Roma Wines & Chevron Campaigns

In April of this year, this painting became a search, as to who was the artist? I sent the challenge out to everyone on our Geezer mailing list.
On Mon, 4/18/16, I wrote:
Subject: A follow-up for those interested, it took less than a day to discover the artist of the mysterious Roma Estate Wine painting, There were several responses, (Thank you: Kirsten Nusser, Chuck Pyle, Robert Steel, Norm Nicholson and Dick Cole.)

1-Roma Wine PaintingPhoto of Roma painting at The BuckeyePhoto of Roma painting at The Buckeye in Tam Valley

The answer, must be this, from John Crawford—Clark Agnew! There were similar Roma Wine illustrations on the web, but none that listed the artist’s name. It took John with his ability to identify style with the artist’s name.
Clark Agnew did do other illustrations for Roma Estate Wines and other advertisements that have a similar look. I never knew the story of “the world’s largest winery.”

This was an adventure and an education for a Sunday afternoon—thanks to Jerry Gibbons and his questioning friend, Anna Lindgren (who used to work at BSSP). Greg Stern (Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners) joined in the search.

Larry Nielsen thought to visit The Buckeye Roadhouse on Shoreline Highway in Mill Valley—to see the painting first-hand. Jerry Gibbons wrote: “I’ll invite John Crawford and Greg Stern to join me at The Buckeye.”

Ann Thompson

4-18-16 This, additional story, from John Crawford:
While I was prowling around the internet looking to uncover the illustrator responsible for The Buckeye’s Roma Wine illustration, it occurred to me that I had a couple of gouache illustrations for Chevron hanging downstairs, and that I’d never taken the trouble to find out who did them. These are literally “found art.” When I was working at BBD&O in the early 70’s, I parked my car out on Sacramento Street one evening and ran in to get something. When I came out, I saw a trash barrel full of old artwork – BBD&O had obviously been cleaning out their art files. I grabbed a couple of colorful pieces off the top of the pile and put them in the back of the car. They were illustrations from the infamous “Chevron Island” campaign. They feature Irene Tsu as a Hawaiian hula girl on behalf of Chevron aviation fuel. In one, she is tugging on the propeller of a piper cub, which seems like a ploy to display her cleavage. In the second, she is gesturing at the gas pump while another Piper buzzes the field. As I said, the campaign was infamous.

There had been a writer at BBDO, Bill Dombrowski, who worked on this campaign and who later ended up at Y&R in New York, where they had an annual competition for “Worst Ad I Ever Did.” Every year, Bill would enter the Chevron Island campaign and every year it would win. A lot of this could be explained by the fact that Herb Hammerman, the notorious Director of Marketing at Chevron, had a fixation on Irene Tsu, which resulted in her being featured in a lot of unlikely scenarios involving tires, tiki gods, etc. (I don’t mean to imply anything other than an innocent infatuation – Irene Tsu was, for several years, the live-in girlfriend of Frank Sinatra and would have had little time for Herb Hammerman.)

(BTW—Wikipedia: Irene met Frank in Florida while she was filming “Chevron Island” and he was filming “Tony Rome.”) 1968-1969.

The late Floyd Yost used to tell a story about being assigned to create an outdoor board featuring Irene Tsu dancing the hula on top of the Chevron gas pumps. Floyd attempted to explain the compositional challenges involved: gas pumps = strong vertical element; Irene Tsu dancing atop gas pumps = very strong vertical element; outdoor board = strong horizontal element. This seemed to be lost on Hammerman. Floyd was bundled into a cab with Bob Hilton, the managing director of BBD&O, and Hammerman to view the premiere of the outdoor board on Van Ness Avenue. Hammerman was irate: “I can’t see Miss Irene’s face! It’s too small!” Floyd again attempted to explain the compositional difficulties, whereupon Hammerman said, “Well, make her HEAD bigger!!” Floyd said, “Herb, you could have been Walt Disney.” Hammerman: “What?” Floyd: “That was Disney’s big innovation – he made the heads bigger.” The cab drove off, leaving Floyd on Van Ness Avenue, and when he got back to BBD&O, he was no longer employed there.

Chevron outdoor Irene on top of gas pump

Outdoor board—Irene on top of gas pump by Charlie Allen

As a surprise birthday present many years ago, my wife had the Chevron illustrations framed for me. In the process, the tissue overlays had been discarded. This compromised their historical value, since the tissues had original Hammerman client notations. (e.g. “more sparkles on teeth!” “fix hair!”) Anyway, I have found that these illustrations were the work of Charlie Allen, one of the great Patterson & Hall illustrators, who passed away in 2011. I’m sure many of you will recall him. He was a much more gifted artist than Clark Agnew, who did very well on the east coast, but could never have gotten in the door at Patterson & Hall. I should have dug a little deeper into that BBD&O trash. There was a lot of discarded genius in there.

John Crawford

This is the final ad for the art above


I enjoyed the recent stories on ROMA and Chevron. Here’s another from the P&H archives. I remember chatting with Charlie about these ads. He thought it was a silly concept, but was glad for the work. And, boy could he paint a pretty girl.
Bruce Hettema

Another piece from the campaign


I’ve found a few examples of ROMA in our archives. It looks like they did more or the product illustrations of bottles and glasses, but I did find a Bruce Bomberger B&W ad.


Roma-artist-unknnown Roma-Bruce-Bomberger