The New York Times
February 13, 1995, Monday, Late Edition - Final
Section B; Page 7; Column 4; Metropolitan Desk
Paul Monette, 49; Writer Humanized AIDS
By ESTHER B. FEIN
Paul Monette, a writer whose autobiography, "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story," a memoir of suppressing and then celebrating his homosexuality, won the 1992 National Book Award for nonfiction, died at home on Friday. He was 49 and lived in West Hollywood, Calif. Elisabeth Nonas, a close friend, said the cause was complications from AIDS. For many people, Mr. Monette's memoir and a previous book about nursing a lover who died of AIDS humanized the tragedy of the disease and the torment of denying one's homosexuality, but it also brought to life the rich relationships that some gay men enjoy.
When he won the National Book Award, Mr. Monette said that writing the autobiography "literally kept me alive" after he contracted AIDS, but he also said he feared it would be his last published work.
He said the award sent a message that gay and lesbian literature "is significant."
Mr. Monette was born in Lawrence, Mass., on Oct. 16, 1945. In "Becoming a Man," he described growing up in an ordinary middle-class world in which he became obsessed with his homosexual yearnings but had to suppress them: "Never lost my temper, never raised my voice. A bland insipid smile glazed my face instead, twin to the sexless vanilla of my body."
Educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and at Yale, he taught English at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., and Pine Manor College, an independent women's college in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He often joked that his background was frighteningly similar to many of the "conservative homophobes" with whom he crossed political swords.
Mr. Monette publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in 1974, when he met Roger Horwitz, a lawyer, and the two moved to Los Angeles. They lived together for 10 years while Mr. Monette wrote what he described as "glib and silly little novels," many with gay protagonists, including "Taking Care of Mrs. Carrol" and "The Gold Diggers."
But his life and career changed when Mr. Horwitz died of AIDS in 1985, an experience Mr. Monette chronicled in the best-selling and critically acclaimed "Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir" (1988). In a review in The New York Times, William M. Hoffman praised the book, saying, "Mr. Monette has etched a magnificent monument to his lover's bravery, their commitment to each other and the plague of hatred and ignorance they had to endure."
Mr. Monette wrote another tribute to Mr. Horwitz, a book of poems called "Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog" (1987). A few years later, he lost a second companion to AIDS, Stephen F. Kolzak, a casting director for several television shows, including "Cheers" and "Starsky and Hutch." After "Borrowed Time," Mr. Monette wrote several novels, all dealing with the devastating effects of AIDS on gay men. "Afterlife" (1990) is the story of three gay men who meet in a hospital as their lovers are dying of AIDS. "Halfway Home" (1991) is about a gay man with AIDS who is reconciled with his older brother, who needs his help.
Mr. Monette also wrote an episode for the popular television series " Thirtysomething" about an advertising executive who learns he has the AIDS virus. The show, written with Richard Kramer, a producer for the series, was one of the first prime-time network series to deal with AIDS.
He kept writing until the end. When he was found to have full-blown AIDS two years ago, he wrote his last book, "Last Watch of the Night," while hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a mound of oral medications daily. The book is a collection of essays that move through themes from the painful lives of gay priests to the unending bigotry against gay men to the insensitivity of some journalists.
But "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story" was by far Mr. Monette's most ambitious and praised work. In a review in The Times, Wendy Martin wrote: "Fiercely committed to bequeathing a map of his psychic terrain, to spare others the pain of his solitary journey, his fine memoir is affirmative and ultimately celebratory."
In the book, Mr. Monette described the goal of his work: "This is what I am sifting for, to know what a man is finally, no matter the tribe or gender." And he wrote, "I can't conceive the hidden life anymore, don't think of it as life. When you finally come out, there's a pain that stops, and you know it will never hurt like that again, no matter how much you lose or how bad you die."
