Monday, December 28, 2015

Tara and Bill Time

Time marches on --- It cannot stand still;
But you already know that Tara and Bill.

A token gift --- with wishes you will cherish 
the minutes, hours and days ahead.
Manage the troubles and sadness --- 
but focus on the happiness instead.

Where ever you are in the world --- 
together or apart. 
Live in the present with love in your hearts

Be in the now --- live. laugh. and love
Don’t sweat the small stuff --- rise above

With fresh batteries as you begin anew
May your blessings be plenty and your worries be few

Sunday, October 25, 2015

To be a Rock and Not to Roll

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin iwas released in late 1971. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant composed and sang, for many of us, an anthem and a background soundtrack for moments in time with friends as we came of age during our high school years. It could be heard coming from Nick the Greek car parked in front of Manners Restaurant on a Friday night. It was playing at an impromptu party at Pat McCarthy’s house. It was playing at Megan Hilti’s house as we made the kitchen our own.  Our parents were reasonably comfortable in knowing we’d all return home eventually. Fast forward thirty years and the lyrics appeared on the wall in my son’s room next to a poster of Fifty Cent. Fast forward again another dozen years and the sound of those subtle and familiar notes can be heard in the air while waiting for an airplane in St. Louis the week of my daughter’s wedding. 

And if you listen very hard/The tune will come to you at last/When all are one and one is all/To be a rock and not to roll. 

Stairway To Heaven
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
(And) when she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh ooh ooh…ooh…ooh ooh ooh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In the tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Oooh…It makes me wonder
Oooh…It makes me wonder
There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
Oooh…It makes me wonder
Oooh…And it makes me wonder
And it's whispered that soon, if we all called the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter
Woe woe woe woe woe oh
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May Queen
Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
And it makes me wonder…ohhh ooh woe
Your head is humming and it won't go - in case you don´t know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady can you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Remembering Things

Note: This list was compiled over a year ago and shared with my siblings. My brother Dan posted it on Shutterfly page he named Morgan Family Ties. 

The fuse box at Edgewater Drive house. (Anyone else remember Dad using this as a technique for turning off the TV at “bedtime”?)
The costume room downstairs. (Probably not ideal in the room near the furnace and certainly not well merchandised).
The movable type printing press in the basement. (I know Sundance used it to print campaign slogans and re-wrapping sticks of Wrigley’s gum with “Jimmy for me in ’63.”)
Paint the basement floor with abstract expressionist’s zeal. It must have been inspired by left over buckets of paint. (This was after the basement was temporary living quarters for Sundance’s Navy pal John Latham.
Using the heat of the furnace room to dry a variety of paintings.
Paintings with busted up model Clipper ships Dad had spent hours making. At least one of those paintings made the living room and was titled “Davey Jones Locker.”
That game of elevator played by closing the kitchen door, living room door, door leading to the downstairs bathroom adjacent to the kitchen and the door leading to upstairs bedroom. Switching the lights on and off and opening to living room as if a floor of department store.
Lurch Bell cord in living room. Door bell sound presumably to call the help was a fun way to trick someone into answering the front door.
Chanel No. 5 – Mom always had it on her make up table and Dad always seemed to have a new bottle of this fragrance in time for refills.
The investigation over who might be breaking Christmas light bulbs from the string on the wrought iron fence. How did Dad know it was Katy Bizzance (spelling?).
You know, I never took that leap from the balcony to the living room couch but several of my friends did. I know Lynn’s friends tried that cheap thrill too. Rick Sirocky (spelling?)
Kim Lovejoy was a friend of Lynn’s who lived on Abbeshire. She was a big girl but years after she was almost unrecognizable as a skinny Kim. (Funny, the first time I saw the skinny Kim was a McDonald’s restaurant).
Just wave to the guard at CYC and you can drive right through. (Yeah and having a CYC window shield decal on the driver’s side doesn’t hurt either.)
Fall in!
The Eight-Year Plan. (Jim Geshke and his truck made it look like the job could be completed in 8 years.)
Bang! (Game over)
Tonka Trucks (durable enough to throw in the air to dislodge buckeyes from the tree that technically was next door but had overhanging branches in our yard.)
Monopoly (The common and now politically incorrect practices of paying of “fag money” to free parking for rolling the dice too long of accusing the banker of “jewing you out of money due.” )
Greatest Hits:
“Ripp Van Winkle, Ripp Van Dee, Ripp Van Winkle, Ripp Van Dee” (A sort of march beat and an ideal ending to a Booth’s Theater production. Was that a name honoring the guy who shot Lincoln? Or maybe his brother, who was also an actor…)
“I was workin’ in the meadow, a bird flew over me…He said that he was hungry…so I gave him a piece of bread…”
“M&M Clinic, we’re on your side”
“Hummmmmmmm en yah, Hummmm en yah, having fun with Hummm en yah”
“…Key Biscayne, Key Biscayne….And that was our vacation”
 “Lindbergh Song” (Even though it is technically a butchering of Eagle of the U.S.A. which was released in 1927.)
“Wesley Morgan played the organ. His father played the drum. His mother played the fiddling sticks and they all went rum-tum-tum.” (A particularly irritating tune to hear dad sing if you overslept.)
“Dutt-Dutt Dutt-Dutt” (More a performance piece than a song. I had almost forgotten the use of that device to call for TOI-LET PA-PER before Dan brought that cultural artifact back to life at McBride Hall)
Fried Balongna (Anna Benson special)
Frozen Hough Bakery chocolate cupcakes
Ann Page corn flakes (almost, but not Kellogg’s) and Ann Page sandwich crème cookies (nothing like Nabisco Oreos or the off brand Sunshine Hydrox). Ann Page was the A&P generic. Hey did you hear A&P merged with Stop n Shop? Yeah, they’re gonna call it STOP & PEE…(ha ha ha)
Mom’s onion dip. (The dry onion soup mix was secret ingredient.)
“Thank you very much for telling me! Thank you very much for telling me!”
Remember This (Part II)

