Entries Tagged 'I See Dead People' ↓

Interesting blog about freelance writing

It’s by Loolwa Khazzoom. Good straight-forward clear writing and good I-wish-I’d-asked-that interview questions.

She writes about everything going easily over into the Too Much Information border. She does not shave her legs, thank-you and will chase you down if you annoy on the road. Quite scary. She’s posted a very sweet picture of herself too; you can’t judge a book etc.

I’m sure there are disadvantages to having a name like Loolwa Khazzoom, but one advantage is you can be sure no one else has taken your dot com website url ahead of you. Yeah, try that with “johngrant.com.” Even Googling myself as a writer I’m an apparently famous UK sci-fi writer. (No, I haven’t read any of his stuff.) I was burned by my John-Doe-type name years ago now when I read the marvelously scary book Silence of the Lambs. When I saw the movie which came out a zillion years later — there’s great question to research: why did they wait so long? — I said a silent prayer that that creep Clarice is tracking down would not be named Jame Gumb/John Grant. (The initials figure in the plot.) No such luck. Great movie but it bothered me quite a bit. At least I’m not sharing a name with the lead character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. You would definitely get crank calls, necessitating an unlisted phone number.


President Obama tonight reported that the Al Qaeda leader was killed in a firefight resulting from a targeted operation that the President ordered today in Pakistan.

While the notorious mastermind behind 911 and other horrific attacks on the US has been rumored to be in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, he was found to be hiding in Abbottabad, a city of 120,000 only an hour north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

(The mastermind link above is to The New York Times obituary, one of the longest on record — certainly of a non-American. Sadly, as sometimes happens, the main writer of the piece has pre-deceased his subject.)

The city, a tourist destination famed for its breathtaking mountain views, has a large Pakistani army base and a military academy, so it is not isolated from Pakistani military and counter-intelligence forces. Remarkable, hiding in plain sight. Remember, the “hiding in Afghanistan’s caves” theory in the previous administration?

Having eluded a worldwide manhunt for so long, Osama Bin Laden probably felt more and more secure, especially being outside the easy reach of US troops in Afghanistan. However, America had been tracking strong leads since last August, according to the President.

“Justice has been done,” said President Obama.

Frankly, I thought he would escape capture by American forces forever and upon hearing the rumors of his death, I thought it was due to natural causes. Oh, ye of little faith.

Watch the President’s announcement here and here.

I’m sure many Americans who remember the 9/11/2001 catastrophes vividly cannot quite believe this breaking news.

God bless the United States of America.

I learn of the deaths of two ad people from BBDO.

In writing to my advertising friends at BBDO, I have learned of two copywriters that I worked with who passed away a while ago.

One was Bob Mallin, a boss of mine at BBDO. He died in Dobbs Ferry, NY at the age of 51. I do not know the date of his death, so I’m guessing 1995. He was a longtime BBDO copywriter who became an Associate Creative Director. He had been to rehab for alcohol, but relapsed. Terrible news.

The other death was another Bob, Bob Smith who was the best man at my wedding. He was one of my closest friends and all my BBDO stories, it seems, include him. (My other close friend at BBDO was Al Merrin who as far as I know is still with us and still doing well at BBDO.) Bob Smith was simply the world’s nicest guy and I can still see his smile and hear his voice. He was creative; he was funny; he was my friend. I miss him right now.

Bob Smith apparently died in the early 1990’s possibly soon after I last spoke with him. Over the years I knew him, I could see the growing effects of his drinking, but denied the seriousness of them. He was in LA working as a marketing guy for a major hotel, possibly Marriott. He was from Long Beach, California and had the support of his family there. From what I heard, he did not enter rehab, but tried to cut back on his drinking. Apparently, he died alone at his residence. A damn good copywriter. An enormous personal loss for all of us who knew him.

Requiescat in pacem. Vita brevis.

(My apologies for the lack of detail in this post, but I have been unable to find any published obituaries.)

Why does Zest(r) soap rinse clean?

When you read the label on Zest soap, you discover that most the the seemingly incomprehensible ingredient names are soap. Sodium Tallowate? Soap. Sodium Palmate? Soap. Sodium Cocoate and/or Palm Kernate? Soap.

There is one plentiful ingredient ether sulfonate that is not soap. It is a surfactant, or surface active agent. These chemicals reduce the surface tension of water. Their molecules have both a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic end. So one side of the molecule aligns with water, the other with oily dirt. They keep the dirt in suspension so it can be freely rinsed away.

