REPAST THEN HEART ATTACK
What follows is an utterly fictional explanation of how we were blessed with and then lost the world’s greatest commercial jingle ever. The jingle was not so much approved as settled on after a benign lunch meeting that ended in calamity.
It was a lunch between Sedward, a tall, polished managing partner at a middling, mid-town agency. Sedward’s number one, Fletchard, a large blunt object of a man in a dreadful brown suede sport coat. And Sedward’s assistant, Gully.
Fletchard ordered a skirt steak well done with fries and gravy. It was his typical shtick, “I like my steak hot and my oysters cold.” Which he also ordered. The oysters were gigantic, from somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico; he slurped them down, spritzed with lemon and Tabasco.
With the back-and-forth conversation about accounts and pitches, Fletchard neglected the seventh oyster. Which he thought was for the best; it looked like an Eisenhower dollar that had been shitted out by Neptune after 1000 years of digestion.
And Fletchard had barely touched his Dirty Hoe, the new it-beer concoction all the kids at the office were hot for. Fletchard hadn’t yet lived down his insistence on Bud Ice for the company Christmas party. He hoped that eventually, his up-to-date beer choices would circulate the office underground.
Regrettably, that would never happen. As the expeditor was delivering the round of sorbet to the table, Fletchard had his heart attack.
THE BEST COMMERCIAL JINGLE EVER
“You bet your sweet ass… per crème?” Is what, just an hour before, Fletchard had incredulously asked the room.
He sat with his team around the small conference table at EEA, Edwards, and Edwards and Associates. The table was littered with scripts of failed jingles and strewn research, and nearly-empty water bottles.
Maybe his team was still hungover. Fletchard swore that on Monday mornings, he could smell the weekend’s merriment withering on their breaths.
It was annoying; the Aspercreme account was huge, they needed a home run. And he was jealous. He positioned a hideous coffee mug almost to his lips. “That’s it?”
“No sir,” White returned, a little too quickly. Already on the defensive, goddammit, was what he was thinking. White was a tall half-bro, athletic but clumsy, a closet Gillmore Girls fan, and handsome enough to where none of that mattered.
White was a Millennial before the Millennials were Millennials, constantly clutching either his Sidekick or beloved Palm IIIc.
He would often point whichever device at the people he was speaking to. He did so to Fletchard as he hummed a quick bar, then sang, “you bet your sweet Aspercreme.” Knowing he was basically returning the rebuffed concept back to Fletchard with a bit more massage.
FLETCHARD DOESN’T BUY IT
“Well, you say, ‘no,’ but that’s exactly what I just said, White.” And then, finally, Fletchard took a sip of his coffee.
As was usual with Fletchard, the sip only appeared to be a longer swig. He enjoyed bathing the follicles of his walrus mustache in a warm mug of coffee, letting the follicles dance in the warm black liquid.
And was as often the case Fletchard didn’t bother dabbing dry his soaked mustache. Gully called it a “face gerbil,” and the name stuck.
Drops of coffee clung to the “face gerbil” before losing grip and falling into his burnt orange tie. People around the office were no longer surprised by this.
“Yes, but the jingle, it’s quick, it’s very blunt, it will be in and out of most ears before anyone knows it. BAM, ‘you bet your sweet Aspercreme.'” White returned.
“What does that jingle even have to do with pain relief?” Fletchard turned to stare out the window, which opened to another wall of bricks just feet away. “You got jingles about back pain? Look—how about ‘you bet if it’s Aspercreme?’ We can use your glissando.”
“Oh, c’mon, that’s not a jingle.”
“It is a jingle,” Fletchard getting heated, “I was writing jingles when you were in diapers.”
“Not your ‘Nate Lions, Home of Warehouse Pricing,’ shit again.”
Fletchard wheeled around, pointing a finger, then stifled what really wanted to come out of his mouth with a bite of the lip. “Look, your Jingle’s not a jingle—certainly not a commercial jingle.”
WHITE REMINDS FLETCHARD OF THE DEODORANT COMMERCIAL JINGLE
“‘By Mennen’ never seemed like much of a jingle either, and yet, Seinfeld canonized it.”
“Mennen got lucky.”
A hand raised at the table, “I mean—I’m not so sure, we can’t forget Teen Spirit.” that was Jake. Just a year in from some Vermont college, attempting to bolster White’s case with the dumbest fucking aside ever.
“No, no, no, no,” White pointed his Sidekick directly into his forehead, pressing at the source of a headache coming on fast.
At this moment, Jake would have been a bank teller in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That is, had he not been lucky enough to have a father who went to military school with a guy whose cousin was a somewhat notable dude that knew the managing partner of their firm.
The somewhat notable dude was notable for a coffee table book he had recently published about Kennedy weddings; your nan probably owns it.
Jake even dragged his father to the interview; New York had intimidated him. He got offered a job and was somehow still lucky enough to bump into Letterman’s producers, who handed him tickets to the show. Tom Waits performed.
INANITY WAS GOING TO SINK WHITE’S BABY
“Teen Spirit should count if you get Seinfeld,” Jake said.
“What the hell is Teen Spirit?” Fletchard didn’t really want to know.
“It’s a song,” White didn’t like getting railroaded, especially by an associate-level. “And I feel like we’re deviating, now.”
“Just a song, it was one of the biggest songs in one of the most important movements in music history.” Jake was taking this borderline non-sequitur all the way.
“I think I even used Teen Spirit,” that was Janice, practically singing.
Janice lived on Staten Island, still had a Walkman for her commute that only ever housed Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411? Remix album. She knew Ron Popeil personally, having worked with Ronco. Her favorite work had been for the GLH-9 infomercials.
