AD BIZ FOLLIES (#4)

Standard
19th century Majarahah's bed of solid sterling silver.

19th century Majarahah’s bed of solid sterling silver.

[For earlier posts about my adventures in late 1950’s-early 1960’s advertising, see “How My Life as a Mad Woman Began,” and “Ad Biz Follies (#1), (#2) and (#3.)]

During the nearly three years Ed and I had been in New York, I had no discretionary money at all.  We did own a joint savings account, consisting mainly of the sale proceeds of my many college and graduate school books and also of the good used furniture my parents had given us for beginning married life. But we had agreed neither of us would touch that money.  Moreover, I wasn’t entirely sure where we had stashed the bankbook. As for my salary, once I began paid work at Gilbert Advertising in January 1958, I used to hand over all of it, less five dollars a week for transportation to and from work. At first it never occurred to me not to. After all, Ed had been managing the money and paying the bills since we married. And we barely squeaked by as it was.

In the beginning, of course, he’d been working too, so the money he managed came from both of us. But now, although I had become the only breadwinner, he remained the money manager. Every Saturday, he would hand back thirty dollars just before I trundled the shopping cart off to the A&P for the weekly marketing; unfortunately, it all went on necessities, almost down to the penny.

Then things at home became increasingly unpleasant.  (More detail might darken this light-hearted account of advertising nonsense were we to tiptoe down that path so we won’t, at least not here.)  I may still have clung to the belief marriage was supposed to be forever, but I did finally acknowledge to myself I needed some ready cash Ed didn’t know about.  Not necessarily to do anything with.  Just in case.  Unfortunately, my relaxed months at Harold M. Mitchell, Inc. Advertising for $6,500 a year (see #3 in this series) provided no wiggle room for putting something aside.

I was therefore pleased to receive a whispered call at work from an employment agent at Jerry Fields, the mega guru of “creative” placements in Madison Avenue’s ad world. (The term “creative” in the ad-speak of the time meant copywriters and art directors, and was not necessarily descriptive of the quality of their product.) The agent had heard of something for me at a place called Leber & Katz.  More later. “Heard of something?” What did that mean?

A second whispered call soon came from an excited Judy F., formerly with Jerry Fields but now branching out on her own. There was a perfect opening for me at Leber & Katz! She had Lester Leber on the other line and could she make an appointment for me to to interview with him that very evening? Innocent little girl.  (Me, not Judy F.)  Even if Lester Leber had turned me down, I would have been in trouble.  He didn’t. I lied about the salary Harold was paying me — I was beginning to learn how things were done — and Lester offered $8,500.  When could I start? How could I refuse?

You’d think I’d been Edward Snowden. Jerry Fields himself was on the line the very next day.  He didn’t whisper. How could I violate the basic rule of agency placements when he had been so good to me?  (I’d never met or spoken with him.)  He mentioned trust.  Honor.  Principle.  It didn’t quite get to “You’ll never work in this town again!” but came close. What he was really upset about, of course, was the commission for the placement.  Leber & Katz was going to pay Judy F. for sending me to them, even though their name had first been mentioned to me by a Jerry Fields agent.

I apologized. I pleaded. I said I was new to New York and its ways. I pointed out timidly that the Jerry Fields agent hadn’t actually gotten me an interview. I even asked if I should turn down the job offer.  No, no, he didn’t want that. (God forbid Leber & Katz should hear of behind-the-scenes scuffling by employment agents.)  The upshot was a stern warning. I must never, ever, do such a thing again. And then came what I didn’t realize might have been a warning of another kind:  Jerry Fields himself wished me good luck at L&K. Did he know something I didn’t?

What he knew, or suspected, was that Leber & Katz did not yet have any need for me at all.  Once I arrived at their (to me) sumptuous Madison Avenue premises in a building with a Longchamps restaurant on the ground floor, I too was at a loss as to why I had been hired.  Was it because they felt they should fill the one empty office remaining along the square perimeter surrounding a luxurious conference room and, on the other side, an impressive paste-up department?  Was it because they had grandiose plans for growth and needed to present themselves as a place with two art directors, two account executives and two copywriters, even though the second copywriter was simply waiting around for something substantive to do?  Or was it that Lester — the copywriter at the firm — had been to Columbia College and thought on meeting me that if all went well for the agency a well-educated young lady like me might be a good fit?

