A Letter, With The “Rest Of The Story”

We had a previous story about Alvin Duskin who stepped away from creating women’s wear and into San Fran­cisco poli­tics. I seem to remember from those days, that if he had not made such a fuss about the height of the planned Transamerica Pyramid, the building would have been taller than it is now. (Also more stream­lined, without the “ears” that stood out when the shorter design revealed the top of the elevator shafts.) William Pereira’s plans for the Transamerica Pyramid were changed. If the Pyramid were its orig­inal planned height – all four sides would be smooth and flat.

A 50-year update: (DEC. 29, 2017, A few lines from the NY Times, by David Streitfeld).
The protests had an effect. The Transamerica Pyramid was shaved down from 1,040 feet to 853 feet. A propo­si­tion in 1971 to limit build­ings to six stories did not pass, but it was one of those defeats that is also a bit of a victory. The Transamerica Pyramid remained the tallest in the city until this year.

John Hyatt wrote to me to intro­duce himself and he added more to the story of that time.

Thank you for responding to my email about Sam Coombs. I find the “Geezer” site to be over­whelm­ingly nostalgic. Also, your adver­tising art collec­tions and knowl­edge about what went on in San Fran­cisco in the 50s, 60s and 70s, is extra­or­di­nary. If I am reading things correctly, you seem to have been in an office at one time in Belli’s building, just across from Wilton, Coombs and Colnett on Hotaling Place. I worked at WCC as an art director fresh out of Art Center School for seven years, 1968 — 1975. Lowell Herrero did a few illus­tra­tions for me that were wonderful… typical Lowell. I didn’t realize that he had an office so close to mine, perhaps he had move by the time I arrived at WCC.

Reading some of the recol­lec­tions on the Geezer site, that I assume you wrote, I ran across the mention of Alvin Duskin. You may find a little story some­thing of interest to add to your history of San Fran­cisco. Duskin was a client of WCC when I first started working there, but quite unex­pect­edly, he quit his dress making busi­ness for what we were all told was his desire to enter poli­tics. The company was bought by a fellow named Paul Maris. I did several ads for Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily for Maris — attached is my comp and a proof of one of my favorites for Hubba Hubba (just what you need, more clutter for your collec­tions, sorry). As this story goes, head­lines in the Exam­iner and Chron­icle one morning exposed Paul Maris as a ficti­tious person whose real name was Gerald Zelmanowitz, an infor­mant for the Federal govern­ment in a case against some New York mobsters. Duskin’s company was purchased as a witness protec­tion guise to protect Maris/ Zelmanowitz and his entire family. With Maris’ iden­tity exposed, the entire company disap­peared in the blink of an eye — a WCC’s account person went to the Maris factory, south of Market, to discover virtu­ally everyone gone… doors unlocked, lights burning, phones ringing.

The attached ad was done by photog­ra­pher, John Peden. The Hubba Hubba double knit dresses looked so awful when worn by the models that we just had the girls hold the dress up as though they were looking in a mirror.

The bright colors and graphic shape made a splash against the model, reduce to gray tone (some custom four color masking done by Walker Engraving). The dresses sold like crazy. John Peden’s wife, Barbara, ran into Maris months later at a restau­rant out in the Avenues one after­noon. Barbara had been working with the Maris company as a designer. A fleeting hello was the last we ever heard of Paul/Gerald.

John Hyatt