And she absolutely loved to nonplus White.
FLETCHER HAD HAD ENOUGH OF THE COMMERCIAL JINGLE
“This isn’t a brainstorm session people, I have a lunch in 25, and I need this nailed down,” Fletchard was getting annoyed, and the warm coffee that soothed his ‘face gerbil’ was getting cold.
White stood, “sir, it’s nailed down.” He began pointing his Palm wildly around the room. “Video of a tennis player, narration, commercial jingle. ‘You bet your sweet aspercreme.’ It’s a home run.”
“But is some old bastard going to see the spot and think, gee, that is exactly what I need for my back pain?”
“You bet your sweet Aspercreme!” Janice sang haughtily.
Even still, White could kiss her; Fletchard had to stifle a grin.
“Yes, Janice, that’s exactly it,” White began pointing his Palm IIIc at her. “Exactly it. Janice gets it.”
Fletchard lowered the awful mug level with his diaphragm. “This might play in Wheel of Fortune, and it’s funny, I appreciate the play on words—”
“Jeu de mots!” Jake blurted.
“For God’s sake, man…” Fletchard snapped.
Jake wilted, lowering his eyes sheepishly to Fletchard’s coffee mug with its fading, shitty school painting.
FLETCHARD HELPED FUND A LIBRARY
Fletchard’s son had made the mug for him in an art class, and then Fletchard had to pay the ransom for the school to release it. The project was ostensibly for Father’s Day, but really it was just a school library scheme.
Maynard, Fletchad’s son, didn’t give a shit about Father’s Day or refurbished libraries or any of that shit, and it showed. The mug was clumsily soaked with blotches of primary colors. They ran down the surface in colored tears from plump paint splotches.
There was a man, a stick figure lording over the mug at the center of the color maelstrom. It was supposed to be Fletchard, but there was no resemblance.
The mug project was nine years ago; Maynard was now thinking about which college choice would piss off his father the most. Essentially whichever school was the most expensive. Williams College was atop his list.
The mug had survived into the new century, the towers had been hit, Fletchard had gotten a divorce.
Hell, his own father had died, he found out while editing a Barbie commercial years ago. He actually laughed despite his anguish while putting together a video of cheery kids handing a Barbie back in forth at the beach.
He had been holding the mug on the call about his father’s passing.
JAKE OUT FOR BLOOD
“Sir, if I may,” that was Jake, holding up a hand in his typical fashion. A gesture that looked equal parts half-assed salute and karate chop. “If we really want to reach Martha, we’re not going to want to insult her in her own home.” Jake was switching sides now.
Who was Martha? Martha was EEA’s target audience persona. She was a fictional character from Holcomb, Kansas. She was somewhat active, was fond of her dog and 2 cats and had attended some college. Martha worried as equally about violent street crime as she did sinking Sunday dinner in the wrong flavored gravy.
Martha represented the target-market for the trolamine salicylate, Aspercreme.
Sure, there was a good reason for concern. The jingle walked a tightrope of good taste. Also, the client was willing to, in their words, “own daytime for the foreseeable future.” And their window could even encroach on primetime’s more lucratively priced ad slots.
Fuck Martha thought White; she’s a fictional spinster. The spot would wind up all over MSNBC, at best, and it needed to be punchy.
“Fletch, our car’s out front, you ready to make tracks?” that was Sedward, managing partner peeking through the conference room door.
Fletchard jumped to, “sure thing, we were wrapping up.”
He hurried for the door leaving behind his notes and terrible coffee mug. “I want some backups by the time I get back. And no commercial jingle with a swear.” Fletchard said as he hustled out.
Fletchard would never return.
FLETCHER HAD A HEART ATTACK, BUT THAT ISN’T WHAT KILLED HIM
Those that spoke about the heart attack at the wake expressed shock; Fletchard was only 57. He didn’t smoke. He had quit microwaving sticks of butter in a mug to pour over this toast.
Sure, he could be seen with coffee from first light through Nightline. It was more to benefit his “face gerbil” than take advantage of the stimulants.
Indeed, there were the few times he’d lift a line off the Pro Tools box with a producer or the sound guy. Except, who could blame him? Marathon audio sessions were brutal, and besides, everyone was doing it.
Fletchard certainly didn’t exercise… he once told a PA he couldn’t understand aerobics. “As soon as I whip myself into shape, I’ll get mugged and stabbed and die right there on the pavement,” he said. “And then all that sweat would be for nothing. No Thanks.”
Although focusing on the heart attack was pretty pointless, the heart attack hadn’t killed him, at least not directly.
Vibrio vulnificus killed Fletchard a few days later.
It was a miserable series of days marked by sky-high fevers and shitting his brains out.
And then Fletchard died on Friday.
YOU BET IF IT’S ASPERCREME
In the pandemonium, White was put in charge of the Aspercreme creative. And the client initially loved it. “It’s catchy,” was the consensus.
Until it ran in Scarborough Country, the show’s host decided to make a big deal about sneaking “ass” into a commercial about pain relief back-diapers.
The next morning the client had left a voice-mail requesting some alternatives; their minds hadn’t been made up about it. But did EEA have something as killer as the first without the risk of conservative controversy?
White was flummoxed; he had hitched his cart to one horse. And it was the winning horse, until Joe Scarburough. “How is anyone making a big deal about this when goddam ‘ass’ is in their name?!” He had protested. “Someone should’ve made a big deal at the copyright office.”
Amid the ensuing uproar, Janice off-lined to Sedward that it had been Fletchard’s dying wish that the commercial jingle be “you bet if it’s Aspercreme.”