The firm certainly did go on to become very large indeed.  Shortly after we parted company, Lester and his partner Stanley Katz “exchanged” their third partner, the man who managed the office and who I knew as Norman, for Onofrio Paccione, a high-powered art person from Grey Advertising known throughout the industry as “Patch,” a tough guy to work for. They then became, for a time, Leber Katz Paccione.  Subsequently, as their billings grew (and Patch departed, perhaps for greener fields) — they were Leber Katz Partners, with billings reported to be as high as $550 million by 1986, at which time they merged with (or were gobbled up by) Foote Cone & Belding Communications in Chicago and were known thereafter as FCB/Leber Katz Partners.  Musical chairs on a multi-million-dollar scale. But I was not involved in any of that. Just thought you’d like to know where they were headed.

The fact is that when I arrived in late June 1960 I had nothing much to do in my new place of employment.  There was still some fashion copy to write for ads already photographed, freeing up Lester to join Stanley in chasing the big packaged goods accounts that would eventually disentangle them from fashion sold in department stores and enable profits to metastasize. But it didn’t take me long to produce the minimal verbiage required to accompany gorgeous photos or to explain, briefly, why a consumer should want to buy something for which she had no real need. As in:

IMG_1410

WHOEVER YOU ARE, be unscrupulous. Connive. Pretend to the wealth of a princess with Marvellissimo, Marvella’s precisely simulated pearls of genuine brilliance. Who’d suspect such cunning — from a lovely charmer like you? Triple-strand necklace, with stone-set clasp of semi-precious Carnelian, Lapis, or Jade Quartz, $22.50. Ta-da, ta-da, ta-da, etc. At the finest stores.

IMG_1411

The Understanding Mother knows that “Littlest Angel,” the bra that expands as a girl develops, belongs in her daughter’s wardrobe. A beTween ager may still be “flat on top” but need the emotional reassurance of a bra. Teenform helps you say, “Mother understands.” TEENFORM, Specialists For The Formative Years.

I spent a lot of time trying to read Proust in the women’s bathroom with my feet up so no one looking for me could recognize my shoes by peering beneath the door of the toilet stall. That seemed better than sitting in my office with the door open doodling on a pad, or reading Proust openly, even with a pencil in my hand.

There was also some time-consuming flirting with Stanley.  He was then thirty-nine, a husband and father of three or four, and owner in fee simple of a nice suburban home in West Orange, New Jersey. He was also the partner who would invite me to sessions in the conference room to plan strategy for presentations to big-name potential clients. I had very little to contribute to these pow-wows, other than to look interested (and perhaps attractive to Stanley), take notes and pass the centerpiece platter of fruit around the table.

After one of these meetings, I found on my desk the next morning a line drawing in pencil, initialed SK, of a male figure reclining on a chaise longue with a female figure feeding him grapes from a bunch dangling from her hand over his mouth.  I knew the reclining figure was supposed to be Stanley by the round eyeglasses. Also it was slightly plump (as he was). The female figure wore a suit like mine the day before.  If I’d had more work to do, I might have tabled a response in favor of more pressing matters.  As it was, I impulsively scrawled, “Yes!” on the drawing, folded it into an envelope and, since he was out of the office, handed it back, sealed, to his secretary.

I still don’t know if she opened it before putting it on his desk. The next drawing that appeared in my office was of an open-mouthed baby’s face;  the baby had one tuft of hair coming up off its head, one tooth in its mouth, and one tear on its cheek.  Block-printed beneath the face was a single word, “Sorry.”  After that, Stanley scrupulously avoided me. No more invitations to strategy pow-wows. (Had I made him feel like such a baby?) And since we had no business reason to be together, I guess that pretty much took care of temptation for him. As for me, I hadn’t really been tempted in the first place, except that the flirting had been something interesting to do. Roundish, owl-eyed and with thinning yellow hair  — even if relatively powerful — wasn’t exactly my type. So you might say there was no harm done. You’d be wrong.

