Thursday, August 31, 2023

Vincent. Preston. You.

Some years ago I was on an IBM shoot in Berlin and I decided that the shoot was in extremely capable hands and I wouldn't continue onto Hong Kong for the remaining days of filming. Besides, I reasoned, 15 schnitzengrubens is my limit.

Instead, I decided to leave Germany and meet up with my wife in Amsterdam and spend a week in what Russell Shorto called "The World's Most Liberal City."

My wife is more than a bit of an art fiend and we headed right for the Rijksmuseum, which has more Dutch Masters than your local Te Amo cigar shop. Literally mile after mile of brilliant works.

It's no wonder, really. While the rest of Europe was under the crushing conservatism of the Roman church, Protestant Amsterdam was in contrast much more open and, yes, liberal.

The Dutch were also early adopters of liberal financial practices that made it easier to raise vast sums of money for commercial ventures. That's how, really, they surpassed the Portuguese to become the world's foremost trading power, dominating the East Asian spice trade until their "possessions" were wrested from them by the Japanese during the early days of World War II. 

Even more striking to me than the Rijksmuseum was a much smaller museum down the cobblestones dedicated to Van Gogh. There I learned something that continues to startle me. Van Gogh painted more than 70 paintings in the last 70 days of his life. That's right, more than one painting a day.

To my blue American eyes, the apotheosis of creative production had always been achieved by America's greatest comedic writer and director, Preston Sturges.

In just eight years, he wrote and directed ten great comedies. While it's hard to find a list not afflicted by a recency heuristic or some other sort of bias, many people consider The Lady Eve, Palm Beach Story and Sullivan's Travels three of the greatest movies ever. And others on the list, like McGinty, Miracle, Christmas, Conquering and Unfaithfully, are fall-off-the- Raymour & Flanagan-sectional-funny. 

I rate the first 30 minutes of "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock," the greatest 30 minutes in film history, though admittedly not all that many people agree with me.

They're wrong.

My point in all this though has nothing to do with Van Gogh or Sturges and everything to do with Wieden & Kennedy. Or at least a slogan by Wieden & Kennedy.

When it comes to being creative--or trying to be creative--"Just Do It."

Van Gogh painted 77 masterpieces in 70 days. 

We have a hard time doing 77 banner ads in 70 days.

And Sturges made eleven movies in eight years while being drunk 92% of the time.

This is not to suggest you should be drunk 92% of the time.

It is to suggest that as individuals and as an industry--an industry full of more people watching than doing--that we get over ourselves. That we pay less attention to perfection and more attention to genuine feeling.

When I was still working for "the man," I was often burdened with more than my fair share of work. When that was the case, and it was almost always the case, I had a way of handling it.

I would get to my desk at seven.

I would pick up the first brief and say, "this will be done by 8:30." 

I would pick up the second and say, "this will be done by 11. By the time most people are strolling in."

By lunch or mid-afternoon, I had done a month's work. Or a week's.

I never pretended I was building the Hoover Dam or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 

Just a long copy ad on cloud migration. Or three spots on IBM Watson. Or another long copy ad on why a company's planes fell from the sky and what they were doing about it.

All of these assignments were important to me and to my clients. But not so important that I treated them like I was cutting the Koh-i-Noor Diamond. 

Again, back to Wieden & Kennedy.

Just Do It.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Fermi and Newton. Yer Durn Tootin'.

The physics building at Columbia University in Manhattan, where Fermi worked.

The nuclear pile where Fermi instigated the first nuclear chain reaction.

A long time ago, way before the current Oppenheimer-mania, I read a book about Enrico Fermi, the Nobel-prize-winning Italian physicist. 

Fermi was having a conversation with some of his buds. And they were talking about some of their brilliant fellow scientists. One of them said, "Einstein is a once-in-a-thousand-year mind."

Fermi had never heard such a categorization. 

"What about me," Fermi asked. 

