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January/February 2007




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Columbia Forum

There's No Business Like the Ad Business

Funny Business

Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game by Allen Rosenshine '59

According to Advertising Age, Allen Rosenshine ’59, chairman emeritus of BBDO, has been one of the 100 most influential people in advertising during the last century. Starting as a copywriter, first at J.B. Rundle and then at BBDO, Rosenshine rose to become president of BBDO’s New York agency, the headquarters of its multinational network, in 1980. In 1985, he was named CEO of BBDO Worldwide. The following year, he helped launch what Time called advertising’s “big bang” by participating in the merger that formed the marketing communications giant Omnicom Group.

At the end of 2006, Rosenshine, who in 1989 received a John Jay Award for distinguished professional achievement from the College, stepped down from his longtime position as BBDO’s chairman to assume an emeritus title. Andrew Robertson, current president and CEO, in an internal memo, joked that emeritus is “Latin for 'did so much for BBDO, we can’t imagine him not being connected to the company.’ ” In this excerpt from his memoir Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game, Rosenshine celebrates the oddballs, hijinks and high drama of his unconventional profession.


Despite my more than 40 years at BBDO, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, this is not a “how-to” book on advertising. It’s not about policies, procedures or process. Rather, it’s a collection of stories that happened in advertising. It’s about people with whom I worked and all kinds of off-the-wall, or at least off the beaten-path, events in the business.

It’s about clients, many of them anointed - and some self-appointed - moguls in the business world. It’s about famous personalities from entertainment, sports, and politics - often megastars who endorsed and promoted our clients’ products. It is about the wackiness of the advertising business, and sometimes of the business world in general, which is the case far more often than you might imagine.

Some of my friends and colleagues have urged me to write something instructional or inspirational. Frankly, I much more enjoy telling stories I think are funny because at the end of the day, compared to most vocations, advertising just doesn’t rank as a serious business. It’s not called “the ad game” for nothing.

I remember being a young nervous wreck, moments before the top management of the agency would enter the BBDO boardroom to review the status of one of the accounts for which I wrote ads and commercials. I had just recently joined the agency, and was not exactly feeling as though the advertising world was my oyster. The account executive, noticing my neurotic state, shook his head, smiling.

“Calm down, Allen,” he said, “it’s just a game.”

In time, I came to realize that no matter how many hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year, and regardless of how seriously some of the people who run agencies may take themselves, there is at least as much lunacy as logic where Madison Avenue crosses the streets of the corporate world.

These stories are living proof.

Many others have chronicled how advertising works, what it takes to do it well, who are its best practitioners, why it’s critical to entrepreneurial competition and the healthy growth of free market economies, and so on. Among them is my colleague at BBDO for nearly three decades, Phil Dusenberry, in his recent book, Then We Set His Hair on Fire. As earnest as Phil’s book is, his title nonetheless headlines a world quite different, to say the least, from most other businesses.

When they meet, it is often a faceoff between the largely left-brain world of business and the predominantly right-brain practice of advertising.

Left-brain thinking is ostensibly (I suppose I should do this alphabetically), coherent, consistent, logical, methodical, objective, orderly, rational, reasonable, sequential and systematic. Theoretically, the right side of the brain governs (this time, in appropriately random order) our creative, intuitive, subjective, emotional, artistic, indiscriminate, aesthetic, spontaneous inclinations. According to these widely accepted beliefs, most of us behave more under the influence of one side of our brains than the other.

Funny Business

Rosenshine with President George H.W. Bush, who participated in an ad for an anti-drug campaign.

So when you hear someone described as a businessman or businesswoman, you might expect that the left side of the brain dominates his or her thinking. The world of manufacturing, and more recently the newer world of information, both affected by the developing phenomenon of globalization, are typified by their growing need for organization, finance, technology, and a host of complicated relationships between many more very specific and relatively objective disciplines. In business school, you study economics, accounting, marketing, or corporate strategy, management, labor relations, and the like, along with the logistics of producing, distributing, and ultimately selling goods or services at a profit in more and more of the world. You won’t find too many courses in art, music, drama, literature, poetry or philosophy in the MBA curriculum.