Popular wisdom to not mess around in the office wouldn’t have survived as long as it has if there weren’t more than a kernel of truth in it.  When Norman, the third partner, decided at the beginning of 1961 that I had not been a cost-effective investment since Lester didn’t really need me, only Stanley could have saved me.  Of course, he didn’t. But — as Parolles, the messenger, declared in All’s Well That Ends Well — I am there before my legs.

Despite such tomfoolery, my “employment” at Leber & Katz accomplished two very important things for me, neither connected with career advancement.

(1)  With my first L&K weekly pay envelope, I opened a savings account in my own name at a bank near the office. All it took was $25.  I could hide this much money from Ed by “explaining” that the rate of social security withholding was much higher at my new salary than it had been before. As he himself had never earned $8,500 a year, he believed me.  Thus, every week after that, while matters continued to go south at home, I was able to put away another $25.  By November of 1960, I would have $500 all my own.  Enough finally to flee.

(2) I met Serge, the manager of Christofle Silver, a new Leber & Katz account that arrived at the agency in August 1960. The Christofle showroom was on the third floor of a townhouse at 55 East 57th Street that already housed Limoges china on the ground floor and Porthault linens on the second. The company had therefore come to L&K on the recommendation of the manager of Limoges, for which Lester managed some minimal advertising.

Neither Stanley nor Lester spoke French.  I still could. (Much better than I do now.)  There was therefore no question in their minds that I should be at the initial meeting with the daughter and son of the owner, both soon to return to France, and with Serge, who would remain in New York. (This was before the line drawings of grapes and the one-tooth baby.) My presence probably wasn’t necessary as Serge, at least, was perfectly bilingual (with a charming French lilt), having recently acquired a degree from the London School of Economics.

Born in Paris and therefore thoroughly French, he nevertheless had Polish grandparents and was a Polish Baron, a title of absolutely no use anywhere except to get last minute reservations at posh New York restaurants. He was therefore a problem to the Leber & Katz guys from the start. Lester thoughtfully called him “Sergei,” in honor of his Polish ancestry.  Norman called him “Surge,” because Norman recognized no language but English.  I pronounced his name the French way and became his favorite. There was also a quasi-private exchange of Shakespeare quotations across the conference table that had nothing to do with what the others were discussing but indicated to each of us that (a) we were both better educated than the others and (b) we both thought advertising was pretty silly.  He insisted I be the copywriter on the account.

I’ve already written about Serge — although not extensively — as if he were fiction.  (He is Andre de Renski in “Those Were the Days,” which is listed on the Fiction Page to the left. I should probably write more about him; I remember enough for a novella.) Serge sometimes does seem like fiction when I think of him now, but he was quite real, and still is.  (According to Wikipedia, he remains alive and relatively well in France; he has written several French novels and now translates American he-man novels into French.)  But what was significant about him then in terms of this particular story is that based on his request, Lester and Stanley turned him over to me. An art director named Art Rothenberg and I handled all the Christofle advertising as long as I was at the agency, and I alone was able to extract from him the overdue checks for services rendered.  So in a way Serge kept me busy enough to prevent being let go by Norman until I had enough money to leave Ed — which was very important.  That he courted me and I thought he might serve as a temporary stepping stone between husbands was also a factor in  my decision to leave when I did, but is still another story.

So now we come to the bed at the top of the page.  It was a sterling silver bed made by Christofle for an Indian maharajah in the mid-nineteenth century. Both Serge and his employers back in France wanted it in their inaugural ad in America.  It was bad, bad American advertising (whatever its appeal had it run in France), but it was unusual.  In fact, Christofle liked it so much it continued to appear even after I had parted company with Lester and Stanley.  Here’s the ad, in all its glory, torn from the pages of the Times in 1961:

IMG_1398

A PLEASURE IN THE HOME

The prolix and troublingly coy copy read:

We trust you do not covet the unusual object below. It is not for sale. An Indian Maharajah commissioned it from us in the nineteenth century, and — as far as we know — passed it on to an heir. All that remains to us is its photograph, which we show you with some trepidation.