"Once-a-century," was the reply.

"Who else was a millennial mind," Fermi asked.

The answer came, "Archimedes and Newton."

Let me stick with Newton for a minute--for the purpose of this post, in any event. 

I can't fathom the complexity of Newton, but I can wrap my head around Newton's Third Law of Motion: "For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction."

To Newton, his law applied to the physical world. But I think--with a bit of stretching here and there, we can apply it metaphysically, as well. In fact, I think we can apply Newton's Third Law to much in our world. Though, for reasons of expedience, we usually prefer not to.

We prefer to believe, contrary to Newton, that we can get something for nothing. Something for nothing-ism is essentially the promise of medieval alchemy. We can turn base-metal into gold. 

Today, as a "culture," we seem to fully embrace nation-wide something for nothing-ism. We fight wars and kick-off major government programs. Then we pretend we can somehow afford them without paying taxes. 

We over-produce and over-consume. Then we pretend that the result won't be environmental calamity and despoilation.

In advertising, we believed that digital advertising would somehow influence people, getting them to buy, without a great deal of media expenditure.

We believe we can drink sweet sodas and not get fat. Or take a pill and lose all that weight. All with no side effects or unintended consequences.

READ this.

Right now, I'm 900-pages into Simon Sebag Montefiore's great history, The World: A Family History of Humanity.           Buy it.

As someone who's made a good living for a long time working on technology accounts, I've had to defend myself from a lot of "This will change everything" hype. From the metaverse, to crypto, to 3.0, to 3G 4G and 5G, electric cars, to, now, Artificial Intelligence.

Tomorrow, it may well be something else. Cold fusion. Quantum. Detergent that keeps your clothes smelling Springtime-fresh for up-to-two weeks.

My favorite writer, Mark Harris, once said, "The only hero is the person without heroes." I'd go a side-step further and assert,"the only hero is the person who doesn't believe in panaceas or saviors or miracles." Progress takes work. Work is always hard. Moving forward always involves stumbling backward.

England's dark, Satanic mills. Where life expectancy was 26. And child mortality was 50%.

The passage from Montefiore below was written about Manchester, England in the early 19th Century. But of course, it is universal. It applies as much today as it ever has.

We'll ignore it as much today as we ever have.

Just to be a dick about it, I'll repeat the part I loved.


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Hello, My Acronym Is.

For decades, the world of technology--and the social media channels so many of us spend so much time on and which propagate so many untruths and evils--was dominated by five companies.

The acronym for those companies, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google was, appropriately, FAANG.

Today, FANNG has been replaced by MAMAA. Meta, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. MAMAA is much less threatening sounding than FAANG, unless you knew my mother, you're Norman Bates, raised by Joan Crawford or you're Oedipus.

On Sunday there was an article in "The New York Times," that you might want to take a second to read. It's called "The Price Americans Pay for Corporate Consolidation," and you can read it here. Or you can read my slight abridgment, below. 

industries rapidly consolidated until the United States was left with four major airlines, three major cellphone companies and two dominant makers of coffins. A 2018 analysis concluded that concentration had increased in three-quarters of domestic industries, giving companies more power to raise prices, squeeze suppliers, suppress wages and influence policymakers.

Americans have been living as subjects in a large-scale experiment in letting big companies do as they please, and the consequences are increasingly apparent in daily life...   

North American airlines pocketed more than twice as much in profits from each passengein 2022 as their European counterparts did. 

The internet costs more, too: Americans pay more than twice as much for broadband, and the cost of cellular service is also, on average, more than twice as high in the United States as the average in other developed nations. 

The American economy would be roughly $1 trillion larger than it is today if the United States had simply maintained the level of competition that prevailed in 2000.

Given this information, it's hard for a lifelong denizen of the advertising industry like me not to lament the concentration of our business. When I started in the agency business in 1983, there were literally hundreds of agencies in New York--and probably 50-75 agencies large enough to handle large national, even international accounts.

