The Saturday Evening Post, May 4, 1963

The Saturday Evening Post, May 4, 1963

Hello Patio, Hello lawsuit?

For the sake of argument let’s say that the Patio folks really liked Sal Romano’s Patio commercial. Let’s say they like it just the way it is. It’s an exact frame by frame copy of the opening sequence to the 1963 film “Bye Bye Birdie.”  An Ann-Margret wannabe performs the opening scene of the movie with “Bye Bye Birdie” changed to “Bye Bye Sugar.”

Let’s further assume that the British bean counters at Putnam, Powell and Lowe (parent company of Sterling Cooper) were willing to stick a crowbar in their wallet and pay the appropriate licensing fees (which would pre-empt any copyright issues and could run anywhere from $10,000  to over $1 million in 2009 dollars. For the title song from one of 1963’s top grossing movies featuring one of the year’s hottest new stars, it could be closer to the top of the scale rather than the bottom.)

Let’s say it airs in prime time. Let’s say during “Bonanza.” Let’s say during “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “American Bandstand.”  Let’s say Ann-Margret sees the ad and has the same reaction Peggy Olson had.

That is to say she hates it.

In this hypothetical and fictional situation, Ann-Margret not only hates the ad, but she has never heard of Patio and wouldn’t drink “dietetic” soda on a bet.  In 1963, what could she do?

Well, it depends on whether or not PepsiCo and Sterling Cooper asked her permission. (Ann-Margret on Mad Men! What a great episode that could be.  Imagine Ann-Margret coming in for a meeting. It would make the epic American Airlines presentation in “Three Sundays”  look like a tea party.)

Sterling Cooper American Airlines Presentation

But what if they didn’t bother to ask? What if they didn’t think they needed to? If Sterling Cooper didn’t get her permission, she could sue for violation of the right of publicity.

Simply put, the right of publicity is the right to control one’s identity.  The most significant suits involving recognizable images of pop culture celebrities such as Jacqueline Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler and Tom Waits didn’t arise until the 1980s.   So, If Ann-Margaret sued Sterling Cooper in 1963, 20 years ahead of when the first suits were filed, it would have been the first in a series of  important “impersonator” cases involving a celebrity asking for an injunction and/or monetary damages because their image was used in an advertisement without their permission. Ann-Margret Olsson v. Sterling Cooper would be a landmark right of publicity case that law students would still be studying 45 years later.

But suppose Sterling Cooper (wisely) decided to scrap the Patio ad, but decided to use the singer’s voice and the jingle with different visuals that didn’t include an Ann-Margret look-alike?  Based on the outcomes of existing case law, Ann-Margret would again be a legal trailblazer a good 25 years before Midler filed her famous lawsuit against Young & Rubicam. In Midler v. Ford Motor Co. 849 F.2d 460 (9th Cir. 1989), Midler refused an offer to sing her hit song “Do You Wanna Dance” in an ad for the Mercury Sable. In a move that would make Bert Cooper proud, Y&R hired one of Midler’s back-up singers to perform the song in her stead.  Several years later, Waits refused a smilar offer from Frito-Lay and a “sound-alike” was found to mimic his  distinctive voice. (Waits v. Frito-Lay, Inc. 978 F.2d 1093 (9th Cir. 1992).

Both artists won their suits on right of publicity claims. Midler was awarded $400,000 and Waits received $2,500,00 several years later. The Midler case turned on her claim that the impersonation featuring her distinctive vocals would lead viewers to think that she was singing the song and therefore endorsing the car. And Ann-Margret’s vocals are nothing if not distinctive.

If Ann-Margret decided to sue, it’s likely she’d  prevail in what could have been a multi-million dollar lawsuit (in today’s dollars) against Sterling Cooper, which could have been disastrous for the agency. And since series creator Matt Weiner has said he’d like to see the series move into the 1970s, it’s probably a good thing the Patio folks decided to pull the plug.

hello patio!


The Trouble with Anna

vogue_italiaI am worried that Anna Wintour is over fashion.

I saw a picture of her in line at the movies, presumably to see herself  in “The September Issue.” She was wearing  a flowered tee, skinny jeans and what looked to be a pair of beige Tods with no socks. This woman edits Vogue.

I was in line at the movies a few weeks ago. I was wearing a print tee, a pair of jeans and what actually were a pair of black Miu Miu sandals.  I do not edit Vogue.