When Jimmy had something on TV, no one changed the channel. If you behave, he might allow you to quietly view “The Rebel” with him. But don’t make any noise during the program – especially the opening credits and music: Johnny Yuma was a rebel, he wondered alone… Note that the person formerly known as Jimmy never liked that name (or being a Junior either). When he had the chance he changes his name to Sundance.
Suzie Sanders, Mike Young, Vince Ebner, Blue Bird Landscaping, broken collar bone, bendy straw, improv with Mom that brought out the Brando in him, discharged from the Navy (note no modifier to discharged).
Lynn and her friend Wendy Wiken were talking about getting out of the house legally at age 18. They wanted emancipation. I don’t know how Wendy’s home life was but Lynn was a child of the 60’s. Yes sir, after age 18 you can go where-ever you want she thought. This discussion might be taking place while enjoying a refreshing Marboro cigarette. (Girls who smoke look so cool.) Well Lynn was successful in busting out, technically.
Horace Mann, St. Augustine, Andrews school for girls in Willoughby (OH), Lakewood High School. Meet Mark Paris. “Go ahead, get in this cardboard box and I’ll push you down the stairs. It will be fun…like a roller coaster.” The executive producer of Booth’s Theater (in the attic before it became Dad’s home studio space.)
Wes has one theme running throughout - It’s failure. He learned early to make light of being “held back” in first grade. It’s devastating to be viewed among your peers as the kid who flunked. Add to the mix that your brother is in the same grade as you. “What…are your guys twins?” Fast forward and Wes starts to look like a good student athlete and is co-captain of the CYO St. Luke lightweight football team. That big season ended in a loss to Saints Philip & James. (Is that fair – two saints against one.) So it goes, the greatest triumphs usually end in a crushing defeat.
Greg has uncanny ability to pull off the clutch catch or play in the closing moments of a sports contest – especially the pick up/street variety. Intramural basketball as a fifth grader, he stood poised to make a foul shot at St. Luke’s gym that won the game for the orange team. Maybe the Riley’s box scores of baseball at the circle (where Abbeshire meets Edgewater Drive) would verify Greg’s all star status; Or touchdown pass record from dad on the front lawn; Or maybe the hockey games at Lakewood Park; Or the championship run at the University of Miami Cosmic Wheels (intramural touch football). Probably not. Always at his best in unorganized chaos when the game is on the line.
Dan is a funny man and an ideal personality for a culture of social media. The dude is on trend. Sometimes almost shamelessly so. He’s manages to leverage technology in everything he does. The continuity of 500+ JPEGs of the week is emblematic of what it means to be connected to the Straight Shooter. Clam bakes. The Brockley house. Dan found a way to deliver value to clients in NYC, notably Southeby’s Auction House when he offered one-stop shopping for catalogues. Dan is the man when you need photos that are photo-shopped and ready for production. At one time or another over a period of nearly a decade Dan found himself in front of rare books, priceless collectibles and artifacts. Dan is also a champion of emerging artists.
Rob is the best. The twin headaches (Wes and Greg) were winding down their undergraduate careers as Miami Hurricanes when Rob found his way to the original (albeit less exotic and decidedly midwestern) Miami in Ohio. Rob insisted on paying his own way. The first in our family to go to college, study and get good grades without being distracted by the notion that being a Morgan somehow means you are made of finer clay. Regional sales, sales trainer, Black & Decker, Buck Knives, Stanley Tools, PetMate and so on. He speaks fluent Mandarin (Just kidding).
Miscelleaneous Things
The dumb waiter next to the fireplace. A cool feature that mostly was too much trouble to use. An elevator that did not see much use. Such a great house. But so many things that needed repair.
Tony the plumber. A Italian character.
Terry the Milkman. Sealtest products delivered to the milkchute through the breezeway to the side door. (That milkchute was also, by the way, the easiest way to break into the house even with every door locked.)
Rosie’s Wine House, piano tuner, window washers…
The Plain Dealer, The Lakewood Ledger, The Cleveland Press, Look, Life, Time Magazine.
Ballwin Baby Grand Piano in a house without a single musician.
Two lawnmowers, no waiting.
Schwinn bicycles.
Two Cutlass Supreme Oldsmobiles. (Plenty of Normile Insurance Coverage).
Golf with dad has two rules: 1) Hit it as hard as you can 2) maintain pace of play (Both rules are, in hindsight, counterproductive to my personal development in the game).
SauSea Shrimp in glass containers that become “juice glasses”.
Schmitt Shell on Lake Avenue.
Charlie Geiger’s
Tick Tock
Pick n Pay
Super X
Uncle Bill’s
Lawson’s – We’ve got Sealtest delivery but we’re always running out of milk and Dad will always be up for a milk run if it means he can also get a gallon of ice cream.
Convertible beds that are couches by day. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Not very comfortable. (Especially uncomfortable for Greg if Dad was trying to wake him.)
45s – Happy Together by the Turtles, The Beatles, The Doors, Petula Clark, Dave Clark Five. (Good to have those little plastic things in the middle of the record). Lynn has the portable player and a carry case for her records.
Burning leaves in the street in the Fall.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Edgewater 10

The NYC interview at One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in 1982 marked the beginning of my illustrious career as a big time advertising man. The skills I brought to the business turned out to be more than appropriate but the nature of the business was not entirely predictable. Wes bought himself a pinstripe suit and went into battle from the Hoboken railroad flat that he shared with his wife Lynn and their baby girl Lindsey.

