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#57 The 11 Mentors Who Changed My Life.
From:
Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

 



Posted by Denny Hatch
 The 11 Mentors Who Changed My Life.
Who Changed Yours? An Invitation...
At age 15, I wrote a press release for this play. The week was SRO.

Evelyn Lawson
When I was 15, I wanted to be in the theater. In the summers of 1950 and 1952 I worked as an apprentice at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut. There I struck up a friendship with Evelyn Lawson, a heavy drinking, heavy smoking ex-Ziegfeld Follies chorine in her 40s who did publicity and P.R. for the theater. I asked her about what she did.
     “Publicity and public relations is the business of letting people in on what you are doing,” she told me. “I write news releases about upcoming plays and send them to the local newspapers. If they print my release, people with read it and buy tickets to the show. In effect, publicity is free advertising.”
     “How do you get them to print it?”
     “Editors are lazy. Give them something they can use and they’ll run it, rather than going to the trouble of writing something themselves.
     Fast forward to the end of summer. The Playhouse signed up an extra show—Dream Girl—starring Judy Holliday who that year had won the 1950 Academy Award for the Best Performance by an Actress in the film Born Yesterday. This was a big deal for the theater.
     For Evelyn, it was a pain in the ass. She was tired from the hot summer (no air conditioning back then) of hard work and wanted to get back home to Cape Cod.
    When I offered to write the release, she jumped at the opportunity to (1) foist the work off so she could drink and smoke and (2) maybe get her jollies by mentoring a 15-year-old kid about what she did for a living.
     Evelyn taught me about headlines, generating excitement in the lede graph, dropping in fascinating tidbits of information and gossip about the play, the author, Judy Holliday’s career and, of course, the urgency to order tickets before they sold out.
     Under Evelyn’s guidance, I wrote several drafts on the clunky old Remington office typewriter.

When approved by Evelyn, I laboriously retyped it on waxy purple stencils, affixed each page to a black ink-soaked mat and hand-cranked 20 copies of each page on the primitive office-duplicating machine.
     To finish the job, I waited until the ink dried and then collated, stapled and folded the two pages; typed addresses on 20 envelopes; licked envelopes and stamps; and mailed them at the post office.
     I was thrilled to discover the Middletown Record printed my release verbatim! Even more thrilling, Dream Girl was SRO all week.
     At age 15, I had acquired a marketable skill that I have used throughout my 60-year career!
    Evelyn Lawson changed my life!

U.S. Army


The U.S. Army was founded 244 years ago. After graduation from Columbia College, I served as a draftee 1958-1960. In the private sector, only Proctor & Gamble has a mentoring system equal to that of the Army.
     Following basic training at Fort Dix, NJ, I was stationed on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. The Army gave me skills I never would have had in civilian life as a recent college grad:
     • Wrote press releases for the Public Information Office (PIO).
     • Produced and wrote a weekly radio program featuring the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra stationed in Germany for WQXR in New York.
     • Did publicity and promotion for Armed Forces Day, New York, 1960.
     • Wrote, produced, directed and narrated a documentary film for the New York National Guard on its training facility at Camp Smith, Peekskill, NY.
     Okay, the U.S. Army was not a “mentor” in the usual sense of the word. But during three centuries, it has a tradition of mentoring. Officers and enlistees must continually work with and train those men and women serving under them.
     In my case, I was handed various assignments and mercifully used common sense and did not screw up.
     In spite of all the Mickey Mouse chores (K.P., prisoner watch, cleaning latrines, I loved the Army; it gave me boundless confidence that I was not the dumb-ass kid my parents believed I was.
Quick Takeaway
I flat-out believe the two-year draft should be reinstated and every kid—whether after high school or after college deferments—should serve the country somehow. Opportunities: military, teaching aide, Peace Corps, hospital or agricultural assistant or interning for a corporation or non-profit organization. 
     Chances are two years of work in the real world with a government salary and health care will give them one or more lifelong marketable skills, work history and references for a job well done. 
     This is a hell of lot better scenario than moving in with—and mooching off—their parents after graduation spending two years whining about how tough it is to find a job before starting off flipping burgers at MacDonald’s.

