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    Entries in Stonebrook Advertising (4)

    Friday
    Jun232017

    I knew I was a professional at something

    I wrote this just after the Casey Anthony trial ended. It’s still one of my favorite stories..

    Years ago, I was a hardline artist for an ad agency in Orlando. Everything we created was for the Belk department store chain, based out of North Carolina. Hardline included shoes, furniture, electronics, and other items unrelated to fashion. I would never consider myself a fashion artist - then or now, but I worked there for 11-years.  I also designed and built ads that ran in a good number of newspapers throughout the state. Previous to that job I was mostly in the restaurant business. Soon after I started working at Stonebrook Advertising, I saw a fast food restaurant up the street called Beefy King. Since I had come from a background in that industry, I thought it would be a nice place to eat and meet new people. It didn’t take long for the owners, Roland & Sandee Smith, and I to become good friends.

    One of the interesting, if not quirky, aspects of my job was our daily morning ritual. My boss insisted that we come to work at 8:30 am, but he (almost forcefully) encouraged us to take a break from 9 to 10. Go out for an hour! Enjoy yourself! Strange, but that was Mr. Stone’s way of doing business. Because of his edict, on most mornings, I would drive up the street to Beefy King, make myself a sandwich and pour a cup of coffee. Black. No sugar. Sometimes, I’d help slice meats or whatever, but most of the time I’d just stand at the front counter reading the newspaper. I guess it depended on whether they needed a little help that particular day. Mind you, I was always glad to pitch in. Since they didn’t open until 10, I never interfered with any customers.

    On one particular morning, there was a man working on an ice machine that had broken down. I’d say he was, what you might call, pleasantly plump and he had a personality to match. In other words, he was a very nice fellow. The next morning, he was still tinkering on the ice machine. Good thing the restaurant had a spare. On the morning of the third day, he finished his work and quietly talked to Roland about the bill and something else that caught his attention. As they stood in the hallway between the dining area and the back room, he whispered, “Hey, that guy up there. He’s been here every morning, just standing there reading the newspaper. Doesn’t he have a job? I mean, what’s he do for a living?”

    The acoustics were just right and our jovial buddy had no idea I heard every word. “Why, he’s a professional newspaper reader,” Roland replied.

    The guy said, “No way. There’s no such thing.”

    Roland said, “Go ask him.”

    There I stood, deeply ensconced in my work, oblivious to anything else, and completely unaware that he was sauntering my way to ask about my profession.

    “Excuse me,” he politely said, as if not wanting to take up too much of my very important time.

    I took my eyes away from my work, looked up and in a face that showed great concentration, I said, “Yes?”

    I tried not to snicker.

    “Well, I’ve been here three days now and I see you reading the newspaper. I was just wondering what kind of job you have. What do you do for a living, if you don’t mind my asking?”

    “Why of course not. I’m a professional newspaper reader.”

    “Get outta here. I’ve never heard of such a job.”

    “Yes. That is what I do.”

    “You’re kidding! You get paid to read newspapers?”

    “Yes. It’s a rather lucrative job, I might add. There aren’t that many of us in the state.”

    “Well, I’m from Florida - born and raised, and I know the state like the back of my hand. What’s the name of the newspaper in Leesburg?”

    “Which one? The Commercial or the Gazette? Also, the Orlando Sentinel has a zoned edition.”

    “No kidding! Alright. What about St. Augustine?”

    “The St. Augustine Record.”

    In rapid succession, he asked me about another half-dozen or so cities and towns throughout Florida and no matter what he came up with, I had the correct answer. He had no idea that Belk advertised in all of those newspapers. Actually, we did. Back then, newspapers weren’t as consistent as they are today, so ads were designed to fit each publication.

    “Okay… fine… I believe you… a… professional… newspaper… reader. ” It took a little time for this revelation to sink in. “I gotta tell my wife when I get home tonight. She’s not going to believe it.”

    As the guy drove out of the parking lot, Roland and I got the biggest chuckle. To this day, I’ll bet that guy still tells people about the job to stump all jobs. A professional newspaper reader.

    All kidding aside, there’s one thing I must tell you about Beefy King. I went there almost every weekday morning for about 10 years and I can tell you that it is, by far, one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever set foot in. Not only could you practically eat off the floor, the food is very good, to boot. It’s been in the same family since 1968, with the third generation running the show now. There’s not a restaurant critic in town that wouldn’t give Beefy King a glowing review, and for good reason. The place is legendary. If you are ever in Orlando and have some spare time on your hands, try to stop by for lunch. It’s on Bumby. You can tell them a professional newspaper reader sent you. 