Mr. Monette said that the torment of suppressing his sexuality for so long and the inescapable threat of AIDS inspired him to become active in gay politics and to encourage young writers, which he continued whenever his health allowed. He is survived by his companion, Winston Wilde; his father, Paul Monette Sr. of Massachusetts, and a brother, Robert, of Doylestown, Pa.
The New York Times
June 2, 1991, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
Section 2; Page 29; Column 1; Arts & Leisure Desk
The Class of ' Thirtysomething'
With a title like " Thirtysomething, " the end was fate. At some point the characters would have to hit the big Four-Oh and the ABC series would have to end or be renamed. Maybe, like college, four years is enough already: the end is something of a relief. But for those who found themselves, embarrassingly enough, talking about Hope and Michael, Gary and Melissa, as if they were real people, The New York Times asked the actors who played them how their characters will fare after they graduate from the series. Here are their scenarios. GRAPHIC: Photos: The man in the gray flannel guilt: Michael will sit around the house for a year and get fat, said Richard Kramer, the series' head writer. Hope will be consumed with work. He'll rediscover his relationship with his kids. He'll have an affair, because he's lost his usual ways of feeling attractive. He'll get a tattoo, because he would have done everything else a nice Jewisy boy isn't supposed to do.
Don't blame her; she voted for McGovern: Hope will want more of a purpose than raising children. She will be more focused on work and trying to do good for the world. It would be great for her of have an affair, but she won't go looking for it. Someone will come after her, and she'll fall into it. But Hope and Michael are determined to work problems through and be there for eternity. -- Mel Harris
Self-made boy: Elliot will do whatever he can to get a star on Hollywood Boulevard, though he doesn't have the talent to pull it off. He'd be on the verge of making an Oscar-winning film and then sleep with the producer's wife. It's a whole new ball game out in Los Angeles, and Elliot will embrace the decadence, including a new 19-year-old wife. -- Timothy Busfield.
Illness as career move: Nancy's circle was complete. She was searching for and found the courage to live by her convictions. She couldn't have gone back to just being Elliot's wife, or having coffee - so it would have taken a lot ot thought to figure out a deeper or fuller place for her, to widen her circle. We just hadn't started that investgation yet. -- Patricia Wettig.
Beyond therapy: Ellyn is going to come face to face with her nightmare of children. Billy will want his own large famly, and this will lead to fights. They'll inherit an orphaned cousin of Billy's. She won't know how to deal with this kid - a Damien from "Omen II." But she'll probably come through the experience wanting children of her own. -- Polly Draper.
Peter Pan with stubble: Gary's memory will still jar Michael's subconsciousness. A homeless man who looks like Gary may move into the neighborhood. If Gary had lived, he would have left academia and opened a bicycle shop, invented the perfect city-dweller's bike, made millions and lived happily ever after. He would have hired Michael as a mechanic after Michael left advertising. -- Peter Horton.
Most likely to spin off: Melissa has bigger fish to fry. She's really gifted and needs to go to a place where there are people she can relate to better. She'll move to New York or Los Angeles and meet a whole slew of other people. Her ties with the rest of the crowd will become less intense and might evolve into nothing more than sending an annual Christmas card. Except for Michael. -- Melanie Mayron.
The creators: Marshall Herskovitz (near right) (Melinda Sue Gordon/20th Century-Fox) and Edward Zwick have a deal with ABC to create three TV series and plan to set up a movie production company. Both are directing movies due at Christmas: "Jack the Bear" from Mr. Herskovitz, and from Mr. Zwick, "Leaving Normal." (Tri-Star Pictures)
The New York Times
May 16, 1991, Thursday, Late Edition - Final Section C; Page 17; Column 5; Cultural Desk
Ad Executives Cheer As Ethics Wins the Day On ' Thirtysomething'
By RANDALL ROTHENBERG
In a fit of ethical fury, Michael Steadman finally quit his advertising agency on Tuesday. And the real advertising industry cheered him on.