Today WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, Interpublic and Dentsu control about 75-percent of the jobs and the billings in the entire industry. I assume the effects of consolidation are the same regardless of industry and advertising is subject to, therefore, monopoly pricing, squeezing suppliers, suppressing wages and more, as described above. 

This is conjecture only (because there's no independent press covering the ad industry) but I'd imagine in real dollars, wages in the ad industry are lower today than they were 50 years ago.

As a service to the industry, I've created an acronym for the oligopoly that runs our lives and has ransacked our industry. It's not as good as MAMAA. And certainly not as good as FAANG. But from this point forward, or until there's further consolidation, I'm calling WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, Interpublic and Dentsu, DIPWOO. 


Feel free to improve upon this. 

Until then, let's do our best to DIPWOO.

Monday, August 28, 2023

One-Hundred Years Ago. The First Tannenbaum Arrives.

One-hundred years ago this week, Yankel Tannenbaum or Tennenbaum or Tanenbaum or Tenenbaum (everyone in the family spelled our last name differently, part obstinance, part bad translations) my grandfather--my father's father-- stepped off the Hamburg-American liner, SS Leviathan and became the first, however it's spelled, Tannenbaum, to set foot on Americansche terra firma, soon to be pronounced in the Queen's Bronxian Latin, terrer firmer.

Yankel, just thirteen at the time, had lied about his age, claiming he was eighteen. He boarded n Hamburg, the SS Leviathan alone--though he called it the SS Limburger, being unfamiliar with Roman letters. He quickly found a hammock in the deck two decks below steerage, the decks well-below the waterline on the ship, where every crash and rattled and belch of the mighty engines, every shovel-full of coal, spewed out a Stygian effluvium of magma-heat onto the rotten rope of his swinging, stinking accommodations amid one-thousand farting men.

Yankel lost ten pounds on the three-week voyage, having eaten nothing but water they called soup and the soup they called water. He hadn't yet learned to get soup last--the bottom of the pot is where the potatoes lay--but as recompense, he stole three suits of clothing from other woebegone passengers and stuffed them all into the single rope-secured bundle that he hoisted on his already-bent Sisyphusian-back and he stumbled down the rickety gangplank and onto the beaten schist of Ellis Island.

Official gentiles with officer's hats and clipboards inspected him, looking at various papers, greasy from wear. They poked at his ears, his eyes and his mouth. They scrunched his scrotum. And then they pointed him to line three, gate four, the longest of the lines of wretched refuse on our teeming shores and Yankel, like a soldier in the Bataan Death March shuffled over under the weight of his bundle.

He saw an official eating an apple, about to drop the asymmetric core to the dusty, grass-deprived grounds and Yankel, always on the lookout for an opportunity or an angle, sensed one.

"Schexschuse Schmee, Your Schexcellency," Yankel spat. "Jew want see wut I can do it der apple."

The tall, be-whiskered gentile handed Yankel the masticated core. It was already browning in the humid heat of a New York summer a century ago and tiny gnats had already arrived on the core. The air crackled with heat--it was not much cooler then than today, miserable and cornea-cracking.

"Vatch dis," Yankel said. "Jew see dat schmeegull ovah deah on duh piling?"

Yankel had noticed a fat fowl four-hundred feet away standing on one leg on an algaed post. 

"Your Highness," Yankel mustered, "Vatch me bean him."

Yankel had learned a pidgin of Hanglish listening to American sailors down in waterfront bars in Hamburg.

The official smiled and tucked his clipboard under his arm and nodded to Yankel.

"That's gotta be faw-hunnert feet," he mocked. "Like from centa to home at duh new Yankee Stadium up in duh Bronx."

"Yankee Stadium--I'm Yankel Stadium," my ancestor said. He then twirled his licorice thin right arm like the sidewheel of an old Mississippi River boat, lifting his left leg for power and torque and let the apple core fly.