    Saturday
    Nov262016

    Nadie es profeta en su propia tierra

     

    For eleven years, I worked as an artist for an ad agency in Orlando. I moved to the area in April of 1981 and was hired that August. There were three (and sometimes four) artists in one room, each of us having our own artboards and niche styles reflected in our work. We were old style artists compared to today’s. Alicia was our premier fashion artist. Extremely talented, she was from Cuba and left the island nation soon after Fidel Castro took control.

     

    Before Castro, Alicia’s family was successful. They were rather upper-middle class. Poof! It was gone. Their loss, our gain. To work with her was a real delight and I deeply appreciated her insight, especially when we discussed her homeland. It was her pure passion that resonated inside my heart. This wasn’t hearsay, it was a first-hand account of what took place in her beloved country; what happened to her and her loved ones.

     

    After the 1959 overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista, Castro set up shop and proceeded to expropriate land, bank accounts, and personal possessions; everything the new government deemed to be an asset. Many people, including her family, fled the country. Everything of theirs - everything of value and every personal possession they accrued over the years - was taken away. Businesses were nationalized and socialism took hold. Communism immediately followed. All of her father’s hard work went down the drain, where a thirsty regime hungrily lapped it all up. She and her family came to the United States with nothing but a strong desire to rebuild their lives in the land of opportunity.

     

    Alicia was married when she left Cuba with her family. Her husband soon followed. She brought one suitcase filled with clothes. That was it. Even her perfumes were confiscated. While going through a security checkpoint at the airport’s departure gate, a guard stopped her.

     

    “Give me your ring,” he demanded. 

     

    “But this is my wedding band.”

     

    “Give it to me or we will take it from you and you will go to prison.” Reluctantly, she turned it over. 

     

    Today, millions of Cuban Americans in the US are celebrating the death of Fidel Castro. I haven’t seen Alicia in 26 years, but I can certainly understand why she would feel no remorse at all. How many of her compadres lost their lives or rotted in prisons?

     

    Lo que bien se aprende, nunca se pierde.

    Tuesday
    May032016

    Judge Perry: Little Black Boy

    The following is a true story from 1989.

    I worked as an artist/designer for Stonebrook Advertising in Orlando. We created print ads and radio commercials for the Belk Lindsey department store chain. Mostly, it was newspaper ads, but, yes, I did a few voice overs. My boss was Glenn Stone, but you couldn’t call him Glenn. He was always Mr. Stone and he liked to wear dark, expensive suits, slick and kind of glossy looking; and just to give you an idea of how formal he was, I happened to be in his neighborhood late one Saturday morning. He was outside, cutting the grass while wearing a starched white shirt and tie. I kid you not. I think his wife even called him Mr. Stone.

    One workday afternoon, he called me into his office. “Dave, come on in here and sit down. This here is Judge Byrd. He’s running for re-election and he needs some artwork done.”

    I recognized the gentleman and offered a handshake. “Good afternoon, Your Honor.”

    I knew right away that he and Mr. Stone were old friends. It was quite obvious they both were from the same “good ol’ boy” mold that still permeates in communities everywhere, especially in pockets of the deep south. Mr. Stone explained that Judge Byrd needed campaign designs including ads for newspapers, bumper stickers and bulk mailer pieces. Mr. Stone decided that I would do the work for the judge. Oh, great. Tag, you’re it.

    Originally hailing from New Jersey, I had a few inherently stereotypical prejudice issues with southern judges and politicians from what I had heard in the news over the years — hanging trees and all. Nothing major at the time because I had already been in Florida for eight years; it was just a slight amount of apprehension. Being white, I wasn’t too concerned about myself, as long as I could muster up a good southern drawl if pulled over by the law. Not really, but I think you get my drift.

    We sat there and discussed what kind of strategy would help in his bid to retain his seat. We went over design ideas. Judge Byrd was running against someone I had never heard of until a few weeks earlier, when some upstart named Belvin Perry announced his candidacy to unseat Judge Byrd in the Osceola County Circuit Judge race. I don’t recall that party affiliation had anything to do with it, but I was immediately rooting for Belvin. I couldn’t say exactly why at the time, but I just didn’t particularly care all that much for Judge Byrd. Although I couldn’t pinpoint the reason, it probably had to do with the southern thing and that persnickety air of white male privilege that wasn’t as inherent in the New York/Philadelphia corridor, from whence I came.

