How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


A total lunar eclipse happens rarely. There was one in early July of 1982 that could be seen in the Eastern United States, and it played its part in a summer romance and an eventual long-term friendship.

The view of the moon from a first class cabin of an Air France 747 is another rare event, but I was fortunate enough to have experienced that, too.

Today, two stories from the early eighties that my advertising career made possible. You gotta love this business.

Truth in Advertising.

Being the advertising writer for Air France in the 1980's was one of the highlights of my career.

Here was an airline of the country that had created the words “cachet” and “ambiance,” and if any airline had them, Air France did.

Naturally, one of the features of the airline that we promoted heavily was their first class, called Premiere. I wrote about it in the most glowing of terms, promising a multi-star restaurant in the sky, an incredible wine cellar, classic European service.

But for years, the closest I got to experiencing the real thing was to visit the airport for a photo shoot of their chef at JFK International, which included a tour of the airline's actual New York wine cellar.

It took about three years before I was invited to take a “fam” (familiarization) trip. The company was generous enough to bend the rules and let me take a daughter on the trip. The rules were that only spouses could share in the perks, but I didn't have a spouse at the time, so my oldest daughter accompanied me, and we planned to meet my middle daughter, who was spending a college semester in London. We planned to spend a week in Paris, and a week in London.

As was customary for complementary flight passengers, we were placed on first class standby, and reported to the first class lounge to wait, as instructed. There were seats available, and my daughter and I occupied them.

The service was flawless. The food was incroyable. The wines were exquisite. Just as I had imagined them, and described them, in ads that ran in all the major magazines. Then, near the end of the flight, as we're approaching Paris, we were handed rating cards.

When it came to rating the overall experience of Air France Premiere Class, I thought of the most appropriate words their copywriter could write.

They were these two: 'As advertised.'

Truth in Seduction.

There's someone in another house I'd like you to meet.”

Those can be the most exciting words you can hear when the last date you brought out to Fire Island for a weekend of fun and sun turns out to be totally obsessed with her last boy friend and can't stand being in the same bed with you after the first night.

Not that I took it personally – the woman, named Susan, was an analyst in Manhattan who specialized in couples counseling, but couldn't counsel herself, or heed the counsel of her shrink. I should have known – I've had some kind of trouble with every woman in my life named Susan and any variation of that name.

Anyway, the previous weekend with Susan started out wonderfully, with a communal meal, a walk on the beach, and a warm and loving night. Saturday morning was a different story, however. She woke up and told me that she couldn't “do this,” and was taking the first boat back to Bay Shore. I walked her to the dock, said goodbye and spent the rest of that weekend pondering.

Resilient as I was back then, the next weekend, a housemate offered to introduce me to another woman who had recently become unattached. It was obvious that Jane and I had an attraction, and that she was attractive, intelligent and funny. I soon found out that she had a marvelous singing voice as well.

We got acquainted, and soon we were warmer than that, doing our best imitation of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach in “From Here to Eternity.” The clincher was a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, the night I told that there was to be a lunar eclipse and promised her that she could see it from my bed. And we did spend a little time watching it from there.

That was one great summer. But when it was over, that was another matter entirely. And reason enough for my experiences with a another analyst – this one on a strictly professional basis.

Next time: shrink-rapt New York.

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