Billy, Mickey and Me.

Creativity is where you find it. And the more limited the budgets of your clients, or the more adventurous the levels of impact you wish to achieve, you better find it in places other than the client’s reserve fund.

The synthesizing of unrelated elements is often the key process in creative “inventions”. (When opportunity knocks, it often knocks on more than one door).

Witness this rather simple demonstration of motivated synthesis:

Take one part Shepeard’s, New York’s Most Elegantly appointed disco club.

Take one part wife, appearing at Shepeard’s with her own group, seeking recognition, promotable footage, and a few bucks.

Take one part relationship with Rocky Graziano, renowned middle weight champion of the world, comic and frequent commercial personality.

Christian and Rocky provide impromptu entertainment at Sheperds.

Take two parts clients, both in menswear retailing, both limited in area of promotion. Yale-Genton, the largest menswear store between Barney’s and Boston and Today’s Man, an aggressive price-off chain in the Philadelphia area.

Aha, you say! Rocky Graziano and Christian Cooper do a menswear commercial in Shepeard’s. Anybody could figure that.

Wrong! That was easy, obvious, and doomed to be a non-happening commercial. Certainly, not a “Big Budget” appearing commercial. So add to this to the mix.

Smoking’ Joe Frazier has come to see “The Sister” perform at Shepeard’s because Shepheards in The Drake and Joe happens to stay at The Drake when he is in New York and he, being an entertainer himself, checks out the local talent. He admires her performance, comes to her dressing room to tell her so. (Ah, now you see it all! No, you don’t.)

What brought these four world champions together?

One day, Jack and Rocky are sharing a beer in one of the many New York restaurants, Rocky helps promote by making a frequent bar appearance.

Rocky: “Hey, Jack! I got this new thing, ya mean! Making appearances at Golf Tournaments, special big affairs. Anyplace in the country. We got a couple a guys together. Me. Kyle Rote. Eddie Arcaro(?). Mickey Mantle. Willie Pep. We go as a package. Each get a couple of thou. Say “Hello”. Shake a hand.  Play a morning of golf. Have lunch, say, “Nicetameetcha”…Say,” Goodbye”. Zap home for dinner with Norma. Lotsa’ fun.”

Jack: “Hmmm!”

A week or two go by. Jack calls Rocky.

” Hey, Rock, in a coupla weeks, give or take. I’m going to be doing a commercial at Shepeard’s. Quick little thing. Bunch of guys who stick together on a bet lay down big chips together at a Baccarat game, like in some great European private club. They win and they cheer and that’s it.”

“Sounds nice, good luck.” (Inside Rocky: Jack is biting, I knew I could get a spot going if he had all those names to deal with).

“Well, I was thinking that it would be better if it had you and those guys you’re doing the special gigs with. I mean, it isn’t for a big national advertiser or anything, just local stuff. But, you guys could come over, have a coupla hours together, take a coupla shots and each pick up a coupla thousand.” “The guys going to be in this area anytime soon.”

They were.

Next step. “Dear Client, We have an extraordinary opportunity to do a commercial with at least four superstars: Mickey Mantle, Kyle Rote, Rocky Graziano, and Eddie Arcaro, for less than ten thousand in talent payments. We may even be able to split this with another advertiser.” This was followed by a script called “The Winners” which was an open-ended, changeable story about Rocky Graziano entering a plush European Gaming Club, passing the sexy entertainer on stage (who recognizes him and says,”Hi,Champ!”) and joins a table of Baccarat players, who pay tribute to him and his appearance. He places a bet, they follow same, and all win when he gets La Grand!

Clients agree. But, then to heighten the possibility that a Mantle level personality would participate, we call our friend, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, to see if he might be soon staying in New York.

He will.

“Say, would you like to spend a few hours with Mantle, Graziano, Rote, etc. shooting a little fun spot downstairs at Shepeard’s.”

“And, Joe, Christian will be in it.” “Boogie, Boogie, Jack” says the Bear, and a date is set, timed with a date already logical to Rocky and friends.

We need more assurance. We need another, lighter personality. A comic personality to be the poor beleaguered Baccarat Dealer.

Aha! Soupy Sales is now in New York, he has his own new radio show. He should be available and he should be looking for exposure. Call to agent Lester Lewis.

Lester: “$2,000! That’s crazy, Jack! Soupy can’t work for that, I mean that’s demeaning. (Interpretation: “I can hardly buy lunch for that new blond in my stable for my $200 share”.)

“But, Lester, how could I pay Soupy more than Mickey Mantle? I mean, give me a break! And, if I pay everybody what they’re worth, I have no commercial.”

“Sounds like your problem, not mine.”

Not being one to offer the agent a spiff on the side, I appeal to his sense of long term benefits.

“But, I hope to syndicate this concept, to men’s stores all over America. Sound track and logo at end are all that need to be altered. Participating store’s biggest expense is just the repay on the talent payments. $2,000 each, $1,000 each, whatever, depending upon his market’s ranking among the top 100 or 200 or maybe as deep as 300.”

(Wheels and Cogs start multiplying 100 times $200 commission…)

“You really think you can do that, Jack!”

“OK, Lester, you’re a menswear store in Phoenix. You want a local spot with Joe Balls walking through your store showing suits and sales tickets for your friends and customers to watch? Or do you want Soupy Sales with Mickey Mantle, Joe Frazier, Rocky Graziano, Eddie Arcaro, Kyle Rote…I mean Lester even a hard-headed business man like you would be willing to bet on that.”

