Shelley Menning Chiat
Photo by Chuck Phillips
One of my absolute favorite people from my years at Chiat/Day was Mrs. Chiat herself: Mrs. Shelley Menning Chiat. She was extraordinarily kind to me, as well as many of you, and I've always had a soft spot in my heart for her. I also know that Jay was her soulmate, up until the end.
After some coaxing, I finally got her to contribute a comment to the site. She lives in Malibu. I got Chuck Phillips, who also now lives in Malibu, to contribute a photo of Shelley on the beach at sunset.
I can't think of a more beautiful contribution to the site than this:
dear steve, it was good to get your email, your compliments are very kind. i applaud your endless work on the website, it’s extremely generous of you to keep the c/d family together and in touch.
i too have warm and bountiful memories of almost everyone in n.y. and l.a. jay and the agency were the heart of my life for a full quarter-century—50% of my entire life, and 100% of my adult life. despite that long and unbroken thread, my life has always been the opposite of his in many ways—small, quiet, and for the most part private. i’m grateful to have been a part of four generations of chiats, perhaps if i’m lucky someday it will be five. i know that after his family, jay sustained a passion for few things; yet for him the work and the people doing it never slipped to second place.
people speak of the c/d experience changing their lives and i know the reverse is also true. despite behaviours that may have indicated otherwise, jay cared deeply about the people in the offices. you contributed a richness to his life that few are fortunate enough to know, and you are all to be deeply thanked and truly appreciated for that.
jay and i spent time in northern california when i lived there. among other things, i was restoring historic properties and for several years lived in jack london’s home adjacent to his aptly named ‘beauty ranch’. until then i had not read many of london’s works but i became more familiar with them during that time. below is a passage attributed to him that seems to fit:
"The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic. I would rather be ashes than dust, I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
you are all a part of the sun and air and sparkle, the brilliant blaze, the superb meteor and the magnificent glow that was jay’s life.
he could not have had that, nor could he have lived his life happily, without you.