Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hanging Ten with Lee Clow

Yesterday, I posted a youtube video that I had stumbled across while putting off the task of writing body copy for a newspaper ad. I don't know how we used to procrastinate before we had the Internet. I suppose we would just talk with colleagues or jealously thumb our way through awards annuals. I don't see a lot of the latter these days.

Our other favorite form of procrastination was pranking. 

Of course this was before the advent of the big holding companies, when rocking the boat was the status quo and eccentricity in all its odd forms was nurtured. Drunken creatives were allowed to get drunk. Whiners were allowed to whine. And non-bathers were allowed to foul the air with their personal stank, as long as they produced award-winning work.

This was when advertising was fun. And HR people knew how to look the other way.

Back to the pranking. Early in the summer of 1992 Chiat had just hired a young talented writer from NY. Mind you, this was a time when Chiat/Day didn't have any juniors. When I say a young writer I mean someone who had already paid some real dues, done some real ads and won some real awards. 

Like anyone at the time, he was honored to be joining such elite company. He was also a little awestruck. He couldn't get over the fact that he was in the same building as Lee Clow.

But as we were all to learn in a company with so many pranksters, it's never a good idea to show any weakness. 

His new partner immediately seized the moment and snagged some official Lee Clow stationary. He carefully mimicked Lee's distinctive handwriting style and left this note (see above) on the young writer's desk. The next morning, Josh (he gave me permission to tell this story) could not contain himself. He must have racked up a few hundred dollars in long distance calls, telling anyone and everyone on the East Coast of his impending man date with The Bearded One.

For the next week, Josh tailed Lee everywhere he went inside the agency, never mentioning the note and appearing too forthright but not wanting to miss that possible impromptu moment when Lee would blink a few times and lean over and say, "I hear there's some 8-footers at El Porto."

I don't remember how Josh found out he had been punked but I do remember that for a week I, and many others in the Creative Department, had to walk around the place with a clenched jaw so I wouldn't laugh and give up the gag.

The irony here is that had Josh really wanted to surf with Lee all he had to do was ask. Lee probably would have said no, but not for any of the reasons you might suspect. And this is the part that surprises most, you see for all the mythology that surrounds the man, Lee Clow is still incredibly approachable.

He still puts his flop flops on one flip flop at a time.

Thanks go out to Josh Gold for allowing me to share this story. Make sure you check out his new film at http://www.saltaddsflavor.com/dayatthepool/

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