And while you will encounter people with business degrees in advertising, a far greater force in agencies comes from the right brains of the writers, art directors and designers of traditional as well as new technology communications, in short, the creative people and the consumer psychologists who guide their efforts. Advertising defies the norms of business by arguably leaning well to the right side of the brain. One of the most perceptive and often quoted comments about advertising came from John Wanamaker, the department store developer, who said he knew that half his advertising was a waste of money, but he didn’t know which half.

The capriciousness of the advertising business makes it a breeding ground for unusual if not unstable characters. It’s an almost daily exhibition of madcap behavior. It’s a haven for people trained for other kinds of work, but who failed at, or became bored with, whatever they had studied to do. It’s populated by the highly educated as well as the questionably literate. In any meeting, you might hear wonderfully creative ideas from people who are bright, intuitive, witty and clever, alternating with incoherent blather from those who didn’t understand, but felt compelled to comment on, the proceedings. It’s replete with personalities hobbled by their continuous conflict between sometimes justified egomania and ever-present insecurity, riding an emotional rollercoaster, where success or failure is determined by people and events beyond their control.

If it sounds something like Hollywood, that’s because the entertainment business is another major enterprise in which right-brain thinking dominates. It’s surely debatable as to which business is crazier. But unlike Hollywood, advertising is far less driven by money, power or fame. Of course, you can make good money in advertising, but top executives and stars in Hollywood earn considerably more. You have very little power in advertising, since in almost all cases, the clients call the shots, and they can replace an agency at the drop of a sales curve. As for fame, how many people outside advertising have ever heard of anyone in it? Unless you’re in the business, or a client, my name will no doubt come as news to you unless we’re related, or one of us owes the other money.

At the end of the day, when you work in advertising, you get to live quite a few right-brain moments in business. These stories are some of them. They’re about actual events I either took part in, or were told to me. I couldn’t make up stuff like this, although admittedly I’ve taken the liberty of recreating dialogue, and adding some embellishment here and there for emphasis. As in the advertising I’ve written, or the speeches I’ve given, or the presentations I’ve made to clients over the years, I’m not above using a little exaggeration once in a while to make a point.

Advertising can be nerve-wracking, ego-wrenching, personality-warping, family-breaking, and in many other ways, life-altering. It’s not the easiest business. But it is a funny business.

That’s the part I’d like to share with you.


About half a life ago, as I began to live the cliché of climbing the corporate ladder, I would occasionally treat myself to a shoeshine in my office at BBDO. Actually, I didn’t have a real office with four walls and a door. I worked in one of the many cubicles that in most companies occupy the open floor area inside the perimeter of window offices. My boss had one of those, befitting his corporate rank.

Every day, a guy named Angelo would go from office to office, shining shoes. On one of those days, Angelo came to my boss’s office while I was there showing him some work. My boss introduced me to Angelo, and paid for me to have a shine. Then, adding to his magnanimous gesture, he said to Angelo that he shouldn’t ignore me just because I didn’t have an office, clearly implying Angelo might shine my shoes even though I worked in one of the lower-class cubicles. He made a point of telling Angelo that I was an up-and-coming writer, thus granting me my first status symbol as one worthy of Angelo’s attention.

So whenever I had trouble coming up with an idea for an ad or commercial, which usually caused a precipitous drop in my self-confidence, having Angelo shine my shoes always reminded me of my boss’s good opinion. But at the end of every shine, as he snapped his buffing rag back and forth across my shoes, he always offered a subtle reminder that he had lowered himself to working in a poorer neighborhood.

“Hey, you gonna get an office soon?” he’d look up and ask.

“I don’t know, Angelo,” I’d reply. “What d’you hear?”