Michael, the guiltily liberal protagonist on the ABC television series " Thirtysomething, " who is played by Ken Olin, resigned his position as second-in-command at Drenttel Ashley Arthur, the hottest little agency in Philadelphia, after he was forced by the agency's mercurial owner, Miles Drenttel, to dismiss an actor on a beer commercial whose participation in an anti-war rally had offended the sponsor.
"All he did," Michael complained, trying to save the actor's job, "was express an opinion."
With a malevolent cast to his eyes, Miles replied: "He expressed an unpopular opinion. No one wants to be unpopular. That's why we're here. That's the dance of advertising. " The tall, impeccably tailored ad man, who is played by David Clennon, advises Michael that their job is to "calm and reassure," to "embrace people with the message that we're in it together, that our leaders are infallible."
"In return for our humanitarian efforts," Miles concluded, "we are made rich."
Forced to confront the artifice that is advertising, Michael resigned.
Did the Right Thing
Down in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies began gathering yesterday for their annual convention, the consensus was that Michael did the right thing. "I'm glad to see Michael has the courage of his convictions," said Pete Hatt, the chief executive of Borders, Perrin & Norrander, a Seattle agency. "We resigned our biggest client when we were only 18 months old because they wanted us to use 'girls' in the ads, and we said, 'Sorry, that's not what we do."'
Robert A. Brooks Jr., the head of an advertising consulting firm in Shawnee Mission, Kan., that bears his name, said: "I'm with Michael. He quit for good reasons. I don't care if it's the advertising business or whatever, Michgael's got to live with Michael."
The sentiments should please the producers of " Thirtysomething, " who have had problems with advertisers in the past. In 1989, a segment of the program that depicted a homosexual couple in bed caused some advertisers to withdraw commercials scheduled to run on the program.
Getting a Little Even
Indeed, the executive producers of " Thirtysomething, " Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, may have used Tuesday's show for "getting even a little," said Joseph Dougherty, the writer of the episode. "Ed even used the phrase, 'We're biting the hand that feeds us,' " Mr. Dougherty said.
But while homosexuality may present problems for advertisers, assaults on their own profession remain O.K.
The first commercial to appear on ABC after Miles's climactic speech was for Chrysler's Jeep Cherokee. Thomas L. Bernardin, an executive vice president of Campbell-Mithun-Esty, Jeep's ad agency, was watching the program. He said his initial thought when he saw the ad was: "What perfect positioning! We're the first spot in the hopper after the break."
"I had no problem with the content of the show," Mr. Bernardin added. "It's highly rated and its upscale audience is demographically correct for us."
If the ad people seem unusually calm in the face of the attack, it may be because the show did not reflect the real ad game. Freddie Bee, a senior vice president at Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles, whose ad for Mattel's Disney Fun Bubble Camera appeared on the program, said: "In general, the way ' Thirtysomething' portrays advertising is close to reality. Last night's show was unrealistic. In 16 years in the business, I've never known an actor's political affiliation to be an issue with a client." Such incidents do happen, of course. It was partly pressure from advertisers that prompted the blacklisting of scores of television actors and actresses with left-liberal sympathies in the 1950's.
And several months ago, in an incident that seemed to have inspired the " Thirtysomething" episode, Woody Harrelson, who plays the dimwitted bartender on the NBC show "Cheers," contended that he was dismissed from a Miller Lite beer commercial because of his opposition to American military intervention in the Persian Gulf.
An advertising executive involved with Miller, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, denied Mr. Harrelson's charge, and said the company had no commitment with the actor beyond the single ad in which he was featured.
Mr. Dougherty, the "Thirtysome thing" writer, said he wrote Miles's speech strictly from his "own observations of what advertising does." But Miles's words, absent the dark edge, could have come straight from the mouths of the craft's greatest practitioners.
It was no less than David Ogilvy, the creator of "the man in the Hathaway shirt" and other cultural icons, who wrote: "It is the professional duty of the advertising agent to conceal his artifice."
