Selected Writings

Leonard the Artist
A San Francisco Story
(Story first appeared on SFist.com)

by Gary Carr

When I worked in San Francisco's Financial District, I passed Leonard nearly every morning. He'd be sitting cross-legged at the corner of Pine and Sansome, his back against a lamp post. Laid out in front of him on the sidewalk was his art - five or six sheets of 9-inch by 12-inch cardboard covered with photos clipped from magazines. Fashion models and cans of bug spray, ocean liners, running shoes, 747s, six-packs of Budweiser, and children on swings. The spaces between the photos were filled with fields of color rendered in crayon, black over yellow, blue over green over orange. Each cardboard rectangle was wrapped neatly and tightly in wide transparent tape, Leonard's version of lamination.

Most of the time, Leonard was in a foul mood, venting at passers-by, ranting about how someone had stolen all his possessions, or muttering about how he missed his meds that morning. I always stopped to talk with Leonard and give him a buck for one of his shiny collages. If you talked with him about his art, he mellowed instantly. His commentaries on his work revealed more about decades of brain-frying chemicals than the art itself. Pretty obviously, he was once a handsome guy, and probably brilliant. Now his teeth were nearly gone and his head twitched toward his right shoulder. But with his laminated collages, he was prolific. And proud. Some mornings, he'd disagree with my choice of pieces, and he'd give me a second as well, the one he thought I should have picked. But he'd always refuse an additional dollar, waving me off and saying, "No, that's for you."

Leonard told me he got his art materials at Raphael House. He said he stayed there, although his story was as multi-layered as his art. He also said he lived under a freeway or in the woods. But Raphael House was where he did his work. And where he had his greatest success in several years - scoring a 500-capsule bottle of Ibuprofen. His tooth problems must have been excruciating.

After three or four years of stopping to talk to Leonard, I had filled two large banker's boxes with his art and stashed them between some filing cabinets in my office. I always kept at least one of his pieces propped up on my bookcase. There was enough for a revolving exhibition. People would ask if it was something my kids had done.

"No," I'd say, "It's a Leonard. He's probably in his forties."

One day, I came to the corner, and no Leonard. He wasn't there the whole week. Then the whole month.

Weeks later, I came across another street person whom I'd seen Leonard talking to upon occasion, or more often than not, screaming at. I asked her about Leonard.

"Oh, the guy with the pictures?"

"Yeah."

"He died."

She glared at me as if it was my fault, then walked away, muttering.

A few months later, the night cleaning crew cleared our offices to shampoo the carpets. All my stuff was moved out into the hall. The next morning, everything was put back. But my old blue umbrella was gone. And so was Leonard's art.

Addendum
Leonard The Artist Since this piece was written, a work by Leonard the Artist has surfaced.


Bigger is not necessarily better
Confessions of an ad junkie

by Gary Carr

I'm an ad junkie. I'm the only person I know who leaves the room while the TV show is on, so as not to miss the commercials. No Tivo for me. Radio, too. When the clock radio goes off, I lie there longer than I should, listening to the ads.

Lately, small banks in the San Francisco Bay area have been challenging the majors by touting their superior, personal service. The ads are pleasant - soft piano music, friendly and sweetly earnest female voice. Almost makes me want to leave my current Bank of Behemoth and run off for a picnic on the lawn of Sweetvoice Bank and Backrub.

After a few weeks, Behemoth seems to have gotten the message. Now they're all soft and cuddly, too. They even copied Sweetvoice's music - changing only a note or two to avoid copyright infringement. It's big trying to look small.

And no wonder. Small is a business strategy that, when properly carried out, works very, very well.

Big companies see the wisdom in the small and personal approach. Trouble is, they're not really geared up to do it very well. When a major grocer says "This is your store," or a burger chain croons, "Have it your way," they very soon lose their audience in a sea of cynicism or indifference. Long-term, we as consumers need more than slogans.

How does all this help your business? Business success, as we see it, rests on three components:

1. Great product or service
2. Thorough understanding of your audience
3. Getting your message to the right people

If you're stuck at #3, Rising Moon Marketing & Public Relations can help. We know how to tell your story in a compelling way and get it across to your audience - through articles, press releases, media contacts...or an entire promotional plan.

Call us at (925) 672-8717, or click on carrpool@pacbell.net. Let us help you now with your most pressing business communication needs.



From the Annals of Consultancy
G. Edward Grimes, Marketing Pioneer: A Profile

by Gary Carr

How did a sharecropper's son from rural Kentucky rise to become the personal adviser to governors, industrialists, and European heads of state? How did a man with barely a sixth grade education learn to understand and implement some of the most complex economic development plans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries? How did this one-armed genius, afflicted with both a limp and a stutter, win the confidence of the power figures of his time, then leave a legacy for professional consultants to follow henceforth?