And here lies the problem.  Anna Wintour, the  formidable editor of American Vogue thinks its okay to head off to the movies  (and pretty much everywhere else) wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  I dress like this all the time. This is not Fashion.  And frankly, I’m a little disappointed. I’ve been disappointed in Vogue for a long while, but I always assumed that Anna was still sitting on her editor’s tuffet dressed head to toe in the height of fashion. Instead she looks like she’s headed for the supermarket, the dry cleaner and Starbucks.

If this jeans and t-shirt thing was just a one off for Ms. Wintour — her off duty wardrobe if you will — I wouldn’t like it, but I’d be okay with it.  The woman can’t wear sky high Lauboutins all the time, I suppose.  But sadly, this is not the case. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of Anna during fashion week wearing a flowered dress and the big trademarks sunglasses. My mother dresses like this. Now, Mom is very stylish, but Mom is also an accountant in a small town in Massachusetts. Mom (and me and quite a few women around the world I would venture) look to Anna Wintour and Vogue to give us some options for when we are pretty bloody sick of our flowered shirtwaist dresses and boring little flats.

Instead what we get from Vogue is some kind of shabby chic lifestyle. Month after month Wintour shows us upperclass moms in crisp white shirts and straw tote bags frolicking by the sea with their handsome husband and lovely tow-haired children.  I would love to have that lazy old money lifestyle, maybe because Vogue does such a good job of making it so desirable. But what I really want and do not get from Vogue (well American Vogue — Italian Vogue is another story entirely)  is, you know,style. Art. Beautiful clothes, beautifully designed, that don’t look like anything I own while at the same time looking like everything I own, only better.  I want Vogue to show me how to look fresh, original and amazing. I want Vogue to inspire me to think about how I’m going to dress myself to meet the world.  Right now, it appears there isn’t anybody on the Vogue masthead who actually cares about where fashion is going.  (Even Andre Leon Talley is more interested in telling us where he is going  and what he’s wearing rather than what we could wear to wherever we need or want to go.)

What we need  is another  Diana Vreeland.  Right now.

At about 4:46 into this interview with the legendary editor of Harper’s and Vogue, Vreeland says she would never give fashion advice to Queen Elizabeth. “Absolutely not!” she declares. ” She dresses perfectly for her people. She knows her role better than any other woman in the world.”

Mrs. Vreeland knew that anybody could look fabulous.  Really, anybody. Even you. Even your Aunt Sadie. Even me.  She taught generations of women that with a little luck and some elbow grease, we can all dress perfectly for our roles.  That belief, combined with her innate sense of style, is what fashion should be.

One can only imagine what Mrs. Vreeland would think of  the Miranda Priestly character in “The Devil Wears Prada”  (a character based in part on Wintour) who is only interested in dressing a size and type of woman.  ” Is it impossible to find a lovely, slender, female paratrooper? Am I reaching for the stars here?” she asks, ” Not really.”

Rumors swirl that Anna is taking her last laps around the fashion scene. Seeing her dressing down and poking fun at herself on Letterman only highlights how depressing it she is that she runs one of the world’s most important fashion magazines: she’s an icon alright, but not a fashion icon, not a style icon. She’s a media icon. She’s famous for being a big city magazine editor;  not for her innate sense of style or preternatural fashion sense.

It seems like everyone – including celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe has more passion and enthusiasm for fashion than Anna does.  Whatever negative feelings I might have about Rachel the reality star, I love Rachel the stylist and fashion lover’s eye for trends and appreciation of the long and illustrious history of fashion. I want to write her off as a spoiled fashion victim and then she’ll do something lovely like admire the classic cut of a faux fur jacket.  Was it presumptuous to ask Karl Lagerfeld to alter a dress so it will be more palatable to American women when they see it on the red carpet? Of course it was, but everybody wins if that dress is a hit and the original vision isn’t completely trashed in the process.

Anna had the chance to get back into the game, well to invent the game when “Project Runway”  asked Wintour to be a permanent judge for its first season. But Anna passed and let Nina Garcia be the fashion editor who spots and rules on new American fashion. I just don’t think she gets it. Or she doesn’t want to get it. Or she doesn’t care.  Either way, this will not do.

Is it impossible to find another stylish, passionate, visionary Vogue editor? Am I reaching for the stars here?

Well, maybe.

Trudy, Trudy, Trudy!


I can totally see Trudy Campbell at Woodstock.

