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And Now A Word


And Now A Word From Our Sponsor—Linda Looks Back

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor — Linda Looks Back

I am twelve years old and sitting in the bathroom outside my grandmother’s bedroom in Massapequa. It’s the one on the main floor, the one with the stall shower in the corner. The door is locked.

Opening the medicine cabinet, I see some bottles that are a mystery to me. Sal Hepatica. Brioschi. Anacin and Bufferin. And the pretty green tube of Prell shampoo. We are clearly a family that thrives on flatulence, sour stomachs and massive headaches. And then we wash it all away with a shampoo that’s made by a furniture polish company. 

Some days I would sit on the toilet in that locked bathroom and pretend to be an on-camera presenter for those products. I didn’t even know what they did. I just knew that holding up the bottle and looking into the imaginary camera, saying a few persuasive words about how great it was, was a powerful thing to do. I saw it all the time on TV. People believed you. They went out and bought things because you told them to. You solved problems, real or imaginary. The vignettes were spot on, and corny as could be.

Mother please, I’d rather do it myself …

Strong medicine for sensitive people …

Hey pal, take Sal … Sal Hepatica

Little did I know that ten years later, after a failed stint in publishing, I would begin an eight-year stay in one of the giants of the advertising business, hawking frozen foods, cheap shampoo, cookies and baby diapers. They were years of anxiety, humiliation and confusion. But I learned a lot. I saw people rewarded for the wrong things. I learned that I was not of the same ilk” as the really successful people — and never would be. I saw that genuine kindness was a rare commodity. And when I could take it no longer, I left.

But I have no regrets. I remember those days with some nostalgia now. Cab rides at 3:00 a.m. after a long pitch session (the Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful then). Having a land line phone ripped out of the wall and thrown at me by an English art director of questionable sanity. After-hours vodka gimlets at Amalfi’s and Ratazzi’s, both long gone. My production manager’s bottle of Jameson in her lower right-hand drawer, a secret known only to a few. The time an all-male client team told our all-female creative team that women don’t do” what had been proposed in the storyboard. A very senior account manager telling me that, at this agency, we don’t wear those colors together. 

People ask me why I didn’t watch the TV show Mad Men.” I tell them I didn’t have to —I lived it. Sex and booze and brains and occasionally, a spark of genius. That pre-teen on the toilet could never have imagined where she would end up ten, twenty, heck, sixty years later. It’s been a hell of a ride and I still miss the old days sometimes. But I like to think I’ve taken the best from it and fashioned my own kind of writing life. And some days, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.