This is the story of G. Edward Grimes, who came to be known simply as "The Man with All the Answers."


Godey Edward Grimes was born in Flint, Kentucky in 1864, a year to the day before the end of the American Civil War. Grimes' father had run a coal-hauling business, which went bust because of the conflict. Irregulars from both the Union and Confederate sides appropriated the Grimes Company horses and wagons faster than Grimes pere could replace them, and the company went bankrupt. The Grimeses were reduced to the poverty of sharecropping, a memory which Godey Grimes would carry with him all his life.

At age 13 or 14, Grimes left the farm and his meager one-room schooling and apprenticed himself to Benjamin O'Neill, a local druggist and manufacturer of patent medicines. Once on his own, Grimes' first act was to drop the name Godey and go by his middle name, Edward, or Ed. Although he would use the initial "G" in official documents, "Godey" was gone forever. Grimes once revealed that his mother, "a dreamy, moon-eyed gal," had named him after a popular magazine of the time, Godey's Ladies' Book, and Grimes always ached to escape the appellation.

Working for O'Neill the druggist allowed young Grimes to witness firsthand an endless stream of customers - and their afflictions - that flowed through the apothecary shop. Soon, Grimes was selling medicines from horseback all over Appalachia, accompanied by a brace of pack mules.

In the early 1880s, Grimes found himself in Paducah, Kentucky, where he met Alexander Smith, the owner of a local candy company. Because he was enamored of Smith's daughter, a true belle of bluegrass society, Grimes spent much time in the Smith household, Sunday dinners being a particular favorite. He later recounted that the Paducah life was too good for a sharecropper's son to pass up, so he cut himself loose from the itinerant patent medicine route and took a job at the candy company.

The rest is history.

G. Edward Grimes,
1904 or 05


Doubtless, most of us can recite by heart the tumult of details which would follow: the "bad" batch of licorice, Grimes' discovery of its soothing qualities, the first hard candy extrusion process, the miniaturization of the lozenges, and finally, the invention of the cough drop itself.

Edward Grimes' genius, however, lay not in discovery or invention, but in his keen understanding of what came to be known as marketing. "A product with out distribution is like a box of moldy chocolates on the pantry shelf," Grimes wrote in his 1902 breakthrough marketing guide, They Want it Now, Not Thursday.

What gave the Smith Company's cough drops national attention was not the formulation of the product itself (although it was, indeed, the proverbial "better mouse trap"), but its packaging. Grimes convinced his now father-in-law to lend his likeness to the package in which the cough drops would be sold (at five cents for 48 drops, a premium price for that time),

Early daguerreotypes show Alexander Smith to have been a square-jawed, ruggedly handsome man, not unlike the present-day Robert Redford. Grimes, however, was not convinced of Smith's suitability for the cough drop package. "Too hale, too handsome," he later wrote.

What Grimes came up with remains a classic of modern marketing communication. He persuaded Smith to pose for his cough drop photo wearing a false beard. Grimes intuited - and the decades have borne him out - that only a bearded man could sell cough drops in quality. But Grimes did not stop there. He hired Smith's cousin, Sjoren Bremer, to pose - also wearing a false beard - for the picture of the second "brother" who appears on the other side of the package. Thus was born the famous Smith Brothers Cough Drops package, with not one, but two, bearded men representing the product. Immediately, and to Grimes' chagrin, wags christened the two figures "Trade" and "Mark" for the words that appear under each profile.

"I was livid," Grimes write, "when I found people making a joke out of the package."

But his wrath quickly mellowed, soothed by the realization that the Trade/Mark joke had placed the Smith Brothers name on every lip in America.

"And our cough drops on every tongue," he would later chortle - which his famous stutter allowed him to do admirably as he held forth from podiums throughout the lecture circuit. In his later years, Grimes added to his reputation by lecturing while costumed as one or another historical figure - Civil War generals, politicians, and the like.

The Smith Brothers' story is a triumph in modern communication theory, proving that the likenesses of two men who were not brothers, but cousins, and wearing false beards, to boot, could win the confidence of a nation suffering from hacking, coughing, and bronchial unrest. Grimes' cough drops made their way to Europe in the duffels of earnest doughboys, to Latin America in shipments of assemble-it-yourself crystal sets, and even to Siberia as a premium gift for buying a certain brand of four-buckle galoshes.

G. Edward Grimes' place in marketing history was assured.

"And I learned it all from the customers in Ben O'Neill's shop in Flint, Kentucky," he would aver - also from the podium - for the rest of his life.

Grimes on the lecture
circuit, here dressed
as President Rutherford
B. Hayes.