Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


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JULY 30, 2010 12:12PM

My Mad Men Days with Chelsea Clinton's New In-Laws

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mezvinsky    mmm2

I am now connected to the Clinton Dynasty by one degree 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:

mmm fam

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.

chelsea marc

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I have almost decided that between you and Lea Lane, you guys know or have known almost everybody who is anybody . . . but at least we readers get the vicarious experience!
What Owl said. I think I need more "connected" friends. :) _r
We should go to the wedding together and sit on either side of the aisle. Or stand. Talk about synchronicity.
Sally are you and Lea going to have a Clinton dynasty duel? Matzoh balls at 20 paces.

I'm just lucky I get to post on the same blog as you two do.
I adore how you lay this out. Mazal, from one Penn Person to another! R.
Fascinating. I agree with Owl. You and Lea should have your own designated columns. You've had so many interesting experiences with so many interesting people in all walks of life. I love your vibrant epigrammatic style of writing. Have you always had it, or is it a product of your ad agency years? I get the feeling lots of male politicians are pushed by their wives. Wasn't that the case with Huffington in California? Great story. Keep 'em coming!
You know all the workings of the Philly area and entire state it seems. What a fascinating tale. You and Lea are on the same page today. This was great Sally. Extremely entertaining and very cool.
also what Owl said...I feel as if I've been living under a rock...

hey, I saw the lede on this story inside Big Salon--congrats
Fascinating story, Sally. I have a relationship to that family too. My mechanic's brother, Bill, knew a florist who knew Ed's barber. I think that's 5 degrees, although, like you, I'm bad at math.
Was he made the party chairman before or after the Nigerian bank scams? I guess either way he's got fundraising experience.
What Owl said, Sally. You and Lea have given us great bookends to this story today.
Clients really need to learn to get the hell out of the way after they've hired a seasoned pro. Great story, as always.
What a sheltered life I've lived!
I find it ironic that we live in a society that would deny a hotel maid a job for testing positive for marijuana on a drug screen test but will hand over a prestigious college professorship gig to a convicted felon.
Owl and Joan and Dog, have you ever considered Lea and I might be the same person? heh

Lea, what are we wearing to the wedding?

Jon, thank you! We are not only lansmen we are also fellow Penn alums? How cool!

Steve, as soon as I look up "epigrammatic" I'll let you know... j/k, I was a journalist, then writing political ads and speeches before the ad biz, I have quite a few styles in my pocket. Most of the male pols I've known have hungered for the job more than their wives, that's what made Ed Mez seem so odd to me.

jane, I like that they grew up together, have faced similar family upheavals and started as friends... and of course that he's a nice Jewish boy. :)

Bonnie, there were some Huge egos at the agency, just like the show. Mostly, it wasn't that big an account (til I got to make it a little bigger).
I just love your stories Sally. You sure have gotten around!
Yes, but would you want her as a mother in law? yikes!
Spud, I've been around the block and the world (actually Lea said that but it's me too). I love sharing space with her.

Nikki, you're not under a rock, just, you know, you've had your head in a BOOK for cryin out loud!! Thanks, though. :)

John, yours is much easier, definitely 5. So why didn't you tell me mine? I still don't know.

Snoreville, party chair before... but great line about fundraising.

Kathy, the perfect description! Leeeeaaa, let's squeeze some stories (or subjects) between us. ;)

Stim, you're so right. But clients who are in any way related to 'the biz' always think they know more.

patricia, you might have had it better than my much less sheltered one...

Ablonde, I can't argue with you, but felons are doing all kinds of things all over America, and the world.

trilogy, thank you. As my blog tag says, 'Been There, Done That.'

Gabby, I wasn't gonna go there but yikes, Chelsea's in for it. Though I bet Marc handles his mom just fine.
Wow! We have so many hugely interesting people writing on OS. I'm wondering if any of Marc's father's shenanigans caused any consternation in the Clinton household during Hillary's campaign for President? Political people are so incestuous, aren't they? I'm remembering the Eisenhower-Nixon nuptials.
Lezlie, there are even more connections... Ed Mezvinsky was on the Judiciary Committee in Congress during Watergate and voted to impeach Nixon. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky lost her seat in Congress because she was the deciding vote in favor of President Clinton's 1993 budget (deficit reduction, lifting medicare caps, etc) which her largely Republican Phila Main Line district didn't like at all.
Soo juicy! Really interesting lives - yours as well as the Mezvinskys.
it's such a tiny, tiny world really, isn't it? whoda thunk, all these years later, you and lea would be writing on the same blog site? whoda thunk there would be such a thing as a blog site? great story, boomer pal. i don't remember the hubs (was too busy in CA politics to care much about PA politics at the time) but i sure remember when marjorie voted the right way and got nailed for it.

cheers to the kids who i hope are more savvy than those earlier dudes.
OMG, you know everybody!
Well didn't you just hit the SEO jackpot? Mazel Tov!
Karin, we keep having more and more in common. Have your people call my people, we'll do lunch and take a meeting. If John Blumie approves.