It ran straight like an old Junker aeroplane and knocked the unsuspecting bird's legs out from under him. The bird tumbled into the viscous water, came up for air and screeched in anger. He spread his wings, drying them in the sunshine then flew high and circled over the people below, looking for someone to shit on in retribution. But by that time Yankel and the custom's official were walking arm-in-arm toward the processing center some one-hundred yards away.

"O'Malley," the official said shaking Yankel's calloused paw. "You've got an arm on you like Lefty Grove. And wit da Yankees not six miles away, I gotta getchu in for a tryout. You sticks with me. What did you say your name wuz?"

"Yankel. Yankel Tannenbaum. Schmere didja say you were takin' me, Yankel Stadium? Whas dat, schomewhere duh Jhoose like me-self schmives?"

"Noya dumbbell. Yankee Stadium. It's where dey play baseball, d' American past time. It's up in d' Bronx. D' house that Ruth built?"

"Like Ruth 'n Esther? That Ruth?"

"No, ya' stoopid Yid. Babe Ruth. The Bambino. The Colossus of Clout, the Behemoth of Bam, the Maharajah of Mash, the Mammoth of Maul, the Wizard of Wallop, the Rajah of Rap, the Vizier of Vector, the Caliph of Crash, the...the...the Sultan of Swat."

"Yer onny cornfusing me," Yankel said with barely a spit. "I have no ideer who this Ruth lady is."

"He's only duh greatest baseball player in the forty-eight states. And he plays up in da Bronx for the Bronx Bombers. I think wiff an arm like yers, I can getcha a tryout for d' Yankees. With an arm like yers, you could be making $5000 per annum, easy."

"$5000? Schmy wiff schmoney like dat, I could bring my twenny-nine bruddahs and sistas and aunts and uncles and muddahs and faddahs over. An all twenny-nine of us could share a room anna quarter with a cold-water bath just seven flights up and four blocks ovah."

"Dat's d' ticket, Yankel me boy. And wiff me taking only 125-percent of yer money for me agent's fee, you'll see that the streets in Amerika really iz paved with pickle juice and cel-ray."

"One-hunnert and twenny-five percent of ev'rything I schmake? So, I makes five thousan' and you takes sixty-two-hunnert and fifty dollars? That izza bargain! As soon as I learns t' schmite me name, I'll schmign on duh dotted line."

"Yer right as rain, Yankel, me boy."

And that my friends was how the Tannenbaums came to be in America.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Writing is Fundamental.

One of the things I learned along the way took me a long time to learn. Though I suppose I started learning about it when I was only three or four.

I don't know if kids still play with "magic slates," but when I was a boy, they were among my favorite toys. I loved to draw--I still do--and could doodle endlessly. The great thing about a magic slate was all you had to do was lift up the acetate sheet and you could start all over again, drawing, or writing, or thinking, or playing with a clean sheet.

For much of my career, I had a hard time lifting up my metaphorical acetate sheet. I think a lot of people, not just  creatives, not just in agencies, have a hard time starting over.
They're grudging about it.

For too many years, I would write a line, or a spot, or a piece of copy. I'd examine the bejeezus out of it and conclude it was "right." I could find nothing wrong with it. I reveled in its genius. And I considered my job done, done well, and worthy of praise.

I wasn't wrong, most of the time anyway.

But I wasn't as right as I could have been.

When I started freelancing in 2014, having been fired from R\GA days earlier, I decided to get better at lifting the acetate.

I would write and write, whatever needed writing, until I was happy. 

Then I'd walk to the men's room or read something online.

Then I'd go again. 

I'd say, "Simpson likes lines like this." Or, "what if I led off this way." Or "can I write this in three words." Or "can this super-serious topic be funny."

I'd find twenty or twenty times twenty ways to approach a subject. I'd work on all of them..

Not because I was insecure. Because somehow I had become more secure. More sure of my ability to look at things from different angles.