The junior account executive was a success in breaking into a highly competitive ad biz and as such witnessed from the inside the launch of Diet Coke – an historic event that engaged an embarrassing number of celebrities in an atmosphere that felt like the academy awards meets the Nobel peace prize. The genius tag line for this blockbuster extravaganza: “Introducing Diet Coke. Just for the taste of it.”
Meanwhile my job included the periodic messenger/check pickups, trips to the distributor to pick up product in Grogan’s green Cadillac, carrying a TV monitor/VCR as side kick to Grogan on brisk walks to the client’s office (taxis apparently for wimps). It also fell to me to write the official internal strategy for the Van Munching account. The LINK document was a series of cleverly designed sheets that folded into sections suggesting a linear and logical flow of activities: competition, communication/message, media, promotion, marketing etc. (No-one ever read this document as near as I can tell.)

The low man on the totem pole doing this planning document was my first exposure to the reality that so much of the brainy tools were more about appearances that anyone really focusing on strategy. Every account at the agency allegedly had a completed LINK document that captured the important facts leading up to a brilliant brand positioning. So, in hindsight I wonder how the number one imported beer in America ended up with a relatively bland tagline, “Come to think of it, I’ll have a Heineken” and executions featuring "hero" product shots without even hinting about any demographics of the customer.

Leo Van Munching was convinced that hero product photography and a focus on a handful of major markets like NYC, Chicago, LA, SF and Miami was the way to go -- particularly as his company rolled out Amstel Light. It’s hard to argue with success, but time will tell. The the number one imported beer (Heineken) and this aggressive brand launch (Amstel Light) sold more than a few barrels. 

In hindsight vision is 20/20. It’s remarkable however how much you don’t see. Up close and personal, you want to believe that a global advertising firm with all that Lever packaged goods marketing credibility would be smarter. What would I do differently in hindsight? Probably nothing. Because the reality is that advertising in the early 1980s was revealing itself to be a greedy business. It was not at all about the fantasy that I embraced -- creative excellence, being smarter than the competition and appealing in a relevant and compelling way to consumers who ultimately choose the brand that tells the best story. Chosen even if they are in a category with a preponderance of parity choices.

This was a lot to absorb in my first experience in the ad biz. I went on to hop scotch around from agency to agency over the course of the next fifteen years on an impressive list of brands at top flight agencies. I was never shrewd enough to secure my own position however. Accounts come and go. Agencies merge and fold. Brands die. The world is much more fluid than I ever imagined.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Edgewater 9

One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

Skyscraper National Park

Wes Morgan arrived in New York City with nothing. He just knew it was the Advertising Capital of the World and Kurt Vonnegut called it Skyscraper National Park. The kid from Edgewater Drive couldn’t help looking up at the buildings as he made his way to One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on Second Avenue for an interview with the HR director Bill Timm at SSC&B:Lintas. It was 1982 after Lever International Advertising Services (LINTAS) had just been folded into this Interpublic agency.

I rode the elevator to the 39th Floor and made myself at home. Bill Timm was gracious and invited me into his office. The meeting was one of several I managed to make happen. This one was by virtue of name dropping David Schropfer’s name in a letter along with a resume. Schropfer was director of account services at Mike Sloan Advertising in Miami but was once hired by Bill Timm somewhere in the Interpublic system. Anyway the Miami connection, the MBA and the rationale that the agency needed more male account people added up to my getting an offer. I would be paid $21,000 a year to be assistant account executive on the Van Munching & Company of New York account. Leo Van Munching was the exclusive importer of Heineken Beer in the U.S.

It was a big job for rookie and a wild ride. My boss was a guy named John Grogan who at 37 years old was a rising star at the agency.  Tall and handsome and well groomed, Grogan seemed to be pretty full of himself. He was a marathon runner and lived in Bronxville, NY. He drove a big green Cadillac into Manhattan every day. I learned that he had been in the Navy and served at least some of his agency career on cigarette business. Grogan had enough juice at the agency to refuse the logical placement of one of the entry level trainees of which Bill Timm managed a small army of eight. Somehow, Bill Timm sold me as an alternative and placed me among Grogan’s Heroes. Grogan was VP and Management Supervisor with Heineken and Amstel Light (Van Munching inported beers), Lego Toys, and Homelite Jacobson lawn mowers under his wing. On Van Munching, Grogan relied on AE Russell Brown to provide a level of expertise from his background as a media buyer and me to do whatever Russell didn’t want to do or didn’t have time to do. He was effective enough in managing up to earn himself a promotion to Account Supervisor while I struggled as low man on the totem pole.

In retrospect, the Van Munching account was not very challenging or creative. Leo Van Munching was managing a steady growth in sales as the popularity of imported beers was for the time being anyway dominated by Heienken.  

