Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays

We're going to take a well deserved break here at roundseventeen until the beginning of the New Year. Until then, hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Or, if you are Finnish or descended from the people of Fennoscandia, hope you have a Happy Beiwe Festival. Which as many of you know is the celebration of fertility and sanity. In fact, many celebrants will paint their doorways with butter, so that Beiwe, the goddess of spring and sun, can eat and begin her journey to return.

Mmmmm, butter.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A little laugh

Reindeer, radar and urinating elves. They all come together in a spot we wrote and produced for Acura.

I know our current campaign for the Season of Reason Sales Event is dominating the airwaves. Seems everytime I turn on a football or basketball game I see the pompous stocking lady or the Christopher Walken sound-alike guy talking about his new quad-chambered, double-vented chestnut roaster.

It's just a shame this spot doesn't get the airplay it deserves. Particularly since it required us to spend a frigid dusk-til-dawn night in the mountains outside Wrightwood.

By the way, for those of you with a sharp eye and a penchant for HBO dramatic series, the midget/small person/dwarf (I don't know the politically correct terminology) also had a 'small' part in one of the latter episodes of Boardwalk Empire.

In that scene, dripping with irony, he complains about putting on a silly costume, selling out his dignity and entertaining the bigwigs for a few lousy greenbacks.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tis the season

Last week I wrote about some of the incredibly gauche Hanukkah displays popping up, this week we take on the Nativity scene. But not just any Nativity Scene.

You see the man on the right, just outside the manger? In Catalonia, he is known as The Caganer (in English, "The Pooper" or "The Shitter"). If you look even closer, you'll see the man's pants have been dropped and he is 'depositing his frankincense and mir' on the rock.

From what I've gathered on Wikipedia, the custom was started in Northern Spain by farmers as a way to celebrate not only the birth of the Saviour but also the rebirth of the soil, which needs fertilizer, which needs a man pooping in the yard.

If I wasn't so busy with work right now, I would book four tickets for my family to fly to Andora and travel around the countryside just to take in the various and colorful Caganer displays. My oldest daughter, a budding photographer, could take pictures of the Nativity Scenes and we could turn it all into a cool coffee table book.

Dear Random House....

Well, maybe next year.

You might be wondering what would it look like if The Caganer were not some decrepit old man, but someone more contemporary and famous. Oh I don't know, like our President...

OK, you might not be wondering that, but the good folks at have.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Endings

There was a time when the seedier side of life was kept to the back pages of the LA Weekly. Or cheap flyers passed out in Times Square or Las Vegas. But I guess the pundits are right: print is a dead medium.

Spotted this mobile outdoor board on Sepulveda Blvd. while driving my daughter to Hebrew School. I was shocked when I first saw it. Not that I'm any sort of prude mind you, I'm a bit of an absolutist when it comes to free speech. In fact, I find myself in agreement with the lawyers representing the freakish Fred Phelps and his cult of crazed Christians in the upcoming Supreme Court fight. It may be ugly. It may be hateful. But it is constitutional.

But back to the $100 full body massages.

Upon seeing this sign, I was so taken aback, I didn't do a double take, I did a Batman U-turn. And parked the car right next to the sign. This created two dilemmas.

First, my daughter, who is still in the last stage of childhood innocence, wanted an explanation of Massage Outcalls.

"You know honey, when someone rubs your back and soothes your muscles."

Followed by more inquiries about "Full Body", "Thai" and "Swedish."

Followed by the second, more difficult question, "If it's just a sign for someone to rub your shoulders for $100, why did you stop the car to take pictures of it?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just as I predicted

Over the summer, Red Lobster -- fine purveyors of ocean bottom food for over 50 years -- conducted a review for their advertising account. As expected many agencies took the bait and agreed to grovel at their feet, that is, participate in the review.

It wasn't for the opportunity to do breakthrough work in the sale of crustaceous products. Red Lobster has never, ever, ever produced a noteworthy campaign.

The winning agency in this review would have the opportunity to keep that long streak of mediocrity alive. (Oh and rake in a few million dollars for their trouble.)

Having been in the ad business for more than 20 years, I had a pretty good idea what the 'next' Red Lobster ad campaign would look like. In fact I wrote about it in August and agencyspy published my prognostication.

I don't know if you've been anywhere near a TV in the last three weeks, but true to my word, the lobster folks have rolled out the first offering in the new campaign, you know, the one that breaks with the traditions of the past, disrupts the marketplace and puts Red Lobster in a whole new mindset.