At Roger Sterling’s Kentucky Derby soiree in the third episode of “Mad Men” Mrs. Pete Campbell  stole the show with her hat, her manners and her fantastic Roaring Twenties dance moves. The butter churning steps were just to die for.  (Alison Brie, who plays Trudy, said the couple has been practicing for about a month.)

Their joie de vivre was charming.  (I immediately wanted to find an Arthur Murray Dance Studio and sign up for dance lessons.) Tea dancing was a part of the core curriculum for society kids like Pete and Trudy, but still, can’t you just see them practicing at home?

The character of Trudy may have started life as a shrill, spoiled Upper East Side Princess (and actually, what’s not to love about that? It works for  our beloved Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf.) but she’s evolved a little bit into a charming, stylish and confident corporate wife.

Of all the women on “Mad Men,” Trudy is the only one who seems genuinely happy with her husband and her life. (She is having problems getting pregnant, but this is a TV drama and nobody can have everything.)

While Peggy, Joan and Betty are struggling to fit into pre-conceived 1960’s gender roles, Trudy is already in charge of her destiny. She did not save herself for marriage.  She pushes Pete to buy their chic Upper East Side apartment. She’s the one with the power to hit up an old beau and persuade him to publish Pete’s short story. She’s quick to adopt the latest styles and trends and has innate understanding of what it takes to be a corporate wife.  She has a thing for hats. (It’s a mystery why AMC doesn’t give us more pix from Trudy’s amazing gallery of hats. They are simply wonderful.)

It’s easy to see Trudy in 1967 in a cute little mini-skirt with white go-go boots and a Marlo Thomas “That Girl” flip hairstyle, making Pete take her to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium or farther a long in the 1970 campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment. Trudy’s wealth and privilege gives her the freedom to have fun and take charge and if Pete doesn’t like it, well he’ll just have to get over it — and that’s just another thing that makes us love Trudy even more.

tedkennedy_19621“A verb Senator! We need a verb!”

Whenever I think about Ted Kennedy, I think of this Doonesbury comic strip about the Massachusetts senator. Zonker was in the foreground as a reporter. From outside the strip, comes the Senator’s voice: “World peace… health insurance… education…social security…” In the last panel, an exasperated Zonker cried out, “A verb, Senator, a verb!”

As the saying goes, if we didn’t have a Senator Kennedy, we’d have to invent one. He was iconic. The white-haired senator given to big speeches, big issues, big celebrity and big mistakes.

I happened to be a senior in high school in Massachusetts in an election year and the Senator came to our school. We were sternly lectured by our old Yankee principal to behave ourselves and show respect. I remember how excited everyone was. A real Kennedy. In our school. Wow. I can’t remember what he talked about. My father said he was stumping for votes among newly minted voters. He may have been right, but at the time, I thought my Dad was being way to cynical. I couldn’t see why Ted Kennedy would need to go stumping for votes. He was so famous and he was a Kennedy. In Massachusetts, you vote for him. That’s what you do.

No matter how you feel about the Kennedys in general or Ted in particular, it’s a no-brainer to vote for him. He was a local, a favorite son. Unlike many multi-term Senators who eventually have stronger ties to D.C. or a Maryland suburb, Ted grew up here. His family was here. When he said he was a Red Sox fan, he wasn’t just paying lip service to die-hard fans. You had to like that. And with his seniority in the Senate, Massachusetts voters knew somebody would always have our backs as he did when he and Tip O’Neill fought to keep our army base Fort Devens open. He cared about the country, but at the end of the day, he knew all politics was local.

A few years later, I was a volunteer at the Channel 2 public television auction. I was back stage with a team of people loading the tables with items to be auctioned off on television. Things were going along smoothly when suddenly a producer with a headset and a clipboard came running backstage screaming that Senator Kennedy was here and he was going to auction of a table and it had better be one helluva table. No cheap crap. No gift certificates to hardware stores. This had to be one slammin’ table. And we all started tearing around the shelves of donated items looking for the designer watches, clothes, stainless steel cookware and to top it off, the person in charge of the artworks (who ran a well known gallery and knew his stuff) was in charge of picking out a lovely landscape to finish off the table. And he picked some sort of Cape Cod scene, as a nod to the Senator’s summer home.

So the table rolls out to the studio floor and we are all kind of excited to see Ted auction off our table when the table comes flying back with a bunch of screaming producers and David Ives, the president of the station in his signature green “Bid, Bid, Bid” Channel 2 apron. He was very angry. He may have had smoke coming out of his ears.

