Lunch With Dugald
Lunch With Dugald
by Newell Alexander
Rosemary and I had flown to San Francisco from L.A. to act in a series of commercials for a now defunct Bay Area amusement park. In the first shot of the day, Rosemary, two little kids and I were riding in a basket on the back of a huge elephant. We were stuck as the animal proceeded to go rogue, he ran through a large part of the park before he could be stopped with us unable to get off. Later, in another shot I was supposed to stand next to a Tiger who decided to lie on top of me, I was trying not to panic. The trainer kept screaming at the cat and jerking on a long chain. I was begging him, “Don’t make him mad.” The Tiger finally lost interest, stood up and sauntered away. The production was a disaster, the director quit in the middle of the day, the whole thing was a wash, I don’t think the spot ever aired. But all was not lost, we both had a good payday and we were going to get to see my old pal, famed San Francisco artist Dugald Stermer, so the trip was not a total failure.
It had been several years since I had seen Dugald, so Rosemary and I rented a car and added an extra day to our trip so we could have nice long catch-up lunch. Dugald called in his no nonsense manner, “Meet me at Delancy’s, it’s near my studio in the Embarcadero.” The meal was delightful, Dugald’s presence gave us lots of attention, the staff approached our table as if he were a Francis Ford Coppola Godfather, we later found out he was a long standing member of the board of the Delancy Street Foundation that managed the restaurant. I did give him some grief over him having a sandwich named after him on the menu. Dugald wasn’t a big fan of show business ; his ex-father-in-law was James Bacon, a long time prominent entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. Dugald’s former wife Carol was raised in Hollywood amid all the glitz and glamour, neither she nor Dugald were attracted to celebrity.
After lunch we walked around to Dugald’s studio, which was in the complex, it’s hard to describe how he had designed his workspace, it was reminiscent of what Tom Mix or Ken Maynard’s den would look like, Indian pottery, rugs, Western memorabilia, a real Western ambiance. Several left-handed guitars adorned the walls. After his passing it was duplicated in a display at the California College of the Arts.
When he first came to Houston, I watched Dugald transition from a West Coast casual look, to boots, vest, Levis, and western shirts, a signature look he retained to the end. In his studio we looked at some of his work, we reminisced, Rosemary and I sang, and we drank some rare Irish Whiskey, of which he was very fond. It was the last time we were face-to-face.
The next week after our lunch, I wrote Dugald the following letter using the Delancy Restaurant address.
Dear Mr. Stermer,
We had lunch in San Francisco last week at Delancy’s, we saw you
having lunch with one of our favorite actors, Newell Alexander, we were going to ask him for an autograph but we somehow missed him when you guys left. My wife asked the staff who you were and the waiter said you just ate his sandwich. Ha ! Since you know him could you send this enclosed package to him ? It has return postage.
Thanking you in advance, this means a lot to us.
Babs and Sven Yevhoods
P.S. We met Newell at the Cow Palace when he was touring with Neil Young.
I got an answer to my letter a few days later, it was on his letterhead, in the middle of the page were two words hand lettered in his trademark calligraphy, “Nice Try.”
I first met Dugald when I was working as a designer/paste up artist in a small six-man studio in booming Houston, Texas. He had been working for a short while for the Dick Kuhn Studio in Los Angeles, he was recruited by our studio owner, Bill Middaugh. I was a little disappointed when my boss Bill, came back from a California trip all-aglow over Dugald’s work. I saw the attraction when I leafed through Dugald’s portfolio, his work was so good I couldn’t be jealous. I had one year of art at the University of Houston, he was a graduate of the UCLA School of Fine Art. He and Olympic Champion Rafer Johnson were classmates and they were exchange students together in India during Dugald’s Junior year.
I was assigned to pick Dugald up at Hobby Airport in South Houston, I was curious, I knew he and I were about the same age. We both were family men, I had three children, he had four. The years he had spent in art school, I had spent in the U.S. Navy as an aviator.
