So, now it’s 1953 and I had a college degree and I’m back in the caverns of the Big Apple looking for a job.
In those days, the N.Y. Times and employment agencies were big in placing people; so after several weeks of running hither and fro, I get a lead to visit Alfred Auerbach Associates. Alfred Auerbach was a former editor of Retailing Daily and used his connections to build a respectable bevy of clients in the home furnishings field.
Truth be told, he didn’t know much about advertising but he had three talented VP professionals as account supervisors. I was the mail/messenger, making $35/week (less than I made at Gramercy Carpet) and shuttling between Alfred Auerbach’s three rented apartment/offices all around Carnegie Hall.
It was hectic and it was fun. One day, after about four or five months, one of the VPs, Mort Trachtenberg, asked me if I’d like to join him as his assistant. Mort was a terrific, outgoing guy and I jumped at the chance.
Mort’s main accounts included Ethan Allen Furniture plus three other lines they produced and Hammacher Schlemmer, a large staffing old housewares store.
I wrote copy, found out what a trivet was and learned a lot from Mort who was a terrific salesman.
Just one story about Mort’s abilities. I brought a collection of ad copy and paste-ups down to Dan Brown, the volatile MBA Ad Director at Ethan Allen.
Dan didn’t like any of it and loudly told me to go back, get everything revised and have Mort come back with the redone work.
I trudged back sheepishly to the office and told Mort what had happened. Mort cheerily said, “Don’t worry about it.” The next day, I asked if he wanted me to go to the art department to start revisions.
“No,” he said. “Not necessary.” After a few days of no action, Mort said, “C’mon, we’re going to see Dan Brown.” Now that Mort was going, we went in a cab. I always had shlep on the subway.
As we entered the Ethan Allen offices, Mort said, “I don’t want you to say anything, just listen.” We barely got into Dan’s office when he stood and started screaming about the poor work we were doing, as well as our shoddy performances.
As Dan got louder and more vitriolic, Mort started to snicker and then laugh. The louder Dan got the more Mort laughed.
Finally Dan was exhausted, slumped down in his chair and said, “What the hell are you laughing at?” At which point, Mort got very serious and started to explain the value of all the art work we had shown him two days ago.
I loved it and I was later able to romance my involvement into important career moves.
About that time, spring of 1954, I got married. Walking across 57th Street on the way to HS I ran into Alfred Auerbach. He said he was very disappointed because he thought I had a good future at the agency until he heard I got married.
Mort said not to worry about it, but it sounded to me like my days were numbered.
I shared an office with Owen Ward, another assistant at the agency who had received a piece of direct mail from the Aetna Life Insurance Company. He said, “You just got married. You ought to explore some life insurance.”
So, I answered the direct mail and that led to the second part of the Eight Misses and a Match for a later blog.