A few years back Janet Reid sent me a book and said, “You gotta read this – it’s like being transported back in time.” I read it, and she was right. Richard Gilbert’s book Marching Up Madison Avenue was a journey back to an era when advertising was clever and ad men didn’t assume their readers were idiots.
When Fred and I were in New York for the BEA that year, Janet arranged dinner with Richard and his lovely wife, Marjorie. Since Fred and I didn’t have a clue where we were going, Janet stopped by our apartment and we beat feet for Riverdale, which ended up making us late. If anyone is so inclined as to try to keep up with Janet when she’s in a hurry, I hope they have good pair of rollerblades.
We shot out of the train like our backsides had been lit on fire – Janet in the lead. By the time we reached the restaurant, we were a good twenty minutes late. Horrified, we belched out our apologies. Richard and Marjorie are from another time – where grace and manners are a major part of their DNA. “Think noting of it,” Marjorie said while sporting one of the most beautiful smiles I’d ever seen. Ethereal. They insisted that we’d feel much better apologizing with a drink in our hands.
The evening was such fun, and I could see why Richard was so in love with his beautiful wife. She was the epitome of style and humor – one of those people you’re instantly drawn to because they ooze warmth from every pore. The night ended all too soon, as much hilarity ensued over Richard’s and Marjorie’s stories of the real ad men. And, over our objections, they wouldn’t hear of us trying to pick up the tab.
We never saw Marjorie again, but I never forgot what a lovely woman she was, and I hoped that some small part of me would emulate her when I grew up. So my heart was very heavy to hear of her passing today. The world lost a uniquely gracious woman, and I feel lucky for having spent one evening with her, since I knew she was Richard’s muse.
As I sat down at my desk, I was drawn to open up Richard’s book and read his dedication. How perfectly appropriate:
I was born Richard and spent most of my life as Richard and Marjorie. No question, the better half made the other half a whole lot better.
This, I believe. Godspeed, Mrs. Gilbert.