To be fair, People Magazine isn’t the only one left holding the Betty bag. A movie called Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration was slated to be shown at more than 900 theaters on January 17th (which would have been Betty’s 100th birthday). It was originally going to show live footage of Betty’s actual BD party. In true show biz fashion, the show will go on.
“We will go forward with our plans to show the film on January 17 in hopes our film will provide a way for all who loved her to celebrate her life—and experience what made her such a national treasure.”
Film producers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein
You can cancel that order for a birthday cake. Especially if Sue Ann Nivens was going to bake it.
Surely you remember my good friend Dale Doyle? (OK, maybe you don’t… and I should stop calling you “Shirley.”) Dale and I worked together at an design agency for many years, and remain concert buddies. Three years ago, Dale was “downsized” by that agency — the place where he spent 23 years of his career. I wrote about that here, and a year later, I wrote about how Dale was killing the game at Holotype, the agency he co-founded. (He still is killin’ it, btw.)
Yesterday, this happened:
The album, Serpentine Prison, is from another Cincinnati kid, Matt Berninger, who also is the lead singer of The National.
I’m thrilled for Dale, not only because he’s a great guy and an amazing artist, but also because he loves music so much. A Grammy nomination is like a perfect storm of elation.
With Turkey Day just around the corner, I am thankful that I got to work alongside Dale and other super-talented artists like Keith Neltner, Tommy Sheehan and John Ham (to name but a few). A lot of their art is tied to commerce, and sometimes art snobs can look down their noses at that. But their work is as good as anything in the Louvre.
While he was still in high school, he was the lead actor on a radio show that aired in Cincinnati and later nationally on NBC. One of his high school friends was crooner Andy Williams.
In college, he was a drum major who gained renown for twirling lighted torches.
He toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters, and was roommates with Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens for a few days.
He made and operated puppets on a kids TV show.
He worked in advertising and directed the first TV commercial for the Easy-Bake Oven… and cast his daughter Molly in it.
He borrowed $10,000 from a college fraternity brother to make whiskey-flavored toothpaste, and wound up on “What’s My Line?”
Life magazine sent a photographer to his assembly line, but Poynter didn’t have one. He was mostly a one-man operation. So, he enlisted some friends to play-act in a warehouse with empty boxes in the background because he had nearly sold out of the toothpaste.
He invented dozens of novelty toys, including a Little Black Box – when you turned it on, gears would move inside the box and a hand would emerge to turn it off… this same mechanism was later used to make a hand that grabbed coins, marketed as “Thing” from “The Addams Family” TV show.
He dreamt up dry cleaning bags printed with dresses from Disney Characters so kids could use them as costumes. Walt Disney called it “the best promotion I have ever seen.”
He invented this:
His toys were featured on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.
“Almost everything I’ve ever done is either making someone laugh or giving them pleasure, and if I didn’t, I’d be out of business.”
Not that I need any more notoriety — this blog has thousandshundredstens a few loyal readers — but I managed to get a byline in the April edition of Cincinnati Magazine by writing the text to accompany some really cool photos (by Aaron M. Conway) of a local farm that grows hops.
The editor of Cincinnati Magazine, John Fox, is an old friend of mine. When I was working at an alternative music station, he was the editor of an alt-weekly, and the station and the paper would collaborate, cross-pollinate, and co-promote events often due to the large overlap in audiences. John will throw me a magazine assignment every now and then – usually something fairly straightforward and not too time-consuming. I enjoy the challenge, and I always wind up learning something new while doing research and interviews. For the hops farm piece, I got to interview one of the growers and connect with brewers at several local breweries… it’s a really tight-knit community and it was cool to witness the spirit of collaboration among them. I also learned quite a bit about the process of growing hops, and I found it quite fascinating.
If you’re keeping score at home, I’ve now done four pieces for Cincinnati Magazine over the past couple of years, and two of them have been beer-centric. I think I’m being typecast. Then again, if the shoe beer mug fits…
John Ham passed away a week ago. No relation to Jon Hamm. But there was a connection.
Jon Hamm, the actor, is best known for playing the character of Don Draper, a cigarette-smoking ad agency man in the 1960s, on Mad Men.
John Ham also was quite the character. He was a cigarette-smoking ad agency man in the 1960s. And the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, too.
I worked with John from 2000-2005. He was an illustrator, and a damn good one. He did a lot of the packaging artwork for the original line of Star Wars action figures and toys. He created the illustrations for a Cincinnati beer company’s souvenir six-packs of the Reds World Series Championship way back in 1976.
By the time I joined the agency where “Hammy” worked, he was 62 years old… the wise (and wisecracking) elder statesman of the creative team. He didn’t really need the money – he and several friends had broken away from a big agency to form their own small ad agency decades prior. They grew the business, and were eventually bought out by a big national firm. But John was a people person through and through. “Gregarious” is probably the best adjective. He genuinely enjoyed the camaraderie of a creative environment. Always smiling, always generous with his time. He was much older than the rest of the creative team, but it never really felt that way. He was one of us. And when he wasn’t pursuing his art at work, he was engaged in his other passion: playing tennis.
Toward the end of his career, John would often get tapped to create a “farewell” caricature. It was usually for a bigwig who was leaving P&G (our largest client by far). But occasionally he’d create them for co-workers. I was lucky enough to get the Hammy treatment when I left the agency.
When John retired in 2008, Keith Neltner, our mutual friend and co-worker, turned the tables and created a caricature of Hammy in that same style.
The Yoda in the illustration is fitting – not just because of John’s Star Wars experience, but also because he was a lovable, wise mentor to all of us.
I shouldn’t feel so bummed out about the passing of a guy with whom I haven’t worked in 15 years, especially someone who made it to 83 (despite the smoking habit) and lived a very fulfilling life. But that smile, man, it was incandescent. We’ll miss that light.
As someone who prides himself on knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects (some serious, most not-so-serious), this quote really rang true to me:
“You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.”
Mary Wells Lawrence, advertising exec in the 60s and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company
Ms. Wells Lawrence made her mark in the ad world (“plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ring a bell?), but her quote about how to exercise your creative muscles is certainly applicable well beyond the realm of advertising. I think it’s sound advice for any career field… and for life in general. Our brains need stimuli to grow, our souls need enrichment to thrive.
One of my favorite words (yes, I’m a certified WordNerd™) is “polymath.”
I’m more of a poly-dabbler, but you have to start somewhere, right? And I do think learning about new and different things makes it easier to find connections and solve problems.
The world seems more polarized today. Us vs. them. But how much do you really know about “them” when you’re trapped in your own bubble? By reading more, by engaging with more people across the spectrum, we all can grow not just our creativity, but also our empathy.
HT to the Gaping Void blog for putting the Mary Wells Lawrence quote on my radar. If you’re looking for some creative stimulus on a regular basis, that blog is a great way to start to “double yourself.”