“What the hell is this? Some kind of morbid joke? I want to know right now who is responsible for this. What sort of mean-spirited and ignorant p erson would do something like this? Get me another painting now!”

It seems our idyllic Cape Cod scene (which was really nice by the way) was called “Sunset over Chappaquiddick.”


If looks could kill, we’d all have died right there. We found a nice still life with fruit and the senator was none the wiser.

Chappaquiddick was always the elephant in every room Ted Kennedy was in. Always. It is the event-that-must-not-be-mentioned. It hung in the air. It colored everything he did, perhaps even more than the legacies of John and Bobby.

A lot of people, including my parents, thought Ted was the Unfortunate Son. The last one left after a string of very gruesome, very public, very tragic deaths. Nobody expected much of Ted and it seems in the early going Ted didn’t expect much of himself. There was the cheating scandal and the drinking scandal and of course, the incident on the Bridge.

I sometimes wonder if Kennedy’s inglorious misspent youth helped make him the dedicated champion of the people we later became. He had a lot to prove and a lot to overcome. He may not have entirely succeeded, but he simply could not have tried harder.

After college, I went to work at a Boston newspaper that hated the Kennedys (because they are rich, elitist entitled SOBs who think they are above the law) and loved the Kennedys at the same time (because readers love reading about people doing rich, elitist, entitled things like drinking in Palm Beach, sailing at Hynannisport or getting married to movie stars) Ted was such an easy target, with his mane of white hair, public speaking style that hearkened back to William Jennings Bryant, a bit of a drinking problem, a messy divorce and a pretty new wife (snarkily called Miss Vicky by our gossip columnist). Kennedy always made good copy.

Ted never complained. He knew it was ugly and mean, but he also knew it came with the job. To paraphrase a favorite Kennedy family saying “To those much is given, much is routinely reported in the tabloids.”

In 2009, it was so refreshing and maybe a little bit astonishing to see such an unabashed liberal Senator, who never made excuses for what he believed in and never tried to pander to the lowest common denominator.

It’s unfortunate that Kennedy didn’t live to lend his basso profundo to the current health care debate. He won’t get to see the mountain. It’s a sad ending to a man whose family tree is filled with unfinished business. This will be Ted’s particular professional tragedy in a life primarily filled with personal tragedy.

I don’t think any protesters would show up if Senator Kennedy did a town hall. Like my high school principal and the producers backstage at the Channel 2 auction, even the most vitriolic Kennedy hater would dial it back. You just do. He knows what he did. You know what he did. Leave it alone. Move on.

Love him or hate him, he commanded respect for who he was, what he’d been through and what he was working so hard to achieve.

More than Mole

Top Chbaylessbookef Masters took a lot of heat, so to speak for being too nice. Too much camaraderie, not enough backstabbing. But if TCM was nothing more than a charity love-fest, then why can’t I stop thinking about the winning mole recipe from winning chef Rick Bayless? The 27-ingredient Mexican dish was so amazing that the three judges just gave up on the superlatives and resorted to a chorus of “mmmmmmms” to describe it.

What struck me about this dish, is the story Bayless told along with it. He first had the dish as a teenager on vacation in Mexico. Oaxaca Mole is the most difficult type of Mexican sauces to master and is typically served on special occasions He said this was the one dish that inspired him to master the art of cooking and Mexican cooking specifically. The complicated mix of carefully blended flavors has been a 20 year labor of love for the chef. It an era of 30 minute meals and ten dollar ingredience, it is fascinating and refreshing to meet someone who is willing to invest not just an hour, not just a day, but an entire lifetime to cook the ultimate dish. Imagine being to passionate about something that you keep going back again and again, working, tinkering, refining, blending, mixing, tasting, serving and starting all over again in a never-ending search for perfection. Speaking solely as someone who demands a standing ovation for boiling spaghetti and sauteing a few mushrooms and onions with some turkey sausage, Bayless’ quest fills me with awe and admiration. And it’s not about the food, because I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food (I am one of those people to whom cilantro tastes like soap), it’s about the process and the dedication Bayless has to his craft.

Adding to the mystery and the mastery is the fact while Bayless has published the recipe, for what it’s worth, which quite frankly isn’t much for the casual cook looking for a meal, not a calling. Bayless surely knows there is more to this dish than a list and some directives. I read it over and was struck by the depth and breadth of ingredients. It’s easy to see how an endeavor like this cannot be mastered in an afternoon. Passionate home chefs describe it as something like a trek up a culinary Everest. I suspect a neophyte like myself with no experience working with fresh chilles of any kind would be sidelined for years at Step One.