For, you see, we do not know you Americans very well, having arrived in your country only recently. In France we take such follies philosophically, with lifted eyebrow. But here, will you be shocked, or (as we hope) interested to learn that this so-called bed was wrought entirely of sterling silver.  One thousand pounds of it, including the ladies.

When one reposed upon it, the ladies waved their fans while a music box concealed beneath the springs released the latest Offenbach can-cans from Paris into the Eastern night. (Who could sleep with such distractions?)

As we say, however, to each man his pleasure. And, since 1839, Christofle has been giving unalloyed pleasure to maharajahs, emperors, kings and people who wish to feel like kings. If it is really your pleasure that we make you another such bed, we shall do so.

A last word about the bed. We do take a certain bizarre satisfaction in having created it. For one must admit that it is unique — until such time as somebody orders another. And to be unique is highly characteristic of Christofle.

Is Christofle only for those persons on a maharajah’s annual stipend? By no means. On the next page you see a recent creation in which we take genuine pride. It is called “Duo” and it was designed for us by the noted Finnish artist, Tapio Wirkala. The six pieces are all of heavy silver plate. (Actually they contain more silver than many settings of sterling silver.)

There is now in America hollowware and flatware by Christofle in vermeil, gilded, sterling, and heavy silver plate patterns — all within the reach of every purse. (See below for names of the purveyors.) These lovely things will not be one-of-a-klind, bed-type possessions. But they will be a peerless pleasure, none the less.

And that is because, among the foremost silversmiths of the world, the name of Christofle itself is renowned as one of a kind. Those beautiful objets d’art which proudly bear this name are without parallel, anywhere. They are, quite simply, beyond compare.

A brochure containing illustrations and descriptions of the complete Christofle collection is available on request. Please enclose 25 cents to cover mailing expenses. Christofle Silver, Inc., Ffty-Five East Fifty-Seventh Street, New York 22, N.Y.

CHRISTOFLE  Official Table Service to the Court of Kings

It goes without saying Art and I eventually talked Serge into doing something a bit more modern:

GOUT: the French word for taste

GOUT: the French word for taste

There was also a small space campaign for The New Yorker, captioned “eat, drink, and be very, very…with Christofle silver, official service to the courts of kings:”

IMG_1403

IMG_1404

Art used to take me along on the photography shoots for this campaign, which helped kill even more time. One of these shoots involved a delicious-looking roast chicken on a Christofle silver platter.  To keep the chicken looking truly appetizing after its long hours under hot lights, it had been generously sprayed with lacquer and was therefore inedible.  You hang around, you learn.

In January 1961, Norman let me go.  (I had already left Ed in November, and was now on my own, with a legal separation to protect me from his appearing on my doorstep.) Norman said in my next job I should try to work harder.  Norman said I was being fired for cause, so I wouldn’t be able to collect unemployment insurance. (And the agency wouldn’t have to pay its share of it.)  I did try to defend myself; I’d done everything I’d been asked to do. Was it my fault all I’d been asked was to babysit Serge?

Spine stiffened by Stanley’s vote to get rid of me, Norman wasn’t buying any of that. He yielded just enough to concede they would give me good references if anyone asked.  Norman didn’t know it, but his head would soon roll too — because the renowned Paccione was about to join up as third partner.

Dear readers, surely you’ve had enough.  After I had spent four subsequent months at a stop-gap place much like Harold Mitchell, Inc. (but called Herrick Associates  — the associates being Mrs. Herrick, daughter Herrick and son Herrick), Jerry Fields himself rescued me.  By annoying him when I’d let Judy F. place me in a job, I had implanted myself firmly in his mind.  He personally found me the last two agency spots that concluded my “ad biz” career. I spent two and a half years at each of them, my salary slowly climbing with each jump, waddling out of the last job married again and eight months pregnant. So you could say all these follies you’ve been reading about had served a purpose (other than maybe moving merchandise), at least for me.