“Hey, your boss, he likes you,” he’d say, completing the ritual of leaving me with shinier shoes and a renewed belief in a brighter future.

Some months later, my boss called me into his office, telling me to shut the door. His face was more grim than I’d ever seen it.

Uh oh, Angelo’s wrong, I thought. I’m getting canned.

“If you say one word of what I’m about to tell you,” said my boss through clenched teeth, “I’ll fire your ass so fast, the rest of you will be chasing it out the door.”

I didn’t really know how to respond, but I felt it necessary to offer an immediate pledge of allegiance. I answered in no uncertain terms.

“My lips are sealed,” I swore.

He seemed momentarily taken aback, probably thinking that the boldness and wit of his threat deserved a less inane response from a writer whose work he had praised and supported. But he quickly recovered and dropped his bomb.

“I’m leaving BBDO,” he announced. “I’m outta here, so you should think about who you wanna work for. I’m letting you know now, so you don’t get caught by surprise later when I talk to them upstairs. But I’m warning you, if one word about this get out, I’ll know it was you, ’cause you’re the only one I’m telling.”

Now I really didn’t know what to say.

“Wow!” I exclaimed. After another quizzical look, he continued.

“So if you wanna know what happened,” he said, “I’m not telling you, ’cause it’s personal. But I’m warning you again, not a word to anybody. If anyone finds out about this, I’ll deny it and fire you for starting a rumor that I’m leaving.”

As I left his office, I didn’t know what to think. I knew enough to appreciate the confidence my boss had shown in me, and that he had done me a big favor by telling me and not anyone else about his departure. Beyond that, I only knew for sure that what I knew could get me fired.

After a mostly sleepless night, I sat at my desk the next morning, trying to figure out my next step. Then Angelo stuck his head around the opening in the partition of my cubicle.

“Hey, you wanna shine?”

My mind was a mess, but there was no reason my shoes should be too, so I waved him in. A few minutes later, as he finished he looked up, and I thought about how, in the light of yesterday’s news, I should answer his usual question about when I would get an office. I didn’t have to think for long.

Funny Business

Rosenshine today, "still geting shoe shines in my office, 40 years after 'Angelo's Secret' (but it's not Angelo, of course)."

“Hey,” he said. “I hear your boss is quittin’. Now you gonna get an office f’sure!”

“What?” I shouted, seeing the pink slip before my eyes. “Where the hell did you hear he’s leaving?”

“Hey, he just tol’ me. But ya gotta keep it down,” Angelo whispered. “He said nobody else knew, an’ if I say anythin’, he’s gonna fire me.”

A few weeks later, my boss left. And Angelo give me my first shoeshine in my new office.


The first major presentation of advertising I made was at Gillette headquarters in Boston. Our assignment was to suggest new varieties of their Foamy shaving cream, and to create television commercials for each of them.

At the time, a new technology called “micro-encapsulation” made it possible to embed aromatic particles in the product that would be released when the shaving cream was propelled from the can and came in contact with the air. Thus it was possible for Foamy to market an extended line of shaving creams with different scents, which was the idea behind the new campaigns I was to present.

First we had to come up with the particular aromas that we thought would be appealing to men as they shaved in the morning, and then give each of this new array of products an appealing name. Our candidates included ideas such as “Morning Mist, Lemon Tree, Wavin’ Wheat, Lime Twist, Lavender, and Peaches ’n’ Cream.” Of course, during our brainstorming sessions, our perpetual propensity for bathroom humor produced a number of less appropriate but entertaining thoughts like “Factory Fog, Dumpster Dew, Pasture Patty” and the inevitably scatological “Passing Wind,” obviously none of which ever saw the light of a client meeting.

Once we had selected the specific new products that we would recommend, we had to develop storyboards to depict each commercial. (This technique is a series of drawings that showed the action we intended to film with the accompanying sound track - the music, dialog and/or announcer script - typed below each picture.) But to bring the storyboard to life for the clients, to let them understand how it would play on TV, we had to dramatize it by describing the scenes, performing the roles, and giving them a sense of how the audio would sound.