Indeed the relative success of Heineken and Amstel Light was overshadowed by the success of other Imports among them the Canadian brands like Molson and Moosehead and Mexican brands like Dos Equis and Corona.(Imports were less than 4% of the beer consumed in the U.S. at that time.)  Meanwhile the domestic battle of beers was becoming a street fight between Anheuser Busch and Miller Brewing. The regional brands like Coors, Pabst, Rolling Rock and Stroh’s were going to eventually lose share to these giants.

But when you look at things in a fixed point in time with little or no sense of market share shifts over time -- It just seemed like the explosive growth of Heineken would go on. Leo Van Munching & Company of New York was spending $22 Million on those two brands. I was even, on two occasions asked to pick up checks from Van Munching & Company offices in the  Radio City Music Hall building near 30 Rockefeller Plaza. On those two occasions I was essentially messenger boy carrying a checks from the client totaling over $1 Million dollars.        


Leo van Munching, 88, Heineken Beer Trader

Published: April 4, 1990 
Leo van Munching, the importer who brought Heineken beer to the United States, died of complications of Alzheimer's disease yesterday at Greenwich (Conn.) Hospital. He was 88 years old and lived in Greenwich.
Mr. van Munching, who was born in Hyderwyk, the Netherlands, began importing Heineken to the United States in 1933. He had been a ship's steward for the Holland/American cruise line and persuaded executives of Heineken to allow him to represent their beer in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition.
During World War II, when imports were curtailed, Mr. van Munching served as director of welfare for the Dutch Ministry of Shipping and assisted the Dutch Seamen's Home and the Dutch Officers Clubs in the United States.
He founded Van Munching & Company in 1946 and was its president until his retirement in 1980.
He is survived by a daughter, Ann Ryan of Greenwich; a son, Leo Jr., of Darien, Conn., 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Advertising Age reported this recap about Heineken in 2003

In December 1933, Leo van Munching Sr. brought his family and 50 cases of Heineken beer to the U.S., having talked the Holland-based brewery of the same name into making him its sole distributor in the market. The Nazi invasion of Holland, however, curtailed exports of Heineken, and the Dutch government did not allow Heineken to restart its export business to the U.S. until 1946.

In the 1970s, the company's advertising changed under the leadership of Leo van Munching Jr., who followed his father into the business Heineken's TV spots pictured only the bottle with the tagline "America's No. 1-selling imported beer." The simple campaign ran for 15 years with subtle variations in wording and background settings, and by 1979, Heineken accounted for 41% of all import beer sales. In 1972, Heineken became the No. 1 imported beer in the U.S.

Imported beers truly came into their own in the U.S. in the 1970s, when the legal drinking age was lowered to 18 in most states, and continued to grow in the '80s as imports were taken up by young urban professionals.

In the early 1980s, Heineken introduced Amstel Light, positioned as a premium imported light beer targeted to women, with the slogan, "95 calories never tasted so good." Amstel Light was a curious introduction for Heineken, as there was no call for light beer in the brewer's home market. The wisdom of the introduction soon became clear, however, as Amstel Light quickly rose to the No. 1 position among light beers in the U.S.

By 1986, Mexican Corona Extra, which appealed to a young audience seeking trendy new products, had surpassed Molson and Beck's to become the No. 2 imported beer, and Heineken realized it needed a fresh approach to capture the younger end of the market.

Warwick Advertising took over the account from Lintas in the late 1980s. In 1988, it introduced the tagline "When you're done kidding around, Heineken" to position the brew against a growing onslaught of faddish beer brands popular with younger drinkers.

In 1991, Mr. van Munching Jr. sold his company to Heineken, retaining operating control of the company until January 1994, when the Netherlands-based brewer took over marketing its brands in the U.S. Sales continued slow, however, in part due to federal taxes that were increased by 100% in 1991.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Edgewater 8

Pause and Recapitulation

Maybe story telling needs to engage the reader. Every story needs a logical arc (beginning, rising action, conflict, resolution and a conclusion). How do you reconcile accounts of factual tidbits and poetic license? The truth is stranger than fiction, yet a credible story cannot be accurately offered by one still living his or her life. (Not by me anyway.) What needs to happen, perhaps, to make things interesting is an artistic interpretation. Consider a tapestry, or better still a collage, or maybe an abstraction of sorts. Resisting the urge to wallow in second-guessing the reasoning of the craft and compositional strategy, Jackson Pollock had no trouble dripping paint onto a canvas on the floor. Maybe it is up to the critic to determine meaning and value. Clement Greenberg is such a critic -- best remembered for his promotion of abstract expressionism and among the first to praise the work of Pollock.

All literature and art and history ultimately intertwine. Insignificant as a single being is in the universe it seems expedient to only glance. In the room the women come and go speaking of Michelangelo (T.S.Elliot). Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. (Wallace Stevens) The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep,  And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep (Robert Frost).

The ephemeral nature of being is belied as a single day seems to take an eternity. Surely time spent waiting for a bus deserves a level of quality too. A single person in pedestrian traffic crowding into a subway car has comparable value to any other spec of a human on the planet. Well then, the folly of my obsession to tell a story awaits critic, context and/or interpretation. So be it. I do not create for critical or popular acclaim.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Edgewater 7

Jet Set, Sir Speedy and Top Pay at the Miami Herald

George and Vivian were in the restaurant business in Miami when they agreed to get into another line of work. They figured, I guess, typesetting was a license to print money. The technology was more accessible. It certainly looked that way. George remembers exactly how much he paid every time he had to print new menus. Vivian was happy to move away from hiring and managing busboys, dishwashers, wait staff and cooks. Hire a graphic artist, she reasoned, and the typesetting business was a necessary step in printing everything from menus to business cards. A cash cow. George and Vivian watched every penny. Clothes pins on a line like a short order cook fulfilling tickets was a personal touch borrowed from their previous ventures. I was a graphic designer in this Miami quickie typesetting shop.

