Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Another bleeding white haired Yank..."

London, 1965, we are three Yanks sent to London by NY. Jack, who is head of the London office, and later head of Europe. Big white haired Irish American guy. Great looking, very neat, account guy type. Good boss, funny at times, without meaning to be.

David, executive Creative Director, elegant, wealthy, waspy, white haired guy, wore custom made suits. His suits were copies of his older suits and so well done that the bags and sags of his old suit was diligently copied. His new suits looked exactly like his old suits, amazing tailors on Savile row. He drank a bit. He only made sense before lunch, but insisted on presenting to clients after lunch.
More about that later.

Me, I was the youngest, had a bit of white hair, but was the kid of the group. I was deputy creative director. I liked the deputy part, felt like I was in a western.

We had a wonderful tea lady, Gladys, she and her friend went around the building twice a day serving coffee in the morning and milky tea in the afternoon.
When she was introduced to Jack, by the very serious financial director, after having been presented to Dave and me, she said “another bleeding white haired Yank.’’

She taught me to drink milky tea by putting a little Scotch in it , quite a bit when we started and slowly less and less until I could finally drink the stuff. She told me she taught quit a few Yanks to drink it like that during WW2. She probably taught them more than that, she was something in 1965, I could imagine her in the 40s.

Jack was a stickler for dressing right at all times, he had 2 of every suit he owned and would change into a fresh version after lunch, he always looked great, never wrinkled and always perfectly back lit. He was in the elevator one day and fired some guy wearing orange pants, boots and a crazy shirt with dreadlocks. Turns out the guy didn’t work for us and was just delivering some stats.

Jack called me up to the office one day to complain about the outfits most of the creative department wore. It was after all London in the 60s. I was at my best and told him if you wear a puce shirt, maybe you do not wash it but it gets aired out since you can’t wear it twice in a row. I also told him the account guys in the blue suits never changed, and you could not stand down wind of some of them, same suit and they probably wore them on holiday as well. He reluctantly accepted my argument and never mentioned the dress code of the creative department, he did sniff when he was with the account guys.

We were working on a new business pitch once, we had a spare floor and the team was camped out there working away, 2 days and nights we were a mess,
Jack came to visit the troops at about 9pm one night. He was going out to the theatre and was wearing a tuxedo, he looked great and so did his wife who was in a gown. He was big enough to realize how preposterous this was and left very quickly before there was a revolution.

One last story about those days. David the CD, always had to have lunch before a major presentation. It was always the same, two martinis before, two scotch and sodas with his steak and two brandies after, he always had lunch at the same pub.
One day the meeting is going to be at 11:30, the client insisted, not Dave’s normal two in the afternoon. I have to get the pub to open at ten in the morning so he could have his normal lunch, and be ready to present at 11:30. He felt he was only good after lunch, so we just anticipated everything. Ah London and the Yanks.


  1. Greg, you are back in great form. Hysterical descriptions of the people you worked with. I loved it. The Birbil wit rides again. Hurrah!!!!

  2. Coincidentally I got an email today from Dick Jordan, who ran a club called Klooks Kleek throughout the 60s but was also a photographer. He sent a black and white photograph of Georgian houses being demolished beside the Post Office Tower to make room for McCann's 60s glass building. He gave it to Jim Sullivan who had it on his wall until someone nicked it. Loving your blog, Greg. x P.S. Frank Dickens, the cartoonist responsible for your illustration, was one of my father's drinking buddies.

  3. Thanks for the info Lavalla, how do I get in touch with you?

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