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January 17, 2014

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Another admirer of Margalit Fox here. The main Times obituary writer in my youth was Alden Whitman, whose stuff was good enough to be published in an anthology after he retired. I think Fox is every bit as good a writer and specifically obituarist--she foregrounds the most noteworthy features or events in the subject's life rather than simply reciting it as though everything were of equal importance. I hadn't known of Protas before I read this the other day, though I was living in New York during much of the Levy's campaign.

Not all men indeed: remember Mary Tinker's brilliant TV ads for Alka-Seltzer? (A lively period in advertising--the DDB Volkswagen print ads, Stan Freberg doing radio for the California Prune board--"Today the pits--tomorrow the wrinkles!" And Jerry della Femina's very funny book about it all, "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor," and Philip Daugherty's column in the Times Business section... good stuff.)

John: Have you read Margalit Fox's excellent "The Riddle of the Labyrinth," published last year? It's about the long and obstacle-ridden attempt to decipher Linear B. Reads like a good mystery novel.

I first became aware of "Advertising" as 19 year old while commuting to work from The Bronx to NYC by bus and subway. I couldn't help but notice the Levy's Real Jewish Rye posters with a Native American, then an African American, a Chinese American and others— and I got it. I knew what they were trying to do and it worked so simply and clearly. I happen to be Italian. I was ironically working at an Ad agency as a clerk, in an obscure department with absolutely no understanding of what my company did. As a clerk, I began asking everyone what they did—the creative department— that was it for me. I began to go to the School of Visual Arts at night and with encouragement from my instructors, who were Art Directors in the day, I put together a portfolio. I applied for a job at another agency. I got it. It was at Doyle Dane & Bernbach, as an assistant art director. It was the agency that created "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Real Jewish Rye". How incredibly lucky I was. And I did meet Judy Protas. And I will go to her tribute at the Yale Club. Richard Ferrante

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