But I would be remiss to conclude this series without showing you how the Leber & Katz rise to riches began in 1961, soon after I left.  Unlike the ads for Serge, these print ads of theirs introducing Lowenbrau beer to the American public were really good examples of the genre. Although I wasn’t there to see for myself, I’m sure Lester and Stanley owed the successful Lowenbrau presentation and subsequent ad campaign to Patch.  There may have been some professional back-stabbing and blood-letting beforehand.  But hey, that’s how the ad-biz cookie crumbles. The rest was beer-advertising and Leber Katz Partners history:

WHEN THEY RUN OUT OF LOWENBRAU…ORDER CHAMPAGNE.

IF THEY RUN OUT OF LOWENBRAU…ORDER CHAMPAGNE.

NOW THAT YOU'VE SEEN THE LIGHT….TRY THE DARK

NOW THAT YOU’VE SEEN THE LIGHT….TRY THE DARK.

My song is sung.  Salut!

AD BIZ FOLLIES (#2)

Standard

[For earlier posts about my abbreviated life in advertising during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,  see How My Life As A Mad Woman Began and Ad Biz Follies (#1).]

IMG_1413

(Liar, liar, tongue’s on fire.)

When Richard Gilbert, titular head and chief account executive of The Gilbert Agency, severed me from employment as his copywriter on January 2, 1960 because my presence on the premises gave his art director nosebleeds, I hadn’t yet learned the way to succeed in print advertising was to jump before being  pushed. At that time there was no such thing as copywriter job security unless you also owned the business. (Whether there’s such a thing now, in any line of paid endeavor, I also doubt. But that’s a whole other topic.) Sooner or later someone with more clout than you would not like you.  Moreover, copywriters who could turn out catchy little phrases to go with gorgeous photographs were a dime a dozen; New York was swarming with young college graduates who had majored in English and now needed to eat.

Another thing I should have already realized from my earlier job search experiences but had disregarded in the touching but misguided belief that if the agency owner liked you, you had nothing to fear from others who might not: it’s easier to get a better job (or any job) while you still have a job, since everyone likes to think they’re stealing someone valuable from a competitor.  On the other hand, if you present yourself as a writer unwanted at your last place of employment, why should the guys at the next place hire you?

Thus it was that I embarked on another two and a half months of outdoor unpaid work, also known as job search, in the chill of a New York winter — further embittered by weekly visits to the unemployment office at Broadway at 90th Street, which involved standing in long lines of New York’s downtrodden poor, a category apparently now including me, except I was somewhat better dressed and educated.  These visits were supposed to produce not only (in my case) $55 a week for six months but also some assistance in finding the next job. However, the unemployment agent to whom I had to demonstrate each time where I had looked for work in the preceding week confessed she would be unable to assist, since New York State knew of no openings for which I wasn’t highly overqualified and did I think I could find something on my own?

There was even more ignominy attached to my situation in that the ads in which I had had at least a small hand at Gilbert, all prepared well ahead of the dates on which they ran, now greeted me in the Sunday Times and in the copies of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar through which I leafed in various neighborhood public libraries to break up my unemployed trudge through dirty snow to the next employment agency.

For instance, the blatantly untrue ad for Promise high-top girdles by Poirette at the top of this post appeared in a March issue of the Sunday Times, by which time I had used up one-third of the unemployment benefits available to me.  Had I been less desperate to locate someone who would pay me to go on churning out such verbal chicanery, I might have smirked at the lovely young model thanking heaven she was now encased in Promise‘s exclusive “Biaband” control for magnificent unmistakeable smoothness of line and the most beautiful contour her curves could achieve, and at the implication anyone with a waistline up to 38″ in circumference could hope, by purchasing a Promise, to emulate such magnificence of curved contour herself.

