I can't really say I became friends with John Z. DeLorean, but he certainly affected my career.
You may remember him as the brains behind the car of the same name: the stainless steel sports car that was used in the film "Back to the Future".
When I knew him he was much more concerned with the present. DeLorean was the head honcho at Pontiac, and I was v.p. for creative strategy at Pontiac's agency. One day we got a call from him. He wanted to be sure we had seen the new movie "Bonnie and Clyde" because he had the idea of us doing a parody for Pontiac Tv commercials. It was great for Pontiac --- chase scenes, glamour, and great reviews. My art-director partner, Marty, and I got together, we created three 30-second commercials that DeLorean approved by fax, and I got some good additions to my reel and some awards. (If you want to see one of the spots, a student found it on YouTube. Look for Bonnie and Clyde Pontiac TV.)
About a year or so later, John DeLorean was elevated to head of Chevrolet, and coincidentally, I had moved to Chevy's agency as a V.P. -Group Creative Director on non-Chevy accounts. Soon, the Exec V.P. (you get a title and a window as rewards in the ad business) asked me to come to his sunny office.
DeLorean had just come back from New York where he had acquired a new passion, the Police Athletic League. That's the wonderful organization that helps kids in poor neighborhoods get involved in sports. Police officers voluntarily supply the equipment and coach the teams. His goal was to set up P.A.L. in Detroit with our agency's help, and I was assigned to go to New York, talk to the P.A.L. people and kids, and come back and do ads to raise awareness and money.
For three days I stayed on Central Park West by night, and after a buffet breakfast took a gypsy cab into Canarsie. Unmarked, they were the only cabs that would go into the rough Brooklyn neighborhood. I learned about and appreciated P.A.L. a lot.
John DeLorean loved the ads I came up with and asked the head of the ad agency if I could be assigned to the Chevy account. Within a month I was made Co-Creative Director on the world's largest advertised brand.
Apparently even though I didn't know much about cars, I knew what John Z. DeLorean liked.