We were doing very well at the studio, the addition of Dugald was amazing, he and I worked well together, word was out that we were a “hot shop,” doing good, creative work. Our boss Bill came in with the news that we were getting a chance to land an ad campaign for the largest bank in Houston, no pitch, just design an ad, if they liked it we could have the account. It was to be a full-page four-color ad on the back of Houstonian Magazine. We briefly brainstormed and Dugald did a rough sketch, it said in small type, “member of,” and then “FDIC” in a huge bold font. He added a small photo of the bank building about the size of a postage stamp on the bottom margin. Sizing up the work, Boss Bill said, “I don’t think they’ll get it.” There was a long silence, “How about doing an alternate ? Just make the building big and FDIC small.” Dugald refused to change it. I wouldn’t change it either and we didn’t get the account. Dugald’s reaction ? Fuck ‘em.” The story got around the ad community in Houston and our business skyrocketed. It was a lesson well learned. I used the same technique later when I was working as an art director on major accounts at a large agency in Dallas. I won some battles and lost some.
I never knew Dugald as an illustrator, he did however do the linocuts and hand set all the type in the work he did on his small letterpress he called “The Impress.” The small 4 x 5 inch books were gems that he printed on handmade paper, the text was simple and clever, the art was very tasty. His press was set up in his house and he spent many late nights drinking Irish whiskey and making small delightful pieces of art. His mastery of typography was amazing and he won numerous awards in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth Art Director’s competitions.
Howard Gossage was flown in to judge the Houston Art Director’s show. He was an icon in the advertising San Francisco advertising community, Howard was blown away by Dugald’s work. Dugald won several awards and with Howard’s help he landed the Art Director’s job at Ramparts Magazine in the Bay Area. Dugald assisted me in getting a job at CA magazine in Palo Alto. I free-lanced some for Dugald at Ramparts but only for a few months. The mail boy at the magazine, and our weed connection, was a young eager kid named Jann Wenner. Jann went on to transform the anti-war magazine Ramparts into today’s Rolling Stone Magazine.
My tenure at CA was brief, I moved back to Texas and didn’t see Dugald for many years. I watched his ascent into art fame as I labored in Southern California building an acting career.
Dugald and I only had one moment of discord, I made an off-hand remark in a post, “Keep the lenses of your Art-O-Graph clean.” (An Art-O-Graph is a tool to aid drawing). I knew he was pissed because of several one-word responses to my e-mails.
Every once in a while when I have a moment I will log on to Dugald’s website and just browse through some of his work. His design sense helped him place his art on the page in very tasty ways. He would scoff at the notion, but I consider him a master.
Dugald Stermer mastered the application of art and ideas.
The Ramparts covers, above show one example from each of the years when Dugald was the art director at the magazine. The two examples— Ben Franklin and Woody Guthrie — show styles far different than illustrations that he produced later. The editorial page, in 1969 explained that Ramparts had been loosing revenue and had to go into bankruptcy, Chapter 11. Dugald left his position as art director in 1970. The magazine needed to raise its subscription price and had legal problems. It lasted until 1975. Then it was taken over and became the Rolling Stone Magazine. Another offshoot was Mother Jones Magazine.
At the left of this story, under Artist’s Sites, you will see Dugald Stermer’s website showing his deft illustration and lettering styles known to his many admirers.
More on Newell Alexander can be found on IMDb.
“IT” Was An ATM !
In August of 1974, I was free-lancing at 300 Broadway, second floor. I was assigned the challenge of creating a new image for Redwood Bank. I began with the colors so popular in those years, magenta and red. Here you see, just portions of pages of development — the last section shows the developed logo used with the basic logo of each of the bank branches.
So busy was I, with the logo development, I wasn’t yet informed what this new “IT” was offering. As approved copy arrived for typesetting and I received my instructions for a line drawing of the “Instant Teller” — I saw that this was very different ! There were many promotional pieces required : newspaper ads, folders, bank displays, outdoor boards, taxi backs and more. (In the third item below which was produced to mail the IT card to the Redwood Bank account holder, you can see that this is just my mock-up of what would be the actual plastic card.)
