Thursday, March 2, 2023

The George Lois Memorial.

Wednesday night, amid the cold and mist, I headed up to 259 Convent Street--around 140th Street in Manhattan to CCNY--City College of New York for a Memorial tribute to the legendary art director, George Lois.

Much was made of Lois donating his archives to CCNY. As Lois achieved what was once called the American Dream, CCNY was the college of the American Dream. A free school for poor New Yorkers. CCNY was the first free college in the United States--the product of a kinder, fairer, more egalitarian time. 

The college--the school of the underdog--of the poor, of minorities when the Ivy's wouldn't let them in--has produced ten Nobel Prize-winners. Its list of famous alumni would put nearly any college in the world to shame. 

Lois thought the school a worthy recipient of his work, because he, too, was an underdog. A Bronx-born American-Greek who upset the politesse of what was then the WASP-ish ad industry.

My friend Rob Schwartz was a speaker. As was Senator Bill Bradley, congressman Dennis Kucinich and Tommy Hilfiger, the designer who was propelled to fame somewhat based on Lois' iconic ad campaign.

On display were half-a-dozen or so enlargements of some of Lois' great work. There was a particularly nice assortment of Lois' famous covers for Esquire magazine. As well as some Ali-to-Lois memorabilia.

My favorite magazine cover of all time was there, with a replica of Lois' marker comp. Friends and I debated whether they were comped after the fact, but really that doesn't much matter.

There was a small sampling of Lois' MTV work. And one ad from his campaign to free Rubin "Hurricane" Carter from wrongful imprisonment, and one small poster of Lois' work to help Bobby Kennedy get elected as Senator from New York in 1964. Many hoped that would be RFK's stepping stone to becoming president in 1968 or 1972. 

An assassin's bullet ended that bit of Camelot before it started.
And instead, we wound up with Nixon.

Of all the things Lois promoted, Lois himself might have gotten the most ink.

Deservedly so.
I'll leave with this quotation, which I wrote down last night. I'm not sure it was attributed to Lois, but that doesn't much matter. I think the thought is pretty right on.

"Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality."

I'm going to memorize that.


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