This was what I nervously headed for Boston to do, armed with ideas for about a dozen new Foamy formulations and a choice of storyboards for each, showing the commercials that could introduce it to consumers.

But it was more than just the size of the presentation, and the critical need for the Foamy brand to increase its sales by expanding its offering that made my presentation debut especially intimidating. It was the fact that the president of Gillette’s Toiletries Division would attend, something he rarely did at this early stage of development. His presence signaled the importance of the project. And naturally, he was accompanied by everyone at Gillette who had anything to do with the Foamy brand.

Because the client was out in force, the agency was obliged to show an equal interest by top management, resulting in BBDO’s chairman, president, creative director, and a full coterie of account executives in attendance as well. So in my first time at bat in advertising’s major leagues, I was facing not only our highest ranking client, but also my boss, his boss, and my boss’s boss’s boss.

I don’t mind admitting, I was in a less than sanguine state of mind. I had always thought that the idea of being so terrified that your knees knocked was only apocryphal, but as I stood up to begin, I quickly learned otherwise. My knees weren’t just knocking - they were actually banging into each other.

The first commercial in the campaign was for a new Foamy scent called “Spring Breeze” in which the opening scent showed the sun rising over a suburban house as a light went on in one of the rooms. As the camera moved inside to watch a man who had just turned on his bathroom light preparing to shave, we would see the curtains rustling in the breeze coming through the open window, and hear the sound of birds chirping. And as I described the action, to more fully capture the sense of this bucolic moment, I intended to mimic the clipped, semi-melodic whistling of our little feathered friends.

There was only one problem. Not only were my knees in delirium tremens, my mouth was so dry that when I pursed my lips and blew, the only sound that came out was not a whistle or even a chirp - it was a barely audible whoosh of air, which I repeated three or four times in desperation, but without any success. So there I stood, one minute into the show, with the top brass of Gil1ette and BBDO gaping at me in obvious astonishment, trying to think of something - anything - to say or do that could get me past the flock of pathetically puffing birds I was portraying.

All of a sudden, I heard a bird chirping. I knew for sure it wasn’t me, and when I looked toward the sound, I saw my boss in full twitter. A second later, he was joined by the president, followed by the chairman of BBDO, all three men in business suits, seated in a row at the massive oak table of the stately Gillette boardroom, tweeting away like birds at a worm-catching convention.

The client group all burst into laughter. Having been bailed out of what I was sure would be a disaster, I relaxed enough to carry on.

In spite of my less than hit performance, the result was the eventual decision to market a new product called “Foamy with Lemon-Lime,” which research showed was the scent men would like best among all our entries. Our commercials, based on a mythical half-yellow, half-green hybrid fruit combining lemon and lime, were well liked by the client and consumers alike, helping produce a sales success.

And to my great relief, when I presented our storyboards for the new campaign, my confidence was bolstered by the fact that there were no known sounds associated with either lemons or limes.


I’m sure that at one time or another, all people in business worry about falling asleep during a meeting. And I assume the extent of the concern would depend largely on the nature of the meeting and its attendees. For example, it would obviously be far worse to doze off in front of a client who pays for your ostensibly dedicated and observant attention, than to catch a few winks in a meeting strictly with associates from your own company. Although if they are people who can determine your compensation, responsibilities, title, or other forms of your corporate fate, I don’t recommend it.

Less worrisome but nonetheless a cause for concern in the business of creating advertising for clients, is the occasion when the client nods off while you present your agency’s recommendations for their next campaign. Of course, in that situation, you would not be guilty of embarrassing yourself. But it might just occur to you, as you deliver the usually impassioned presentation of how the advertising would look, along with the confident rationale for why it will work to persuade and motivate the consumer, that the closed eyes and drooping head of the client suggest your work is falling on ears deafened by boredom. For those whose creativity, intelligence, and sense of self-worth are on the line, a sleeping client can be a much greater blow to the ego than one who just fails to applaud.

