Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On Sideburns

For the past two weeks I have been working with an old friend and former colleague, Robert Prins.

It's been a joy doing whatever it is we're doing. But it's been even more fun discussing what we did in the past.

For example, years ago while at Team One, Robert and I teamed up for an assignment for our client Boston Market. They were about to introduce their "authentic" BBQ chicken.

We proposed shooting a road trip throughout America, learning all we could about great BBQ in places like Kansas City, Memphis and Texas. The client loved the idea, but didn't love the budget.

Instead of a cross country bourbon-soaked boondoggle, we ended up in a dirt park in Santa Clarita and faking all the locations. So much for "authentic."

They also had a problem with the copy, which originally read:

"We came up with the recipe for our new BBQ chicken the old fashioned way, we stole it."

The spot turned out to be a piece of shit. Perhaps fittingly.  Let's be honest, if you're going to Boston Market for good BBQ, you have all the culinary discernment of a housefly.

Naturally the discussion turned to our many exploits of the past. Turns out Robert spent a few years at one agency (unnamed) run by an agency President (also unnamed) who personally rejected me for a staff position many years ago.

At first I had trouble recalling the story and then it came flooding back to me. The Creative Director at this unnamed agency wanted to hire me, but couldn't. Why, you may ask. And I'm glad you did. The unnamed agency President, a man who in many ways resembled Montgomery Burns, took issue with my resume.

You see, immediately after college I spent three years floundering as an over-educated line cook/sous chef/kitchen manager at many restaurants in Los Angeles. Mr. Burns saw this as a serious character flaw. And not someone who would fit into his somewhat rigid agency culture.

I cursed that old bastard then.
I'm so very thankful now.

As many 44 year olds will tell you, a career is shaped more by the job rejections than the job acceptances.

Robert has so many stories about this man, who is now deceased. My favorite was the agency wide memo that feels more apropos of something Kim Jung Un would send. Mind you this was about 25 years ago, but the little dictator issued a dictum stating:

"Long hair on male employees will not be tolerated here at (unnamed agency.)"

Further outlining proper company decor, he added a line that is Hemmingway-esque in its beauty and brevity, and ranks among the favorite string of five words that I've ever seen…

"Sideburns are for Spanish Dancers."

RIP, Mr. Unnamed Agency President. RIP.

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