Cotton Candy @ The Amusement Park –
In the early 90’s when you sold a campaign to a client you immediately started the production process. That meant the creative team would work with the agency producer selecting a director and production company. Once that was decided you would team up with the director and choose an editor, casting agent, voice talent, stylists, makeup artists, transfer house, mixing house and music house then set a schedule. That usually meant you shot and finished the spots in Hollywood. That process would take about 6 weeks from start to finish. Because of the time and costs of production we would usually shoot more than one spot at a time to amortize the costs for our clients. At that time I was working with a client that produced roughly 26 or so spots a year. So our teams were in production all year long. In an agency you usually would have developed relationships with producers that you trusted with your vision and knew how to get every penny you had on the screen. And for me that was Sally H. who just happened to be the head of production at our agency. She had all the ingredients you look for, great handle on the pulse of top production companies, directors, music houses and casting agents and over time had developed a strong relationship with the right production crowd. Plus she loved the art of producing and knew how to make the most of, not only the work we were producing but of the Hollywood scene.
Sally H and I were spending about 145 days in Hollywood and the other 25 or so in NYCity. Our favorite hotel was in West Hollywood called the Mondrian off Sunset next to the House of Blues. The other well known Advertising hotel hangouts were the Sunset Marquee, famous for their poached salmon on garlic-mashed potatoes poolside brunch and their pink stucco villas. It was not uncommon to find the likes of The Boss at the bar or Roy Scheider sunning himself poolside. Another one of our favorites was Shutters at Santa Monica Beach over looking the joggers, bikers and roller bladders as they passed by along the ocean front beach path. Every new production was like going home to Hollywood as we checked in we would run into other creative teams from agencies across the country that we had developed friendships with over the years and would begin the catching up process of the latest production, agency gossip. It was a great way to keep our fingers on the pulse of the ad world from the inside out.
Now Sally was meant to be in Hollywood, she was smart, very, very easy on the eyes with a personality to match. I could always count on Sally to deliver a top-flight production both work and nightlife. She knew where to be and when to be there.
It was February and we had just finished shooting a series of spots with Propaganda films, the most sought after production company with a cast of young up and coming directors that most ad agencies were biting at the bit to shoot with. Our director on this shoot was a young talent that had just come over to Propaganda from Lee Lacey another production house famous for creating award winning music videos. The music videos were really taking off and a lot experimental film techniques were being showcased for major recording artists. One such unknown director was the one that we were shooting with, Michael Bay. We were one of the first agencies to give Michael a commercial production that would air nationally for a major brand being showcased during the Oscars. Now the shooters at Propaganda at the time were all looking to advance into the movie making business and most were very successful doing so. For example there was our director Michael Bay some of the others were David Fincher, Dominic Sena, David Kellogg, Antione Fuqua, Spike Jonze, Michael Moore etc. etc. you get the idea, it was a hot bed for young talent. Because of the Propaganda reputation in the business it was difficult to just to get them to even look at your TV boards. But once we shot there we had become just part of the Propaganda production family where Steve Dickstein the President of US Commercial Division became one of most trusted industry friends helping us to coordinate numerous shoots. So because of those connections we were eating and clubbing at the hottest spots in Hollywood, hanging with the vogue group of the production community. During that time Twin Peaks was one of the hottest shows on TV, which was created, directed and produced by the Propaganda’s David Lynch. So that gives you an idea of the community world we were lucky enough to be hanging with while in Hollywood.
But to continue, we had wrapped the shoot and I was to meet Sally in our hotel lobby at 7 pm and we would then decide where we do dinner. There were no cell phones then, so until I got to the lobby I had no idea of what was going on or what Sally was up to. So I make my way through the Mondrian lobby and it is buzzing, not unusual except this time it was not just a bunch of ad types but real Hollywood celebrities who were arriving and being escorted into the main dinning area overlooking Hollywood. There was a red carpet and overhead trellaces of white sheer cloth to match the white lobby, over sized white vases propped with large white lilies. There was a doorman at the inside lobby entrance making sure only the right people could enter. I stood there not knowing what to do but wait for Sally to arrive. In the meantime I would see one celebrity after another, each wearing gowns were more revealing than the next, while the men were doing the psuedo tux look. Blue jeans, white tux shirt and jacket. Kind of the look the creative types wore then, like the cowboy boots, slim jeans, t-shirts and an expensive Comme des Garcons jacket. Very eclectic LA.
After about 15 minutes of waiting, watching and wondering where Sally was, she then appears through the entrance where the party was arriving with a champagne glass half full in hand looking as if she was just another celebrity and then informs me it’s one of the after Parties for the Golden Globe Awards that the Mondrian was hosting. She assured me we could enter because we were considered regulars at the hotel. She giggled and said this is one night you’re not going to forget and just follow me. I gave her the raised eyebrow smile look and just followed her into scene where I definitely did not belong. But with Sally, I just seemed to blend in as part of the crowd. We weaved our way towards a table as every seat was occupied as we weaved through the noisy chatter. As we got closer to our destination she whispered in my ear, you’ll never believe whom we are setting with, giving the affected champagne chuckle. We walked up to a large round table within a booth where they re-greet Sally as she introduced me going from left to right. First wearing the trusted cowboy hat dressed in all black the mustached singer and author Kinky Freidman, whom I found out later was a good friend of Sally from her days living in Austin Texas. Next was Mickey Dolenz from the Monkeys who was beginning to make a comeback via Vegas. Followed by Dr. Ruth, all 3 foot something of her and last was Robin Leach host of the “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous.” Then Sally sat down and Kinky got up and made room for me between he and Mickey Dolenz. Ok, could there be a more bizarre collection of celebraties at one table, I think not. I sat ordered a drink and thought now what, I have no idea of what to say, I felt like a Republican at a Democratic Convention. It couldn’t have been more fun, as the night wore on each and everyone of us were chatting away I found it interesting that they began asking me one question after another promoting their opinions about politics, celebrities, the making of music and art. I was amazed at how down to earth they all were, especially Kinky and Mickey; they were more interested in what I was doing than talking about them, I was in awe. If only there were iphones then, the pictures I could have taken and instogramed. As the night wore on and the drinks were filled, refilled and refilled again and again Sally leaves the table to only return with someone she wanted to introduce me to…she arrives and points to me and the person she is with says hi to the others and reaches out to me as I stand up and make my way to shake Sylvester Stallon’s hand. Now at this time he was in the middle of casting for his new movie “Cliffhanger”. As it turns out he was living at the Mondrian while he was looking for financing. It was the period when he was sporting his little round tortoise shell glasses looking quite scholarly. We talked briefly and off he went with Sally, shortly after Sally returned giving me that smile of, can you believe all of this and of course I would remind her time and time again after that evening that there is only one Sally H and only she could produce a table like that. It was just another production by Sally that I would refer to as one of my all-time Hollywood Highs at the Mondrian.
Thank you Sally.