I have to laugh at myself because at that time, I thought that this form of banking — using a piece of equipment instead of the personal interaction with a human bank teller — would never catch on. Then, when it was said that a person would do their banking out on the street — then I was sure this was risky and a “bad Idea”! Recently, I looked up the first installments of this kind of service. In the US, a patent record issued to Luther George Simjian shows his 132nd patent (US3079603), was first filed on June 30,1960. There are reports of many banking machines with many names developed in many countries, but the “Instant Teller” was new to this area. I must have been too absorbed in my work to even read or hear any news reports about the new convenience.
Promotional pins, T-shirts, and plastic tote bags —were added to the Redwood Bank’s campaign. When the equipment and the card that activated the Instant Teller were ready, this newspaper story (below) appeared in San Rafael’s Independent Journal on August 21, 1975 describing a period of time when the equipment would be practiced — inside the bank — to be followed by the installation OUTSIDE and available “24 hours a day, 365 days a year”! One of the last of my assignments was this round handout, a reminder to try “IT”.
There were many years when Redwood Bank offered this new method of banking at each of their branches. I never thought to take a photo when the bank had the large brightly colored images of the “IT’ logo at his location at 1447 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA.— I thought it would, always, be there.
The first photo, the location, 1447 Fourth Street, as it was in 1964. The second photo is how it looks now. It was originally a Pacific Gas and Electric building. Today, it has two-tenants, a dental practice and herb store /clinic. The bank has become Redwood Credit Union at the Montecito Shopping Center on Third Street in San Rafael. It has a green color scheme and ATMs outside.
I found it odd that there is no Internet reference about the Redwood Bank and its branches, nor any reference to the 1975 introduction to “IT”! But recently, I found out that a personal friend, Ann Cameron, whose title at that time was Senior Operations Officer, Redwood National Bank, was at the bank at that time ! She was able to bring a huge scrapbook of photos, newspaper clippings and bank publications. I asked Ann for her personal experiences with the introduction of “IT”!
She wrote :
Getting the first ATM (we called the Instant Teller) in Marin Co. sounds cool. And Redwood Bank was a bastion of cool, at least in the corner offices ! But for those of us who had to make it work it was nightmare. For starters during the roll out we had to wear T-shirts that had the slogan, YOU’LL LOVE IT AT REDWOOD right across our chests. UGG we all hated it ! In the first iteration the money had to be loaded in to little envelopes, a five-dollar bill and a twenty. Then the envelopes were loaded into trays that fitted into the back of the machine. Of course it broke down all the time and many nights a client would call me at home to come down and give them money from the back of the IT. As it was free standing kiosk in the parking lot security was always an issue. Auditing would have been most displeased if they ever figured out we just opened the doors and doled out money. The next generation of IT did not use the envelopes. The currency was fed into the trays, $20.00 in the top tray and $10.00 bill in the bottom. Of course if you reversed the trays then the machine dispensed $20s where the $10s should be. I had a huge dog in those days and always took him with me on my night excursions to the Bank, my security. Interestingly during this same period Redwood was also experimenting with what is now on-line banking, we called it computer banking. We had a handful of clients who had access to their accounts via their home computer. Eventually the Bank decided they did not have the infrastructure for all the complicated programming that needed to be in place to make computer banking viable.
From the scrapbook, I show these additional images :
The first shows the outdoor installation of the Instant Teller located in the bank’s parking lot with a group photo of the bank’s employees in 1976.
Second, is a clipping from the Vallejo Independent Press, August 12,1979.
Third, two pages from the Redwood Bancorp Annual Report 1975, which describes Redwood Bank’s innovative approaches to banking. (The illustrator is not credited and most likely would have been one of our Geezers, back in the day.)
Color is important, Ask Alan
Color is important, Ask Alan Lefkort !
In the previous collection, I wanted to show the 1963 Award of Excellence for Direct Mail that was awarded to Alan Lefkort. The pages from the ADASF annual of that year were only in black and white. You will see that this winning design was not clear enough to show the image that made it a success.