In a way, I wasn't just writing ads anymore--even if writing ads was the assignment--I was rethinking the entire offering. But mostly, I was thinking.

I wasn't noodling with what I had written or worrying about Oxford commas and other bits of trivia. I set myself up as something different.

Not merely a copywriter.

But a reinventor.

It took me a long time to learn this. A long time to rid myself of arrogance, laziness and fear that give you permission not to start over. A long time to embrace a different way--a way very different from the way I had always done things.

Not wordsmithing words.

But lifting the acetate.

It took me a long time and a lot of practice to break my idèe fixe.

What if we looked at it this way--can be a pain in the ass.

And sometimes people force you into it because they're insecure and need to make you crazy.

But even if your first three or seven ideas answer the bell, there's value in keeping your foot on the gas pedal. There's value in challenging yourself. There's value in false starts. 

And then there's, simply, the value of training yourself to be prolific. Being prolific helps you banish the all-too-human proclivity toward preciousness. Being prolific means you don't fall too much in love with one of the three things you did because those were the only three things you were able to do.

I've written this blog pretty much every day for the last sixteen years. And over the last night 42 months or so, I've written between 500 and 1000 ads for GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company. 

During those 42 months, I've probably had 150 assignments and written about 20 ads for each assignment. That's about 3,000 ads.

There are a lot of ways you can try to make a living as a writer.

Writing is one of the best.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

5 Things.

Touch wood. And don't jinx it.

But lately, I've been busier than a bread knife at an Oneg Shabbat. GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company has been in business since January 15th, 2020--the day after Ogilvy fired me for being old (there can be no other reason. I was making them more money than I cost them. I was doing good work on important brands. And after some intense therapy, I had all-but cured my harkening back habit.)

There are five reasons I've stayed busy over the last 43 months.

1. I have a good network of agency colleagues and clients who helped send work my way.

2. I have a creditable portfolio that prospects admire.

3. My clients like my work. They hire me for more work and they recommend me to friends. About nine out of ten clients come back for more. 

4. I advertise. I do this through my blog and my thrice-weekly GeorgeCo. ads. My thesis behind being brash about my work is simple. 

A portfolio shows what you've done. A blog and frequent ads show what you're doing and what you can do. It's a form of showing, not telling. The methodology we're all supposed to subscribe to.

5. This last bit is the hardest. And I've boiled it down to two words: Honesty. Trust. 

Honesty is what I deliver.
Trust is what I expect.

I am unfailingly honest with clients. I do what I say I'm going to do. I do it on time. As I promise, I help them find their "north star" and their voice. And I over-deliver.

I expect to operate based on trust. I did the lawyer-thing when I started GeorgeCo. And I don't do work without a signed scope. But I also don't work with people who give me that icky huckster-at-a-carnival-feeling. 

I got into a Gypsy cab once and almost died from the ride. I'm avoiding the professional equivalent of slipshod and shady.

In fact, along the way, I've hired just one permanent employee. She has an official title on her LinkedIn. But she's really my "mensch meter." I didn't want my desire for revenue to cloud my judgment. So I hired her to see through the flotsam and jetsam of prevarications.

So far, after about one-hundred clients, I've had just one try to stiff me. And my brother, the Sonny Liston of litigation, took care of that and got me paid.

The world is a brutal place. And advertising can be a nasty business. There are probably people reading this who believe there's no place in any business for either honesty or trust.

But brands at their most elemental are promises. A set of behaviors and elements that are consistent so that people know what they're buying.

Without trust and honesty a promise is as meaningless as mush.

That's how I've been doing what I'm doing.
And trying not to get mushy about it.


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Long Piece on a Short Course on Advertising.

A lot of ad people of my vintage talk a lot about starting advertising schools. Or at least teaching advertising classes.

I think the reason for this is at least two-fold. There's probably not an older person in the world when he's driving on the highway who doesn't curse, "no one knows how to drive anymore." 