In researching this, I encountered the themeline “Zestfully clean” first used in the 1980’s. This was written by the redoubtable James J. Jordan, Jr. who was a prime mover at BBDO for many years. He was Creative Director before being promoted to President of the agency. Incredibly talented, he coined memorable lines including “Wisk beats ring around the collar” and “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” The fact that these themes are still remembered today testifies to their creative power.

I knew Mr. Jordan and I am sad to see that he passed away in 2004. He was a force of nature, and a passionate lover of great advertising. He will be missed.

No Doors Songs in Commercials?

Why is it you never hear any of those classic songs by The Doors in TV commercials? The drummer of the group, John Densmore, simply won’t allow it.

Cadillac offered $15 million for “Break on Through” for a spot about one of its SUVs. Nope. Apple offered $4 million. No way.

Possibly all the remaining band members must agree. Whatever the voting rules, Densmore always votes thumbs down. The rest of the surviving Doors are not very happy about Densmore’s decisions.

According to AdTunes, once, in the 1970’s, Densmore allowed “Riders on the Storm” to be used in a Pirelli tire spot in the UK. He gave all the proceeds to charity. He says he felt terrible and that “Jim’s [i.e., Jim Morrison’s] ghost was in my ear.”

There’s a scarey image.

Biggest US Van Gogh Drawing Exhibition to Open

According to The New York Times, the Metropolitan Museum in NYC is opening a splendid Van Gogh exhibit. Unlike previous shows in the US which showcased his paintings, the new show displays 113 of Van Gogh’s 1,800 drawings.

While many artists did drawings as prelimary sketches for painting, Van Gogh often made drawings in his letters of paintings he had already completed, to show what he was doing. However, in one instance, detailed in the exhibit, he traced his drawing to set up the composition of a painting. (This is a rarity, as he usually painted freehand.)

In all, eight paintings are on display, each chosen for its connection to the drawings.

Many of these drawings and watercolors have never been exhibited to the public before. Moreover, because of the fragility of works on paper, it may be some time before they are shown again.

Murder Mystery Cruise Promoted after Real Shipboard Murder?

After a Connecticut man disappeared aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ “Brilliance of the Sea” last month, the company has sent promotional literature announcing upcoming murder mystery cruises for 2006.

The man’s disappearance is no spoof. George Allen Smith IV was on a honeymoon cruise with his wife, Jennifer Hagel. Then he vanished midway through the cruise off the Turkish coast. While rumors abound, a passenger in the cabin next door said he heard shouting , and loud noises like throwing furniture overboard on the night the man vanished.

The case was first investigated by Turkish authorities. A Turkish prosecutor said that Hagel is not a suspect. She was released by the Turkish police after questioning. The matter is now being investigated by the FBI.

The FBI says the case will not be easy to solve, as there is an international list of passengers who have now dispersed, and a moving crime scene.

By the way, the headline on the mystery cruise piece is “Expect the Unexpected.” Certainly Mr. Smith was not expecting the cruise to be his last.

Deep Throat is former FBI deputy director

The identity of Deep Throat has been the biggest journalistic secret of the last thirty years.

It has finally come out who the mysterious Deep Throat informant of the Watergate scandal is. Apparently, those who know DT’s real identity — Bernstein, Woodward and their editor at The Washington Post Ben Bradlee — swore never to reveal it during DT’s lifetime. (Apparently, Mr. Bradlee did not even reveal the name to the late Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Post.)

While the revelation is front-page news in The N ew York Times , The Washington Post and other papers today, the publication that uncovered the secret is Vanity Fair. The details are in the July issue and on its website.

Mr. Throat is none other than the number two man at the FBI at the time, W. Mark Felt. Just a month before the break-in, he was passed over by President Nixon to replace the lifelong head of the agency, J. Edgar Hoover. (The agency was started back in 1908, but Hoover became its chief in 1924 and remained in that capacity until his death in 1972.) It is said Mr Hoover had so much dirt on prominent politicians, including presidents, that as he got up in years, they were afraid to replace him.

So there must have been some bitterness on Mr. Felt’s part that he was passed over for the key position. President Nixon chose L. Patrick Gray, one of Nixon’s loyal supporters.

After the break-in, political dynamite arrived daily on Mr. Felt’s desk: he had 1, 500 pages of reports of the FBI investigation of Watergate, the investigation that Nixon wanted to use the CIA to stop, on bogus claims of national security. So Felt had both the weapon and the motive to bring President Nixon down in flames. And he did so by tipping Watergate secrets to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

Mr Felt, now 91, has confirmed the story. Even more persuasively, Bob Woodward confirmed it on
The Washington Post
website. (Apparently six years ago, Woodward visited Mr. Felt possibly as a gesture of goodwill to the aging “ultimate insider,” who helped launched Woodward’s career. Significantly, Woodward cautiously parked his limo some distance from the house, as Woodward had no clear connection to the retired FBI official. Woodward was not reporting upon any FBI matters at the time.)