Bonnie, I talk but I also listen, so I took your advice, see above. :)

Grace, Susanne, I'm hoping there are still interesting adventures out there for me... not folding the tent yet.

Candace, there are so many coincidences around here it's damn creepy. In a good way. Boomer degrees of non-separation. Or something.

Deb, I hope there's somebody cool left to meet. Like you!

Xeno, are you messin' with me or am I missing something? The stories are predicated on current events, right? Ohhh, okay, now I have to check the stats. Duh.
OMG. Is there anyone you don't know? Your life is just amazing.
Great post.

And I think it's one degree of separation from Chelsea, none from the groom if you count knowing him as a kid. If you don't count knowing him, add a degree and say this is all through his parents.

So how do these people know Kevin Bacon?
Eff, I'm proud to say I have never met Dubya, t/g, or, come to think of it, the Pope.

koshersal, how dumb can I be?! If the groom once sat on my lap, that surely means no degree of separation from him. I've met Chelsea (and her parents), but not even close to the way Lea has.

It's funny to see the name "koshersalaami" next to Kevin Bacon. heh
heliana (what a great name), thank you, sorry you got lost in the meat discussion.
Sally, you and Lea manage to pull out the most amazing stories of people you've met or known! I found this very interesting, knowing nothing about the groom's parents.
Fascinating story, Sally. I hadn't really paid attention to the groom's family's stories. It's great to read about first-hand encounters.

Between you and Lea, you have the whole story covered. Small world. (Just to prove it's a small world, my writing teacher used to be neighbors with ... Lea.)
Nelle, there you go, who cares about the groom anyway, right? Interesting family though.

Cranky, it's a fact, Lea and I are conspiring to tell stories about every famous and infamous person in the world. Maybe you have a connection with me too, stranger things have happened.
Sally, I am loving this post. I can envision you in the office with this herd of children and Ms. bossy. You are so cool! Who else but an advertising whiz would think "Snow job. Blow job"? You're a hoot!!
Fay, MMM was a big shot in those days, I really looked up to her. So the memory of all those kids swarming in to what I had thought was going to be a serious, professional meeting... wow, I remember it like it was yesterday.

And thank you! I can't believe you are the Only One to have noticed, "Snow job. Blow job" ... people, people, where are my props for that? heh
I'm glad somebody went to jail for those Nigerian e-mails ;-)
Sheba, it sounds almost too good to be true. None of the "Nigerians" got caught, just a Madoff wannabe.
Well, that was interesting but your comment regarding MMM's House district is so wrong that I wonder how much of your recollections can be trusted.

I lived (and still do) in MMM's district. It is NOT Philadelphia Main Line. It's a gerry-mandered area consisting partly of suburban Philadelphia (Abington is the part where I live) and a very conservative part of Northeast Philadelphia. Not the snooty, stuffy Main Line by any means. MMM did lose her seat because of her vote (and that was a courageous thing to do, IMO), but I think after one interregnum by a Republican, it was held by Joe Hoeffel and now is held by Alyson Schwartz, both of whom are Democrats.
I knew this story would be juicy...been meaning to read it all weekend and glad I finallly did. When I read this sentence, "Still, when I look at the two fathers I can't help thinking, 'Snow job. Blow job." I literally burst into laughter, so much that I sprayed the perrier I had just sipped all over my desk :)

Good thing it was only water.

I pressed that little thumbs up button for you...with enthusiasm!
You sound like Donna Draper. Poor quality punning but I really like the writing in this. Congrats on getting onto Big Salon. Not surprising. This is high grade stuff.
rosina, wow, a lot of attitude over one factoid I got partly wrong in a comment. The district was heavily Republican until it was redrawn in 2002. I admire Alison Schwartz and always admired MMM, which I clearly said at the end of my piece. I also said our interaction took place a decade before Marjorie ran for Congress and by then I was out of the loop. I might make a few mistakes (who doesn't? you?), but I write with a very accurate memory.

bluestocking babe, thank you! If I made you spray liquid, my job here is done. heh

Colony, thanks for the kind words, I appreciate them very much. Stay tuned, I have a real Draper piece coming soon.
Late, but great job, Sally. I can't believe how amazing and glamorous your life has been. Love your style and humor, as you know. More stories, more stories!
What an incredibly interesting tale! Who knew?
You have an incredibly interesting and rich history, Sally. Enjoyed reading this very much.