Tuesday, September 18, 2018

That's my friend David.

We don't do enough to honor our own. And by that I mean the ad industry offers little in the way of recognition to those who have contributed so much. So today I'm going to try and remedy that.

Last week, my friend, my former boss and one of my mentors, David Morgenstern passed.

For those too young to remember, and currently that's everybody in the advertising community, he was one of the folks responsible for the birth of West Coast creativity. A phenomena that traces its roots back to Chiat/Day and Needham, Harper & Steers (now RPA.)

Let me throw the Honda Pilot in reverse back to the 1980's.

While Jay Chiat was busy putting together his team of pirates, Larry Postaer was equally busy assembling a cast of incredibly-skilled copywriters and art directors who would sweep every award show.

They put Honda on the map. With smart simple advertising that in many cases resembled art. That team read like the roster of the 1927 Yankees and included Bob Coburn, Gary Yoshida, Gail Bartley, Richard Kile and David Morgenstern, among many others.

I can read off those names because I knew each and every one of them. Because Needham Harper and Steers was where I started as a mailroom clerk. Mailroom clerk is a euphemism for everybody's slave.

And the Creative department would take full advantage of having a man servant. I would move their furniture. Retrieve their dry cleaning. And take their precious, company-paid Civics and Preludes to the car wash.

Naturally, I despised each and every one of them. And was painfully envious of their cushy 10-4 jobs. Their cozy Westwood offices. Their Tony Jacklin golf clubs. And their obscene expense accounts at Monte's Steakhouse.

"I'll have your most expensive steak, stuffed with your second most expensive steak."

But that envy was also inspiring.

And years later, I found myself working for David again. Not as a mailroom clerk but as his junior copywriter at Abert, Newhoff & Burr. On a leaner than lean staff that only included myself and my partner Tris. This is where I got to see David differently.

Mind you, I sucked as a junior copywriter. But David must have seen something in me. He was more than generous with his time. He would edit my copy like a newspaper guy. Always shortening. Always tightening. Always finding a better, quicker and more impactful way of saying things. And always with a soft-spoken smile.

David was an easy-going Midwestern Jew. And I discovered they're not like their NY brethren. They don't yell. They don't fight. They're not abrasive. And they're pleasant to be around. Not surprisingly, I married one from Minnesota.

We stayed in touch over the past few years via social media. He'd become a big fan of this blog. And loved my Kim Jung Fun tumblr, often dropping me little notes about how hard he was laughing about that day's posting.

Last year, while visiting my sister-in-law in Northern California, we found ourselves eating lunch in Healdsburg. On the spur of the moment, I called David to join us. True to his generous spirit he did. He got there too late to enjoy the ribs and BBQ brisket but in time to help me drain a pitcher of beer and spend an hour laughing and telling war stories.

I had the good luck to call him a friend.

And that's the thing, if you met David, you liked David.

It's that Simple.


mbdeane said...

I met him a few times. Wonderful man. Sorry to read of his passing!

TJB said...

Thanks for this.

larrystevenlondre said...

David was a friend. Great guy. Miss him. He did advertising for me at The Music Center and for several clients at LMC. He was a judge in my advertising and Marketing classes at USC, CSUN and Pepperdine. He was the best judge I had. The students loved him. In the past year tried to talk to him every week. Really miss him. Truly an original and a great guy, in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

There will likely not be a plethora of posthumous posts praising the life of this man and his contributions to the world and players amongst those in advertising. This is because advertising at its core has no soul. I am moved by your post because I respect you and your work from afar (oxford comma) and I know what it's like to lose a friend and a mentor.