Monday, June 22, 2015

My Dinner with Iger

Last Saturday the weekly battle of "where should we go out to dinner?" almost landed us at Chop Daddy's, the new Texas-style BBQ joint in downtown Culver City.

But my wife, hardly a snob, evidenced by 23 years of marriage to yours truly, was put off by the plastic cutlery and the red solo cups.

"That's OK at a picnic or for a hastily thrown together company party intended to boost morale, but not at a restaurant where I'm going to drop a C-note for artisanally-smoked beef brisket."

We crossed the street and landed at Sambar's, a new Indian style gastro-pub located in the space formerly occupied by Ford's Filling Station.

The obligatory 20 minute wait for a table turned into 55 minutes, enough time for me to guzzle down two Djaarling Torpedo's, the Mumbai take on the classic Manhattan.

By the time the snooty hostess (why do restaurant hosts/hostesses think they have the most important job in the world?) started leading us towards a very nice table near the open-face kitchen, I was sufficiently lubed and chatty.

As we turned the corner, I looked at the table on my left and saw Bob Iger, his wife and the restaurant chef seated at a nearby table. With not a second thought in the world, I detoured off my path and extended my hand.

"Bob Iger, how are you? Rich Siegel."

You might be thinking, "Holy Shit, you can't just go up to the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood. What kind of hallucinogenic garnish did they put in your drink?"

Well, 18 years ago, I had the pleasure of presenting the Yellow campaign to the top brass at ABC. Mr. Iger was in that meeting. Moreover, as Chairmen of the American Broadcasting Company at the time, he was instrumental in selecting the agency and the campaign, and literally changed the course of my career.

His response to my abrupt interruption was about as graceful and delightful as one could possibly imagine.

"Oh hi Rich. I thought I recognized you. I saw this bald guy with the thick mustache and said that guy looks familiar. Know what's really funny? Remember that song Yellow that we started using for on-air promos? I was having dinner with Coldplay last week and we were just talking about the ABC campaign."

Mind. Officially. Blown.

We exchanged some more pleasantries and then I told him a little story I often tell.

As the campaign was rolling into Year Two, my partner John Shirley and I were invited to a big celebrity hoo-haa in Pasadena. It was a black tie affair, not my favorite. Very stiff. With a lot of hobnobbing that Hollywood people seem to enjoy.

I like a party where there's excessive alcohol, someone throws a fit and expensive custom glass is shattered. But that's me.

As we nursed our cocktails and stood far away from Drew Carey, Michael J. Fox and that crazy Scientology chick who played Dharma in Dharma and Greg, we were tapped on the shoulder by Bob Iger.

"Rich. John. How are you? Bob Iger. I wanted to thank you guys for all the work you've done for us."

On the corporate ladder, John and I were on the rung just above the guy who makes the Starbucks run at 4 in the afternoon. So to be called out, by name, by the CEO of Disney was not too shabby.

Other than to drop names and establish the flimsiest of connection to Hollywood's A-list, is there a point to any of this?

None at all.

But the Chicken Tika Marsala was especially good at Sambar. And I can't say enough great things about those Djaarling Torpedos.


Jeff said...

I always liked Iger. When he was head of ABC, there was a Bochco show on called Murder One with Daniel Benzali. It had started off well in the ratings but quickly came in for a hard landing. I loved the show, but there wasn't a chance in hell it was going to get renewed. Despite that, I wrote Iger a Jeff letter asking him essentially to screw the ratings, and keep a quality show on the air. Which much to my pleasure and surprise he did. Murder One had a second outstanding season, this time starring Anthony LaPaglia. The other thing I love about Iger is that he a zero-tolerance policy about people being even a minute late to meetings. Never met him, but I'm sure we'd get along. Great respect for who he is and what he's accomplished.

Theo said...

I did some design-writing work on that first Yellow campaign!