herbs Last Stan. No apostrophe. Not a bad name considering everything.”

“Herbs Last Stan,” I repeated dumbly, as I do so often.

“Your old man, he was probably 18 at the time, so it was 1945 or 1946, had taken up with a chanteuse of sorts.”

Violet Klotz (stage name Mae Clarke) starred in two of 1931's biggest movies.
"The Public Enemy" (top) and "Frankenstein" (bottom).

“A chanteuse?” I was pretty sure no one had used that word since Edith Piaf died in 1963.

“Yes, one Violet Klotz. A Philadelphia girl who had made it big in Hollywood in the early 30s—she was the vamp into whose face Jimmy Cagney crushed the grapefruit in “The Public Enemy.” Klotz was in “Frankenstein,” the top-grossing movie of 1931.”

“My father and Violet Klotz,” I sipped, “do tell.”

“You might have heard of her as Mae Clark. She was pushing 40 when your old man starting seeing her.”

“Seeing her?”

“Boffing her,” Herb clarified.

“So how did my old man put the kibosh on Herbs Last Stan?”

“Well, to be blunt, though Violet had been something of a film star in the early days of the Silver Screen, she wasn’t exactly a singer. But of course, your father couldn’t see that. The fact is, Klotz had been going steadily downhill since 1931. And she didn't start that far up the mountain.”

Klotz appeared in 22 uncredited roles in 1951 and 1952.
“But he was smitten,” I said.

“The heart wants what the heart wants. He said. He went for Klotz hook, line and form-fitting sateen gown. He saw Mae Clark as a film star, whereas the rest of us only saw 40-year-old Violet Klotz from 5253 Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia.”

“You can take the girl out of Philadelphia,” I said sagely.

“She sang like an emetic cat,” Herb said. “But your old man insisted. Gigs dried up like, well like, violet petals after they die.”


“We loved your dad, so we just let the band go. The four Herbs went and got real jobs. As did your Dad. Violet, at the end of her life had a bit part on the old TV show, "F Troop."

It was a long way from Hollywood to F Troop.

“I guess you could call that bottoming out," I answered.

The old man padded once again to the kitchen. He washed out his cup and saucer and placed them gently in the expensive German dishwasher. Then he turned off the percolator.

"Nap time for me," he said, exiting the kitchen, and turning off the lights as he left.

I sat alone in the dark.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Who's driving?

I'm blessed at work in a few ways. For one, I'm surrounded by a crew of outstanding producers. Producers do more than make things possible. They make things easier. They make your ideas b e t t e r. To date, they've kept me from growing completely grey.

Leading our production crew is executive producer Eric Soloway. During his career, Eric's been a writer and a director. But at heart, he's a producer. 

I ran into Eric last week running, as I was running, between floors, doing what we do. That is, rushing to a meeting. He asked me if I ever let guests post on Ad Aged.

I do.

If they're as good as Eric.

Here's Eric's piece:

Put the producer back in the driver’s seat

In the pre-Uber days, I always drove the rent-a-car on shoots.

We all got there on time and on budget. The end. If time allowed, we even made a pit stop or two. At least a quickie to In and Out Burger. Now I try to be the one who orders the Uber. But with the increasing scrutiny on per diems, that responsibility now gets passed around. And with self-driving cars on the horizon, I’m getting worried.  And everyone else should be too. Because we need drivers. And those drivers need to be producers.

Here’s why:

Creatives shouldn’t drive. They should be in the back seat with their edibles or staring out the window for inspiration. Creatives are like the guy who crawled into the backseat of his Tesla while it was in auto mode because it seemed like a cool idea at the time. He died. I love my creatives. I want to keep them safe and happy. So I drive.

The account person should be riding shotgun. That’s the strategic seat. That’s the agenda seat. That’s the line of communication to the outside world seat. Plus, he or she needs to pay for gas. The account person shouldn’t drive because they will follow the GPS too precisely. Remember the couple whose GPS told them to take a left into the pond? And they did! If that kind of situation arises, the producer will say, “I’m not turning into that pond!” The account person will say, “But that’s what it says to do.” The creatives will say, “That might be fun.” Then the producer will remind the account person that it will cost money and time to tow the car out of the pond and say, “I know a better route.” It’s a little like refusing to award a job without an approved script. Yes, I’ve had to put the brakes on that idea more than once.

If you’re wondering where the business manager is in this situation, they’re the OnStar button. They’re Hey Siri. They’re the absolute truth when everyone needs it and should always be the first call when the road gets bumpy. When you get pulled over by the SAG police, who are a lot less friendly than that retired cop at the craft service table, you better have your story straight. And everyone looks to the producer to do the talking.

Lately, people seem to look to producers for an explanation when things go wrong instead of appreciating how much a good one can make things go right. And as I’m seeing producers and even entire production departments piling up on the side of the road, I’m concerned agencies are putting too much stock into self-driving cars. Well folks, that future is not very bright. Why do you think Elon Musk is toking up on camera? If we go that route, we’ll end up with everyone head down in the car, seatbelts fastened, looking at their smartphones searching for content that never got made because, say it with me now:


Friday, September 14, 2018

Agency Lays-Off 100% of Staff in Broad Restructuring.

__________ Agency parted with its entire staff yesterday at its New York headquarters yesterday as part of the agency’s ongoing restructuring efforts.
“We are realigning our teams following some recent shifts in our business, which includes a small staffing reduction of approximately 100%. We remain confident in our new business momentum and in the strategic initiatives and investments we are making in the future of our no-longer existing business. We believe these efforts will allow us to better serve the ever-evolving needs of the clients we no longer have.”
A spokesperson continued in a statement, “Over the few months, we have been proactively strengthening our agency offering, while making strategic investments and investments strategically to attract talent, particularly attractive talent, and build capabilities that align with the evolving needs of evolving—and revolving—modern marketers. As part of this ongoing restructuring, we have made the difficult decision to entirely eliminate our staff, completely right-sizing for today’s market exigencies.”
From the grand-salon of a holding company yacht, a corporate spokesperson said, “These decisions are never easy, and we are doing everything we can to support and completely sever ties with the 100% of our staff who have been impacted. As we build toward the data-driven, blockchained, AI'd, unskippable, six-second, hyper-local, dynamically-optimized, programmatic and media-agnostic social-first digital future, we remain laser-focused on unpacking and delivering transformational business models, shareable user-experiences and market-shaping results at speed for our non-existent clients.
“This transitioning into non-viability is part of our continuing efforts to lean-in and remain irrelevant and obscure. This latest move reflects the success of those endeavors.”