I know, because it happened to me twice - that is, putting a client to sleep, not just getting a negative reaction. (The latter happened many more times than I’m prepared to admit.)

On the first occasion, I was presenting ideas for a television campaign to the chief executive of a company for which we advertised a leading cosmetic product. I was somewhat on edge because I had never met him before, and had not yet experienced many meetings with heads of our client companies. But because the presentation had already received approvals from the various levels of marketing staffs below him, I saw this as more of a formality to get the final go-ahead, rather than a critical appraisal of the substance of our work. Owing to our success in the previous meetings, I was optimistic that this one, which included only the CEO in his office, would be equally affirmative. And so, with our top executive on the account at my side, I began my performance.

I was concentrating so hard on describing the scenes, and acting out the roles of the people in the first commercial of the new campaign, that I didn’t pay too much attention to any initial reactions from the client. This was the most critical of the commercials because it would establish the idea of all the advertising to follow, and I was totally absorbed in explaining it. It wasn’t until I had finished with a dramatic proclamation of the new slogan ending the commercial that I looked up to see the client, unmistakably asleep.

No, he wasn’t momentarily closing his eyes to help visualize what I had described. And he wasn’t in one of those few moments of diminished consciousness from which we snap quickly back to attention. He was dead to the world.

I didn’t know what to do next. Do I stop until he wakes up? I could have been there until the next morning. Do I continue my sales pitch in the hope that some of it might be absorbed subconsciously? Do I cough or sneeze or “accidentally” knock something off his desk so that he might react to the noise? I looked to my colleague for help, which he offered by silently nodding his head and waving the back of his hand to me in a signal to go on as though nothing were wrong.

Having no better idea of my own, that’s what I did. I spent the next fifteen minutes showing storyboards of what was intended to be many millions of dollars worth of advertising, not to mention my work, to Rip Van Winkle.

Fortunately, he didn’t sleep quite as long. When I finished, the account man gestured to me to just sit back and relax. A minute of two later, the client awoke. Without the slightest allusion to what had happened, he told us that since his people had already approved the campaign, it was fine with him. He then thanked us for coming, we shook hands, and he showed us out.

The door had no sooner closed behind us when I blurted out, “What the hell happened in there?”

“Well, I guess I should have warned you beforehand,” said the account guy, “but I’ve been told he’s got narcolepsy. I’ve seen him fall asleep in meetings before.”

I was still so shaken that it didn’t even occur to me to ask how anyone managed to run a company under those circumstances. As it turned out, the answer would probably have been “not very well” since he was replaced shortly thereafter.

I had quite a different reaction the second time a client fell asleep on me.

This time, I presented on my home turf, at BBDO. The client was a top executive at Gillette, one of the largest companies we served, and one with which we had done business for decades. Our assignment was to develop a corporate campaign extolling the company’s history of providing cutting edge (pun intended) new products. The campaign was the brain child of this particular executive, who hoped to sell it to his board of directors as an example of his strategy to build the value of the Gillette brand among consumers, and improve its share price on the stock market.

I thought we had created some really exceptional ads to communicate his message, and I looked forward to the meeting in which I would present them. It took place in the office of the BBDO executive in charge of the Gillette account, with just the three of us present.

I began to show our work with great enthusiasm, and after explaining the first three of about ten ads, which included reading each ad’s copy celebrating Gillette’s product development excellence, I paused for some reaction and discussion. None was forthcoming. The client was out cold, his head tilted backward, his mouth open, his eyes shut to the world - my world of creatively brilliant work going totally unnoticed.

