Grace Potter needs to see my dentist.

I really don’t like going to the dentist.  I love going to the dentist.

Every time I visit my dentist, Dr. Colleen Schmidt, I have a great time.  She’s funny, friendly and is very hip.  And she’s quite attractive.  In fact, everyone in her office is attractive.  The receptionist…the hygienists… there’s not an ugly one in the bunch.

A couple of weeks ago, I went in because I needed to have a crown put on one of my teeth.  I talked with Jessica and Laura up front and then was led back to that ever so slightly uncomfortable dentist chair. 

A minute later Colleen walked in.  “What’s up, Oakley?  How’s the family?”

“Claire and the kids are good.  How’s your family?” 

“Great.  We just got back from the beach.  Myrtle.  So open up let me see what going on with that molar.”

A minute later Colleen was drilling.  I slightly tilted my head to the side, like any guy, and passed the time by staring at her tats.  Oops.  That’s a typo.  (But maybe not the typo you were thinking it was.)   I pass the time looking at the tat on her wrist.  And trying to figure out what it is.

When she stopped drilling my cavity for a minute, I asked her, “What’s with the tat?  Is that new?”

“Oh that’s for my kids.”

“For your kids?”

“Yes,” she said and held up her wrist, “When you look at it like this, it says Max.  When you turn it upside down, it says Allie.”

“Oh that’s cool.” 

Then she went back to drilling.

On my next spit break, I asked her what music is playing.

“It’s Grace Potter and the Nocturnals,” Colleen gleefully replied.  “She’s awesome.” 

 “You’ve heard her music before haven’t you?”  I shook my head back and forth since I still have a mouthful of dentistry equipment.

“You don’t know Grace Potter?”  I shook my head again.  “I can’t believe it.  She’s so good.  She’s coming to Charlotte in August.  We’re going to see her.  I can’t wait.  Do you like the song that’s on now?”  I nodded my head to indicate yes.  “I know you’ve heard Paris.  You’ve heard Paris, haven’t you?  That’s her big hit now.”  I shook my head side to side.

I had never heard of Grace Potter.  I thought she sounded pretty good.  Or at least what I could hear above the sound of the drill shaving bits of decay from my molar and the suction tube sucking.

Colleen finished drilling and looked at me and said, “I think you would really like Grace Potter.  You know why?  Because she’s a fantastic musician.  Plus she is H.O.T. hot!”  

What do you say in response to that?  I just said, “Well, I do like hot women.  I’m married to one.”  

“You and Claire really should go to the show.” 

Then she got back to business.  “You wait here and I’ll be back to put on your new crown in about 15 minutes.  So I sat there in the chair and listened to Grace Potter.  Ten minutes later, Colleen walked back in holding a sheet of paper.  She handed it to me.  On the sheet of paper was a photo of Grace.  “I told you she was hot.” 

“Wow, you’re right about that.  Smokin’ hot.”

“Open wide, let’s put that crown on.”  I put the picture of Grace on my lap and let Colleen finish attaching the crown.

“I went to see Grace at House of Blues in Myrtle Beach.  She wears really short skirts and rocks it out.  When she comes to Charlotte, you might see me on stage dancing with her.”

I nodded in approval.

“I think I have a giant girl crush on her.  If I were a lesbian, she’d be who I’d be after.”  I almost choked on my own saliva.  She busted out laughing and then so did I.   It was fun.  And it was funny.

What other dentist has conversations like this with you?  No one.  Colleen Schmidt rocks.  I’m definitely going to the Grace Potter show Friday in Charlotte.  I sure hope I see the two of them dancing on stage together.

Hey Grace.  If by some chance you read this and need a teeth cleaning, go see Colleen when you’re in town.  Or better yet, give her a shout out at your show.  She deserves it.  After all, she’s the best dentist in Charlotte.  And she’s your #1 fan.



Colleen Schmidt DDS is conveniently located across from the Arboretum Shopping Center at the southeast corner of Hwy. 51 and Providence Road in Charlotte.  704-544-1402

Luke Sullivan's Mistake

When “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” was published, Luke Sullivan was the best copywriter in the world. 

I had long admired Luke Sullivan’s work at The Martin Agency and Fallon, so when I heard that he had written a book on advertising, I knew I had to read it.  I didn’t plan on buying it though.  I figured I would just borrow a copy from someone at the office.  But then my friend and fellow copywriter Scott Corbett told me that it had one of my ads in it.  

As soon as I heard that, I went directly to Borders and bought a copy. 

