While at Leo Burnett in Chicago, Glenn Fujimori and I created a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial that required using the KFC image store in Henderson, Nevada, just on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, the shoot coincided with Glenn’s vacation to Italy. With 90 percent of the work done, Glenn handed off the job to a junior art director before he left.
Juniors, in those days, generally assisted art directors. They rarely, if ever, got out of the office. And if they did, it was most likely to pickup artwork from an art studio or to assist an art director on a photography shoot in town. So attending a TV shoot was a big opportunity that no junior would want to miss, especially if it was taking place out of town.
I flew to Hollywood with the agency producer a couple days before the shoot to cast our principal actor and actress. The plan was to then fly to Las Vegas and cast the extras (we needed 25) from one of the local casting agencies.
The junior art director remained in Chicago to get the various price and disclaimer information typeset and mounted on art boards. Rather than ship them directly to the editing house in Hollywood, he was to hand deliver everything to us at the shoot in Las Vegas. Since we were already budgeted for an art director, this gave him the opportunity to attend the filming of a commercial and get some so called “production experience.”
We were staying at the Riviera. The director made arrangements to cast the extras at poolside at the hotel. So when the junior art director arrived later in the day, you can probably imagine what was running through his mind as he was led from the lobby to the scene of us sitting in our bathing suits at poolside, wearing sunglasses, cool drinks in hand while people paraded back and forth in front of us. To him, this had to be the epitome of the glamorous world of advertising and Hollywood commercial making. Actually, it was the first time I did anything like that. I have to admit it was a fun way to cast.
That evening the production company took us to a dinner show at the Tropicana. Back then, I could handle a Tanqueray martini or two with no problem so I ordered one after we were seated. The junior did the same. We also had wine with the dinner.
After the show at the Tropicana, we shared a cab back to the Riviera with the film director’s secretary and one of the production assistants. The Osmonds were playing in the main room at midnight and the two women from the production house invited us to the show because they didn’t want to go unescorted that late at night. I reluctantly agreed knowing that we had to be up early the next morning and would have a long day of shooting ahead of us.
We sat down. I noticed the small placard on the table specifying, “Three drink minimum per person.” Since I didn’t want any more alcohol, I ordered orange juice. I half heard the junior art director order a Tanqueray martini.
The lights went out. The show started. The waitress brought the drinks, three for each person. About a quarter of the way through I could hear the art director hiccupping. The Osmonds took a break after 45 minutes of song and dance. As soon as the house lights went up, quite a number of young girls ran to the stage to get Donny Osmond’s autograph. Where all these young girls came from at 1:00 a.m. is still a mystery to me, but as I looked up, there stood the junior art director in line with all the girls who were getting a kiss planted on their cheeks by Donny after he signed each autograph.
Fortunately, the art director didn’t try to kiss Donny and staggered back to the table with an autograph on his cocktail napkin.
The rest of us found this hilarious after realizing he had downed all three Tanquerays during the first half of the show. At that point, I called it a night explaining that tomorrow would be a long day. I suggested to the art director that he also return to his room, but he wanted to stay and the others promised to get him back at the end of the show. As I got up to leave, I made plans to meet him for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. so we could drive to the location together.
The following morning, I grabbed a table in the coffee shop and waited for him. 7:15 a.m. No art director. I ordered breakfast. 7:30 a.m. No art director. I called his room. No answer. 7:45 a.m. I finished breakfast and went back to my room for my bag. I called his room again. No answer. Before heading to the car, I decided to knock on his door. As I knocked, I could hear a faint moan and a weak voice uttering, “I’m coming.”
The door opened. He was still wearing the clothes he had on the night before, but all rumpled now. He was holding up one side of his eyeglasses because the arm of the frame was broken off. His hair was a mess and he reeked of stale booze. I asked what happened. In between long pauses and a still slurred voice he said the last thing he remembered was coming back to his room and looking at the bed. I surmised that he passed out and fell face forward on the bed, which could explain the broken glasses.
I told him I had to leave and that he could cab it over to the location after he showered and shaved.
About two hours later, he arrived at the park where we were shooting the first scenes of the commercial. He was so hung over he had to lie on the seat portion of a picnic table while the makeup person spent most of the morning applying cold compresses to his head. By noon he felt even worst and decided to go back to the hotel to sleep it off.
He did show up the next day for the second half of the filming. But, by that time, he was pretty much out of the loop and didn’t understand what was going on. So this poor guy who never got out of the office, finally had a chance to get some TV experience, and ended up missing half the shoot. He returned to Chicago while I flew on to LA to edit the commercial.
By the way, that evening at the Riviera in 1973, the Osmonds introduced the newest member of the singing family, their sister Marie.
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