Jonathon Babbs knew he could apply his business acumen to make his franchise Sir Speedy Printing Business in West Miami the largest in the country. I was hired to be key account sales representative in this thriving business. Forms, business cards, direct mailers and letterhead.

The Miami Herald paid me to load circulars in a big machine that dropped those valuable revenue sources from retailers like Levitz Furniture, Winn Dixie and others. The hourly rate would only be increased twice before you reached “top pay.” You can tell by looking around who among your co-workers has achieved this level. They are the guys who napped on the piles of newspapers during the break intervals. No sense impressing management if there was no chance for pay increase. A part time gig -- I didn’t work this opportunity long enough to get to Top Pay.

Marquee Magazine hired me in sales. 100% commission is no way to make a living with no cash reserves. It didn’t last. Rome Advertising needed a graphic artist to spec ads for classified newspaper advertising. (I wasn’t very good at it.) The city of Miami department of Parks & Recreation was a pretty good customer for a scrappy graphic artist. (I was competent but always had to haggle to get paid.)

Jet Set, Sir Speedy, Miami Herald, Advertising sales for Miami Marquee Magazine, art direction for Rome Advertising classified advertising and freelance graphic design for the Department of Parks & Recreation. It all added up to walking around money to augment my small stipend and student loans at the University of Miami. All of that was behind me. Would that newly minted MBA be enough to set me apart from perhaps thousands of others seeking entry-level work at a big time advertising firm in the big apple? 

Lynn said “I do” and she was in favor of moving closer to her family so we could give it the college try. We had four degrees from the University of Miami to work with (B.A., B. Ed, M.S. Ed and M.B.A.). Lynn’s incredible parents were a safety net and tremendously supportive. (Even though Lynn’s mom cut out newspaper help wanted ads for me -- Accounting Executive when what I was looking for was Account Executive.)

All of those jobs contributed to life experience that I would draw on forever. In retrospect there is learning in every crappy job and every bounce along the way. The kid from Edgewater Drive is not, after all, made of “finer clay.” Nobody owes me a living. At the same time, like Groucho, I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

Misadventures in Advertising, Madison Avenue, Toys, Million dollar deposits at Chemical Bank - One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.       

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Edgewater 6

Post Graduate

A slow starter in school. At St. Luke they decided I would be best served by repeating Grade 1. High School years focused on commercial art the minimum required study of subjects considered necessary for someone who was presumed to be college bound. An undergraduate college student overachiever albeit misguided. (To me, the study of art. believing it to be a noble and necessary study for a person hoping to one day make a living in some aspect of design, communication and/or advertising. Along the way attracted to creative writing and the allied interest in contemporary literature.)

Blame my parents for the proclivity in favor of the arts. Dad made a fine living owning and operating a business offering art/advertising/photography. In his free time he was always drawing and painting. His body of work was notably cartoon balloon headed people, watercolors and larger format abstract mixed media. Mom was passionate about theater. She was intimately involved in community theater productions as actress and director. These were obsessions that became part of who I was too.

Coming to the commencement of my undergraduate college experience with the sudden realization that I knew next to nothing about running a business, the University of Miami was willing to grant me an excuse to delay becoming a grown up and pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 

An intensive Summer session - Program in Management Studies (PMS) would be all I needed to be considered equally qualified to Accounting Major David Goldberg. (I kid of course – Goldberg would forever be more business savvy than me. You can concentrate on the meaning of life or making a living. I still favor the former to the later. I was never pragmatic when it came to educational choices. David Goldberg and his ilk could sail through business school courses on the way to an MBA – for me and my liberal arts sensibilities it was a bit more challenging.

David Drimer was an important touchstone for me in this educational epoch. It was a graduate assistant position that allowed me to continue schooling. Drimer convinced me that forgoing the big bad world in favor of an additional educational credential was a good idea. Like me, Dave is more a student of life than making a living but a very smart dude nevertheless. He was convincing in his argument in favor of pursuing the MBA, especially since we both managed obtain tuition remission and a small stipend as admissions representatives. So over the course of two years I was able to visit 300 high schools in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the U.S. Dave traveled in the metropolitan NY and Mid Atlantic regions. So Dave, Rick, Eric, Tom and I took the UM show on the road part of the year and managed light campus duties upon return. Tuition remission, travel and a marketable graduate degree would put me solidly on the road to whatever.

So that combination of academic opportunity and travel allowed me to see places like Phillips Exeter Academy (NH), Choate (CT), Cheshire Academy (CT), The Cranbrook Schools (MI) and the Martha’s Vineyard High School (MA). So, however privileged I felt I had been growing up on Edgewater Drive was challenged by what I was able to see up close and personal – the pastoral college preparatory landscape that was nothing like my frame of reference. I already knew life was unfair but somehow I was blind to the advantages of the country’s truly elite. Had I had the benefit of this tour of college preps I might have been too intimidated to face college at all let along and MBA.

Back in Coral Gables and on campus at the University of Miami, however, I was at home and taking the classes in stride. Except for Accounting – which still eludes me for its orderliness and discipline, I remained in the part of the class that makes the top half possible. I told myself that exposure to business school thinking was a healthy dose of reality that would serve me well when and if I ever fully engaged in the world of commerce. Mind you, my brother took his Bachelor of Education (B. Ed) to work in Dad’s business. It makes me laugh a little even now. A B-E-D degree for my brother who had plenty of trouble getting out of bed. Greg would later forsake the family business for, of all things, Commercial Real Estate.