I was so excited that my ad was published in a book that I didn’t care what kind of book it was.  I was like John Candy in Splash when he got a story published in the Penthouse Forum.  He was published.  And now, so was I.

When I saw it, I was ecstatic.  On page 25 in all its glory was Absolut Magnetism.  My ad.  But what I really wanted to see was my name.  So I quickly flipped to the credits on page 246.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  I was listed as the art director.  I’m a copywriter.  What an insult.  What an oversight.  How could the great Luke Sullivan have made such an egregious mistake? 

I fumed about it for a while and then wallowed in self-pity for hours.  I wasn’t listed as the copywriter in the book by the greatest copywriter ever. 

Then I realized that the only people who check those credits are the guys who did the ads.  So I was the only one who noticed.

Since I really couldn’t do anything about it, my rationalizing continued.  If you work on the Absolut vodka campaign, it’s probably better to be known as the art director than the copywriter.  The campaign is one of the most famous print campaigns of all time and it’s art direction heavy.  It’s certainly not what one would call a copy-driven campaign.  There are only two words in each ad.  In this case, Absolut Magnetism.  Since the word Absolut is in every ad, what does a copywriter have to brag about?  “Hey, I came up with the word Magnetism?”  So maybe Luke actually did me a giant favor by listing me as the art director.

After I got over the initial shock of Luke’s gaffe, I decided that I might as well read the book since it was about copywriting and I was a copywriter even though Luke didn’t think I was.

Every page of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” is filled with nuggets that have stayed with me ever since.  “Never present an idea to a client that you don’t want to produce.”  “Choose your battles carefully.”  And my personal favorite, “Outlast the Idiots.”

What I found in Luke’s book changed my career.  No, I didn’t become an art director.  I became a much, much better writer.

Not that you can tell from this blog. 

Thank you Luke. 

And best of luck at Savannah College of Art & Design.  Wait a minute.  Aren’t you a copywriter?    

This Doesn't Happen Every Day.

On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Congresswoman Sue Myrick.  She represents North Carolina’s 9th congressional district.  I opened the envelope and read a very nice personal note.  She complemented me on winning an award from my alma mater, the University of North Carolina.  I thought to myself, wow, that’s pretty cool and quite thoughtful. 

Yesterday, I looked in my mailbox and inside was another envelope from Congresswoman Myrick.  I opened it and found another very nice personal note congratulating me on my UNC award.  This time she wrote that my advice to “do what you love” was highly constructive for new college graduates.

I guess Congresswoman Myrick loves writing notes to her constituents.

It’s not everyday that you get a letter from a US Congresswoman.  Apparently, it’s every other day.   

Can’t wait to see what I get tomorrow.

Double Jointed Jerry

If you haven’t read “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor,” go immediately to Barnes & Noble and buy it now. 

Or better yet, download it.  If you like the TV series Madmen, you will love this book.  Jerry Della Femina is the original Madman and I would venture to say that if the TV series isn’t based on his book, it sure has borrowed a lot from it.

I first read Jerry’s book in 1987, the year I started in advertising.  I read it for the second time this week.  It was written in 1969 right at the peak of The Creative Revolution.  It’s amazing how relevant it is today.  If you’ve read it already, read it again. 

There are many jewels in this book, but this one stands out to me today.  Jerry wrote that there’s no such thing as a bad client.  Only bad agencies.  He tells the story of how Volkswagen had done crappy work for years and then they switched agencies to Doyle Dane Bernbach.  The work that Doyle Dane did was brilliant.  The management of Volkswagen didn’t change overnight.  But the advertising did.  The clients were the same clients who had been approving crappy work at the previous agency.  His point was that agency creative-types often blame clients for not allowing them to do great work.  When in fact, the clients have never been shown great work.

That’s just one small sample of the brilliance of this book.

I’m happy that I was fortunate enough to meet Jerry.  And it almost didn’t happen.

About 5 years ago, John Boone and I were walking down Sullivan Street in Manhattan with a client.  We were heading for dinner at Blue Ribbon Sushi. 

We passed a Soho gallery opening and there were a few people milling around outside.  One of the guys was totally bald with a mustache and a goatee.  I had a moment of “I know that guy from somewhere,” and as we walked past, it hit me. 

“I think that was Jerry Della Femina,” I said to John.


“I think so.”

“But you thought you saw Madonna last night too.”

We kept walking because we were in need of a major sushi fix and there’s no better sushi in Manhattan than Blue Ribbon. 

