Monday, April 13, 2015

When I worked with Gunther Grass.

I just read Gunther Grass’ obituary. I had always admired Grass. In my mind, his memoir “Peeling the Onion,” was the best book I ever read about post-war Germany and reconciling your past to your present.

Years ago during a somewhat less-than-luminous period in my career, I was asked to run the Scott’s lawn care business. This, in my opinion, was not an adroit bit of creative casting. Neither me nor my partner Craig had ever lived in a house with a lawn. Neither of us had ever lived in the suburbs where lawn-culture so predominates. But an assignment is an assignment, so we took it on.

I was sitting in my office early one morning, as usual devoid of ideas. Craig came in a few minutes after ten with a pad and markers, ready to work. We chitted and chatted for a while. Then I asked Craig what he had done the evening before.

“I watched a video,” he answered. “I saw ‘The Tin Drum.’”

“Gunther Grass’ Tin Drum,” I clarified unnecessarily.

Craig immediately threw open his drawing pad and scribbled these now immortal words: “Gunther Grass on Scott’s Grass.” That was it. We would use the Nobel-prize winning author as our spokesman.

I quickly got on the blower to Grass’ flat in Lubeck.

“Herr Grass,” I said as he answered the Ameche. I explained our concept.

“Das is gut,” the taciturn Teuton tutted.

Two weeks later we were shooting him standing on a verdant green lawn. The camera pulls back and you see he’s standing next to a horse’s head teeming with live eels. Some people thought that was too much. But we got the shot. And it worked.

“A lot can happen to your lawn,” he said as the camera cut to the equine and piscine scene. “This is Gunther Grass. Protect your grass with Scott’s.” And then the tagline. “Scott’s. Das is gut.”

Rest in Peace, big fella.

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