Susan Goodman has provided a copy of the speech Jane Newman gave at Jay's New York memorial:
New York, May 29, 2002
We have come here today to reconnect and pay tribute to Jay Chiat who died on the 23rd April 2002.
When we were at 79 Fifth Jay once wrote in one of his wills that when he died he wanted nothing maudlin or sentimental just a party to celebrate his life. I think he would be very pleased with this.
Although no one person here will know everyone in the room (except possibly Adelaide) we all have at least two things in common. First, we all worked at the New York office of Chiat/Day at some point between 1981 and 1995.
Second, I think everyone here will agree that their life would not be as good as it is, if it hadn’t had Jay Chiat in it.
I am not going to review all Jay’s many accomplishments in advertising today --all his innovations and his awards. They have been well covered in articles in the press and I am sure we have all read several of them.
And we haven’t come here today just to celebrate that. Of course it is true that the legacy Jay, the icon, left the advertising world in general is amazing. But the legacy Jay, the man, left us personally is priceless.
And it is this legacy, the precious time we danced with him to his tune—the exhilarating dance of creative excellence—that we have come to celebrate tonight.
To be at Chiat Day in the 80s and 90s was to have membership in a club. A club where all the cards were stamped by Jay. It never existed before Jay and it will never exist again.
Everyone else in the industry observed his accomplishments from afar. For us in this room he was our coworker. At different times he was creative director, president, chairman of the New York office. And he could also fill in as office cleaner, receptionist, media planner, account executive. Jay stories are legendary in the business but if you worked in NY I am sure you have your own personal one.
My particular favorite was in the mid 80s when the agency had shot a TV commercial that turned out to be a dog. Jay’s response was “well we must bite the bullet”—meaning reshoot it. When Wolf told him how much it cost he quickly responded “maybe we should suck the bullet.”
For me it captures in a nutshell Jays unique and contradictory nature. In this case highly principled but also a practical realist ...... as well as his razor sharp wit.
In fact Jay was totally unique. All aspects of him were unique. I don’t think it is possible to ever describe him adequately. And he was full of contradictions. His impatience and short attention span were matched by incredible determination and dedication. His cranky acerbic wit came with a huge heart.
As someone said on the web site when you were called into his office you never knew if he was going to praise you or predigest you. And as we all know, having Jay in a meeting with you was sometimes a very mixed blessing. He wanted you off balance.
Jay once said: “when you accept the fact that you are never satisfied no matter what you do or what you achieve—once you make peace with that, then you are free to move on.” I think that explains a lot about him.
He loved change. I can’t imagine ever meeting anyone who would welcome change as much as Jay did. The fact he was never satisfied left him in perpetual motion. He had no interest in what was or what had been he was only interested in what could be. In this he was the very essence of creativity—always searching for the new, the innovative, the never-been-done-before.
In his vision of the way things should and could be he was a perfectionist. He wanted to create “new” better. His own personal credo was “good enough is not enough” and he donated it to the agency. He set the bar for new and better and when he got there—or we got there—he raised it again ... and again and again.
Jay had two criteria for who came to his dance. First you had to be smart and second you had to have passion. This was true of every department and every level.
I tracked down what he used to say at each new employee breakfast (after he had complained about people being late!)
It went:“We want you to love what you do. If you don’t love it and you are not passionate about it you probably should be doing something else. We want you to be passionate—very, very passionate, because that’s the only way we can do what we want to do which is to be the best agency there is.”
Jay not only inspired he also encouraged us. En—courage in the true sense of the word—fill with courage. When you were with him anything was possible. He gave us an open brief and asked us to do our best work. We did things that had never been done before and we found out there was nothing that we couldn’t figure out. He extracted from us far more than we could ever achieve on our own. Jay never baby sat anyone but he mentored everyone. All of us here today.
And as Jay danced the dance of creative excellence we were all his dance partners. We whirled and twirled around dancing better and faster than we had ever danced before.
Jay was also generous. He was generous with his art, with his ideas and he was generous to us all personally.
What other boss has chosen a Valentines gift for you every year and sent you fresh flowers on your anniversary? In good years he gave all the profit away in big bonuses. The agency had by far the widest stock distribution of any agency with living names on the door.
Jay lived large and lived young. Even at 70 he was still the youngest person in a room of 30 year olds.
He was compelling, irascible, unpredictable.
He could drive you nuts but there was nothing like being with him.
Nothing was ever ordinary when he was around.
I miss him, every aspect of him.
I miss his humor.
I miss his help.
I miss his hand written notes with “love Jay” on the bottom – he meant it – he loved us all.
Most of all though I will miss the dancing.
And whether you think you did your best work at Chiat Day or after you left I think you will agree we have all danced better for knowing Jay Chiat.
(Note: This speech uses a lot of material from a speech Kupe gave about Jay and it borrows extensively from comments on the web site and elsewhere.)