“Well, I really think that was Jerry.”

“Makes sense.  He’s from New York.  And there are only about 2 million bald guys in New York.  I’m sure that was him,” Boone joked.

We got to Blue Ribbon and there was about a 10-minute wait for a table.

“I’m going back.”

“Back where?”

“I’m going back to introduce myself to Jerry Della Femina.” 

“And what are you going to say?”

“I’m going to tell him that he’s been a big influence on me in my career.”

“And what if it’s just some bald guy?”

“Well, maybe I’ll ask him to join us for dinner.”

I walked the two blocks back to the gallery and the bald guy was still there.  But he had his back to me and was talking to someone.  I listened to their conversation for a few minutes and I knew that it was him.  They were talking about the new Burger King work that Crispin has just done. 

When their conversation ended, I stuck out my hand and said, “Hi Jerry, I saw you standing here and I’m not in New York that much and I’m David Oakley and I wanted to thank you for being such an influence on my career. 

“What career are you in, David?”


“Oh, I apologize,” he laughed.

I babbled on about how I had started my career in New York and that now we had our own agency in Charlotte called BooneOakley.  He had never heard of us. 

“I’m sure you guys are doing really nice work.”

I handed him my business card and said, “I’m not trying to pick you up or anything, but would you like to join us for dinner?  My partner John Boone has a table at Blue Ribbon.”

“Love that place.  But this is my son’s opening painting exhibit.  I don’t think he’d like it too much if I disappeared to go talk ads.”

“Yeah that makes sense.”

“Well, David it was very nice to meet you.”

“One more thing, Jerry.  I have to ask you this, because I’ve told so many people and no one believes me.  The first year that I was at Y& R, I was invited to the Della Femina Travisano Christmas party by a friend who was in your media department.  The thing that I remember most about the party was that it was a sit down dinner and at every place setting there was a big fat joint.”

“There was only one?  Most years we gave everyone two joints,” he laughed.

As I reread his book this week, I’m so glad that I went back and talked with him.   If you ever get a chance to talk with someone you admire, I have three words of advice for you:  Just do it.  Oh wait, that’s Dan Wieden’s line.  I’ll bet Jerry influenced Dan a bit too.

Already a Big Winner in Vegas

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a small obsession with Las Vegas.  OK, maybe it’s not small.  It’s a full-blown, over-the-top, stalker-type of obsession.  If Vegas was Jodie Foster, I’d be John Hinckley.  I absolutely love that city and want to be there as often as possible.

For me, as often as possible is once a year.  Every March, my friends Patrick, Jim, Kurt and I plan a trip to Sin City.  We schedule our visit around the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament.  It truly is March Madness for us.  Or as we dubbed it in 2004, the first year we went, March Badness.

Nothing rivals the anticipation for this trip.  Not waiting to turn 16 to get your drivers license.  Not waiting to find out if your first child is a boy or a girl.  Not waiting to hear if you got an ad into the One Show.  For me, this trip is Christmas in March.  

The problem is that even though we schedule it every year, I haven’t been since 2007.  In 2008, I cancelled because I had a shoot going on at the same time.  In 2009, it was on Easter weekend and last year I backed out because we were pitching the Bojangles’ business.

So it was understandable that my participation this year was greeted with a bit of skepticism by my friends.  The e-mail exchanges leading up to our scheduled March 17th departure all fell under the category of give Dave a rash of shit. 

On March 12th, Jim Doyle wrote:  “I notice Oakley hasn't backed out yet.  He's cutting it particularly close this year.  But, I have been on the phone most of the morning.  Perhaps he called you first this year??”

A day later Kurt chimed in, “Remind me again, does Oakley usually back out if the trip on Monday or Tuesday?  I can never remember…just want to set my expectations for the call.”

Kurt continued a day later, “I believe that David is on a rotating basis - and that each time he backs out closer to the actual departure date. I could be wrong, but I doubt it...”

Then it was Jim again: “Your memory is outstanding! I nominate you as historian of the group. It occurs to me that if this trend line continues David will have to actually go on the trip before he can back out of the trip.”

To each e-mail I responded the same way:  “I’m already a big winner in Vegas.  Details soon.”

Then on the morning before our departure, Kurt sends an e-mail entitled, “Seen at a Vegas Convenience store this morning.”  

It contained a photo of my face photo-shopped onto on a milk carton.  I have to admit, this was pretty funny stuff, especially for Kurt, who is an exec at Bank of America.  

