One day in the 1960s Jack Allen and I were having one of our periodic, vinous, Friday lunches at Venetos, near his studio. After copious amounts of red wine, I mentioned the agency’s (Johnson & Lewis) urgent need to come up with a savings ad for Bank of America. our largest client.
Savings ads were notoriously and inherently boring, but I had the glimmering of an idea.
Ad: “Jack, what if we had the reading of a will, with all the rich uncle’s household gathered in the lawyer’s office? Maybe we could use Belli’s office.”
Jack: “We could cast it right now. Let’s get a phone.”
Between us, we came up with the cast:
The lawyer: Wally Brazeal, an ad rep, perched on the edge of Belli’s desk, looking lawyerly.
The widow: a very proper older model from Ann Demeter’s agency, with lorgnette and fox fur.
The heir: A young nephew, played by Tom Rice, an art student, in preppy horn rims.
The butler: Mr. Lancaster, formerly of the French Opera Company, tall, white haired elderly gent in full butler’s regalia.
The chauffeur: Homer Welch in proper livery, carrying the widow’s Pekinese dog.
The mistress: Pat Mahan, model from Al Duartís agency, ravishingly sexy in bouffant blond wig, black dress, pearls, cigaret holder, and a fabulous fur from Roberts Brothers.
Everyone except the lawyer and the heir looked pissed off, including the Pekinese.
The heir was beaming, he was getting the money!
When we called to get permission to use his office, Belli was enthusiastic.
We scheduled the shoot for Saturday morning, the next day. Milt Halberstadt signed on as lighting consultant. Belli came with his infant son, Caesar.
The shoot went well. We got the film rushed to processing. We took Pat, still in character, to the Temple Bar where a boyfriend tended bar. He didn’t recognize her at first.
Sunday I wrote the copy.
Monday morning I sent out for a rush C-print and specified the type. Monday afternoon, I pasted up of the finished comp.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, I took the ad into Dan Lewis’ office.
Dan: “Where the hell did this come from?”
Ad: “Jack Allen and I ran it off over the weekend.”
Dan: “How much are you in for on this?”
Ad: “I figure about $3,000 in expenses.”
Dan: “I better take this up to the Bank myself.”
He did and presented it to Charlie Stuart, BofA vice president for advertising.
Charlie loved it. (Thank God!)
It ran a long time, won an award in the L.A. Art Director’s show, and I think everyone got paid.