I looked at our account executive, who just shrugged his shoulders as if to say he had no idea what we should do. I again thought of the “inadvertent noise ploy” but this time I found myself more annoyed than fearful that I and the work were somehow guilty of losing his attention. I decided to tailor my presentation to my snoozing audience.

“The next ad in our campaign,” I said, “shows how the fragamitz explacitor that Gillette scientists discovered while on their most recent trip to the rings of Saturn enables a razor to shave without a man actually touching it, by virtue of the omnisigalian refluxivation effect.”

I glanced from the face of the client to our account man, who had turned pale, his eyes as wide open as the client’s were shut, violently shaking his head back and forth and frantically waving his hands at me to stop. Since the client still showed no sign of consciousness, I was determined to go on.

“The blah-blahvian regenerosis highlighted in the copy of this ad,” I continued, “positions Gillette at the forefront of companies currently employing the most advanced cataclimatic symbiocrustavian technologies, supported by marketing executives who wouldn’t know an Einsteinian golamicinist from a Freudian contubist.”

By this point, our account executive looked like a mime in a state of silent apoplexy, which became total panic as I picked up a large glass ashtray from his desk, and dropped it on the client’s foot.

“Sorry,” I said, as he woke with a start. “As you could see,” I added with an ingratiating smile, “I got a little carried away explaining the last ad in the campaign. We’re really excited about it, and we hope you are as well,” I concluded.

“Oh, that’s okay,” he replied, wincing as he handed me the ashtray. “I really can’t tell you how much I like this work,” he continued, not realizing the literal truth of his comment. “It’s terrific and exactly what I was looking for.”

I gathered up the ads for him, he put them in his briefcase, and we said our good-byes. I added, “Sweet dreams,” under my breath, and he left.

“Don’t you ever pull a stunt like that again,” the account guy exclaimed when the client was out of earshot. “What if he woke up?” he asked, still horrified.

“He did,” I answered, “and he loved the work, so what’s the problem?” I said, laughing. “But you’re right,” I assured him, hoping that might have a calming effect on his agitation. “I’ll never do that to him again,” I promised.

And I didn’t, because he was gone from Gillette shortly thereafter, likely having fallen asleep in front of someone for whom he wasn’t the client - someone less tolerant, less accommodating, and less forgiving than I.


This is more a last story than an afterword. I tell it here because as the stories go, this one is not as advertised. It has nothing whatever to do with the ad game or anyone connected with it. It’s about a different game, and it’s only about me, a few years before I got into the business. But somehow, it is perhaps a precursor of the kinds of things that lay in store for me, many of which I have written about in this book.

It happened during my junior year at Columbia College. When I got there, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, which in today’s milieu would be no problem. But back then, it was a source of considerable anxiety. You were expected to declare your major course of study early on, preferably even when you applied for admission to college. And having come from Stuyvesant High School in New York, where the importance of math, physics, and chemistry far outweighed anything resembling a liberal art, I entered Columbia as a pre-chemical engineering student. That commitment lasted less than two years, since the one thing I learned for sure during that time was that I had no interest whatsoever in the subject.

But I did have something to which I dedicated myself completely - becoming a member of the varsity basketball team. To this day, I can’t explain why that possessed me. But it did. And it was no easy task. While I played a pretty good game in the schoolyards, I had never played basketball on a regular team, having not grown to my six-foot height until my freshman year in college.

Perhaps I was taken with the fact that Columbia’s star player was Chet Forte [’57], who at five feet, six inches tall was nevertheless an All-American, recognized as one of the best college players in the country. And if Forte’s fame was not enough, Columbia’s basketball coach, Lou Rossini, also had a national reputation, having guided the team to successes rarely achieved by an Ivy League school in postseason NCAA tournaments.

