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Thursday, July 20, 2017

CHARACTERS FROM THE PAST

In my career in NYC where I worked as a young and up and coming designer, I had the opportunity of meeting many interesting people. These people came from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds that made life so much more interesting than the drabness of my hometown of Bellport. Bellport was a kind of purification or sifting if you will of what I grew up with in Brooklyn and there wasn't a whole lot of people that I met that even matched the color and flavors of Brooklyn.

When I graduated from college I took on the task of fulfilling my ambition of becoming a designer and creating things as a job to make a living from. Entering the field in the early 70's introduced me to many interesting people and opinions, all coming out of the Great Depression, expressing their points of view from their life experiences, this was a treasure trove for me.

Once such individual was a gentleman named Saul. Saul was the Executive Vice President of the ad agency I started with. He laid the groundwork for what I thought to this day the advertising world was all about.

Saul was a very fine artist, a painter who could also draw with his eyes closed and one-handed. Working during the Great Depression for the government painting murals for large public buildings like the one in Rockefeller Center. He received what is called a government commission. Having painted a mural or two I know how physically difficult that can be.

Saul married the boss's sister and was very influential in the decision making on a creative level. Saul spoke in short and to the point sentences, always cheerful and well-spoken. He carried a patrician air about him, with a white shock of hair, starched shirts and tailor made suits as well as a well-trimmed mustache. Saul was a very handsome man.

Saul would arrive every morning at 10:30 a.m. punctually. By 11:00 a.m. Saul had a full cocktail glass of vodka on his desk, as he would scan through or read a magazine on art, both fine and commercial. By 12:30 Saul was out the door visiting his mistress who had a lovely apartment around the corner from the office that he paid for. She was a beautiful girl, and lived in a very expensive place, well-furnished and stocked with all kinds of booze, particularly vodka. They would lunch together, and Saul would return to the office about 3:30 p.m. He would sleep off the booze at his desk until 5:00 p.m. Some days, before he went off to lunch as early as 11:30 a.m., Saul would pull out some reference material in the art department, take an empty drawing table and would draw sketches for cowboy novel dust jackets. The sketches would later be published as the cover art for the book jackets. The amazing thing about Saul was he was one-handed. His other arm and hand were badly deformed from birth.

Saul was a guy who broke all conventional rules, then rewrote them, and everyone loved him. I feel guilty because I should have been prissy and despised his lifestyle, especially his cheating on his wife, but I couldn't help myself but like him. Maybe I felt that I didn't live in his shoes, so what did I know, and what business was it to me.

Here was a man who could quote the best writers, discuss the movie industry from its inception and make a great recommendation for a restaurant.

When I left the agency for another job, I got a phone call from Saul, asking to meet me for lunch. We went to this little restaurant on one of the side streets along Second Avenue and he asked for a chance to do some artwork for me, which I gave him in a New York heartbeat. Pulling out a cigarette and holder, he had a European Dandy-like air that made me feel like I was in old Vienna or Paris as we discussed details and money. Here was a man who knew the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and other such luminaries, talking to me, a country boy from Bellport!

He is beyond a doubt, one of the most interesting characters I ever met. He made my life interesting, and I will always remember the great Saul.

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