I think the same sort of sentiment applies to us oldsters when we stream something or watch television. To my eyes and ears, every commercial seems empty--a loud, promise-less assault on what remains of my senses. 

The other reason is more basic. For as long as there have been elders, say for about 200,000 years, the primary role elders have played has been to teach youngers. That's in all of our genes and is practically undeniable. Unless you're an MBA who works for one of the big holding companies and who doesn't like paying large salaries except to his cronies, who don't come from the advertising world.

About three times or more a year, I have a chat with someone who says "let's teach advertising." Once, with a group of friends, we arrived at the name for a school, a group of instructors, a curriculum, course materials and a price per class. Even ads to attract students. But because we were all too busy working to go into teaching, we never got our school off the ground.

Just a couple days ago I saw the video above, a conversation between Howard Stern, who I don't like, and Jerry Seinfeld, who I do like.

My first advertising agency boss, the novelist Marshall Karp and I still talk on occasion. He's careful when he writes me notes. He usually says, "I know everything you run across, everything you hear, everything you see, and therefore everything I say is fodder for your blog. But I ask you to keep this confidential."

My good friend, Rob Schwartz and I often talk about a symbol I've often used in this space. We call it, "going through life with your head up like an old waiter." Head up, you see everything, hear everything and are ever on the lookout for new ideas and opportunities. You'd be surprised how often the metaphor comes up when we get together.

Stern's conversation with Seinfeld is all you really need to know about making it in advertising or any other career. 

In the clip above, which is just over three-minutes long, Stern begins by asking Seinfeld, "How hard do you work..."

Seinfeld answers, "I do the exact same now as I did when I was 21. I sit, I play with ideas..."

Seinfeld continues, "I'm never not working on material. Never. Every second of my existence I'm thinking, could I do something with that...I'm looking for material all the time."

Stern: "But that's being at work twenty-four hours a day..."

Seinfeld: "Making jokes (ads) is not work. It's a gift...."

Stern: "That sounds like a tortured life..."

Seinfeld, "It is. But you know what? Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you're comfortable with...Making jokes (ads) is a torture I love."

That's how I feel about work. 

Every second I'm working.

That's the absolute brainlessness behind timesheets.

Evidence of the complete lack of understanding of agency owners as to what agency workers actually do.

The good ones are always working. Always thinking. Storing. Taking in information.

I never stop.

Especially now that I'm on my own and the more I work, the more I earn.

There's a lot of bushwa in the world today about work/life balance. Often, my own children will disparage me for working so hard. For writing observations down as I see them. For writing this blog every working day for over sixteen years. They'll castigate me, even. "Dad," they'll judge, "give it a break."

I'd wager most people don't understand Seinfeld in the clip above. I'm not sure Stern does. But I do.

I know the people who run holding companies and ad agencies and the holding companies that own the holding companies and project managers who say you're running hot and you're going over scope and human resources who have no understanding of humans don't understand it.

99.99-percent of success in any career, from lifeguarding to copywriting to selling matches on a windy corner in a snowstorm, comes from finding a way to love what you do.

This morning I was talking to my wife. 

Over the last few weeks, I have gotten literally ten new business calls and some of them seem to be on the verge of hiring me. My wife said to me, "Wow, you have a really diverse range of new clients."

I said, "No. I have one client. People who love what they do and believe in what they do and live and breathe what they do. My job is to believe as much as they--it doesn't matter what. And to make sure that spark is in the work we do. My job is to make that spark come alive in other people."

Of course, there are courses you can take in advertising, table tennis or making a souffle. I can teach you things about communication fundamentals. I can teach you how to dig for ideas and how to build a platform. My ex-partner Sid can teach you the craft of design and typesetting and how to acute-ize your eyes to see things others don't. My account manager Hilary can teach you how to find a mentor and how to get more work and how to so, "no" but with a smile.

There are all sorts of things you can learn from schools and classes.