Ash Green

When I got out of the Army in 1960, my first job was making $60 a week as a book publicist for Prentice-Hall in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. The company was a major publisher of all kinds of titles—nonfiction, self-help, biographies, business and salesmanship books and an occasional novel.
     My boss was a young socialite with the unlikely name of Ashbel Green, who went on to become a renowned and beloved editor at Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.
    My main assignment was to write press releases on new titles to accompany the pre-publication copies of the books being sent out to book reviewers. The purpose was to excite reviewers so they would want to write about this new book—either as a listing announcement or, ideally, with a full-dress review.
     A successful publicity release captures the reader’s attention. The headline and copy must make the book sound so irresistible it is immediately placed in the reviewer’s “A” pile of titles likely to get coverage.
How I learned to read a book and write
a two-page press release in two hours.
In my final months at Prentice-Hall, I could be handed the galleys of a non-fiction book and produce a two-page press release in two hours flat.
     Six or more sets of galleys were printed. These were two-foot-long sheets of raw type printed out before the book was turned into pages.
     Sets of galleys were distributed to management, sales, the author, editor and proofreader for final editing, corrections and changes. I got the sixth set.
     My job was to highlight the most compelling elements of the book in order to make the reviewers’ job easier.
     I developed a kind of system for speed-reading, enabling me to gobble up those long galley proofs. I spent some time on the introduction, foreword and first chapter to see where the author was going.
     Thereafter, I would carefully scan every galley sheet. When something caught my eye, I would slow down and start reading. If a section seemed usable, I would circle it, turn the page sideways and move on.
     It would take roughly 30 to 45 minutes to know what was in the book. I would mark up all the stories, characters, pithy quotes and observations to grab the reader’s attention and maybe, with luck, make news.
     When I finished the book, I would have 15 to 25 sideways galley proofs, whereupon I would carefully read over what I had circled. The release would begin to take shape in my mind and I would start writing. The finished release was essentially “the best of…” and filled with the juiciest goodies.

     Writing a column is easy. I just sit down at the  
     typewriter, open a vein and bleed it out, drop
     by drop.
      —Red Smith (1905-1982), Sportswriter

     Because I had done the research, I did not have to “open a vein and bleed it out, drop by drop.” I had plenty of material to work with and the writing came easily.
     My measure of success? That came when a reviewer put his byline on my publicity release and ran it as his own review. This happened more than once.
How Ash Green Changed My Life
     At age 83, with lousy eyesight, I no longer read newspapers with their dreary “gray walls of type” and tiny printing. Instead, every morning I hit the iPad and skim/read three news sources a day (which I pay for): The New York Times, Washington Post and Apple News. And I watch CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
     I will not listen to podcasts. They are voice driven. If it gets boring, I have no way of scanning ahead to find more red meat.
     Nor do I read clunky printed books that take up space and often weigh a pound or more. My book reading entirely is on Kindle—in my opinion, the greatest technological advance in the printed word since Gutenberg. Think of it! I can carry a library of up to 3,500 books in my jacket pocket and I pay roughly half what “book lovers” pay for a print title.

 Frank Watts

My father was the author of more than 40 biographies and history books. His first editor was a six-foot part Cherokee Indian divorcée and one-time singer with the Paul Whiteman band named Helen Hoke. If you saw her across the room, you’d think for a minute she was the great Metropolitan Opera coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland.
     In 1943 Helen married the six-foot tall son of a Baptist minister from Lawrence, Kansas who made a very good living traveling the country as a book salesman. On the side Franklin Watts had a one-man book publishing company.
     When Frank married Helen, she became not only his wife but also his business partner and steered Franklin Watts, Inc. into becoming a major publisher of children’s books. Their bread-‘n’-butter: THE FIRST BOOK series.
     Frank and Helen became great friends of the family. My parents and the Watts were heavy drinkers. One night my mother said, “Frank, you have a face like a Toby mug.” 
    Frank sat for a ceramic artist and had 100 Toby mugs of his puss sculpted and fired as Christmas gifts to his friends, suppliers and customers across the country to use as pencil holders. The object: every time they reached for a pencil they would think of Frank and order more FIRST BOOKS.
     In my sophomore year in college, my mother, stepfather and I were invited to spend with weekend with Frank and Helen at the cottage they rented on Long Island's Fire Island. We all gathered for pre-lunch drinks on the roof deck overlooking Great South Bay. Frank had just poured his third Bloody Mary when I asked, “Frank, what do you think I should do with my life?”
     Frank looked over at me quizzically and thought for a moment. Then speaking slowly so as not to slur his words he said, “Denny… you are a great houseguest. You help out in the kitchen. You’re a terrific bartender. You’re a good listener. People like talking with you.”
     He took a big swig of his bloody and continued: “Denny… You have all the makings… of a … first class… slob.”
     My mother’s jaw dropped. My stepfather shook his head in disbelief. Helen burst out laughing.”
     We all looked at Frank and waited.
     “What I think you should do with your life is get yourself 52 really good friends and arrange to spend one week a year with each of them.”
     In 1962 Frank hired me to do publicity for $90 a week—a lordly $30 increase over my Prentice-Hall salary. In short order I was turned into a book salesman, going on sales trips with Frank showing me how it was done. I became a book salesman calling on stores, jobbers and libraries in cities and territories not on the itinerary of his regular crew of independent travelers.
     At Watts’ company I learned about business travel, selling and entertaining customers, three-martini lunches and how to set up a booth and work attendees at book conventions. Here are my favorite Wattsisms:
     •“People love to be sold.”
     • “Always ask for the order.”
     • “Once you have made the sale, like the Arabs, fold your tent and go home.”
     • “When in Doubt, do the obvious.”
     • “Corn should be seat-high to the privy on the fourth of July.”
     • “Dealing with a customer is like making love to a widow; you can’t overdo it.”
     Frank Watts was a bear of a boss. I had worked my way up to become sales manager and had built a list of customers—book wholesalers, retailers, school and public librarians and was beginning to make some money.
     But Frank owned the business. During the Depression years of the 1930s, the book sales were so terrible it became the industry norm to allow any unsold books to be returned for full refund. This was the only way publishers could be guaranteed of new books getting into the stores.
    Frank Watts’ arch bugaboo was returned books. Every year on his birthday, Frank would come into the office and snarl: “Do not wish me many happy returns! There is no such thing as a happy return!”
     At one point Frank was so frustrated that he personally wrote many of my customers blistering letters scolding them for their sloppy returns systems. Whereupon they stopped stocking FIRST BOOKS and other titles. As a result, my income tanked. So I quit.

