‘If five million people love something, you need to know about it’ – so said my mentor, an extraordinary man who had a powerful effect on my life. I’ve now had the chance to write about him in ‘Film Freak’. Here’s a taster;
‘He was the original jazz hands man. He looked like a huge white minstrel, and kept a grand piano in his office, frequently hosting drunken showtunes sessions with singers like Elaine Stritch, Mel Torme and Annie Ross. He was a committed church-going Christian with a devoted wife and loving children. He was also a latent homosexual who, through sheer willpower, transformed his wayward feelings into a source of immense enthusiasm, energy and passion for life, never acting on his private impulses.
I had never met anyone with so many contradictory personality traits, or who was so fun and so frightening to be with. He filled the few people who didn’t love him with hatred and terror. He was whispered about behind his back. He polarised everyone, including the company’s managing director. Working on his floor was like being trapped in court between Cardinal Wolsely and Henry VIII.
He instilled me with a level of fearlessness by being so fabulously embarrassing that it was an act of bravery even to go out with him in public. You never knew if you would survive the evening without glasses being smashed, punches being thrown and methuselahs of champagne that nobody could pay for being ordered.
Charming, terrifying and increasingly wasted in a profession that was changing beneath his feet, he should have been a singer-songwriter, a showman-flaneur, but found himself knocking out jingle-filled commercials for fish fingers. Like so many other talented individuals he had been born out of time, and ended up in the job of creative director because it was the nearest he could get to what he really wanted.’
I wonder if there are still Mad Men around like that now?