But Bayless has no plans in the wake of his Masters victory to elaborate or republish his recipe. It’s not that he’s worried about imitators (See you all in 20 years, suckers!), he just doesn’t think it would be right. And it wouldn’t. It would be misleading. “[It’s] super hard, he told the Los Angeles Times. I won’t do it because it’s so hard to describe. It’s one of the few recipes that you actually have to have someone teach you. It doesn’t work in print. You have to toast everything to this level of darkness where it looks like it’s burnt but it’s not. And that’s the trick to it. It literally took me 20 years to perfect the recipe for myself. To say, I can do it as well as the cooks in Oaxaca.”

Bayless earned extra wizard points for cooking this perfectly on TCM without a recipe to refer to. Imagine. It just makes all the other process shows like regular old “Top Chef” and “Project Runway” — which don’t get me wrong I absolutely love, but for completely different reasons — just seem so very small.

Cake & Character

So it’s anbake cakeother day at Charm City Cakes and I’m watching the cake gods of Food Network’s  “Ace of Cakes” create an edible replica of the Stanley Cup.  And as I do every week, I smack myself on the side of the head and say to myself  “Damn, why didn’t I think of going to pastry school when I had the chance?”   In addition to spending my days doing fun things like making a cakescape of a birthday boys family motorbike trip or a firebreathing dragon eating the bride and groom toppers on a wedding cake, I’d get to hang around with the super cool staff including my imaginary BFF office manager/traffic cop Mary Alice who gives us the play by play or what’s going on at Charm City each week. On their web site they say “You dream it. We bake it. You eat it.” I mean how cool is that?  And of course there is Duff Goldman, the adorable, cuddly yet badass  founder/owner whose enthusiasm for his job and his life just pours through the screen.

The Food Network doesn’t really traffic in reality shows (with the sad little exception of “The Next Food Network Star”) and choose instead to focus on process shows. Low on drama, high on cooking. No matter what you think of Rachel Ray and her endless collection of hamburger recipes, she does show viewers how to make something for dinner. “Ace of Cakes” isn’t about how you yourself can bake a cake, it’s more of a behind the scenes bakery tour, which is just fine.  I also love the hipster vibe the show has , which appeals to the theater arts geek in me. This show is kind of like “Glee” but with buttercream.

I never really thought much about  “Ace of Cakes” until TLC decided to rip off the Food Network with “Cake Boss.” There are so many things wrong with “Cake Boss” it almost makes me want to cry. It’s deeply unfair to Buddy Valastro the Cake Boss of the title.  I know this because I first saw Buddy on another Food Network show, “Food Network Challenge.” On challenge the best bakers in the country compete to make elaborate theme cakes in only eight hours and are judged by a generally humorless panel of master chefs who will smack a baker down over things like crooked piping on one tier of a 12 tier cake. On “Challenge,” Buddy is quirky, but professional — very talented and very funny. Like Duff, he has a particular style and approach to his craft. So yeah, it seems logical for somebody to want to give him his own show so we can watch another cake boss whip up amazing masterpieces.

Alas, it’s not to be.  TLC, a network best known for intrusive and invasive portrayals of  family life, applies the same “John & Kate Plus 8” approach, which is to say, the focus is big on drama and small on cake. Because of this,I have to admit I’ve never really seen an entire episode of  “Cake Boss.” I’m sorry, I just can’t. The first episode I caught featured a shouting match between Buddy and his staff in the kitchen (boring. If I want to see I kitchen fight, I’ll just go home and fight with my mother.) The second time I tuned in, two bakery staffers left the bakery to go down by the river to  try and catch pigeons. No, I don’t know why.  It was accompanied by that “hey aren’t these guys dumb” music to clue us in to how stupid they are.  I didn’t hang around long enough to see any actual cake baking. “Ace of Cakes” on the other hand spends more time showing us how to build a fire-breathing dragon or a minature replica of Hogwarts out of cake, which is plenty wacky in and of itself.  “Cake Boss” on the other hand is happy to focus on the what I call the Jersey Jamoke made famous by the Real Housewives and “The Sopranos and to this I say, been there done that, what’s next? The producers don’t seem to care much about the art of the cake, which is a shame, because there’s no doubt Buddy’s got game.  It would be great if the TLC people could think out side the box and give the show the touch of creativity and genuine character it surely has.