I reached Alan to see if he could share the actual letterhead and envelope, for me to show here. He told the story of being told by Bob Pritikin that the stationery could only be printed in one color, black. Alan had to fight for color ! The whole advertising world knew that the copywriters used yellow legal tablets as they came up with a winning headline, body copy and all copy needed to reach the public in print and all other media of advertising.
As copy developed, there were a lot of ideas that the copywriter tossed to the wastebasket. This was the normal process until the best copy ideas were born.
1963 Award of Excellence San Francisco Art Directors and Artists Club
The small type at the bottom of the letterhead reads : Board of Directors /Howard Gossage, Peggy Greenfield, Hal Larson, Dan Lewis, Fred Manley, Hanley Norins, Bob Pritikin, Nelson Shreve, George Sutton, Julian Watkins.
Alan Lefkort was often “covering two bases”: art director and copywriter. He brought the two valuable talents to many San Francisco advertising agencies : McCann, Y&R, Dailey & Associates, D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius and Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli. Clever concepts of words and images came together in one place, on Alan’s drawing board. Visiting Alan, I saw a large collection of printed pieces of a variety of corporations that advertised through San Francisco’s talented teams.
The Advertising Club of San Francisco’s Cable Car Awards, 1981 publication was among Alan’s collection. This 48-page collection was called “The Sweepstakes Awards” because of the record amount of entries that year. Alan was the first ever to win the Marget Larsen Award for art direction. He was, at that time, vice-president and executive art director for Dailey & Associates, San Francisco.
Marget Larsen Award This was the art direction award that Alan received for the image that he created for this “Black and White Newspaper Ad” category even though his copy “Berth Announcement” was also a ‘winning’ copywriter’s line for the whole campaign for Philippine Airlines.
Photographers Art Directing Themselves
Photographers Who Art-Directed Their Own Photographs.
My schooling and first jobs as an illustrator /graphic designer had been varied, but I had no experience in directing a photographer — on location or in a photo studio. After viewing an art director’s layout or being informed of a client’s wishes — most, or maybe all, professional commercial photographers have the talent to capture a required image. The art director attending is probably only there to witness the photographer in action, suggest minor changes or is just happy to get out of the agency for the day.
Below, I show a variety of subjects for a commercial need where the photographers needed no “art direction”.
In the late 1960s, I was still at my location at the south-east edge of North Beach, S.F. — the home and work locations of many Italian/Catholics. I was offered designing assignments from one of my steady clients, Alessandro Baccari, who had his office (always a wonderful walk to and from) the Maybeck Building at 1736 Stockton Street, near the Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square. In 1967, he referred a representative of the Catholic publication, Catholic Home Messenger, to my studio. I was supplied all of the photos that were to reflect the copy that was written for an eight page insert for their publication. The subject was “Loneliness”. The only additional photo that I needed was one that had to have a vague background image that would cover the first and last page of the insert. It needed to be ambiguous by showing an unidentifiable person. A weekend visit to Golden Gate Park was the first time that I art-directed a shoot.
1967 — (my job #223) Catholic Home Messenger 1 Pg : “Loneliness”
Photographer, Tom Vano, had his own personal pet-project for the College of Holy Names in Oakland. Tom’s photos of the campus and the classes were delivered to me at the time that I received the assignment to design a brochure. Its purpose was to include an invitation to financially support the new planned developments for the college. I was to draw the map with each proposed building and open area, shown with dashed lines. The brochure was written by Morrison Stewart and offered in three languages : English, Chinese and Spanish which were type-set by Reardon and Krebs.
My paste-up boards went to the agency, Alessandro Baccari and Associates — then sent to Hogan-Kaus Lithography for printing. A week later, a set of printed copies was sent to me.
I never even met Tom Vano, but I received word, much later, that he was very pleased with my arrangement of his photos. He knew his subject very well. Had I been to the photo shoot, I would have learned from him, but I would have been of no help. Before this assignment, I hadn’t even known of the college.
1968 — (my job #321) College of Holy Names 1 cover + 5 pages (#3,4,5,6,7)
Later, in 1974, when working on a brochure for U.S, Leasing, I needed the simple subject of marbles. The cover needed a photo of a child’s hand as in a game of “Marbles”.