So I gave him his props in an elaborate e-mail reply:  “LOL.  I’m already a big winner in Vegas.  Details soon.”

I was already a big winner in Vegas because of chance phone call two months earlier with my friend Scott Corbett.  He’s a director who lives in Los Angeles and I told him that I was planning a trip to Las Vegas.  Scott told me that his executive producer’s brother owns some nightclubs in Vegas.  He said he’d give him a call and maybe he could hook me up with something. 

I wasn’t expecting much.  At best, maybe some half-price tickets to the Donny & Marie show or something.  A couple of days later I got an e-mail from Joe Masi, Scott’s executive producer.  He asked how many were going to Vegas with me and where did we usually stay?   I replied that there were five guys and that we usually stay wherever we get the cheapest deal.  Usually Treasure Island.

A week or so passed and I got another e-mail from Joe that said, “How does a Sky Suite at the Aria Casino sound?  Completely comped.”

I immediately wrote back, “Don’t F with me.  Are you serious?

Of course I’m serious.  Anything for a friend of Scott’s.  I’ll send you a confirmation number in a few days.

I still didn’t quite believe it, so I decided not to tell any of my friends about it.  If I told them about it and it didn’t happen, it would suck.  But if I told them about it and I had to back out again, it would be much worse.

So I started coyly answering their e-mails, “I’m already a big winner in Vegas.”

Thursday March 17th finally arrived and as I was leaving the office, John Boone handed me $40 and said, “Put it on red when you’re feeling it.”  I thanked him then headed to the airport.  All I could think about was whether or not our suite at the Aria was really comped.  At least if it isn’t, I thought to myself, now I had $40 to go toward my hotel room. 

My cousin Brad and I got to the gate before the other guys and boarded the plane.  I had booked our two tickets with frequent flier miles about 6 months earlier.  The only thing available was first class.  Oh well.  Not only was I a big winner in Vegas, I was a big winner on the way.

We took our seats and just after the flight attendant brought us hot towels, Jim walked by on his way to coach.  The look of sheer disbelief on his face as I grinned and said, “I’m already a big winner in Vegas,” was worth every penny that I paid for the seats.  Oh wait, I got them for free.  Never mind.

As soon as the flight left the ground, a wonderful feeling of relief came over me.  I hadn’t backed out.  Something didn’t come up this year.  I was actually going to Vegas for March Madness.  And maybe, just maybe, I might have a giant surprise for my friends when we arrive.  

When we landed at McCarran, we disembarked with great anticipation and excitement.  We had made it to the land of blackjack, beer and basketball.  Brad and I waited for Jim and Patrick to get off the plane and then the four of us started walking to get our bags.

As we started down the escalator to baggage claim, something caught Jim’s eye.  “Hey look at that.  That limo driver’s holding an Oakley sign.” 

“Where?” I asked.

“Over there,” Patrick said and pointed to a guy in a full limo driver outfit holding a sign with the name Oakley printed on it.

When we got to the bottom of the escalator, Jim said to Brad, whose last name is Oakley too, “C’mon, let’s get your picture made with him.”

“OK,” I said and we walked up to the guy.

“Do you mind if we take our picture with you?” Jim asked.  “Their last name is Oakley.”

Brad and I stood on either side of the driver with the Oakley sign and Jim took the picture.  Then I asked the driver, “Who are you waiting for?”

“David Oakley.”

I looked at Jim and Patrick and said, “I’m already a big winner in Vegas.”

We followed our driver past the ½ mile long taxi line to a grey limo that was twice that long.  On the ride to the Aria, the limo driver told us that everyone who stays in the Aria Sky Suites gets limo service to and from the airport.  This explained why they asked me for my flight info when I called the Aria casino the night before.  Even then, I still didn’t truly believe that there was a room for us, until he parked the limo in front of the VIP entrance at Aria. 

We checked in and took the elevator to the 31st floor.  I slid the key card in and opened the door to room 3117.  One glance inside and I screamed, “I’m already a big winner in Vegas.”

This place was off the hook.  Ridiculous.  Incredible.  Simply put, it was the nicest hotel room I had ever seen.  Imagine the room in The Hangover.  Only without the tiger and Mike Tyson.

Let me pause for second to say that by writing this story, I may be breaking one of the world’s most sacred covenants:  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  But since I’m leaving out all references to our final hand of blackjack at The Mirage, Jim throwing his cards at the pit boss at the Venetian, Brad's 3 Korean hookers and Patrick spending a little too much time with the midget leprechaun at O’Shea’s, I think I’m OK.  Now that I got that out of the way, we pick up our story very early Sunday morning.

