1550. Where angels fear to tread

In the “old days” – like a year or so ago – when I was new to blogging, I would excitedly celebrate each 50 stories with a glimmer of revelation into my REAL life. It could be a wander through my garden for example, or a posting about the cat. Once I even endeavoured to show photos of my crockery! Today is Story 1550, and since old habits die hard, I thought I would tell of a particular event.

About forty years ago, when I had a ponytail and torn jeans (because I thought it was cool), and went around in bare feet (because I thought it was cool and you can still do that in New Zealand), I earned just enough to live on by writing to every primary school in the country and announcing that I had a brand-new short children’s musical they could use at their end-of-school-year celebration/event. It was not copyrighted. It was a photocopy. Teachers could make as many copies as they wished and change what they wanted. The only thing they couldn’t do was pass the manuscript on to another school. Each musical cost a mere ten dollars. It came with a tape.

At the time there were roughly two and a half thousand primary schools in the country. Although the letter itself was photocopied, I signed each one personally, and then addressed each envelope by hand and licked each individual postage stamp. Getting a hand addressed envelope with a postage stamp on it was more likely to be opened and noticed than getting a printed envelope with “POSTAGE PAID” slapped coldly in the corner. About 70% of the schools purchased and used these musicals. Towards the end of the school year I could grab any local paper in the country and there would be a photograph or two of the local school rehearsing or performing MY musical!

I did this for about ten years. Many schools used a different musical for each of the ten years. Then other people cottoned on to the idea. Suddenly there were about twenty other writers. They ran seminars on it! Teacher Resource Centres started advertising their own home-written end-of-school-year musicals. I was shut out, usually by cunning and corrupt Resource Centres pretending they wanted to do the advertising for me. My little empire collapsed and died. The last gasp was when a publishing company in America wrote and said they were suing me for pinching their title and idea for a musical. I explained that my musical was quite a few years older than theirs. I had written it years ago for a school of eight pupils and no electricity on Pitt Island to perform in candle light!

So where is Pitt Island?

At the height of such commercial success (one year I made around $14,000 – think about it) I thought I needed a logo! I began to knock on a few doors. There were Graphic Designers galore in the telephone books. The first Graphic Designer was down a dark alley. It had a doorbell. I pressed it. An inside contraption played Für Elise, rather like the electronic music one hears on a phone when put on hold. I fled.

The second Graphic Designer was in a large messy attic. Two women were sitting in armchairs sipping coffee. They stood and excitedly exclaimed: “Oh God! We have our first customer!” I told them I was sorry to disappoint, but I was looking for directions!

This went on all day. I had about two hundred dollars to spend on my logo. I didn’t want riff-raff ruining the opportunity.

It was then, near the centre of town, that I espied a Graphic Designer with a decent billboard and signage, in a rather nice skyscraper. I went in and explained that I wanted a logo for “MUSICALS FOR SCHOOLS”.

I was ushered into a luxurious reception room. My ponytail, torn jeans, and bare feet felt a little out of place. On the coffee table was a brochure advertising logos they had designed. Here was the header for a resort hotel’s restaurant menu that had cost a mere $94,000. Here was a logo for a hotel chain that a President of the United States had stayed at while playing golf. A mere $140,000 had been paid for the logo. The logos were certainly attractive but I thought “I gotta get the hell outta here!”

A woman suddenly appeared. She was smartly dressed and meant business. “How may I help?”

I splurted out about the Für Elise doorbell and the “Oh God! We have our first customer!” She laughed. “And now, here I am in a place that’s thousands of times out of my league. And all I wanted was a simple logo for my MUSICALS FOR SCHOOLS.”

Well, would you believe? The woman wasn’t the receptionist or the undersecretary’s secretary. She owned the company. It was a multinational company. It was the largest company of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. I explained how silly I felt.

“You give me $50,” said the woman, “and I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I’ll run a competition this week among all the company’s graphic designers. For a bonus of $50, a winner will be selected for the best logo submitted for MUSICALS FOR SCHOOLS. Come back in a week and we’ll make the selection.”

I came back in a week. She had dozens of designs. Can I take the lot? No! You must pick one. I picked one. “That’s the very one I would’ve picked,” she said. I was given copies of the logo in all sizes and colours. There must have been several hundred lasered variations.

A few months later I bumped into that lady in the street. She asked me how things were going. She was enthusiastic about MUSICALS FOR SCHOOLS. I couldn’t shut her up! She was off to buy something to congratulate the grandchildren. They were in an end-of-school-year production and she was so excited. Would I mind if the school used the logo on the program?

And that is how I got a $140,000 logo for a few bucks.

14 thoughts on “1550. Where angels fear to tread

  1. umashankar

    The story of the barefooted artist in torn jeans and sporting a ponytail touched the core of my heart. I read with bated breath how each of those letters were signed, addressed and tongue-licked individually, and how those excellent musicals with an innovative copyright scheme became all the rage and were being played all over at year ends and jingled your cash register. The newspaper clipping served as a palette to the imagination. The accounts of how you acquired the logo of your home grown enterprise and receiving a letter from across the pond are true thrillers, even if short. The downfall spurred by the omnipresent, and I dare say, omnipotent, copycats is the saddening twist in the story. Thank you, Bruce, for opening that rare window to your past for your avid readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks, Uma, and yes, a window to the (sadly) past! And I might add that there wasn’t much of a jingle in my pocket – and that’s not because of paper money! I tried marketing the plays once in the USA – and to my surprise they all answered the same: How does this fit into the syllabus? Great Scot! I was still sending my classes down to the creek to write poems! There was no syllabus.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. M. L. Kappa

    That’s an absolutely brilliant story, Bruce! I also loved the ponytail, etc. Some of my sartorial choices in the late 60s were hardly better (hot pants and knee socks? What were we thinking of)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. observationblogger

    I just wish you could counter-sue those hillbillies from the States for being so obnoxious!
    Stupendous post Bruce. Getting to know a bit of the real you. Marvellous
    Now I understand why your artistic talent here wasn’t just a fluke after how many hundreds of posts?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      That is very kind, thanks. The suing hillbillies’ lawyers were ignored and ultimately went away. Not being able to afford a lawyer I was going to make a statement: Since I can’t afford a lawyer I intend to defend myself with the truth! I suspect such an argument wouldn’t hold up in court!

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. observationblogger

        As it didn’t for Mitya in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. Your pessimism isn’t without its precedents! Might they have actually copied your original or because I am naive was that already implied by you given the photos and storyline?

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          It’s was almost the same story line – the littlest (bullied) star was chosen to lead the 3 Wise Men to Bethlehem… Same title, same plot (ish) – I still get orders for their one.

          Liked by 1 person

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