“Where does Soupy have to be and when?”

At Shepheards : Saturday, 9AM, November the 21st, 1978. Mickey Mantle, but six weeks removed from a major ulcer operation, is sipping his fourth or fifth Brandy Alexander. Rocky is rehearsing his line.

Jack Directs the Set Up with Art Director Chuck Cassidy and Producer Scott Cannel while Mickey Mantle and Soupy Sales look on.

Soupy is practicing whacking his head with the Baccarat scoop.

Christian is rehearsing her moves with her dancers and band.

Mickey reacts to Rocky’s commercial line during commercial.

The two client’s are moving around casually bumping into Big Stars, a coupla of chicks they’ve brought along to be impressed – are.

Joe Frazier is laughing on the outside, but smoking over “a funny racial joke” ex-Redneck Mantle has pulled during rehearsal. Kyle Rote is hoping at least half the crew will recognize him, too. (We were short Willie Pep and Eddie Arcaro, but then so were they and this was a men’s fashion commercial). Everybody is in a tailored suit. Soupy the dealer is Tuxedo clad. So is the director (that’s me ,folks) who is ready to play a cameo as Casino Shift Manager. That’s also me, looking around at the immaculate Shepeard’s filled wall-to-wall with heroes and talent and saying, “Gee, just a kid from Saint Gregory’s in Brooklyn, but look at the shit he can do!”

Kyle Rote, Jr. comes in to watch Dad’s performance. At the time, the kid is national TV sports hero having won the Round Robin Tournament of Champions held by ABC (check this out).

During break, Soupy Sales threatens Smokin’ Joe Frazier while Kyle Rote looks on.

Then, Billy Martin comes in to watch his favorite buddy and frequent collaborator in mischief, Mickey.

Wow! Isn’t creativity a trip! All this fun for pay!

Kyle, Jr. stays until the end.

Billy leaves early. He doesn’t even say, “Goodbye!” Didn’t his mother teach him manners?

Dissolve to next scene: It is 7:45 pm, Shepeard’s, three nights later, 15 minutes before opening of first show. Christian is in the wings.

I am on the floor. (Not literally…yet.)

Well! There’s Billy Martin, by himself, taking a booth with a view. How nice. He came to see Christian perform after that brief exposure to her qualities during the rehearsal of the first scene. I am pleased. Proud of my wife. Proud of myself for having made a positive impression on people who were such major public figures. People like the wild and pugilistic Billy Martin.

Wow! My grandmother was an intense Yankee fan. Were she but alive for this day. But, of course, walk over and thank Billy for coming to the show.

“Billy! How nice of you to come to see Christian!”

Strange, he has grabbed my tie, pulled me down to eye level with his seated figure and is saying:

“Listen, you son of a bitch. I walked out on that shoot the other day because I wanted to break your jaw. I still do you fucking moron.”

Moi?

“Do you know what baseball is, jerk? Baseball is the National pastime. Baseball is America. The USA. It’s freedom and kids with ideals and Little Leagues and hot dogs. It’s what this country lives for! And, do you know who Mickey Mantle is? He’s only the biggest living tribute to the Greatest Sport in the world!”

“I know, I know.”

(What’s to argue? He still had my tie).

“I offered Mickey $5000 to get the hell off that set Saturday.”

“But Billy, why?” (Figuring, he’s smart enough to see that two thou is too little for the King of Bats.)

“WHY? You shithead! You gave the lines to Graziano. That washed out ginny street fighter ain’t shit compared to Mickey. He couldn’t be his bat boy and you give him the LINES!”

He is definitely holding the tie tighter as his fuse appears to grow shorter. It is definitely time for lighting fast reactions.

“WHAT! (mouth agape) WHAT! (Twice is enough get on with it.)

“DO YOU MEAN that MICKEY MANTLE would have read lines? For that little bit of money? I was just amazed and happy as a clam in seaweed to have him there!… OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!” (See, he’s beginning to understand, the tie is loosening) “I could have had Mickey Mantle read the lines instead of Rocky Graziano? Rocky would read the menu for the price of a meal!” (I sigh a deep sigh of self hatred.) “Jesus, Jack, you really are an asshole!”

The tie is mine again. The light flows across Billy’s face, the glow fills the room, and then, his own remorse for having been such a dolt and hurt Jack’s chances to make some money leads to his expression of same…

“Gee, Jack, I didn’t realize that was your reason. Of course, Mickey gets a six figures for endorsements. Gosh, Jack. I’m real sorry. I’m afraid I sorta fucked you over with Mickey and his lawyer. They said they wouldn’t do any more with you. Gee, you should call them and explain. I’m sorry.”

“No harm done, Billy.” Meaning my neck is in place even if my tie is ruined. And, after all why not let bygones be bygones because it is likely that someday Billy may find out I have been Rocky’s informal manager for commercials for about seven years and he may wish to reopen the subject of my jaw.

The next Fall, Billy was fired for the second time for making the papers and scoring. Dramatic photos showed a marshmallow salesman in Minneapolis named Joeseph Cooper (no conection with my wife, Chritsian Cooper) with an extremely blackened eye and rather swollen jaw. He had had a discussion in a Minneapolis bar with the Manager of the New York Yankees. It took 15 stitches to heal things over.

He obviously was not as good a salesman as you know who.

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