My younger daughter is a marine scientist and a professional scuba diver. She has a master's degree in marine science and she works for the university where she earned her advanced degree. She's in the ocean--regardless of the weather--about four days a week, all year round.

I asked her the other day, "do you still gasp when you see a dolphin, or a shark, or a sea lion. After all these years, do you still get thrilled?"

I posed the same sort of question to my elder daughter. A PhD. clinical psychologist. 

"Do you still get tears in your eyes when you get through to a client?"


Both daughters, like me, probably like you if you've read this far, struggle to succeed. You're never done with the struggle.

It's torture sometimes. Lots of schooling. Long hours. Low pay. Unappreciative bosses. Torture.

Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you're comfortable with.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Knees and the Man.

About 30 years ago I was working at a once-great-agency that was dying.

The air had seeped out of the tires and there was virtually nothing left. Nothing except a few people not strong enough to unbend what greed had bent.

Somehow though we got into the finals of a pitch for the business of Mercedes-Benz, North America. 

In the pitch was Scali--who had done three decades of great work for Volvo--and then lost it due to allegations of running a fake ad, McCaffrey McCall, the 15-year incumbent. An agency I forget. And benighted Ally & Gargano, the agency I worked at. We were eight-years into a steep 10-year slide, which ended when the place went belly-up.

My partner Mike and I were asked to work on the pitch. Mike was 15 years my senior and had been at Ally when it was great. There was another senior team, I'll call them Harvey and Charlie. Internally, we were competing to see whose work would represent the agency. 

It was as pretty as a bar brawl.

Mike and I worked every weekend for about ten weeks in a row. I probably did more storyboards in those ten weeks than I had done in the previous ten years. More print ads, too. 

At one point, the internal politics got so fraught, I ripped a tissued storyboard off the wall, crumbled it up and threw it at Mal, the Chief Creative Officer. 

He was better at politics than he was at chief, creative or officer.

A spot the entire senior-level of the agency had stood up and applauded a week earlier had been under assault by Harvey and Charlie and Mal was playing at their end of the table and had put three thumbs on the negatory scale.

I ripped the commercial down and said, "You want it dead? Here, it's dead." I threw it at him across the $15,000 conference room table that Gwathmey and Siegel had chosen when they designed the offices.

I think I might have left for the night at that point. My partner shaking in his loafers more than I was shaking in my sneakers.

The next morning, Mal was in my room. He apologized. Mike and I had carried the day and we would be leading the pitch and in a week we would be presenting to 125 Teutons representing the client.

There's that side of me. 

The don't-fuck-me side.

Maybe that's the only side some people care to see. Because I'm old, tall, and I have a deep voice. I'm also nominally white, at least sometimes when the white overawes the Jew part. It suits people to assume I am powerful, fearless and terrible, like Ivan the Terrible--not awful but powerful.

I just got a note from a friend to that effect. We've met in person only once. But we talk about every other month. I suppose I come across--because of my size and age--as a sort of Jewish Tamerlane. Riding the steppes and intimidating as I scourge.

There's another side too. 

As there is with most people.

Before the Mercedes-Benz presentation, I bought a new suit. A grey glen-plaid, I believe by Hugo Boss, and very subtle. Boss made those impeccable uniforms the Nazis looked so resplendent in. Ike looked great in his Einsenhower jacket. But if world-domination was determined by sartorial elan, you'd be reading this in German now. I figured the suit would be at home with Mercedes.

I bought the suit at Barney's, which was a fancy store before they were private-equity'd out of business. Before Amerika was private-equity'd out of business.

In those days, I was a 42 Long.

But the suit I bought was a 46 Long.

The tailor tried to get me to come down two sizes, but I said "No. Take it in. But leave it loose in the legs."

He didn't understand. He didn't ask. He did what I wanted.

The suit fit.

Except the pants were baggy in the legs. Chaplin baggy.

I didn't want anyone to see my knees shaking when I presented.