Nat and his 6-year-old son, Jack.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nat Whitten, a former copywriter at Chiat/Day NY. I hope you were lucky enough to work in the New York office when Nat was there (’85-’89) because he was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to work with. He had one of those personalities you wished you could figure out how to bottle. Turns out you sort of could, for Nat had a secret to generating that irrepresibly happy personality which he is now able to philanthropically share with the world.
Before I tell you more about that, I asked Nat to fill in a few biographical blanks for those of us whose memories these days sort of work like New York City alternate-side-of-the-street parking:
In answer to your question, I believe I was considered a "senior writer" when I left C/D to start Weiss, Whitten (with fellow alumnus Marty Weiss) in 1989. Worked on Trump Casino Hotel, Gaines Cycle Dog Food, NYNEX Yellow Pages, and Reebok, to name a few. Started as secretary in media department for Bob Zach and fill-in receptionist. I was not very good at either, but Valerie Laskos took pity on me and moved me to creative department, where I hounded Jay for a year to give me a job as a writer. He finally did to shut me up. Also published the "Chiat/Daily", a short-lived underground paper about all-things C/D.
Nat and his co-author, W.R. Morton, have written a book. It's called "Secrets of the Superoptimist: The Classic Guide to Success. In Any Situation."
And now you, too, can own your very own copy, as I now do. (Hint: it would make a lovely holiday gift for yourself or someone you know who needs some "wisdom transmissions.")
I goaded Nat into providing me with his thoughts about working at Chiat/Day ….
I will forever be grateful to Jay Chiat for teaching me the meaning of the term "work ethic", as well as "@$*%# late car service", "where's Adelaide", and "not enough".
In fact, there's rarely a creative project where the V.O.J. (Voice of Jay) doesn't speak to me and prod me to do better. At least, I think it's Jay. I get Jay and God confused a lot.
A recent conversation Jay and I had involved a project outside of the realm of advertising. In addition to being a freelance copywriter and creative director for the past 10 years, I've always nibbled around the edges of other creative endeavors, the latest being a pop culture oddity entitled "Secrets of the SuperOptimist." We sold this book to a mass market publisher who proceeded to redesign it and dumb it down (something that never happens in advertising). Instead of "going with the program" and letting them destroy the soul of the book, I heard Jay say "Don't let them f... it up." So we bought back the rights and have signed on with the ferociously independent Vitally Important to put it out in a smaller, but more honest way.
Should any of my mates be looking for that special holiday gift, I encourage them to visit www.vitallyimportant.com, or one of our distributors --- the fantastic underground SF institution Last Gasp or SPD. And yes, it's available at Amazon.
While some of the secrets might contradict the Sayings of Chairman Jay, I believe he would approve of the effort nonetheless. Sure, he would grouse a bit about the contrarian take on our rampant consumer culture. And point out the time it took could have been better spent creating something truly significant. Like a great ad. But I think he would have supported the anti-authoritarian viewpoint which made working at Chiat such a kick-ass experience.
And don't worry, Jay. I'm not quitting my day job.
SECRET #40: When the Lord is ready to speak to you, have a pen and paper handy.
SECRET #34: While you may make mistakes, you yourself are not one.
SECRET #47: Have interesting answers to questions, even if you have to make them up.
SECRET #69: Whatever you're thinking of charging, add 30%.