The New York Times
May 3, 1990, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
Section D; Page 21, Column 4; Financial Desk
Advertising; 'thirtysomething' Brings Fame to Another O'Neill
By Randall Rothenberg
Kevin B. O'Neill may be the creative director of Lord Einstein O'Neill & Partners, but he is not the only creative member of his family, nor the only one with a grasp of advertising. His brother Hugh, a former editor at Times Books, a Random House imprint, wrote the script for Tuesday's episode of the ABC television series '' thirtysomething. '' In the show, Elliot Weston, the bearded ad agency art director, is given his first crack at directing a commercial. After getting the assignment for his first television script several months ago, Hugh O'Neill, 37, said he immediately called Kevin, 36. ''I asked him everything, from what does a commercial director go through the night before he goes on the set, to what are the stresses he goes through,'' Hugh said.
Kevin, whose creative skills are now on display in ads for The New Yorker magazine and other clients, gave same obviously helpful hints. In the show, Elliot is shown at 5 A.M. before the commercial shoot, gulping antacids.
The New York Times
April 1, 1990, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
Section 2; Page 35, Column 1; Arts and Leisure Desk
TV VIEW; Michael and Hope and Julian And Francesco
By Roberta Smith
For art critics, mainstream television used to be a place to get away from it all, take a break and put the mind on automatic pilot. But these days, art, artists and even art critics are popping up in all kinds of unexpected time slots. The collaborative painter Tim Rollins and the art critic Hilton Kramer discuss Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs on ''The Phil Donahue Show.'' The painter Kenny Scharf talks about the Whitney Museum's Biennial on Robert Lipsyte's ''11th Hour.'' The contemporary art collection of Eugene and Barbara Schwartz is glimpsed on ''Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.''
But perhaps television's most surprising and sustained attention to the arts can be seen every week on '' Thirtysomething, '' ABC's dramatic series about a group of young professionals - their lives, loves, jobs, children, houses and nagging therapy issues - set in Philadelphia. Frequently characterized as a soap opera in yuppie garb (I've also heard it called ''high school with money''), '' Thirtysomething' ' is concerned with having it all - and ''all'' seems to include not only a great place to live but also an inner life and a savvy cross-cultural awareness.
Edward Zwick, who with Marshall Herskovitz created the series, now in its third year, describes it as ''committed to the vividness of culture and to the idea of including higher culture in the midst of popular culture.'' And in truth, it is shot through with themes and asides about the arts - high, low and intermediate - and especially the visual arts. In addition, there's the intensely styled '' Thirtysomething' ' look, a result of the series' distinctive cinematography and carefully accessorized backgrounds - sets full of eye-catching art, design objects and furniture.
Indeed, the series is so packed with visual signifiers that you may find yourself poised to catch the next cultural artifact that comes into focus (a Noguchi lamp here, a Christo poster there) to the virtual exclusion of all else. Likewise the next dropped name. On a down day a character may feel ''caught in a Diane Arbus picture.'' And familiar, last-name-only allusions have been made to prominent art-world figures such as Schnabel (Julian), Clemente (Francesco) and a Beckmann (Max) exhibit, as well as to P. S. 1, a not exactly well-known alternative exhibition space in Queens.
Perhaps most significant, one of the recurring themes of '' Thirtysomething' ' is creativity itself. Granted, it is not deep or long-suffering creativity. It is more a hobbylike creativity, something that comes into conflict with the demands of family and ''real'' work. In addition, '' Thirtysomething' ' characters haven't, at least as yet, lived up to their culture-packed sets and conversations. Still, it is rather startling to see artistic issues, both major and minor, touched upon so frequently on prime-time TV.
The main frame of '' Thirtysomething'' is the advertising business, where its two male leads, Michael Steadman, who majored in English at Penn, and Elliot Weston, an art-school graduate, currently pursue promising careers at an agency called DAA. Melissa, another central character, is a promising photographer; her most recent boyfriend, a secret painter, just landed a job at DAA. Nancy, Elliot's wife, once dreamed of being an artist and is a recently published children's book illustrator.
