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We recently caught up with advertising icon and genius Larry Tate in the men’s grill at the ultra-posh country club where some of the biggest advertising deals of the last half of the 20th century were made. Mr. Tate rarely grants interviews but today he was “more relaxed” than usual. This is a rare interview indeed — his first in over 35 years.
“I’ll put my number one man on your account.”
The Rare Interview With Larry Tate …
Dirque du Soleil: As a principal at McMann & Tate Advertising, you are one of the most famous icons the advertising industry has ever known. What was the proudest achievement in your brilliant and creative advertising career?
Larry Tate: When we landed the Wang Chung Noodle Company account, I came up with an absolutely splendid slogan: “Wang Chung Noodles–The Noodles That Taste Good.”
Dirque du Soleil: Gee, that’s a super kick ass slogan Larry! Are there any other achievements top your career list?
Larry Tate: Well, there was the Gilbert’s Gin Company account. After sampling the client’s product over an extended period of research at groovy Lake Tahoe, I came up with the wonderfully fanciful slogan: “Gilbert’s Gin–The Gin That Tastes Good.”
“The Gin That Tastes Good.”
Dirque du Soleil: Again, another super kick ass slogan Larry! But didn’t your number one adman Darrin Stephens actually write the slogans for Wang Chung Noodles and Gilbert’s Gin?
Larry Tate: Maybe. Well, darn it, yes. But, I was the one who made Darrin stay up late for weeks at a time to finish all the work while I took the clients to swanky country clubs for golf and lots of double martinis. You know…drinking heavily was a heck of a lot more acceptable during the ’60s and ’70s. And, if you got sloshed or asked for a double martini during a particularly stressful moment, it was perceived as pretty darn funny … none of this “politically incorrect” hoo-ha. Yep, pretty darn funny.
Editor’s Note: We weren’t about to touch the persistent industry rumor that Larry Tate actually had two Darrin Stephens working for him around the clock at McMann & Tate.
“I was the one who made Darrin stay up late for weeks at a time to finish all the work.”
Dirque du Soleil: So, you drank a lot of double martinis as a part of your job at McMann & Tate?
Larry Tate: I’m afraid you are confused, my good man. I’m an advertising executive with McMann & Tate and an advertising professional. But like anybody in this business I work hard and I play harder. The lines between business and pleasure gets a little blurry sometimes, know what I mean? All that matters really is the quality of the work. Don’t you agree?
Dirque du Soleil: Of course, Larry. Would you like something maybe a little alcoholic to drink right now?
Larry Tate: Yeah, a double martini — no, better make it a triple. Now see? That is funny. And in my day, it was particularly funny to get really smashed and then slurringly ask for “jush one more li’l (hic) drinky-winky.”
“One more little drinky winky?”
Dirque du Soleil: As I said earlier, you are one of the most recognized ad industry icons ever. Do you think it’s ironic that you have been more recognized in the advertising industry than, say, David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett or Donny Deutsch?
Larry Tate: (Hic) Who in the heck are those guys anyways? Can I get another triple martini here? Extra olives please (hic) and a little drier this time if you don’t mind.
“By the way, you are picking up the tab here, right?”
Dirque du Soleil: It would be my pleasure to pick up the tab Mr. Tate, we’re on a company expense account today.
Larry Tate: Good man, good man. Now, where is that super dry triple martini? (hic)
Dirque du Soleil: Here comes your drink now I believe.
Larry Tate: (Sips his new martini several times) Mmm mmm good! Oh, I, ahhhh, came up with that slogan too …. (hic)
“Drinking heavily was a heck of a lot more acceptable during the ’60s and ’70s.”
Howard Sprague, the particular and fastidious town clerk of Mayberry, North Carolina, was a fictional character played by the actor Jack Dodson from 1966 to 1971. Howard was a nerd before the term was coined as he went through life in Mayberry clueless and oblivious to what the citizens of Mayberry really thought of him and his nettlesome presence among them.
Howard Sprague was distinguished by a very well groomed mustache, stiff-looking pressed suits and the signature bow ties that completed his stuffy businessman ensemble. He often spoke of philosophy and culture to those who were willing to listen to what he had picked up at community college in Mount Pilot. These deep conversations usually occurred at Floyd’s Barber Shop or in front of the Mayberry courthouse.
Above all, Howard was a subjugated momma’s boy who lived with his meddling and manipulative mother in Mayberry. Howard’s mom faked heart palpitations once to stymie a double-date with Sheriff Andy Taylor and his frumpy date Helen Crump. When Howard was invited to join an all-male social lodge in Mayberry, Howard’s mother maneuvered Goober into blackballing Howard to prevent his membership in the club.
Despite all of this, Howard went wild – twice! After his mother remarried and moved to Mount Pilot with her new husband, Howard tried, with difficulty, to fit into the swinging sixties by becoming a hipster. He transformed his persona by donning a silk smoking jacket complete with a pompous ascot. He kept his trademark mustache but he grew no hipster sideburns or even a soul patch to complete his version of the sixties hipster. Poor Howard still had no clue but hey, this was Mayberry and he must have seemed pretty hip to the others. Yeah, right.
After about a week or two of beach combing and drinking rum with a character played by Harry Dean Stanton, Howard once again decided to change his life by packing his bags and returning to Mayberry to the drab lifestyle that previously drove him crazy. He could find no compromise between these two conflicting lifestyles, even with Harry Dean Stanton as a drinking buddy! As soon Howard returned to Mayberry, he shaved his island beard and returned to his stale business wardrobe as well as his very dull job as town clerk of Mayberry. C’est la vie, Howard.