Jan 1, 2010

The Last Man Standing (Part One)

A tribute to a lost New York

For days, I anxiously looked forward to getting down to New York for my much needed (and long overdue) city fix. Too much time spent upstate clogs the brain cells the way bad cholesterol clogs the arteries; and the recent Boston action wasn’t quite enough to take care of the problem. Scrub the sidewalks and restock the saloons, Bloomberg: I’m coming to town.

This trip promised to be especially good, for I would look up my old pal John, or JD as he was known back in the day. That day was one in which the big guy ruled Manhattan, at least in the eyes of his wide circle of friends and colleagues to whom he acted as the ringleader of a gypsy band that wore out a merry and drunken path from the West Side to the Village to Newport to Saratoga to Hunter Mountain and back again. This was the 80’s; New York’s return from the abyss, where a sense of renewed spirit was palpable —- and Guiliani’s nightmare vision of gentrification was still a decade away.

JD wormed his way nicely right into the middle of the action. With a unique blend of schooling and smarts in both high finance and high art, his namesake creative shop was perfectly suited and timed to offer branding and positioning magic to the downtown crowd as that Den of Thieves cranked up Act I of the Grand Scam. Many recognizable “we’re you friends now give us your money” campaigns that came out of Wall Street during that period had JD’s touch on them. I recall seeing a TV commercial for a brokerage house, and making a note to ask JD if that was his work. It was.

Yes, it was his task to paint a crafty picture of Mr. Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe. He hated the bastards with a passion, yet thoroughly enjoyed dressing them up and teaching them to behave in public. I think his way of making internal peace with that conflict was that he never socialized with any of them. Indeed, you’d never see any Superior Beasts among his posse.

Instead, inclusion was mostly restricted to the crazed band of incredibly talented and sometime off-the-rails cast of characters from his extended work circle—employees, freelancers, allied partners and other co-conspirators that helped deliver the JD magic to the paying clientele. The work hard/party hard cliché might apply to this bunch, except for the fact that they really didn’t work that hard. The top-level ideas and solutions came easily, and an army of monkeys (his term) would push the projects out the door. Then it was time to party.

A typical Wednesday might include 3PM warmup drinks, dinner uptown, a Yankee game in the Bronx and late night shots at a midtown piano bar. People would enter and exit the train all night long, but JD was always the conductor; on duty from start to finish. On Thursday, he’d hit the repeat button.

I was on-board for a brief flash, the result of my hooking up with his firm by providing some multimedia presentation content expertise for his investor relations projects. In other words, I designed some PowerPoint slides. But mine had embedded video clips! I think I was paid handsomely for this nonsense; but it was the extracurricular benefits that would have me in gleeful anticipation on the monthly Amtrak journey.

As I was this past week, looking ahead to my first visit with JD in over ten years.

(Part II, upcoming this week)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guiliani's nightmare vision...

Good one.