It's not up on youtube, but being a resourceful and diligent blogger, I have tracked it down for your viewing pleasure. And I use the word 'pleasure' with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Thankfully, some rabid shellfish fan has created a Facebook page for the new Red Lobster Surf & Turf Event.

With the exception of the man in khaki pants eating buttery lobster, my speculative script was spot on. If only my predictive powers were as accurate with NFL and NCAA basketball games, I could make a killing with a sports bookie, buy a beach house in Malibu and forget this sordid business of advertising.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

I hate what my daughters choose to watch on television. I suppose if I had boys, it would be a lot different. 24 hours a day of sports. Video games. And World's Dumbest Criminals Caught on Tape.

Damn you Y chromosome, damn you.

The latest crap appearing in my living room is the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. With that much silicone, plastic and nouveau riche affectations, it seems to me they ought to remove the word "Real" from the title.

In any case, one of the wives, Camille Grammar, is now the ex-wife of TV star Kelsey Grammar. I only show mild interest in her segments because I had met Kelsey a long time ago.

I was in a studio, located right above the Hollywood Athletic Club, scoring music to one of the first Nissan commercials I had ever written. It was exciting at the time. But then I was young and stupid and fascinated by all the buttons on the recording board.

When we were done the engineer invited me to stick around for a pay per view boxing match. He ordered some pizzas and said his friend, Kelsey Grammar, was coming over to catch the fight. It was a Friday night and even though I wasn't a big boxing fan, how often was I going to get the opportunity to hang out with Kelsey Grammar, a guy who was literally rolling in money from both CHEERS and FRASIER.

I'm sure I pictured him throwing around money like a drunken billionairre. "Hey kid, here's $1,000 bill, hand me a slice of that pepperoni pizza wouldya?"

The truth is, I had one half of the scenario correct.

When Kelsey showed up at the studio, he was four sheets to the wind. He was carrying two six packs of beer and he had a quart of whiskey. Half of which he'd already drank or spilled on his trousers.

We've all had those kind of nights. At least , I have. So I don't want to be too judgmental. But at the time, the letdown was palpable.

I didn't really care about the fight. And now, even less about Kelsey Grammar. So I packed up my briefcase, said my goodbyes and left.

Without the $1,000 bill.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do you like gladiators?

In the freelance world of Southern California advertising, I'm affectionately referred to as, "the busiest guy in town."

In years past, this might have bothered me. I would prefer to be known as the "the most talented writer in town" or "the smartest writer in town" or possibly, "the best looking writer in town." (I'm pretty sure Simon Mainwaring has a lock on that one. I'm tired of hearing agency people swooning over that handsome Australian guy. "Oh, we should hire him back.")

Enough about Simon, let's get back to me.

There's a reason why I'm always busy. It has a lot to do with the fact that I stupidly undercharge for my services. I know writers with half the experience and a quarter of the awards I have, charging almost twice what I charge. By all accounts, I should be raising my day rate, I just don't know how.

The other reason I stay busy --and the reason for the screenshot above -- is that I can be very resourceful.

My wife claims I spend way too much time on the Internet, but the truth is the Internet is a great fountain of potential job assignments. I scour job boards, sign up for Monster and Careerbuilder alerts and find jobs where other writers would never think of looking.

Of course, not every lead produces income. Sometimes I'll be sent job openings that just aren't appropriate.

The Orange County Gladiators are looking for a Mascot. I can muster up the energy. I can be friendly and outgoing. I can engage and entertain fans. And on some occasions, I'm even good with children. What I lack however is the ability to withstand high temperatures in a costume. My swarthy Mediterranean genetic make-up produces sweat the way an account planner produces unintelligible marketingese.

So I'm going to have to pass on this job.

It's all yours Simon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What does this button do?

Mosque bombings in Pakistan, Congressional stagnation, tinpot Korean midgets on the warpath, let's face it there's not a lot to smile about on lately.

All that changed last week when Rick "the Iceberg" Ehlert stopped a cruise ship in its tracks. Fueled by copious amounts of tequila, the 44-year old California resident somehow managed to get past the Authorized Personnel Only Door and successfully dropped the anchor of the MS Ryndam.

BTW, I can only assume his poison of choice was tequila. These type of shenanigans are rarely induced by beer or wine. "I say, this Cabernet has a delicate fruity quality and quite a memorable finish. Let's go to the upper deck and release the 2 ton anchor."

I notched some pretty abhorrent behavior myself while under the influence.