(The folks at Poirette so much loved this photo of a sylph, who in her private life would not have gone near their cripplingly uncomfortable garment, that they used the same photo for a series of such ads, headlined by me with Poirette’s full approval:  “Why Do So Many Women Trust A Promise by Poirette?” and “The unseen power that shapes a world of women!” and “Why put off till tomorrow the lovely new figure you can put on today?” and “The unforgettable 2 1/2 ounce hi-waist you actually forget you have on!” For that last one, we should all have grown Pinocchio noses.)

So I suppose advertising was also teaching me that if you really need a job, professional ethics may be an unaffordable luxury.  As in this ad, which brought considerable praise from employment agents asking whose idea it was to show the tape measure and believing me when I claimed the credit.  (Although maybe that wasn’t such a white lie; I had just begun to grasp what Gilbert’s art director wanted from me when he ran out of patience.)

IMG_1412

Now fifty-five years later, I especially like the post-modern line offering the impossible — “Promise doesn’t just push unwanted flesh from spot to spot, either — its four-inch high waist molds you to supple smoothness from midriff down to mid-thigh” — and leaving unanswered the surreal unasked question, “Where does all that unwanted flesh go?”

Another thing I learned from this after-Gilbert job search was that my portfolio was as good — i.e., as interesting to potential employers — as the art work in it.  It didn’t really matter what I had written to go with the picture, because employment agents didn’t take the time to read anything except perhaps very large headlines.  If the ads looked good and I had been associated with them in some way, I looked good.  Thus I got kudos for:

"Rave notices for the breezy style of Kislav's supple-fingered virtuosos…"

“Rave notices for the breezy style of Kislav’s supple-fingered virtuosos…”

and for:

"A-mazing!…the way nothing phases those Kislavs!"

“A-mazing!…the way nothing phases those Kislavs!”

and for this one promoting Kislav’s cotton glove subsidiary, Gant Madeleine:

IMG_1419

“Signs of spring on every hand…Gant Madeleine’s fresh young gloves designed in France. Made of the finest imported cotton fabrics. Washable, color-fast, and non-shrinkable.”

In a way, they were right.  Print advertising has about two seconds to catch the eye before the consumer turns the page.  The copywriter who can inspire an art director to eye-catching feats on the page is the one who gets hired. So I was ahead with Gilbert’s ads in my new leather portfolio, even though they were the same ads his nosebleeding art director would have shown if he were looking for a job. (Except of course he wasn’t.)  In fact, a representative at Jerry Fields actually deigned to call me in from the outer room where I had filled out a preliminary card and sit me down at her desk while she looked at every eye-catching miracle the nose bleeder had wrought.

Jerry Fields was then the pre-eminent employment guy for ad agency jobs.  If one of his representatives smiled on you, it meant work was coming down the pike sooner or later.  The first time I knocked on his door two years before, I had got no farther than the outer room and “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  This time, invited into the large inner sanctum where his representatives sat, it was “Stay in touch.  It may take a while, but something will almost certainly open up.”

What was I doing during that “while,” other than going through the motions of job searching to keep the unemployment office satisfied?  Experiencing a continued steady decline in marital satisfaction, that’s what. You may extrapolate from the following abbreviated summary of events something of what I was feeling.

(1)  After interviewing strippers didn’t work out as a professional way of life, Ed (my unemployed husband) bethought himself of the $900 his literary agent had never forwarded to him after finally selling a manuscript of his to a paperback publisher of juvenile delinquency novels.  He filed a pro se court complaint for recovery of this money and then persuaded me to act as the (free) process server. Reluctantly, I impersonated a girlish young thing seeking advice on writing a saleable novel and secured a rendezvous; once arrived at the literary agent’s door, I thrust the requisite papers into the hand he extended for my coat and declaimed (as I had been coached), “You have been served!” While he was still immobilized by surprise, I beat a hasty and terrified retreat.  Outcome: agent caved. $900 arrived a few days later.

