New York and Bartles & Jaymes. We’re shooting all over the place, Katz’s Deli, Brooklyn Bridge, The Plaza Hotel, a few other icons. Fun, sort of. We’re having dinner one night in my favorite Italian restaurant (of that time). Riney, Jerry Andelin (Hal’s right hand man), Hal’s producer, and some of my people. Hal loves Barolo so I order a major Barolom, but Hal is still grumpy.
Barolo has defined our relationship from the beginning. Hal had a few passions: old Barolo, cheap Bourbon, and cigarettes. When I first met Hal, I would take him to Valentino, a restaurant in a weird section of Santa Monica whose owner had a passion for Italian wines and a collection of prewar Barolos. Barolos were a rustic wine (as all true Italian wines are) and these prewar Barolos were one-third sediment after they were decanted yet had an amazing quality of richness, ethnicity, and power. The Barolo we were having that evening was nothing like the ones we would have at Valentino, but they still were called Barolo.
In the middle of the dinner, Hal began to have a meltdown. He began to call me out for shooting the new Michelob campaign. The account was up for grabs and Hal was pitching it but I had shot a campaign for Michelob Dark that another agency was using for their pitch and they were winning.
There’s no idea there.
They know that but they don’t want an idea. They just want some provocative imagery to tie the beer to.
If that’s the kind of stuff they want, I’m going to resign the business.
Hal was bluffing, of course. I had gotten him an Anheuser Busch assignment that enabled him to open an office in Chicago and hire a number of great creatives (that Hal neutered). Hal had told me of his Michelob ideas late one evening, and they were really Budweiser ideas in disguise. I think he was hoping that someone would see that and give him the flagship account. Hal had little knowledge of how a large corporation worked and I had a direct line to August Bush through Jack McDonough and Mike Roarty, the two guys that ran the ad and marketing departments.
Hal, you’re just pissed because you don’t know how to do that stuff.
Hal gives me a look of hate and hurt and gets up to leave the table. Jerry follows him and gives him a grab/hug.
Hal, Joe didn’t mean anything.
Jerry, don’t lie. I meant every word.
By this time Hal is dragging Jerry toward the door like van Gundy being dragged across the basketball court by Alonzo Mourning (see above). Anyway, Hal came back to the table but didn’t speak the rest of the evening. I think he passed on the Barolo and hit the Bourbon.
Sometime later, Anheuser Bush awarded the account to DDB/Needham, the agency I worked with (not an accurate word) to do the ‘test’ commercial. I can’t be sure of this, but I needed a favor from Hal a few years later about Michelob and he wouldn’t do it. Revenge? I don’t know, but in the end, everything worked out and that’s a better story.