So by 1982 I managed to earn an MBA from the U. That credential was a factor that allowed me to land on mid-town Manhattan - Skyscraper National Park. The kid from Edgewater Drive was officially working for a top flight firm in the Advertising Capital of the World – New York City.

Some sidebars – Sir Speedy Printing, Jet Set Typesetting with George and Vivian, Hoboken. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Somehow I have managed to complete an MBA (on top of a double major liberal arts degree – Art and English); worked 15 years on blue chip advertising accounts; headed marketing communication as a corporate executive; and had some moderate success hanging out a shingle as a marketing consultancy. I have written over 500 blogs and a couple of books (my latest – Failure Coach a novel by Wes Morgan is available on  All this and $1.98 gets me a small coffee at Starbuck’s (they call it a "tall" coffee).

So when my friend Stan, a business coach, calls me and asks if I am willing to meet for a cup of coffee to discuss with his client Samantha to discuss ways she might take her business as a video production company to the next level, I’m flattered – and happy to oblige. This happens a lot to me. I always suggest a spot convenient for me for such meetings (as a consequence I always buy my own coffee).

We exchange pleasantries. A little bit about you.  A little bit about me. And an extemporaneous lecture which I hope will be useful. Stan is grateful – he is adding value. Samatha is grateful while admitting my advice is solid (based on what she has already done to stay in business for five years.)

Here’s how it went:

“Stan tells me you want to take your business to the next level.  Is that right?”

“Yes.” Samantha explained that her business has grown through referrals. She hoped to cultivate genuine business relationships over time. She also suggested that self-styled marketing consultants, graphic artists and agency-style advisers have been fertile ground for her.  (I am paraphrasing here. This part of the discussion is inextricably connected to the changing nature of the ad biz.)

“Well based on what you are telling me and what Stan has already told me – let me offer some nuggets that might be helpful:

Working with agencies: A longer sales cycle, agencies generally have their “go to” resources. Also the agency business may not be a robust as it once was. Get to know some key players in our town. (I gave her a short list of some that come to mind.) The nature of your dialogue might start with a question like: What are you seeing in the marketplace? What are your clients looking for

Direct interface with corporate: You can sometimes be successful in going directly to clients but you need to find champions willing to invest in marketing – and specifically video. You need to learn to talk their language. This is not to say be disingenuous. The nature of the dialogue here might start with questions like: What is the story your want your prospects to know? How are you engaging with your customer prospects?

Trade groups and associations: I’m a fan of the American Marketing Association, so of course that tops my list but there is value in becoming a known expert. This strategy might begin with professional associations but might expand into trade/industry associations for which you think you might like to do business."

For this advice: NO CHARGE. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Edgewater 5

Major Major, Billy Pilgrim and Huckleberry Finn

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll GO to hell"--and tore it up.” 
 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

“Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office.”  ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”  Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

I enrolled with every intention of studying Graphic Design (an art major) but Kurt Vonnegut was the first author I remember who really made me think about storytelling. Ironically, it was his “unstuck in time” device that helped me understand that a good story doesn’t need to be linear.  Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is such a wonderful story that challenges how one might think about morality through a character who by conventional judgment of the time was considered uncivilized. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller presents predicaments of war in a story of his main character Yossarian’s circumstances. All this (and more) was introduced to me in some of those early “required” English 

I eventually found myself a double major: Graphic Design (Art) and Creative Writing (English). I became a champion of liberal arts. I learned too late how impractical it was. What would it mean to have a Bachelor of Arts Degree with such a double major? My parents were focused only on completion of a legitimate four-year degree. They were not interested in any other time-table and were not supportive of indecision if it meant any delays in finishing college. This was not a time for reflection in any more than a  prescribed amount of time. Greg was a talented photographer but discovered that the male/female ratios in education classes improved his odds socially. Further, he found a part time job that introduced him to the special needs population through the City of Miami Department of Parks & Recreation. He quickly earned designation as a Rec Spec III (a recreational specialist) and he qualified himself to escort retarded citizens in a big yellow school bus with a chauffer license. The job and the license permitted him to chauffer and supervise these special citizens. 

Meanwhile I began to think of myself as a Renaissance Man. My dual major allowed me to navigate coursework in art history, literature, painting and design. Greg has less intellectual curiosity than I do but while he studied fundamentals of education, child psychology and sociology he made acceptable progress as a degree seeking freshman.

We were lucky kids from Edgewater Drive, St. Luke and Lakewood High who selected South Florida and the U because it was a short drive from Key Biscayne where our parents owned property that allowed them to be snow birds. And our uncle Andrew was chairman of the Art Department. And it seemed as good a place as any to find yourself in four years of academic pursuits.   

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Edgewater 4

234 Mahoney Hall - Nixon Resigns

“I’m Greg Morgan and this is my brother Wes. We’re in room 234 Mahoney Hall.” Greg was more anxious checking into the dorm room on the campus of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida than I was. He wanted to get a head of  things to avoid looking like a lost Freshman. I was more confident that answers would present themselves. The irony is that we were entering Freshmen together because I was held back in first grade at St. Luke. I flunked first grade! A devastating life event that gave me the opportunity to take life as it comes. A significant consequence would be that my brother and I would be college roommates and Freshman together. Registration for classes, academic advising and the specifics of the meal plan are details that everyone will need to navigate soon enough, I thought. True enough.