A call to photographer, Earl Wood, was all that was needed. Earl had an extensive portfolio of his photographs showing his past efforts in shooting intricate subjects. This job was simple. He left the studio and returned with a lot of shots of various marbles. He had called our mutual friend, Dave Nelson (a top lettering man at the Logan, Carey & Rehag art studio) — and arranged for Dave’s son, Chris, to be the model. Earl directed his own “table-top” (or ground-level?) shot. The photos were exactly what the client wanted.
1974 — (my job #1192) US Leasing NCR Folder (Cover and inside Cover)
Larry Keenan. Jr. was known for his “reporting syle” of photography. (See his link at the column at the right.)
As I was sketching thumb-nail ideas for the up-coming San Francisco Ballet’s holiday poster for the “Nutcracker”, Larry visited the studio and offered to try some experimentation using an existing photo from the ballet’s collection. On his return, days later, Larry said that he tried a series of filters and achieved this ”Holiday Ornament” look, transformed from the original image. He had worked without any direction. The client accepted this effect, exactly as he presented it. The image was used for full-sized posters, small posters, direct mail (which offered ticket prices and performance times). All items were printed at Pisani Press.
1974 – 1975 (my job#1271) “Nutcracker” 1 Poster
December 22, 1975. I had never met George H. Knight before he appeared with a full envelope of the photographs that he had taken, from all across the country. He had been contracted directly by Consolidated Freightways. The photographs had been taken along one of the many routes of the CF trucks. Who could go wrong, designing around photographs like these ? I tried to imagine all of the planning that this man had to do before capturing each subject.
We, in the studio, affectionately referred to George as “the cat in the hat”. George was a nice and hard working photographer who seemed to always be wearing his plaid, pork-pie hat : rain or shine, outdoors or indoors. I knew, or knew of, many commercial photographers in San Francisco. Here was George Knight, a low-key and unassuming talent. I learned later of his respected reputation that included historic reporting of the changing views of San Francisco.
I had the assignment of designing the 1975 Consolidated Freightways’ 200th Anniversary annual report. I had no influence on photo subject matter other than the selection or cropping of George’s photos.
As the photos were laid out, in the sequence that a CF shipment would make on its journey east to west — it was the perfect opportunity to show the old and the new views of each location depicted. Adding old images and photographs available from archives — the report became an entertaining story, along with the charts and financial copy important to Consolidated Freightways stockholders. As an ”extra”, I had the idea of creating a map of our country’s original trails. I was glad that the client “went for it”!
This story is also about the way the representative of Consolidated Freightways was kept from knowing that a female was designing their annual report. I supposed, that he believed “trucking” was a man’s world. I had to hide all images of the project from my work area, whenever he visited the studio. I was kept out of the conference room when my layout of the full thirty-six pages, was presented by the two men in our studio.
By March of 1976, this CF client may have found out that I had designed the whole job — this was when a framed award arrived in the mail for me, showing my name as graphic designer “for the 1975 Annual Report of Consolidated Freightways, Inc.” (An additional report of this award — might have reached him.)
Without George Knight’s expertise in choice of location, timing and general hard work that was needed to provide me with these highly professional photos — I would not have had the inspiration to put all of these pages together making a unique annual report celebrating the CF’s 200th year.
12 – 22-1975 — (my job #1450) Consolidated Freightways 1975 Annual Report (Cover + Spreads 1 — 9)
Clawing My Way To The Middle.
(This is why Herb Bass, John Francis and Sandy Marshall opened an Agency specializing in Trade Show Presentations).
Clawing My Way To The Middle.
I was going through some boxes the other day trying to get rid of some shit so my daughter doesn’t get stuck with it when I die.
Some yellow-lined papers fell out of a box. I looked at the writing on one page. “SHUT UP. IT’S THE BOOZE TALKING”, was scribbled across the page in a loopy handwriting. I looked at another page, “ENOUGH, ALREADY!” It went on like that for 13 pages.