The five of us sat down at a blackjack table at The Mirage around midnight and at some point in the next several hours decided that we should stay up the rest of the night and go straight to the airport to catch our 6 am flight.  The reasoning was simple and Jim summed it up best:  “We can’t do this in Charlotte.” 

Some time around 3:30 am, we played our last hand.  We left the blackjack table at The Mirage and took a cab back to the Aria to pack up and check out.

As we were walking through the Aria Casino on the way to the elevator, Patrick said to me, “Did you ever make that bet for John Boone?” 

“I forgot.  I’ll just take his $40 home.” 

“You can’t do that.  That’s not good Karma.” 

“Yeah,” said Brad, “He wanted you to make that bet so you need to make it.  Let’s find a roulette table.”

“That one looks good,” Brad said as we walked up to a deserted roulette table.  The dealer, or spinner, I’m not sure what the guy who runs the roulette table is called.  Patrick called him Octavius.  “How ya doing, Octavius?” he said.  I squinted to read his nametag and damned if his name wasn’t Octavius.  I thought Patrick had made it up.  Anyway, I put two $20 bills on red.  Brad put five $5 bets on individual numbers on the table.  Octavius spun the roulette wheel and dropped the little white ball onto it. 

As the ball was bouncing around, I reached into my pocket and pulled out $30.  I dropped it on the table and said, “$30 on Red 16.”  Two things went through my mind as I placed the bet.  One, since I’m betting on red I might as well bet on my birthday number and two, the words of Jim Doyle, “You can’t do this in Charlotte.” 

I watched the wheel spinning around and the little white ball bouncing from one numbered slot to another.  Finally it settled in a slot.  As it continued it spin I could see that it was a red number.  “Oh yeah,” I exclaimed, “Boone won his bet!” and I high-fived Patrick. 

I looked back at the spinning wheel to see what the number was.  When it came back around, I screamed, “Holy shit.  Holy shit.  Red 16.  Red 16.”  Brad, Patrick and I were jumping around like we had won the Super Bowl.  And I had no idea what I had won.  Octavius put the marker on Red 16.  I asked, “How much did I win?”

“Your $30 bet pays 35-1, so you won $1050,” Octavius replied as he pushed a huge stack of chips over to me.  I looked at the stack of chips and said, “No thanks, Octavius.  I’m one and done.  Cash me out.” 

Octavius pulled the chips back to his side of the table and “Colored me up” as they say.  He handed me 4 chips.  A red $5 chip, a green $25, a black $100 and a yellow $1000.  I had never seen a $1000 chip before.

I gave the red and green chips back to Octavius as a tip.   

“Let’s go to the bar,” Patrick yelled.

“But first, you gotta get a picture of this,” I said as I put the $1000 chip in my eye.”

As Patrick snapped the photo, he pointed to me and said, “You, my friend…are already a big winner in Vegas.”

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

Wanna see my picture on the cover.  Gonna buy 5 copies for my mother.  Gonna see my smiling face, on the cover of the Charlotte Observer Money Wise Section.

OK, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue and it’s not Rolling Stone.

But on Sunday morning, when you sit down with a cup of Eight o’ Clock at your kitchen table, open the Charlotte Observer and see yourself starring back at you it’s more than a little bit surreal. 

I knew that that Ely Portillo at the Observer was doing an article about Bill Goodwyn and I receiving the UNC Next Generation Leadership Award.  And I knew that the story was supposed to run today.  But this morning it caught me completely by surprise. 

Today was like any other Sunday morning routine. I made coffee, I opened the blinds, I let Yogi out of his crate and took him outside to do his business.  # 1.  I grabbed the newspaper from the paper box and walked back inside.  I dropped the paper on the kitchen table.  I fed Yogi.  While he was eating, I took my vitamins and drank a cup of orange juice.  Then I took Yogi outside to finish his business.  In case anyone is really into details, this time it’s #2.  Same thing every morning.  I walk him back into the kitchen, feed him a piece of ice.  Yes, Yogi eats ice every morning.  Then I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.  I opened the paper and like I always do I went straight to the sports section.  But on the way to Cam Newtonville, I saw David Oakley.  There I was, leaning on the Kiss Pinball machine, grinning like my picture was going to be in the paper or something.

