Monday, March 7, 2011

Living like a Trump

This week I'm working at my alma mater, TBWA Chiat/Day. As I look around the place, naturally I am struck by a stifling sense of jealousy. The kids that work here are all so young. Yesterday, I overheard someone telling a visiting executive that the average age of the TBWA employee was 27.

I have running shoes older than 27. Seriously, I do.
I know because my wife bitches about them all day long.

While these kids have everything to look forward to, I doubt they will ever experience anything as glorious, excessive and indulgent as advertising's Golden Age, the late 90's.
The 1990's, just to be completely accurate.

The Internet had just been born, the economy was firing on all cylinders and ad budgets were fatter than a White House intern.

To give you some idea of how awesome the awesome 90's were, consider this short story. My boss, Lee Clow called me one afternoon from San Antonio. It seemed a team from the NY office had dropped the meat in the dirt on their client, Outback Steakhouse. Lee wanted my art director and I to hop on a plane and meet with them at their offices in Tampa. (Having just produced an award winning campaign it was nice to be thought of as the go-to team, even if that only lasted a week or so.) Fine, I said, I'll make the travel arrangements.

"No", Lee replied, "my assistant will take care of everything."

At 5:30 AM the following morning, my art director and I found ourselves stepping onto a private LearJet at the Van Nuys airport. No baggage check in. No security screenings. No boarding area. I simply parked my car in the VIP lot and walked onto the jet. Never mind that the jet was not much longer in length than my car.

In minutes, we were airborne and cruising at 47,000 feet. I learned private jets fly higher than commercial planes. The thinner air allows the jet to fly faster. It was also remarkably smoother.

We touched down in San Antonio to pick up Lee. And literally, within minutes again, we were in the stratosphere. No taxi-ing down runways. No waiting for the gate. No warnings about electronic devices. It was all so civil.

In Tampa, we did the obligatory dog and pony show for the client. This part of the story isn't so pleasant (after all there were clients involved) so I won't go into any unpleasant details. Suffice to say, we were all  happy to be getting back aboard our private jet and heading westward.

After a well deserved bottle of Merlot, Lee instructed the pilot to change the flight path. He wanted to go to LAX, where his car was parked, instead of the planned route back to Van Nuys, where my car was parked. Naturally the pilot obliged.

This left me in a bit of a logistics conundrum. Not an issue said Captain AtYourService. He lined up the LearJet behind an American Airlines 767 and touched down on Runway L24 on the south side of LAX. Lee and my art director exited the plane, leaving me, by myself, alone in the backseat of a 7 million dollar private jet.

My chauffeur...uh, pilot, throttled up the engine, trimmed the flaps and had us arcing our way 3000 feet over the Santa Monica Bay. The flight from LAX to Van Nuys airport was so short, I'm not even sure he retracted the wheels. But I do know I soaked in every gravity-defying moment of the experience. If only my shtetl-born grandparents from Poland and my working class ancestors from Scotland could see me now.

I may never get my 15 minutes of fame.
But I'll never forget my 6 and 1/2 minutes of living like I just won the lottery.


steve chavez said...

as is sit here combing over a pile of receipts from a week of travel, searching for the back up to the back up to make sure i get reimbursed for my $18 breakfast i, too, long for the good ol' days. thanks for the reminder, rich.

Mark said...

Steve, isn't $18 over your per diem for breakfast? Sweet read Rich and long time no talk Mr. Chavez....

John Shirley said...

As Lee and I got off the plane at LAX, he pointed to his waiting Town car on the far side of the tarmac and offered me a ride... We were both tired and didn't have much to say on the way home except once when he smiled and said "That was very nice of them to give Rich a ride to his car" Then as now, I just smiled.

Barbara said...

Loved this story, rich. One of my favorite posts.