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Nevertheless They Persisted

Nevertheless They Persisted
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Photos: Courtesy of FX

BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

Although in my next life I want to come back as Rita Hayworth, and I enjoy the occasional classic movie on TCM, I don’t consider myself a disciple of old Hollywood. Hence, I did not consider Feud: Bette and Joan on FX must-see TV.

The story centers around the legendary rivalry—on and off camera—between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) during their collaboration on the Oscar-nominated thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Investing time on a series about two long-dead movie stars, who bickered over top billing and how many more lines one had than the other, sounded embarrassing, as well as tedious. My husband, Neil, however, thought it would be “a hoot.” I made the popcorn.

Sunday at 10pm is now designated, “Time for my show.”

Albeit set in 1962, it’s quite the contemporary story: two women, in the twilight of their careers, struggle to hang on to their one-time success and fame in the face of ageism, sexism, and misogyny. (Disheartening how little has changed.)

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Relatable for me? Indeed, considering that a mentor of mine had just facilitated a meeting between a colleague of his who was once an advertising bigwig and me, a long-time copywriter.

I still love the business I wanted to get into ever since I watched “Darrin Stevens” mock up ads at McMann & Tate. I feel lucky that over the years I have been able to find companies and small agencies that have allowed me to do what I love: writing print ads and TV commercials. They’ve also even allowed me the foray into the digital age, writing blogs, websites and, yes, I can boast a meme campaign on Twitter. But truthfully, I really just like doing ads and commercials. (These one-time staples of advertising are now considered “traditional” aka old school.)

When work slowed down a year or so ago, I went looking for more firms to ply my trade. I found the options discouraging. “Digital, social and mobile experience a must” was a running theme in posts on Indeed and Mediabistro. Even if I could give them what they were asking for, I had no interest.

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Having a second profession as a journalist allowed me to be choosy, but instead of acknowledging that perhaps it was time to walk away, I kept looking for the traditional opportunities that didn’t seem to exist exclusively—and complaining about it to my mentor, until he couldn’t take it anymore.

He set up a phone meeting with his colleague, who first wanted to see my resume. “You’ve got another career in publishing, plus you’ve written books, and for one of them you’ve written a screenplay that someone wants to turn into a movie. For what are you hanging on to an industry that no longer offers what you want?”

He then told me he had just read a New York Times article about how Snapchat is the new hot advertising platform. “Do you communicate in the world of Snapchat? No, you don’t. Move on.”

He then likened my unwillingness, up to now, to detached from advertising to being in love with someone who’s married, yet believing there’s still hope for a relationship. “Advertising of yore is never coming back.”

He told me to focus on journalism and expand my horizons in that realm; offering pieces to editors and publications I’d never worked with, and networking more. But even though he was advising me to no longer be in hot pursuit of jobs in the ad world, he added, “If someone needs traditional advertising done, they know where to find you. And when they do, take their money.”

It was a relatively short conversation, but one that packed a punch and affirmed for me what I think I already knew deep down.

My mentor—in an effort to make sure he had not wasted a contact on me—advised me to “sit down right now” and make a business plan or at least, a list of publications I hadn’t written for, but would like to. I did, and found the names of the editors to contact. So far, I’ve only reached out to one, who invited me to pitch ideas. I did, and now await his response, while I prepare to get in touch with another editor.

I’ll miss my first career, but look forward to making even more of a go of my second; all in the hope of postponing my own version of What Ever Happened to…?

 

 

 

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.