Monday, February 6, 2012

The Starbucks Five.

         Here at Starbucks on Wilshire and Third in Santa Monica, there's a long wooden table. Every morning at around 6:30, five old-timers arrive and order their tall coffees. Then they empty their pockets of pens, pencils, erasers, and a protractor. These are men who have been there, done that.

        One was a former opera singer, one a composer, two are still writing screenplays, and one says his whole claim to fame was being varsity quarterback at Santa Monica High. Today they're looking at a book of Leading Men, published in 1960. They're circling the ones they've worked with in films. Seventeen are circled.

        I love old-timers. They're steeped in the wisdom of the real world, and appreciate even the subtlest form of creativity.

        When I got my coffee this morning and sat down at a nearby table, they were ready to make a new friend. Seeing my notebook, one of the screenwriters said, "Watch out, he's a writer!" "And a lefty", said another.  A third gentleman asked me if I was from Vienna. He said I looked like an Austrian psychiatrist.

        It's not the old-timers I'm concerned about these days; they've got their talents and their memories. It's the young-timers that I think about. Young people who want to go into marketing and advertising. Yes, they have to be creative, and yes, our school has been very successful in placing them in good jobs. But there's more.

       In today's economy, you have to be resourceful. Putting words on paper doesn't make you a copywriter any more than moving them around on a page with a photograph makes you an art director, or saying "one free with two" in a meeting makes you a marketing maven.

       It takes an uncommon understanding of people, what they really want and need. And then coming up with an idea that draws them to the product. What's more, today's ideas have to travel. Which means they have to work on four screens: TV, computer, movie, and mobile phone.

       One of the gentlemen at the long wooden table, the opera singer, told me he sang for Elizabeth Taylor at one of her prenuptial parties at the Bel Air Hotel. A few seconds later, he called an older female customer over to the table and said she looked like Esther Williams. (Google her). She thanked him. She said she was a dancer.

       Today, perhaps the whole world is show business. It's just hiding beneath all that technology.

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