I was wet behind the ears when I landed the Reef Buick account.
I'd been servicing them as a direct client for a local radio station, and when I went into the agency business, they were one of my first full service clients.
General Manager John Kelley liked me 'cause I was young and aggressive.
Actually, I'm not sure why he liked me, but he gave me a break. Maybe he could sense that I needed one.
John Kelley was a gruff guy.
He had an explosive temper and a short fuse.
And, there was no question about who was running the shop. When Kelley roared, "Jump?" You jumped.
The only excuse for not jumping immediately was to ask, "How high, sir?"
I liked him and was terrified of him at the same time.
When I would stop by the dealership to approve newspaper proofs and radio and TV spots, we would meet in his office.
His office was very spacious. It had to be. It housed the biggest desk I had ever seen. Still have ever seen.
To give him paperwork I had to lean my whole body over the desk, fully extend my arm, and then slide the paper rest of the way.
Early on, when I had attempted to bring the papers around to his side of the desk, he had let me know in his I'm-trying-hard-not-to-kill-you voice to always stay on my side of the desk. I stuck to the lean and slide method from that day on.
One afternoon I brought in an independent music production company to pitch Kelley a jingle. Their presentation was slick and well-informed, but Kelley seemed distracted. Every few minutes he'd open the center drawer of his desk a few inches, look inside and then shut the drawer again.
I could tell that he didn't like these guys and I tried to wrap up the presentation.
But they kept talking.
And Kelley kept looking in his drawer.
When I finally got them out of there, I stepped back into the office to apologize.
I thought I was gonna get my head, and perhaps other body parts, handed to me.
"It's OK. It was a good idea. They made some strong points, but I don't need a lecture from some out-of-town jokers who think they know more about moving iron than I do. Keep working on the jingle, but not with those assholes."
"Thank you, Mister Kelley. I'm on it."
As I turned to leave, I couldn't help myself. "Mister Kelley, during the presentation you kept looking in your drawer. What was that all about?"
He shot me a who-do-you-think-you're-talking-to-boy look, but it quickly softened and he waved me over.
I stopped in my usual position, but he nodded and continued to wave me forward.
Holy crap! I was being invited to his side of the desk.
I didn't know whether to be happy or scared. Would they ever find my body? But I took the long walk around.
As I approached his chair, he opened the drawer.
It was empty.
But as I got closer, I saw a 3 x 5 card taped to the bottom of the drawer.
On it was scrawled: "Keep your big fucking Irish mouth shut."