Wednesday, October 17, 2012

“DESK DRAWERS!” I shouted at the top of my voice.

Learning a new language is not easy if you are older than two, learning it well is damn hard. I have yet to manage it in any language.

My English is still pretty Brooklyn and not just the accent.

I learned Greek as a kid, I even had a Greek teacher, Kyria Vangeli…I still spoke like an American that came from Asia Minor- a very weird Greek. Now after years in Greece my Greek is still the Greek of an American. I am called “to Americanaki.” The burden of the Brooklyn accent in all languages, you never lose it.

Five years in Spain and ten years in Mexico and my Spanish is passable, Mexicans are impressed with my Madrilenio accent and Spaniards are knocked out by my Mexican accent.

My Italian is basically Spanish with lots of Italian gestures and an exaggerated Italian accent. I could have starred in spaghetti westerns.

When I was transferred to the Madrid office in 1970, from London, I was Spanishless. I took an intensive
Month long Spanish course from Berlitz, two instructors, 10 hours a day.

Spanish was essential in the Madrid office; very little English was spoken, at least not in front of me.
I spoke or tried to speak only Spanish and naturally made some mistakes.

My greatest mistake was circulated around the office, even made it to the Barcelona office via my secretary, Mari Carmen. I was not corrected for months to the pleasure of everybody around the office, even the clients knew about it.

A lesson in Spanish; the word for balls or testicals is cojones, the word for desk drawers is cajones. You can guess what happened, whenever I was pissed off, I would yell out “CAJONES”. That’s right, desk drawers. The staff thought that if you were angry you yelled out “DESK DRAWERS” in English as well.

Occasionally I would hear “DESK DRAWERS, DAMN IT” yelled out in English to support me.

You make mistakes when you learn a foreign language, usually to the pleasure of the locals.

Read a Greek or Spanish menu translated to English for a great time; there is pleasure in revenge.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Butlins and the Yank

London, the mid sixties, the Ad business…everybody was full of themselves, great cars, preposterous salaries, lots of perks, trips to Europe for photo shoots, Cannes for the Ad Festival, a very trendy existence.

Not the norm for the typical English person.

A very unrealistic existence…creative guys getting paid more than the Prime Minister, and if you were an American, you lived even better.

We had about 6 or 7 yanks at McCann London; I suspect we were unbearable, some worse than others.

There was a popular resort in England at that time, Butlins, it’s still around, It was an all inclusive family resort, everything included, food, entertainment, pools, kid’s camp…the works, anything you could imagine.

They use to run these commercials with the attendants wearing red jackets, some very sexy girls to lure you in, I think even Billy Butlin appeared in them.

All of us were much too trendy for Butlins, we were above it. Trendy snobs in the ad world.

There was an exceptionally unbearable American, always complaining about the English and how bad things were.

He even bored the rest of us Yanks; you could imagine what the Brits thought of him.

He comes into my office one day and asks what can he do that weekend in England; he didn’t want to go to the continent. “Anyplace to see around here…sex, booze…a good time.”

Naturally, I thought of Butlins for his weekend.

I built it up and made it sound like a sex center with four-star food.

I told him no matter what it seemed like, he had to last until Sunday evening when all hell broke loose and they brought the French girls as well. Pretty soon everybody in the office is in on it, telling outrageous sex stories that happened to them at Butlins.

We see him off Friday afternoon in his E type Jaguar…good luck you schmuck.

Monday morning, I am in the office and he bursts in, I am a little nervous, God knows what he will do to me. He not only is a bore but he is a little nuts.

He walks up to me and in a calm voice asks me “when is the last time you went to Butlins?”