“Ah, the Golden Age of ADVERTISING”, I thought, as I remembered that 3 hour lunch in 1978, and the Conference Room meeting that followed it.
Charlie Roderman (another writer at Botsford) and I went to the Hoffman Grill for lunch that day. We had the breaded veal cutlet with extra gravy on it. God, I miss the Hoffman Grill. . The walls were covered with giant oil paintings that were themselves covered with 40 years of cooking oil and it had a dark wood and brass railed interior that felt like something from the 1800s. The frail, old waiters who wore rumpled tuxedos and looked like they were propelled by whichever direction pointed their overloaded trays. Our usual waiter (Howard) would bring 3 beers when you ordered 2. He delivered 2 beers to us and put the third one on the edge of our table. That’s the one Howard would stop and gulp from every time he passed our way.
Charlie and I ate, drank and laughed our way through lunch. We cracked up over our stupid puns and stories (thinking we were at our own Algonquin Round Table minus anyone who mattered ; like maybe a Wollcott, or Dorothy Parker). Words like, “I’ll tell you what a ‘concept’ is.…it’s a large bird that flies in the Andes,” occupied our mindless wanderings. After a few hours we ambled (stumbled) back to Botsford Advertising. Reeking of beer we entered the dreaded Conference Room. Hal Riney gave us his Creative Director renowned bushy-eyebrowed frown as we fell into our chairs at the long table. Various Account Executives, Media people, an Art Director, and the Agency Producer slowly filled the room. I sat next to Charlie, trying to keep from laughing at how serious everyone looked. A yellow legal pad and pen was placed on the table in front of every seat.
This was a meeting about a Trade Show Presentation in Las Vegas. The Race Car Driver, Mario Andretti, was going to show his new Cobra car with its “Powered By Oly” banner on it and then present some new Olympia Beer commercials to a group of beer distributors. I had been chosen to write the presentation script and create all the “exciting” ads, buttons and other paraphernalia. I resented this whole Trade Show idea. (“Trade Shows were beneath me,” I arrogantly thought, I was an award-winning radio and television commercial writer. Didn’t Riney know I didn’t do Trade Shows?”) This meeting suddenly seemed like a good opportunity to voice my feelings. “Hey, before we start talking details here.…I’ve got something to say,” I slurred. Charlie’s head popped up and he scribbled something on the yellow pad in front of him. A sheet of yellow-lined paper floated onto my lap. The words, “Shut up. It’s the booze talking,” were scribbled across it.
With single-minded concentration and liquid courage, I wasn’t about to let a few words of caution deter me. I continued to launch into my diatribe.
“Why write a speech for Andretti ? Can’t he just say, “Here’s our new Oly campaign,” and let the work speak for itself ? Another yellow sheet landed in my lap. “Blah, blah, blah,” was the new message. I let the paper fall to the floor. I was on a roll. “And why go all the way to Las Vegas to display this crap. We’ve got lots of great Trade Show venues here in San Francisco, and can we change the date of this thing ? My daughter’s birthday is coming up around then”. I ignored two more yellow pages (“You’ve hit rock bottom and you are starting to dig,” one of them said). Hal Riney got up and headed out the Conference Room door. He gave me another bushy-eyebrowed dirty-look as he passed. For some garbled reason, I took this as a sign that since the Big Boss was no longer in ear-shot, there was no reason to stop my inspired words of wisdom. I rambled on as Charlie’s yellow pages fell on my lap and people continued to leave the room. “Media” left, the Account Execs found their way out, and the Art Director said, “dumb shit” as he passed my chair. “And about that ‘Powered by Oly’ banner on a race car. Is that really a good idea ? I mean, talk about drunk driving motivation”. The last person to leave the room was the Agency Producer. She looked directly at me and said, “If I want talk like this, I’ll go to the Iron Horse Bar downstairs”.
These delicious memories filled my old brain as I stared at the 13 pages in front of me now in 2016. 1978 was certainly one of my Golden Years in Advertising. Even though the gold was the color of Olympia Beer and my brain was fully “Powered By Oly” that day.