Looking back, I’m fairly amazed that I ever had a career in advertising.
I had a BFA in drawing and painting from TCU, and, after graduating, decided it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a few commercial art skills. At the time, I figured I’d screw around for a year or two, go back to grad school, then try to find a teaching gig at some university somewhere. Oh how naive…
Bill Galyean, adjunct professor at TCU and seasoned art director, graciously allowed me to audit his intro graphic design class for nothing. He knew some folks at D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius, in St. Louis – at the time the eighth largest agency in the world – and forwarded some of the work I’d done in his class.
After about 6 months (I’d since started flipping pizzas for a living), they finally contacted me and *surprise!* said they wanted to fly me up to St. Louis and interview me. Of course none of my so-called friends thought there was the slightest chance of this actually happening.
Surprise: 22 year old Ron is flown to St. Louis for a job interview.
My instructions were, “Once you land, take a cab to this address.” I should mention that up to that point (a.) I had zero experience in doing business with cabs, and (b.) I flew up with minimal amounts of cash (and no credit cards).
So I took the bus.
The bus meandered leisurely between Lambert Airport and the downtown offices of DM&M; I arrived an hour late for my interview. I wore my only suit: the most god-awful light-gray pinstriped polyester suit ever manufactured.
I was pathetic – truly pathetic.
I went to the 12th floor, wearing my awful suit, and was escorted into a window office. “Let’s see your portfolio,” said Bill Tyler, creative director. My portfolio, such as it was, consisted of a handful of loose sheets of layout paper with my scribblings stuck between a folder made from a cut up corrugated cardboard box.
I handed Bill the cardboard folder. He opened it and rifled through the contents, frowning. He’s not unkind but he’s a busy guy. “We’ve seen all these. Is this all?”
A Moment of Panic ensued, where I saw myself making pizzas for the next 12 months. Bill spotted my ever-present black sketchbook, which at the time I carried like my personal security blanket. It is full of writings, drawings, wild scribblings and other things of a deep and personal nature.
“What about that?” he said, pointing to the notebook. “Is that part of your presentation?”
I felt the blood drain from my face. “If it will get me this job it is,” I said, as I passed it to him with trembling hands.
He thumbed through the pages, brow knit, then paused on a little masterpiece I’d created one drunken night entitled, “Darwinian Comix: Dogs discover their own farts.” At this point, my career as a pizza cook looked permanent.
Bill chuckled, then guffawed. He grabbed one of his cohorts, showed it to him, and they both guffaw. He continued to thumb through my notebook, gathering several other high-powered creative types, who were now peering over his shoulder.
And that, boys and girls, is how Darwinian Comix landed me an entry-level art director job at D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius.
Thank you, Bill Tyler.
Postscript: I did a little research just now and found that Bill passed away in 2014 after a long career in advertising and marketing in the St Louis area. Rest in peace, sir. You were one of the best bosses I ever had.
PS: Bill hired me twice – once at D’Arcy, and again 2 years later, at Larson Bateman, in Santa Barbara. He’s one of the best bosses I ever had.