I've driven when I shouldn't have driven. I've drunk-dialed ex-girlfriends. Once, I even put myself in harm's way, getting between two German tourists and a redneck looking for a bar fight cause, "they need to speak 'Merican." (Me? Standing up for Germans. I must have been really drunk.)

I even recall an incident from a long, long time ago, when my buddy Jim and I got it in our heads that we should go out on Santa Monica Blvd and harpoon an inflatable 3-dimensional Orca Whale featured on an outdoor board for Sea World. There we stood at 3 AM, hurling darts at this inanimate leviathan. Only to discover later that the vinyl whale was not inflatable and was actually filled with styrofoam peanuts.

So in that spirit of been there, done that, let's lift a glass and toast Mr. Ehlert. You have set a new standard in drunken irresponsible behavior. I eagerly await your next stunt.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jew gotta be kidding

We are in the thick of the season. And when I say season, of course I am referring to the Chanukkah season. As evidenced by this rather over-the-top decorating extravaganza spotted on Overland Ave.

Maybe it's the generational gap talking here, but when I was a kid, we had a simple menorrah and that sufficed. It stood in stark contrast to the lights, the trees, the wreaths, the ornate nativity scenes and the plastic Santas on the lawns of my mostly Roman Catholic neighborhood. And I was fine with that.

There was something dignified about treating a religious holiday with some understated reverence.

Years ago, before children, mortgages and ear hair, my wife and I tooled around Spain and Portugal. One of the most beautiful things we saw was a synagogue built in the 1500's. It was nothing more than a simple white room --sort of the Hebraic predecessor of the Apple Store -- delicately adorned with one simple row of deep ocean blue tile that rimmed the ceiling. It might have been the most incredible building on the entire Iberian Peninsula.

Not that my people are beyond hideous design and ostentation.

If you've ever been inside a Judaica store, you know from which I speak -- monstrous menorrahs, krass kiddish cups and flashy door mezzuzahs with motion detectors. I'm pretty sure it all violates the 11th Commandment brought down by Moses. "Thou shalt not fashion silver and gold into crap."

I'm just thankful that when my kids were smaller there weren't these elaborate displays for sale. Because I know my daughters would have talked me into the giant dreidel-spinning Hanukkah bear. And despite the running, swimming and various other aerobic activities, I know I still don't have the lung capacity to inflate one of those.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mmmmmm, mcribby

Seems everywhere I turn, people are talking about the return of the McRib Sandwich. Talk about clueless? I didn't even know it was gone.

But I do know folks are excited. I see commercials for the McRib. Outdoor boards for the McRib. There's even a Facebook page for McRib devotees.

I'm no food snob.

I love a good dive for Mexican or Thai food. And when we travel abroad, there's nothing I enjoy more than some local cuisine sold by a street vendor. But I generally resist eating at any establishment that has its own indoor playground. And/or a pervy clown.

Maybe the McRib merits all the attention its getting. I'll never know. I've never had one. And like the meat in the McRib it's destined to remain a mystery to me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My goodfellas

One of the things I miss living in Southern California is the mob. I'm sure the Mafia is out here, it's just that I don't see it and I don't have any connection to it.

That's probably a good thing.

The same was not true when I lived in NY. When we lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, my father had all kinds of mob connections. They literally lived in our apartment building. These were not the $2,000 suit-wearing made men of movie fame. These were low level guys, working stiffs, who were probably quite familiar with the ins-and-outs of nearby Kennedy and La Guardia airports.

I remember the Tuesday Night poker games in our dining room. 3 Jews and 3 Italian guys, smoking a ton of cigarettes, knocking down cheap scotch, tossing dollar bills on the table, and enjoying a night away from the wives.

It didn't make sense to me then. It makes a lot of sense to me now.

I bring this up because the other day I was out running and heard an old Todd Rundgren song on my iPod. It was the song we used to announce last call at the bar I worked at in college. (Funny how music and odors can bring back such strong memories).

I loved bartending in college.

It paid for tuition and put me closest to the two things I loved most: liquor and women. And of course, I never would've had that job had it not been for my dad and his "friends." You see, he knew the two brothers who owned the bar, Sal and Tony. Or Frankie and Paulie. Or, Sonny and Fredo. I've long since forgotten their names.

I only remember my father telling me these guys were connected (always with a small 'c') and that I shouldn't screw up. Fact is, I couldn't have screwed if I tried. These guys were the most easygoing bosses I ever had. They let us eat. They let us drink. They let us goof off. It was almost as if they set up this legitimate business and didn't care whether it made money or not.

It didn't make sense to me then. It makes a lot of sense to me now.