The Morgan family Cutlass Supreme pulled into the parking lot yesterday afternoon with Joe Cocker blasting from the 8-track tape player.  “She came in through the bathroom window/Protected by a silver spoon/But now she sucks her thumb and wanders/By the banks of her own lagoon.” It kept playing as the car trunk and the rear doors were open for us to unload all of those personal possessions we figured we couldn’t live without in college. We weren’t alone in managing the most critical piece of logistics – where we would place the sound system speakers, turntable and receiver in that spartan dorm room for two that shared a connecting bathroom with two strangers.

“Didn't anybody tell her?/Didn't anybody see?/Sunday's on the phone to Monday/Tuesday's on the phone to me.” Greg does an amusing imitation of Joe Cocker’s spastic gestures and head movements. That made it easier to break the ice with suite mates Macy Orville Teeter from New Orleans and Stephen Gibbons from someplace in Delaware. Steve Manzi from Long Island and Mike Cropanese from New Hampshire, roommates across the hall from 234, were quick to use the theatrics as a conversation starter because we all needed to share the use of the dolly as we unloaded our cars.  

“She said she'd always been a dancer/She worked at 15 clubs a day/And though she thought I knew the answer/Well I knew what I could not say” Cocker’s voice reverberates against the windows of the residence hall – most of which were closed to allow the AC a chance to cool those rooms this warm August day. “Didn’t anybody tell her?/Didn’t anybody see? Sunday’s on the phone to Monday. Monday’s on the phone to me…oh yeah.”

Our Monday would be the beginning of our college careers in the library where they orchestrated final registration for classes. The library would function as a normal hub for the studious after this process and orientation but Greg and another guy from Mahoney Hall – David Drimer from Jamaica Queens - NYC (wherever that is) would later laughingly refer to the library as the “registration building….you know the place where they keep the books.”

We were settling in and getting a sense of the campus when we caught only highlights of the national news footage of Richard M. Nixon waving goodbye and stepping onto a presidential helicopter after resigning from office. It was important news with national and international import but only tangentially relevant to self-involved entering freshmen on the campus of the University of Miami on warm evening in Coral Gables, Florida.   

Coming soon maybe – Jet Set Typesetting with George and Vivian; Hired in NYC; Morgan Studio;  Liberal Arts, Fine Arts and Business School

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Edgewater 1 2 3

1. Edgewater Drive

It begins with burning leaves on the street. Every fall someone always seemed to start a small fire on Edgewater Drive in Lakewood, Ohio. A simpler time, perhaps, but it didn’t seem so then. After all, those leaves would only have become significant a pile for burning after carefully raking much of the front yard. There is a leaf sweeper with two wheels and brushes that work on loose leaves that blow onto the open areas. Vigorous raking is still necessary to get those leaves that collect between bushes and up against the chain link fence.

Just before dusk it seems safe to start those leaves smoldering. By tending the flames the fire never rages. It crackles a little as the smoke rises. Yours are not the only leaves on the street burning. But the smoke signals at 15106 Edgewater Drive are fragrant and a celebration of a seasonal tradition. The lawn will be ready for mowing in a day or so. We’ve got two mowers, no waiting. One of the Morgan boys will be coaxed into that chore. It doubles as the touch football field and as such should be ready for action by Sunday.

Dad is always quarterback and chief referee. An arrangement that never gets challenged except for a few extra-familial players. Tom Murphy is notable among those guests who wants to play but never fully appreciates the law of the land. Argue with the referee and he will likely step off a penalty for which there is no review and no recourse. That referee also reserves the right to point his finger in the air and pronounce the game over with a “BANG!” The game is over because without a referee, however unjust, the contest has no structure.

Our parents were in charge. There appeared to be no indecisiveness. And most rules were not the kind worth debating -- Catholic dogma mixed with Marshall Law on Edgewater Drive. The outcome would be resoundingly clear and the challenge would be a wasted effort. “You aren’t going to be one of those kids hanging out on the street corner,” (Whatever that means). An older brother broke enough rules and was sufficiently old enough make accurate accountability impossible. As near as I could tell, his biggest crime was not living up to his potential. An older sister was anxious to achieve emancipation at the legal age of 18. A teen pregnancy accomplished that but eventually made her more dependent on the nest than I’m sure she ever dreamed.

In the birth order, the four remaining boys would “fall in” in a way that might suggest that the parents sort of figured out how to manage a household with a more temperate demeanor. They, with age, possessed mellower attitude toward family car fender benders and curfew forgetfulness.  The result perhaps – those governed least were governed best.

Mom suggested that I was the oldest of the four boys – denying me any claim to middle child syndrome but in later years causing me to want to understand the circumstances of my older siblings. I never really did. Their stories seemed too incredible--their times too turbulent. The accounts of tumult were never reconciled even as we gathered as a family to mark their passing --. Mom first, after years of advancing Altzheimers and few years later Dad who remained a  sharp mind but became a lonely heart without the woman he married when she was just 20 years of age and he was a young  serviceman of 24 in the Army Corps of Engineers. Their remains eventually earned their way to Arlington National Cemetery.