Funny Business

A screen grab from a commercial for Gillette's Foamy with Lemon-Lime shave cream

In any event, I came to Columbia focused on the day that tryouts would begin for the basketball program. My first step was to try and make the freshman team. In those days, freshman were not allowed to play varsity ball, but being on the “frosh” squad was essential to any hope of ever moving up to the varsity. And for a “walk on” player (one who had never been approached or scouted for the basketball team, and whom the coaches had never heard of), I did pretty well. The practices were conducted by Rossini himself, and I survived the first few “cuts,” in which in the squad was reduced in number.

I felt my chances improve with each of the few encouraging comments Rossini directed to me personally, the most memorable being when I was playing against a guy much taller than me, a player specifically recruited from a top Ohio high school team.

“Jesus Christ,” screamed Rossini at the kid, “that guy’s half your size, he never played high school ball, and he’s beatin’ the shit outta you.”

As fate or Rossini would have it, I didn’t beat quite enough of it out of him, since he made the team, and I didn’t. I was relegated to the “B” squad. But since that team was an integral part of the program, I felt I had done reasonably well. I was one of the five “starters” and was invited to the pre-season varsity practices during my second year.

Again, I thought I kept up well enough with guys who had far more experience - not to mention natural talent - than I, but as the squad was progressively trimmed down, I eventually got cut. But one of the assistant coaches told me Rossini wanted me to play on the junior varsity team.

Okay, I thought, it’s not the varsity, but if Rossini wants me there, that’s still a pretty good sign.

So I played JV basketball during my sophomore year, after which I was again asked to join the varsity practices the following season. By now, I assumed I was better known and certainly had more experience in the program than any recruited player coming from the freshman team, and therefore stood a good chance of finally making the varsity, despite being a junior with only two years of playing eligibility remaining.

But I was wrong. I found myself again on the JV team.

This time, I gave considerable thought to whether I had any hope at all of ever wearing the varsity uniform. I had no illusions of ever playing very much, if at all, in actual games. But I still had the albeit fading hope of being asked to fill in, for example, in case someone got hurt, or whatever.

Funny Business

Rosenshine's ad for Chiquita Bananas, one of the first brands he worked on as a copywriter at BBDO

So I played for the JV team again. Then, at mid-season, “whatever” happened - three varsity players were put on academic probation for low grades in the fall semester, and could not play for the second half of the schedule.

This was it, I thought. It was the break I’d been playing and praying for. And sure enough, at the next JV game, Rossini came in person to watch us play, something he hadn’t done even once in all the time I had been on the team. I was certain he had only one purpose in mind - to pick one or two of us to join the varsity for the rest of the season.

With visions of my dream dancing in my head, and doses of extra adrenaline pumping through my veins, I played the game of my life. I was high scorer with 24 points. I took rebounds, got assists and made steals, all in front of Rossini, who I could see with well-timed glances, taking notes.

Then, when the final buzzer sounded, I watched through the corners of my eyes as Rossini moved to the doorway that led off the court - no doubt, I thought, positioning himself to say something to whomever he had selected for the varsity team. I timed my exit so that I’d be the last one off the court, thinking it would be easier that way for Rossini to talk to me privately. With my towel draped around my neck and my head lowered modestly, eyes on the floor, I walked past him, expecting the tap on my shoulder.

He tapped. I turned. He looked me straight in the eyes, and smiled as he reached out to give me an approving punch on my arm.

Nice game, Shineberg,” he said. And he walked away.

So did I. I never played another minute of basketball for Columbia.

Years later, it occurred to me that if I ever wrote an autobiography, Rossini’s final words to me would make a good title. But I tell the story here because I will never write that other book. My life is my family, which is nobody else’s business. And as for my business, you’ve just read the most interesting parts of it.

The rest I have no wish to relive, least of all to write a how-to-succeed-in-advertising book. I think I’ve already offered the best advice I can.

Don’t lose your sense of humor. You’ll need it.

Excerpted from Funny Business: Moguls, Mobsters, Megastars and the Mad, Mad World of the Ad Game, by Allen Rosenshine, reprinted by permission of the publisher. © 2006 by Allen Rosenshine. All rights reserved.





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