A couple of months ago I opened a shared email with a photo showing our old ad agency being torn down to make room for condos. Daniel F. Sullivan Company, 1266 Soldiers Field Road, Boston hadn’t been an agency in years, but now that physical reminder was going to cease to exist, too. DFS was fast becoming just an epic memory.
They say you always remember your first love, and yes, I remember his name but having not seen him since I was 7, I don’t really have the heart pumping desire to reconnect. The people I wanted to see again were those from my first ad agency. Sure I’ve seen several of them one-on-one, we’d even had a couple of micro gatherings, and connected through social media, I’d even worked with some over the years, but this promised to be bigger. It was time to reconnect with my mad ad past.
Five of us who’d been bound together by experiences – memories, laughter, dramas, and big wins and bigger losses in the ad world – the irreverent boss, the playboy art director (who’s now a happily married pastor BTW), the hilarious copywriter, the media buyer everyone always wanted to hang with, and me, the straight laced account supervisor/ media director convened in Boston tonight. Those descriptions though accurate make us sound more like television fiction than fact. It’s been a couple of decades for many of us but we resumed our roles more or less. This is going to sound like the babblings of a teenager (which we basically were give or take a few years) – but we were young and vibrant and excited to be in the best business in the most awesome office in the best city in the universe. We worked long hours sometimes and goofed off others. It was a family business that seemed to adopt new family members with each good hire. I don’t believe there was a married person in the bunch with the exception of Leo’s dad so we had plenty of time to share.
The ad world was different back then, martini lunches flowed, unless you were like me and substituted ice tea to the chagrin of the rest of the liquid luncheon crowd. I actually had a radio station vendor fire me – his client – because he said he couldn’t trust anyone who didn’t drink at lunch, and wine wouldn’t cut it. He insisted I have a ‘real’ drink. To my credit as a nervous new employee speaking to a much older man, I still refused anything. It wasn’t that I was on a high horse, I was simply trying to protect the brain I knew I’d be needing later in the afternoon. I hadn’t developed much alcohol tolerance and even one drink would make napping mandatory, but uncomfortable on my desk.
The conversation and giddy excitement over reconnecting in the heart of Boston meant we virtually ignored the view to keep engaging with one another. The core five plus a couple of spouses experienced considerable voids due to those who were missing whether just for the night (Peter, Sara), or missing eternally (RIP Bill S., Billy R, Bob S.).
The maddening highs and lows we shared back in the day were mellowed by time and wine and became the source of good-natured ribbing. “Remember staying out ’til the sun rose and still making it to work on time, bad hires that came in twos, the time Kelsey Grammer just didn’t show up for a commercial shoot, Patriot’s game tailgate parties at the then called Sullivan Stadium, (the Sullivan name was no coincidence), the wacky pitches for things like sunglasses with an FM radio on the ear piece (thanks to Rolan for bringing a pitch piece from that project), the softball league followed by a visit to the Bucket of Blood, the flapping orange robes of the Krishna’s gowns in the park across the street, the time we moved Susan out of a bad roommate situation in hours, Leo as Elvis…?”
We toasted our good fortune for having come together initially so many years ago and for our genius in regrouping tonight. I’ve often said the Daniel F. Sullivan agency ruined me for any other job in advertising. That nothing could ever be that much fun and emotionally intense again. And that’s true. But as it is when one moves from boyfriend to boyfriend and eventually spouse, it is also true that one can love an agency again, just differently. In fact a lunch is pending with another favorite agency in a couple of weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes. There won’t be as many surprises there; we already get together yearly.
On this night we did not see the sun rise, and were headed out of the city pretty much at the same time the young professionals (the ones that are the ages we were back then) started heading in for Thursday night revelries. But we will party on – we’re making it a goal to meet every six months and, not just at funerals!