Seeing yourself in the paper is a truly bizarre experience.  It’s probably similar to seeing yourself on the jumbotron at a Bobcats game.  But this was different because I was all by myself.  I was the only one up, so I showed it to Yogi just to make sure it was real.  He didn’t say it wasn’t.  

 All day I’ve been saying that it’s not a big deal.  But it kind of is.  It’s not every day that you’re in the paper.  And I’m really lucky it happened to me.

Call me an egotist. Call me self-centered.  Call me self-absorbed.  But don’t call me a liar.  I'm psyched.  Actually, I'm thrilled to be in the paper today.  Of course, tomorrow it will be fish wrap. 

I’m really glad I got to experience it before newspapers stop being "papers".  I don’t think seeing the story on an ipad would have had the same impact.  Here, see for yourself:

See what I mean? 

The cover of the Charlotte Observer Money Wise Section is not quite the cover of the Rolling Stone.  But it’s better than “The cover of the landing page below the rich media page takeover ad on the Rolling Stone website.”

The Worst Day of the Year

For some people it’s April 15th.  Others it’s the Tuesday after Labor Day.  For me, it’s today.  The worst day of the year.  March 28th.  To be fair, it’s not March 28th every year.  Some years it’s April 4th.  Others it’s March 31st.  It’s kind of like Easter:  A floating holiday.  Except it’s not a holiday.  It’s a day of mourning.  It’s the end of March Madness and the beginning of March Sadness.  It’s the day after Carolina loses in the NCAA Tournament.

Some years are worse than others.  March 27, 1983 was particularly hard to take.  The #1 ranked and defending National Champion Tar Heels, led by Michael Jordan were defeated in the regional final by a Georgia team that shot the lights out.  A week later in the Final Four, the Bulldogs couldn’t hit shit and were blown out by Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack.  Oh, what could have been.

In 2008, Carolina met Kansas in the Final Four.  Before Tyler Hansbrough had broken a sweat, the Heels were down 40-12 on their way to a crushing defeat.  So close, (not really) but yet so far.  The worst day of that year was April 5th. 

Today I’m lamenting how this magical season ended so abruptly.  How did Kentucky rise up and bury my dreams in a rain of three pointers?  How did John Henson foul out for the first time in his college career?  How did the Tar Heels miss the chance to be in the most winnable Final Four in history? 

This one hurts more than most.  And I wasn’t sure why until I realized that this is the first time the Heels have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in 3 years.  They didn’t make it last year.  So there was no disappointment.  They won it all in 2009.  So the last time I experienced this pain was after the Kansas loss in 2008.  Believe me, it hurts.     

So what keeps me going on a gray cloudy day like today?  No matter how down I get, I always see a bit of Carolina blue on the horizon.  Things will be much better 370 days from now.  April 2, 2012.  That’s when the Tar Heels will be cutting down the nets in New Orleans. 

Cleaning the Frogs

This morning my 14-year-old son Lucas walked into the kitchen and said, “Dad, would you clean the frogs for me?  The tank is gross.”

If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it 72 times.

On Lucas’ 8th birthday, Claire and I surprised him with two fire belly frogs.  It was a fantastic birthday present and he was thrilled to have “Fire” and “Belly” as he named them, share a room with him.  We bought an aquarium tank, placed a couple of rocks from the yard in it and filled it with two inches of water.  It was the perfect frog habitat.    

The guy at PetSmart told us that the fire belly frogs would live for approximately 2 years.  We recently celebrated (I use that term loosely) their 6th birthday. 

Fire belly frogs are not exactly the cleanest creatures on earth.  They pee and poop in the tank and leave half-eaten water-bloated crickets floating around.  Lucas is right.  That tank is gross.

And I’ve been spending 10 minutes once a month since 2005 cleaning that cesspool.  12 times a year.  For 6 years.  Wow. That’s 72 times.  72 times I’ve been a one-man Hazmat crew fishing out cricket carcasses floating in a sea of frog feces. 

You never think of this stuff when you are at the pet store.  All you think about is how cute the frogs are and how psyched your kid will be.

As tough as the cleaning is, it’s not really the worst part.  The worst part is the crickets.  The frogs have got to eat, you know.  No brown pellets for these amphibians.  They have discerning palettes and only eat live crickets.  So every week we have to go back to PetSmart to buy two dozen crickets.  I thought we were getting two pets, but in fact we were getting 26.

