Judy Wald died in New York on February 12th. She was 96. O.K. I know that many of you will be thinking, “Who the hell is Judy Wald?” However, if, like me, you are extremely long in the tooth and suitably gnarly, you will recognize her as the archetypical headhunter of the Mad Man era.
Through the sixties, seventies and into the eighties she acted as the exclusive agent for some of the biggest creative names on Madison Avenue. She moved them around like men on a chess board (Most of them were, in fact, men, and all were white.) Letting them sit at the CD’s desk of a major agency for a year or so, then moving them on to another major agency for an even bigger pay package and a substantially increased finders fee for her. She would then fill the resulting vacancy with another member of her circus. Perhaps the best-known example of this would be her long association with Jerry Della Femina.
Judy found him at Delehanty, Kurnit & Geller, a small agency specializing in fashion accounts. Jerry had won a few awards, mostly for ads that had never run (A habit since picked up by Brazilian agencies.) She moved him into Ted Bates as a creative supervisor. The timing was perfect, as with the rise of “Creative” advertising during the sixties, Bates desperately wanted to change the image it had acquired under Rosser Reeves’ iron fist of abysmal advertising that required throbbing anvils in heads, flaming torches in stomachs, and the ever present boat anchor of the USP.
Jerry was there to change all that. He did somewhat, But, not as much as expected. At least it provided him with the title of his bestselling book “From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbor.” Which refers to a headline he supposedly suggested for a Panasonic ad. The interesting thing about the book by one of the ad biz’s best known copy writers, is that it was ghost written by Charles Sopkin.
Anyway, returning to Judy… In the late sixties, I was Copy Chief at DeGarmo, New York. Back in those days, agencies had Copy Chiefs, they also had Music Directors, who were usually the only black employee on the payroll. I had just won a second Lion and some Clios, so Judy called an invited me out for lunch. We went to the Four Seasons, which in those days was the preferred venue for high paid creatives. George Lois was a regular, he used to draw layouts on the hundred-dollar, fine Egyptian cotton tablecloths, which after his three-martini lunch, he would have wrapped and couriered back to his office. Ah, the good old days.
So, Judy proceeded to spell out how she was going to make me rich by ferrying me through her roster of high paying agencies. At the end of the meal, the tab was placed in front of her, she gently slid it over to me. “Judy,” I said, I thought you invited me for lunch.” I gently slid it back to her. She paid it and left the restaurant. I never heard from her again.