Ed used the money — plus $1000 for his next juvenile delinquency paperback, received directly from the publisher  — for us to meet up with his four young children by his first marriage in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the following summer. It was during the two weeks their mother, his first wife, and her second husband, a Canadian army officer stationed in Medicine Hat, Alberta, used for a two-week vacation in, of all places, Spokane, Washington. (Don’t ask. That’s how it was.)

They were nice children, and the three younger ones soon had me beginning to yearn for at least one of my own. But — here I first admitted it to myself — not with Ed.  I would then  have had two children to take care of, and support.  In any event, Idaho was no vacation for me. I shopped for, cooked, and cleaned up after three meals a day for four young children, and also read stories aloud to the three youngest, who couldn’t yet read well for themselves. We went to a rodeo, and local playgrounds, and a lake, and I wiped noses and sometimes wiped away tears.  The oldest sulked the whole time.  He remembered when Ed had been at home with his mother and was angry, more at him than at me, for his not being there any more. Ed shrugged it off.  As for me, he said I’d already had my vacation during the time I was out of a job.

(2)  After the process serving, he talked West Side News, a weekly local newspaper, into appointing me their unpaid drama critic; I would do a weekly column of one-paragraph reviews of everything that opened on Broadway that week (even if it closed the next day).  In order for me to do this, Ed was then able to obtain two free second-night orchestra seats to everything I was going to review, including the clunkers.  The paper could subsequently sell ads to the theaters against my reviews.  I asked Ed why he couldn’t be the reviewer, since he was the one who was so interested in having the tickets and going to the theater, but he said he would be too busy with the third juvenile delinquency novel (“Go Man, Go!”), so we could have a second summer in Coeur d’Alene after the one coming up.

(3) During his stripper-interviewing period, Ed met a man who published illegal pornographic novels. He reported back to me that the man paid well.  As I wasn’t doing anything at the moment, why didn’t I try my hand at this new and challenging genre?  Well, he was still my husband.  Dutifully, I set to work and produced a typed page and half of the first chapter. As best I can now recall, what I wrote purported to be the beginning of the lost journals of George Gordon, Lord Byron (which Murray, Byron’s London publisher, is thought to have thrust into the fire, so inflammatory were their contents). My version of this lost work began in a brothel in Ravenna in 1818, where the lame and handsome Lord was disporting himself between luscious Italian mistresses. Older and wiser now, I will spare you the details on the page and a half. Suffice it to say that Ed hurried off to the law-flouting publisher with this incendiary phantasmagoria, delightedly counting chickens before they were hatched. And what do you know? The publisher reacted just as Murray in London had about 130 years before. Great writing, he told Ed. But too hot for him to handle.  How I would have gone on should he have said yes, yes, yes, I had no idea. God was merciful.

In any event, since calling Jerry Fields regularly did not seem to be making something “open up” soon enough for me, I finally fell back on the Sunday Times Classifieds — not really for a job in advertising, as I didn’t believe one could be found there, but just to find something that might pay at least $55 a week, and hopefully more, while getting me out of Ed’s sight before he developed any more bright ideas about what I could do.

Seek and ye shall find.  Unlikely as it seemed, it was through the Classifieds that I found Harold M. Mitchell, of Harold M. Mitchell, Inc. Advertising and he found me (without paying a commission). His was not exactly what one would call a Madison Avenue ad agency, but it was mysteriously solvent and welcoming.  Although he had had no copywriter till then, he felt it was time. He had a large empty office space next to his just waiting for me, he said, and even had boxes of special copywriter paper (which I had never seen before and never would again) — both top sheets and the onion skin sheets used for carbons embossed with the name of his operation at the upper right.

(Just waiting for me!)

(Just waiting for me!)

He thought $7,500 a year (what I had been earning at Gilbert) was a mite high to start, as what he would be doing with my help was pitching clients he didn’t yet have. But if I would consider $6,500, he would be happy to have such an educated and refined young woman in his employ.

Here, dear reader, we must leave me for now — not exactly as happy as my new employer (how could I be, given the state of the marriage?) but certainly relieved.  More about Harold, and his French art director, and what I wrote on his embossed Copy Department paper next time.