Pet store crickets are a wily bunch.  Obviously they know that soon they will be eaten by a frog, because they always have freedom on their minds.  More than once they have gotten loose in my car.  There’s nothing worse than driving through traffic at 65 mph and feeling something crawling across your foot.  Actually there is.  Sitting on the toilet and feeling something crawl across your foot.  I’ve experienced both.  No matter how well fortified the cricket container is, somehow a couple of those little buggers always manage to escape.  

The only thing more atrocious than dealing with crickets is enduring the smell of PetSmart.  It’s a thick kind of sweet odor that, as John Denver used to sing, fills up your senses.  I think it’s actually put there on purpose, just like they pump oxygen into the casinos in Vegas.  It’s the same in every pet store.  I’m not just picking on PetSmart.  They all know the secret.  This olfactory sensation makes pet owners drunk with froggy or puppy or kitty love and they impulsively buy all kinds of stupid pets or stupid shit for their pets.  How else could you explain anyone buying a doggy bikini?  

One whiff of PetSmart and you’ll buy anything.  Pet Smart. Owner Dumb.

So what’s the point of this story?  

When your son turns 8, don’t buy fire belly frogs?  No.  Actually, quite the opposite.  My son loves those frogs.  And if I hadn’t bought them, I never would have had the material for this story.  

You may say you just wasted two minutes reading it.  But I once thought that the 720 minutes I spent cleaning the frogs was wasted time too.



Life Without Logos

You know when there’s just an instant connection with a person?  A connection that makes you feels like you’ve known them for years.  I had one of those on our first Bojangles’ TV shoot about a year ago.

We were shooting on a breathtakingly beautiful 400-acre ranch about hour north of Los Angeles.  The place was gorgeous.  There were horse stables, flowering meadows and a wonderful old ranch house.  If it weren’t for the crew trucks and the camera equipment, the setting probably looked the same as it did 75 years ago.  It was as if we had gone back in time.


During an early afternoon break in the shooting, I decided to check my messages on my iphone.  As I was deleting a generic Viagra e-mail, I heard a deep baritone voice say, “I really like your hat.”


I looked up and saw a very large man.  He stood about 6’ 4” and weighed somewhere around 240.  He was wearing jeans, a blue work shirt, a tan denim jacket and a well-worn sweat-stained cowboy hat.  His face was the color of baseball glove and a bushy white handlebar mustache surrounded the most genuine smile I had ever seen. 


“I like yours too,” I said back to him. 


“Well, I wasn’t fishin’ for a compliment.  I just had never seen one of those hats before.”


I had to think for a second what cap I was wearing.  I glanced up and saw the white underside of the brim and remembered that I was wearing the baseball cap that I had bought at The Masters.


“Did you go to The Masters?” he asked.


I was kind of embarrassed at first and couldn’t really believe that a real life cowboy would be interested in my cap.  A cap that basically said, “I went to the Masters and you didn’t.”


“I did.  I went to the Thursday round this year.”


“I've always wanted to go to Augusta.  How’d you get the badges to get in?”


This guy knew a thing or two about Augusta National. 


“Those badges are about as rare as hen’s teeth,”  I said trying to fit in as I leaned against his chicken coop.  “I’ve lived in Charlotte about 15 years and had never so much as sniffed a badge until this year.  Our insurance agent called asked if I wanted to go.  I, of course, said yes.” 


“Well, where did he get them?” he asked. 


“His grandmother lives in Augusta and has had the badges for about 35 years.  She doesn’t really have any interest in going anymore so she likes for her grandson to share them with people who have never been before.”


“That’s really cool.  Did you see Tiger and Phil?”


“Sure did.  That was cool.  But the most amazing thing wasn’t the players.  It was the place.  I’ve never seen anything like it.” 


“I heard it’s the most finely manicured golf course in the world.  Not a blade of grass out of place.”


“That’s true, but that’s not what amazed me.  What amazed me was that there isn’t a single piece of advertising in all of Augusta National.”


A puzzled look came over his face.


“That’s right,” I said.  “At the concession stands, there weren’t any Budweiser or Coors Light signs.  Not even on the taps.  The taps had white cards on them and in black magic marker was written Beer, Light Beer and Imported Beer.  No logos.  The potato chip bags didn’t say Lays.  They said Potato Chips or Barbeque Potato Chips.” 




“There wasn’t a giant American Express logo on the Leaderboard.  It just said “The Masters.”  There wasn’t a Rolex logo on the clocks.  There were no logos anywhere.  None.  I felt like I had gone back in time to the 1940’s.” 


“Totally noncommercial?”   


“I think it’s the only place in the world without advertising.  Ads are everywhere.  They’re even out here on your beautiful ranch.”


