‘The one about the Big Midwestern Paper Company’
First, big fat apologies for being late with my story this week. I was Out West for a big ole family reunion (referred to in my fam, with infinite fondness, as a ‘Henry HooHah’). Many adventures were had which I honestly do not have the time nor the photos (yet) to go into right now, including a last-minute extra bonus day with my Favorite Sister Laura, courtesy JetBlue:
The one thing I can report right now is that, yes, many amusing stories were told at this HooHah, most while holding a glass of wine, and sometimes, if the story-teller was really really lucky, with an extremely cute baby in his or her lap.
Oh, before I forget. The picture at the top of this post — the one showing me not really smoking but scaring my teensy niece by pretending to do so, was taken at one of the very first Henry HooHahs, held in Amagansett in, oh, I’m thinking, the early 90s. Yes, I was telling a story at the time. The one about the Chicago Manicurist shouting “Hold on to your son!” after being frightened by the sight of Middle Younger Brother Roger wearing a beret. (Someday, maybe, I’ll tell this one. But it involves using an accent, in a non-PC way at that, which would be tricky to relay in a blog post.)
So let me hop right to it and tell you the one about working on the Big Midwestern Paper Company. It was, and still is, called Kimberly-Clark. It was a client of my then-employer Ogilvy, and over the years I worked on advertising for two of its brands, Huggies Diapers and, ahem, Kotex. Trust me, I have more stories about my KC tenure than you can shake a paper stick at, but for this post I’m limiting myself to what came up at the HooHah, which was, naturally, a Travel Tale.
See, we used to fly out to Neenah, Wisconsin, where KC was based, a lot. We did this mostly so that we could present ideas for commercials to them. And then, if we were lucky and they bought the ideas, we’d fly out there to present the actual commercials, in various states of completion — the rough cut, the color-correction, the cut with the voice-over added, etc., etc. (These were days when viewing a ‘link’ meant a visit to a golf course.)
Suffice it to say there was a lot of flying. Which I loved then about as much as I do now. We’d do this flying on a regional airline owned by Kimberly-Clark called Midwest Express. KC started this airline so that they would have a nice way to ferry their executives around, and it was really plush. Every seat was first-class roomy, and made of leather to boot. The luxury-leather-shop smell on the plane was overwhelmed only by the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, which were actually baked, mid-flight, by our air hostesses. (Yes, it was ‘hostesses’ only at this antediluvian point in Air Travel.)
These hostesses were also strictly Midwestern, with accents to match. I used to love to ask what drinks were available, just to get them to say this:
Oh, and when it was time for dinner, these hostesses would ask (I’ll skip the recording this time): “Will you be joining us for dinner this evening?” I was always tempted to say “No, I think I’ll go out tonight for a change.”
Anyway. We’d land at Appleton International Airport, which was the nearest airport to Neenah. Now, even though this airport was ‘international’, a designation earned because the planes flew to a plant in (sorry, Mr. Trump) Mexico, it did not have those tunnely protected exit-ramp thingies like other international airports. Nope, you had to ‘deplane’ by walking down unprotected steps from plane to tarmac. Which could be treacherous — and really cold — during the winter. How cold? Well, all I can say is that, when you took your first breath on that first step, your nostrils froze shut.
Oh — and when we East Coast Ad Biz City Slickers would try to get into our rental cars after a KC meeting or Christmas Party (yes, we held them Out There), our car doors would invariably be frozen shut. When one of us would report this, several Native Neenans would simultaneously whip out their little canisters of de-icer spray. Which is, yes, a Thing. You can even buy it on Amazon. This kind gesture reminded me of the scene in ‘Starting Over’ where Burt Reynolds’ character is having a panic attack in Bloomingdale’s and asks for a valium. Whereupon a dozen or so New Yorkers simultaneously open their purses and offer him some.
Once we were safely ‘deplaned’, we’d rental-car ourselves over to the Paper Valley Hotel, which was the place to stay in Appleton. (I noticed that it’s now a Radisson. Well, la-di-dah, la-di-dah, as Annie Hall would say.) Now, I have no idea why this area is called the Paper Valley, there being no ‘valley’. The landscape, flat as a pancake, consists of a repeating pattern of strip malls, all containing, for some inexplicable reason, a waterbed store and a shotgun-shell emporium.
I will skip the part, space and time running out, about our Appleton dining options, except to say that my favorite was the Cook Your Own Steak Place, where you picked your slab of choice from a big refrigerated cabinet, then grilled it yourself over charcoal while clutching a huge cocktail and chatting with your clients. (The charcoal grill was inside the restaurant. Needless to say we had nothing like this in New Yawk City.)
Instead, I’ll wrap this up with the story about the first time I stayed at the Paper Valley Hotel. We had arrived late at night, after a long day of presenting ideas, eating large steaks and doing our darned bests to be client-friendly, so this tired Ad Girl had not inspected her room or surroundings, but just dropped wearily into bed.
The next morning I opened my cafe-curtained window to greet the day, only to discover that my first-floor ‘view’ was of a large shopping mall, where an auto show was in progress. See, the front of the hotel (where we had arrived and checked in) faced the street. But the back (where my room and its window was located) was built right into a mall, where busy shoppers that morning were milling about, inspecting the cars and checking out my jammies. Thank goodness I didn’t sleep in the nude. (Well, at least not on business trips, I didn’t. There could be a fire, or I could mistakenly grope my way into the hall instead of my bathroom, as a Producer Pal of mine once did, also at the Paper Valley.)
But enough already with the stories, which I could go on with till the cows come home. Let me close with a shot taken during my JetBlue flight cancellation ‘bonus day’, spent quite happily at my Favorite Sister Laura’s. Thank you, Dear Seester!
Amagansett, New York. July 2017