    After going over the plan of attack and some incidentals about his opponent, Judge Byrd was ready to leave, confident in the knowledge that we would deliver exactly what he needed to garner a victory. As he walked out of Mr. Stone’s office, he proudly exclaimed something that I found quite shocking and highly offensive…

    “I’m gonna kick that little black boy’s ass.”

    Mr. Stone was all excited. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I said nothing in return. As a matter of fact, I didn’t respond at all. My face went blank. How could a sitting judge display blatant racism like that? Suddenly, I had a real problem. Personally, I wanted to do everything I could to help Judge Byrd lose the election. Professionally, I had to do everything in my repertoire of artistic talents to get him re-elected or face losing my job. I was very confused, to say the least. It was a lose/win, win/lose proposition. I didn’t want him to be re-elected, but I had to do my professional best to design winning ads, bumper stickers and flyers. Why me, dear Lord, why me?

    I called an attorney friend of mine and told him I needed to talk about something VERY important. We met after work and I explained my moral and professional dilemma.

    “My personality is split in half on this, Bill. I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to lose my job. Since I’m obligated to do it, I’ve got to give it my all as a professional. I have to help the guy get re-elected and it goes against my moral fiber.”

    He was quite familiar with the judge, too, and pretty much felt the same way. “Boy, Dave, I’ve been an attorney a long time now and that’s a new one on me. It’s a mess and I don’t envy you at all. If you want my professional advice, you have to do it unless you have another job lined up somewhere and I’m sure you don’t.” 

    He was right, I didn’t.

    I went to work on a strategy I felt would benefit Judge Byrd. I set up a slate of ads that had to run at certain times throughout the campaign. They had to be laid out in different sizes, too, since, in those days, newspapers weren’t alike. I worked on demographics so I could recommend where I felt mailing the flyers would benefit him the most. And the bumper stickers. Oh, yes, those things. They looked nice, but I cringed when I got behind his supporters, and I saw quite a few. I wanted to say, “Hey! That’s my design. Oh, never mind.”

    I was proud of my work. I was sick of my work. And I waited for election day with bated breath.

    Judge Byrd lost his bid for re-election. It was a bittersweet victory for me. I wondered if there was something I did wrong. But I was glad he didn’t win and I knew in the end that it didn’t hurt me professionally. There was no blame; no guilt. Judge Byrd took his loss well. All politicians know one day they will lose.

    Bill asked me how I felt. Very relieved, I said. Was there something subconscious inside that held me back from really giving it my all? Oh well, it was over and my secret personal nightmare was, too.

    Judge Belvin Perry went on to become Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and, of note, he presided over the Casey Anthony trial. And Judge Byrd? I saw him years later at a Belk Lindsey store. He remembered me and we had a very nice chat. He went back into private practice.

    My friend Bill became a workmen’s compensation judge for the state of Florida, appointed by then governor Jeb Bush. I always told him what a fine, fine judge he’d make one day and he did. He’s still as humble as the day we first met.

    In the end, it was the will of the people that unseated Judge Byrd, not my designs. Thank God I was never asked to do anything like that again. Torn apart, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

     

    Wednesday
    Feb202013

    Dave at the Board

    In August of 1981, I embarked on a new career as a hard line artist for the Stonebrook Advertising Agency in Orlando, Florida. No more slinging hot dogs and hamburgers! By hard line, it meant that I drew items like shoes, appliances and furniture. That sort of stuff. I also designed ad layouts for newspapers throughout the state, but I was never a fashion artist. No flare for that. 

    Artist renderings eventually went by the wayside. By 1990, I was sitting in front of a new Mac computer, still designing ads, but also directing photo shoots that included live models.

    This is a portrait of me done by fellow artist, Mary McNamara. She sat directly across from me when we still worked at our art boards. To say this was a surprise was an understatement. I had no idea until she presented it to me one afternoon, and it was quite a gift! I believe Mary is gone now, but the picture will forever be a fond memory of her — and how I looked at the time.

    The medium was watercolor and it was painted on January 25, 1985. I’ve kept it protected all these years, but it has yellowed with age. 

    Click image to enlarge