“There are no ads out here.”


“Sure, there are," I said.  "Look at that craft service table.  There are logos all over it.  Cliff Bar.  Wrigley’s gum.  Coke.  Chiqita Bananas.” 


Gary laughed and said, “Well, that craft service table isn’t here everyday.” 


“OK, true.”


“And when you finish your shoot, they’ll be gone.  Tomorrow this ranch will be returned to its natural beauty.” 


“Wow.  Sometimes I think it would be great if advertising didn’t exist at all,” I said.


“But then you wouldn’t have a job.”


“And we wouldn’t be renting your ranch today to shoot these Bojangles’ commercials.”


We shared a good laugh.  Then my headphones buzzed and Craig, our producer, was calling me back up to the set where we were shooting.


I stuck out my hand and said, “My name’s David.  I hope to see you later on this afternoon.”


He shook my hand and said, “I’m Gary, nice to meet you.  This is my ranch so if you need anything today, just let me know.”


I headed back to the set.  I didn’t see Gary the rest of the day until we were done shooting.  As we were packing up to head back to LA, I shook Gary’s hand and said, “Gary, thanks for letting us use your ranch.” 


“It was my pleasure.  This was a lot of fun.  It sure doesn’t happen everyday.” 


“I bet you’re glad of that.”


“Well, yeah.” he replied and laughed.


“I was thinking about it and I want you to have my hat.”  I said as I took The Masters cap off my head and handed it to him.


“You don’t have to do that.”


“I know I don’t, but I want you to have it.”


Gary broke into his giant gentle smile again and said, “Thank you, thank you so much.  Well then.  I’m going to give you my hat too.”  And he took off his crusty cowboy hat and handed it to me.


I was blown away by his kindness.


“Thanks so much,” I said.  "Gary, you should keep it because I know that, honestly, I’d never wear it.  You use it to keep the sun off of you.  What good would it do me?  Shield me from the florescent light in my office?”   


He laughed and I handed the cowboy hat back to him.  But he put the Masters cap on.  He wore it well.   


We shook hands and said goodbye.  I hopped into our rent-a-car and started back toward Los Angeles.


As we drove out the driveway in our Kia Sonata, I saw Gary waving to us in my rear-view mirror. What genuine good guy, I thought to myself.  He really likes that hat.  I felt really good about giving it to him.


At least I did until the irony hit me:  The Masters allows no advertising.  And I had just littered Gary’s pristine ranch with their logo.  

My First Favorite Band

The first album I ever owned was “Everything’s Archie” by The Archies.  I was 9 years old and loved all their songs.  “Sugar Sugar,” "Jingle-Jangle," and of course, “Bang-Shang-a-Lang.” 

I also had a major crush on Veronica Lodge.  I didn’t think Betty Cooper was bad either.  I would have hooked up with Betty in a heartbeat if Veronica had a boyfriend.  That was my thinking in 1970.

I thought The Archies were the greatest band ever.  That is, until Eve Allison Fearing set me straight.  Eve Allison was 11, so she knew a thing or two about bands.  “The Archies aren’t even real, David,” she told me.  “They’re on Saturday morning TV.” 

“But...they are real,” I countered.  “I just heard “Sugar Sugar” on WKIX.”

“Yeah, you heard the song, but it wasn’t Archie singing.  It was some backup studio musician you’ve never heard of.” 

I was completely taken aback by this.  It never occurred to me that Archie wasn’t singing, that Jughead wasn’t banging the drums, Reggie wasn’t on bass, that Veronica wasn’t on the keyboards and that Betty wasn’t slapping a mean tambourine.  This was devastating information.  I tried to play it cool and asked Eve indignantly, “So who’s your favorite band, Miss Know-It-All?” 

“The Partridge Family,” Eve Allison proudly proclaimed. 

“The Partridge Family?  Well, they’re not real either.” 

“Yes they are.  David Cassidy sings all their songs.” 

When she said this I knew I had her.  “Oh…I thought Keith Partridge was their singer.” 

“He is, David Cassidy plays Keith Partridge on the show.” 

“That means Keith Partridge is not real either!” 

Eve Allison crossed her arms, glared at me and then testily replied, “Well at least he’s not a cartoooooooooooooon.” 

Eve Allison stretched out the "toon" longer than the Beatles stretched out the last note of “A Day in the Life.”  I had no comeback.  Eve Allison was right.  I needed a new favorite band.

Four years later, I found KISS.