Saturday, January 7, 2012

You'll never believe who I discovered.

          The legend of Lana Turner lives on. It tells how the Hollywood star was "discovered" at Schwab's Drug Store in L. A., which is a very good strategy for hopefuls who like malts.

          I know what Lana's discoverer must have felt like. It happened the day Harry Parker, the human resources director of Chevrolet's ad agency in Detroit, asked me to go with him to Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan was having presentations by groups of senior advertising students competing for a grand prize. Harry wanted me to go along to help spot future talent.

         Harry was a very nice man who went by the book. He was a living embodiment of the agency's personnel policies. If a policy changed, so did Harry.

         The presentations were held at Rackham Hall, part of the graduate school. Five groups of students presented projects of their own choosing. This went on for three hours. At the end, Harry was the first on his feet, anxious to hit the road back.

         "Thanks for coming along with me," Harry said. "There's nothing here. Sorry I dragged you along."

         I told Harry he was wrong. I told him we should hire the girl in the red sweater in the fourth group, the one that did ads for a company that made GLM skis.

         He quickly looked in the program, circled her name, and said he'd offer her a job. I thanked him.

         Cathy accepted and after a week at her home in Dayton, she showed up in my office. I assigned her to the group headed up by my friends Paul and Norman. They were fun, adventurous, and the ideal pair of supervisors to show her the ropes and train her properly.

         She was a really good advertising writer but didn't stay long; about a couple of years, working on her comic strip idea in her spare time. The college girl I hired was Cathy Guisewite, and her comic strip "Cathy" went on to become one of the most popular in the country, with books and dolls to follow.

         I didn't discover her in a drug store, but she sure made the trip to Ann Arbor worthwhile.




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