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