My Mad Men Days with Chelsea Clinton's New In-Laws
I am now connected to the Clinton Dynasty by three degrees of separation. Or is it two? I'm not so good at math, but as an ad agency marketing whiz, I once worked for and with Chelsea's new in-laws, Ed Mezvinsky and the former Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.
For the record, my Mad Men days took place in the early 80's. By then, as is forecast in the show, the ad business was one of the few in which women really could rise.
I rose. I shone. I made a name for myself, plus a few mistakes and quite a few good decisions. I learned. A lot. Then I left.
I never imagined I'd worked with people who would someday become infamous by deed and famous by marriage.
The Sins of the Father
Marc Mezvinsky's father is a former NCAA basketball star, US congressman, US representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, lawyer, financial wheeler-dealer and convicted felon.
Lucky me, I knew him before the felonies. (I'll explain those shortly).
When he lost his House seat, former Iowa Congressman Edward Mezvinsky moved to Philadelphia, home town of his second wife, former NBC TV reporter Marjorie Margolies. Together they raised 11 children. Marc is one of their two biological sons.
In 1980, for reasons I'll never understand, he decided (I think really she decided) he should join the very crowded Democratic primary race for US Senate in Pennsylvania.
They assembled a small campaign team, hired a private media producer and signed with an ad agency. That's where I came in.
As the agency's resident political maven, I was given the Mezvinsky account, tasked with crafting a message and creating marketing strategies for the campaign.
About that time, the lambs started screaming.
The Hubris of the Mother
Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, Ed's dynamo wife, had left a high-powered journalism career to devote her time to their children and Ed's campaign. (She would become a member of Congress herself a decade later).
We were fellow Penn and Phila TV alums, but she was nine years my senior and supremely self-confident. Though her experience in politics came from the journalism side, she wasn't about to let a whippersnapper like me run the show.
Never mind I knew PA politics. Never mind I knew local campaign media strategy. Never mind I didn't trust the production company run by her "dear friend." Never mind I knew exactly how to do what they were paying us to do.
Ed, by the way, was quiet, pleasant, an absent-minded professor type, deferential to his wife. To a fault. She had all the personality and drive. He had, well, basically none.
Which is odd, since reporters in the 1970's had called him "Fast Talkin" Eddie. Interviews with some of his children after he went to jail in 2002 describe a temperamental, frustrated screamer. Never at them, but still, either angry or holed up in his office for days when life didn't go his way.
Maybe the failed "bi-polar defence" at his trial actually had some merit. I never saw that part of him at all. Not once. Ever.
Two things stand out:
1. Our first meeting at the ad agency. I hadn't booked a conference room because I'd recently been promoted and given a big office. It was not, however, big enough for 13 Mezvinskys.
Yep, Ed and Marjorie brought along all 11 of their children. Our agency represented Pete Rose at the time, but even his appearances didn't cause such a stir. You could almost hear March of the Siamese Children from "The King and I" in the background as the Mezvinsky family paraded down the hall.
I remember little Marc, barely 3 years old, mostly because he was so adorable, curious and friendly. He stared wide-eyed around my office and out my 18th floor bank of windows.
He sat on my lap. And then I lifted him to the wide windowsill so he could look down at the city. He actually clapped with pleasure. (He lives in a tall penthouse now, right?)
2. Marjorie insisted on handling the TV and radio ads herself. One TV ad showed Ed, former college basketball star, shooting hoops with a bunch of kids in a crumbling urban high school. Ed's athletic skills had, well, deteriorated.
The editing was so bad you could clearly see that the ball he heaved at the basket was not the same one shown swishing through the net.
In an ad for statewide radio, Ed badly mispronounced the name of a PA city. I wanted a do-over. MMM said no.
My bosses at the agency were philosophical. We weren't being paid to create the ads, just to schedule them. So no problem, right? Wrong.
The ads were mastered and delivered to me, stamped ready for release. Reviewing them, I noticed the worst gaff of all. No one had remembered to have Ed identify himself and "approve this message."
All the ads had to be redone. My way. By our agency, not the disgraced media company. A win for us, my bosses said. Nice job, my bosses said.
Except. The next day Marjorie and Ed sat in my office discussing the new ads and whether they'd take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for them.
I might have been young and single but I wasn't stupid. I argued against it. I lost the argument.
He lost the election. It was inevitable. Sad, really. He lost a couple of others too, eventually became PA Democratic State Party Chairman. I didn't get it but by then I didn't care. I was wife, a soccer mom, out of the ad biz.
In case you didn't know the reason Ed Mezvinsky spent seven years in jail for bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud: he was first bamboozled by and then bamboozled others via a series of Nigerian bank email scams!
A man ahead of his time.
Ed Mezvinsky paid his debt to society, became a college professor. Bill Clinton's become a highly effective international statesman. Still, when I look at the two fathers I can't help thinking, 'Snow job. Blow job.'
On the other hand, both mothers, Marjorie and Hillary, are role models extraordinaire. Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky could have had it better but they could have had it much worse.
Way back here from my however many degrees of separation, I wish them joy, happiness and a long, successful, loving marriage.