Even highly-placed Washingtonians were as in the dark as the public about the real Deep Throat. In fact, one of Nixon’s attorneys Leonard Garment published a book in 2000 In Search of Deep Throat. In that book, he hypothesized incorrectly that DT was John Sears, a young Republican party political strategist 1n 1972.

Some insiders guessed the truth, according to The Washington Post. James Mann, a reporter with Woodward, wrote an Atlantic Monthly article in 1992 that named Felt as a likely candidate. Read that article: it is almost clairvoyant in its accuracy. Mann portrays Felt and other FBI long-timers as fighting Nixon’s efforts to muzzle the FBI or to use it for his own political purposes. (For example, the President’s counsel, John Dean, had been put in place to observe crucial FBI interviews in the developing Watergatre investigation.)

Best direct mail headlines

If you read nothing else here, read this tribute to the remarkable Bill Bernbach.

I found several sites claiming to house the world’s best advertising headlines. One is something of a misfire. Yes, I would read — make that have read — these headlines, and their ads, probably in an advertorial in older issues of Reader’s Digest. Here’s an example:


This must be from the 50’s or early 60’s. $2.50 is the full price of the best seller. Nowadays, the local used bookstore charges more for worn, old paperbacks with torn covers.

Or this one:


This to me conjures up the original version of the 1896 Sears catalog, the one with all the pages missing.

Incredibly, the site seems to be run by a writer in his forties, and not by John Caples, the dean of American direct response advertising who passed away in 1990 at the age of 90.

You may not know the name, but he started the idea of rigorously testing direct mail copy, so that the direct mail that covers America is the most likely to make you get your checkbook. He wrote “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play ….”

You often hear that he wrote that super pulling ad, but you don’t hear that he wrote it two months into his 50-year copywriting career in 1925. See his Tested Advertising Methods, first published in 1974 and never out of print since then.

Or get a copy of his first book, co-written by Bruce Barton (who is the second B in BBDO) Advertising for Immediate Sales, $355 in a first edition from 1936.

For more on John Caples’ life and career, see this research.

For lighter reading, catch this at Adage.com. It lists the the Top Ten Advertising Icons and it doesn’t mention John Caples or David Ogilvy or even Bill Bernbach once.

How is that possible? Ten advertising icons and they missed these greats? That’s easy. These icons aren’t real people, they are imaginary characters that represent their brands — like the Marlboro Man and the Green Giant.

I recommend if you are looking for any out of print book on advertising or anything else, go to the Addall used and out of print (or OOP among book people) book search engine. There’s the other in-print book search as well at new.addall.com, which is more about saving a few bucks than discovering a tough-to-find classic or irreplaceable rarity.

Never Speak Ill of the Dead?

With the sad passing of Johnny Cochran, most famous as O.J. Simpson’s lead defense attorney, the US Supreme Court faces a quandry. Some years ago, one of Cochran’s unhappy former clients began picketing his law office and generally harrassing him. Cochran sued and won. (In an act of overreaching pride, the client acted as his own counsel against Cochran.) The former client, Ulysses Tory, was enjoined from further harrassment with the additional priviso that never speak about him or his firm publicly, presumably even on the Internet. (I respect Mr Cochran, I really do.)

However, you cannot defame the dead, so normally, Tory would be free to say anyhing he wants now about the late Mr. Cochran. Except for that one stipulation that he “never” speak the Cochran matters publicly gain.

So it becomes a First Amendment question: is Tory’s speech being unreasonably limited?

By the way, Johnnie Cochran used one of the most memorable marketing themelines (“slogan” outside of the advertisng business) ever. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.* What was that copy line marketing? Why his client’s innocence.

In fact, as a marketing catch phrase it’s right up there with that hear-it-in-your-sleep copywriting tagline borrowed from a Wendy’s advertising campaign: Where’s the beef? which Walter Mondale used in his failed 1984 Presidential campaign. The Wendy’s copy line is from Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample in 1984. (I say that to jog the memory of whoever it is out there who wrote it. I was just going to credit to Bill Bernbach, but frankly, I can’t do that.)

Maybe this proves the adage: nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising?

*Note: Internet rumor has it that “fit … acquit” was actually coined by the redoubtable F. Lee Bailey.