2. Kiss me, I’m Irish

St. Luke School is named for the Evangelist – one of the guys who wrote the new testament. It was a church parish and home base for  probably no more than 200 or so learners in grades one through eight. We were the Crusaders in CYO sports, the most notable of which was our lightweight football team.  I was co-captain of the team that lost in the championship game but more importantly beat the cross town rival St. Clement in the Rosary Bowl, along with the infinitely more gifted athlete Daniel Caine, our quarterback. The supporting cast at St Luke school was, of course, the standard fare of clergy. Nuns taught us to respect and fear authority. Priests were on hand to officiate at Masses of which we would serve as altar boys. 

It has been said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day but at St. Luke it seemed the most righteous celebration of big catholic families. The names McDonnell, Lamb, Fayen, Walsh, McGuire, Donnelly, McGorrey, Flynn, Morgan, Caine, Graham, Welsch, Murphy, Sullivan, Reilly, Keating, Kennedy on an on -- All boasted of some heritage from the Emerald Isle. Erin Go Bragh. Mom was a Lawton and very proud of her country of origin (albeit by way of ancestry fleeing to Canada before coming to New England.)  Her parents were, she said 100% Irish – the breadwinner a stockbroker who moved to the Cleveland area from Boston to open an office of Hornblower & Weeks.
Dad offered that he was more of a mutt but, he said, with a fair dose of Scotch, Irish, English, Welsh, German and French. His father was a Doctor who left the small Illinois town of Kinmundy to study at St. Louis University and earn a degree that entitled him to practice Medicine. He graduated in 1910, even before that school adopted the Billikin as a mascot. He was offered a position in Cleveland and that is how my grandparents settled in the West Side Suburb of Lakewood.

So it was mostly the force of Mom’s personality and the receptivity of all things Irish at St. Luke that may have influenced us to wear green, seek our parades and eventually find ourselves on barstools drinking green been at places like the Tam O’ Shanter, Flanagans, and the Brass Bell even before we were old enough to legally enter such establishments. The training for such rights of passage would be hours of consumption of 3.2 Stroh’s Beer near secluded places at Lakewood Park or adjacent to the Railroad Tracks.

“Lukes Pukes!” was once a pejorative phrase heard from the competitive bench of our CYO opponents. Later, though, with the help of Stroh’s Beer it was more a rite of passage. By the time we reached the upper grades in High School (St. Edward, St. Ignatius, St. Augustine, Magnificat, or Lakewood High School) we would master the art of 12 oz. curls.

3. Winterhurst and the Brass Bell

Blake has six beers stashed in the snow bank outside of the Winterhurst Ice Rink. Winchester Cathedral is playing as the announcement “all skate” comes over the speakers. “You are a wild man, Blake. What made you stash six beers out here in the snow?” His response is part laughter and part matter-of –fact as we crack a couple open – Stroh’s of course. I let the pull tab ring slide onto my pinky finger out of habit -- tracking consumption by loading up my pinky finger.

6-7-8 tabs were on that pinky the night at Brunners when I tried to ride my bike home. Bad Judgment maybe – but in Lakewood the ride from the other side of the tracks to Edgewater is almost always a breezy downhill glide. Not that night. I made it home eventually though.

On this night I am driving the family Oldmobile Cutlas Supreme. It is not a drinking night and I gotta get home. Tomorrow I have to be at Lakewood High School early to take my SAT college entrance exam. But Blake can be persuasive. We head to the Brass Bell. He’s just shy of legal age of 18. I have already passed that milestone. Blake boasts bogus ID ownership since age 16 – so to the Brass Bell we go. We are there in time to get our hands stamped and catch Ida Red’s last set before closing. The encore set concludes with Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode as a finale that assures another round before closing. Blake offers to buy Katy a drink but she’s good. Sipping through the stir straw her Sloe Gin Fizz before she leaves with one of her girlfriend in her gently used Mustang convertible.
So the next morning in the High School Cafeteria the proctor is reading the instructions before testing. Blah Blah Blah  - something about number 2 pencils and being sure to fill the circles on your answer sheets that corresponds with your answers. I don’t have a very good attention span anyway word problems are sure to put me to sleep.

“I fell asleep during the test! In retrospect I don’t know if it was for 30 seconds or half an hour. I was out like a light.” Blake laughs apologetically saying, “Well I guess you are fortunate that you weren’t drinking Sloe Gin Fizzes last night,” adding ”I wonder if the College Board offers those tests on Saturday mornings for a reason. That just ain’t right.”

Needless to say the combined score for my SAT test was in the mid 900s. Good enough for Syracuse University and the University of Miami. I was accepted into the BFA program at Syracuse after a portfolio review but since my brother was heading to the University of Miami and my uncle was head of the art department there it seemed like a good idea to pack up the Oldsmobile Cutlas Supreme and go to Coral Gables, Florida. Go Canes.

The Truth is stranger than fiction. This is a work of fiction that borrows liberally from things that really happened. I hope the real people and places featured in this story don't minimize my fond affection for them. I recall with a flawed memory of course. As one puts distance between ordinary events, revisions need to happen to assure a better storytelling. This story, while it has autobiographical tendencies, will be careful not be overly obsessed with accuracy. Windy exposition and explanations are boring. The juxtaposition of Blake, Beer, Winterhurst and the Brass Bell are (for example) a composite of several separate typical evenings in Lakewood, Ohio in the 1970s.      

Future chapters are in development. This blog series (maybe a book) -- working title Edgewater may or may not include chapters with titles like Watergate and Joe Cocker, Beer Cans and Bottle Caps -- Found Art, South Beach Geriatrics, High School Guidance Counselors Marine Science and 108 other majors, How Kurt Vonnegutt changed everything for me, The Morgan Studio Legacy and the Ad Biz.