M. Hughes Miller
     When I left Frank Watts, without two nickels to rub together, I had an idea for a children’s book series and absolutely no idea what to do with it. I bounced if off a wonderful guy I knew, Hughes Miller, who had founded The Weekly Reader Book Club and made a gazillion dollars as president of Bobbs-Merrill as publisher of the legendary Joy of Cooking (continuously updated and still in print today after 88 years!).
     An old friend of Frank and Helen Watts, he took pity on me, let me use a desk in his office in the Seagram Building and spent hours giving me a cram course in how to launch and run a business—creating a prospectus, cash flow, spread sheets—the information you spend tons of money for two years getting an MBA. The book series did not get off the ground. The last time I saw Hughes was at Lüchow's on 14th Street where he introduced me to his new wife, Mala Powers (18 years his junior). I was dazzled. She had played Roxane opposite José Ferrer in his 1950 Academy Award winning performance in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac.
     I loved the guy.

Elsworth Howell plus Lew, Bob and Ed

In case you missed this recent post, in 1965 I was offered a job with a book publishing company. The four guys who ran the company were truly great mentors and teachers. They did everything they could to make me a success. Those eight months were truly a life changing experience.


Walter Weintz

In case you missed the recent post, Imagine Ordering 100 Million Pennies for Your Envelope!, working as a copywriter for Walt Weintz was a hoot. Life never got better than that.

Bob Teufel


Walt Weintz had two major clients: Rodale Press and CREEP—The Committee to Reelect the President (Nixon). In 1972 this funny thing called Watergate happened. On August 9, 1974 Nixon was out on his ass. So was Walt Weintz. He had the choice of firing me or firing his son and partner, Todd.
     On hearing my fate, I immediately called Walt’s remaining major client, Bob Teufel and asked if I could pick his brains. He readily agreed.
     Teufel is a lovely guy—an easygoing, passionate fisherman who was circulation director of Rodale Press. He went on to become president throughout Rodale’s heyday. After running 3 book clubs and working as a copywriter in the Weintz agency for four years, I was trying to decide whether or not to go freelance. Teufel was my mentor for two hours in the Oak Bar of the Plaza Hotel in 1974. His sage advice dictated the rest of my career. Bob Teufel’s guidance on freelancing:

If you are good at what you do—and have good people skills—go freelance. 

• You’ll work harder than you ever have in your life, make more money and have more fun than you ever imagined.


• If one client fires you, you are still working.

• The ultimate joy: you can fire clients you don’t like.

• Spread out your work. If you promise to meet deadlines too close together, you will miss at least one of them and lose the client.

• Never rely on a single client or customer for more than 25% of your total revenue. 

• Always make time to sell when you are busiest. Lining up new business is hard, tedious work—especially if the sales cycles are long. An individual or company can become consumed by current projects. Once these are completed, nothing new in the hopper can mean trouble ahead.

• Always go first class. Customers and clients like the aura of success. Dress well and entertain them well. Walt Weintz drives a Mercedes. He takes me fishing on his 58’ Bristol Trawler and invites me on fishing weekends at the exclusive Megantic Fish and Game Club in Maine. It doesn’t get any better than that!
     Teufel was my last mentor. After that I worked with and for many people who often filled my head (and notebooks) with ideas and concepts. And I always tried to give more than I got. 
     But by 1974 I was on my own. 
An Invitation to Readers...
The most important people in my career were the men and women who mentored me in my starting out years. They spent time teaching me marketable skills that I have used throughout my 60-year career. They changed my life.
      This is not the stuff I learned in school and college. This was on-the-job training. These are the folks who taught me business, management and creative skills without which I would be a street bum today in my 80s.
     If this post resonates with you, would you consider sharing memories of your mentor(s)—the who, what, where, when, how and the lessons taught that made you what you became.
     I would be delighted to publish your story—either in the Comment Section below or as a separate post. If you would like me to work with you as an editor, I would be honored. And you will be honoring those who changed your life.
     Give a shout. I am dennyhatch@yahoo.com

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At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

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Denny Hatch
The St. James
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dennyhatch@yahoo.com

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