Last night I did something I rarely do. According to my psycho therapist (two words) I don't do it often enough. That is, I went out with old friends and bent my elbow.
These were old advertising friends, people I worked with from 1990 to 1995 when I was plying the well-lit, well-designed, hall-of-fame hallways of the now defunct Ally & Gargano.
There were four of us there including me and I was, as is usual for me, odd man out. They were key creatives and account on the Dunkin' Donuts business, an account I touched only tangentially, because I was the creative lead on The Bank of New York business.
Nonetheless, I did a fair amount of work on Dunkin' and because I am quick-witted and know virtually every joke that's ever been uttered my brand of humor (such as it is) matched the tonality of Dunkin' Donuts in those days and I was welcomed into the fold.
In many ways, these years around 20 years ago were the most productive of my career. I rose in those five years from copywriter to Senior Vice President, Group Creative Head. And because I got in early and stayed late I got an enormous amount of good work produced and became invaluable to the agency.
I left the place 17 years ago on Sunday and they closed about four months later.
One of the people at dinner had been the Group Creative Director on Dunkin'. He is still marginally in the industry. The schticky sort of work he was best at has fallen out of favor and his style has come be regarded as too old to cut the mustard. He is now making a living freelancing at health care agencies.
Shelley, who was an account sup has left the business altogether. She's near 70 and near retirement, working as the office manager for a psychiatrist in Long Beach.
And Susan, a hard-as-nails Management Sup, now works in audio branding for Elias Music. She reminds me of one of those old supply sergeants in black and white war movies. She can find anything, arrange anything, get anything done.
As Paul Simon wrote many years ago, "And we talked about some old times/And we drank ourselves some beers/ Still crazy after all these years."
This is not a kind industry in so many ways. It hasn't treated my friends with much grace. And Ally & Gargano, a place that had been so good and so strong, in many ways lost out to greed and macro forces that made it hard for mid-sized shops to survive.
That said, there are people in our industry who make life and the world a little better.