Creativity in the form of literature and writing is a related subtheme. Michael toys with the idea of writing fiction; his wife, Hope, once dreamed of a career in publishing and has tried to pursue a freelance writing career that came sharply into conflict with her role as a parent. Their good friend Gary had been an academic, teaching the classics until he failed to get tenure.
The '' Thirtysomething' ' look might be described as watered-down ''Blue Velvet,'' although David Lynch's film was released a year after the TV series started. The series specializes in saturated color and a dark shadowy light not often seen on television. The tellingly detailed backgrounds are often shot close, with sudden shifts in focus or with a roving camera.
In terms of set design, '' Thirtysomething' ' charts the widening influence of what might be called art-world stylehood - its renovated spaces and buildings, its collectibles and the idiosyncratic ''expressive'' decor of its interiors. The characters' homes speak of busy lives and multiple desires, with the melange of children's toys, books and artworks in particular communicating the ongoing conflict between creativity and real life. And each environment is carefully calibrated to the personality of its occupants.
Michael and Hope Steadman, whose marriage seems to represent the show's ideal, live in a house as old and big as Andy Hardy's - except that the burnished wood trim of its interior makes one think of Frank Lloyd Wright or Green & Green, while its furnishings could have come entirely from stylish shops in SoHo. The Steadmans have a Stickley-type breakfront in their dining room that Barbra Streisand probably wouldn't mind adding to her Mission-furniture collection, an antique wicker settee in the sunroom, a blond wood bed that says French (or maybe Swedish) Country and a black-and-chrome lamp that says high-tech.
Once, a heavily framed Frank Lloyd Wrightish architectural drawing was glimpsed in the stairwell. Like the breakfront, it indicates a commitment to collecting that is out of sync with the Steadmans' interests. Similarly, the plethora of material goods and household stuff surrounding the couple seems mysterious. We never see them shopping, they never talk about their possessions and invariably they're short of money.
Over at the Weston house, where intuition and creativity are seemingly given freer rein than at the more staid Steadman household, and where there are two children, the colors brighten. The home is a one-level tract house that Elliot has spiced up by painting a dining-room wall green and a kitchen wall red. At times the decor bespeaks a casual, textured style that might be described as ''50's university faculty'' - a built-in teak cabinet displays a collection of modern ceramic teapots and vases.
Melissa lives in a fairly convincing loft, full of mismatched furniture, that blends early SoHo with the kind of coziness found in the pages of Metropolitan Home.
Conversations with people involved with the series make it clear that no visual detail is too minor to consider - and reconsider.
''Everything says something; everything makes a difference,'' says Scott Winant, the supervising producer. ''What may be perceived as a small point may actually register subconsciously with the audience.''
Brandy Alexander, the series' art director, who majored in painting at the University of California at Los Angeles, speaks of ''art storylines woven into the script'' and the constant modifications to the sets as characters evolve.
''What's so unusual is that the art direction expands the characters,'' Ms. Alexander says, adding, ''I like to layer, and am always adding details as much as possible in layers.'' For example, as Melissa has settled into her work, her restaurant-style stove has gone from bright red to more serious gray. Ms. Alexander reveals that the Steadman house will remain in a constant state of renovation (perhaps to work against the couple's air of settled, well-to-do security?). She also reveals that the Steadmans' house is based on two Green & Green-influenced California Craftsman homes in Pasadena, and that the arched windows and bare brick walls of the building that houses DAA were inspired by the turn-of-the-century buildings of Frank Furness, one of Philadelphia's most famous architects.
Sometimes the series seems to reflect the widening acceptability of being creative, or perhaps even being an artist, although the art here leans toward the commercial variety, just as the creative dilemmas take place in unusually cushy surroundings. Melissa's big breakthrough as a portrait photographer is the chance to photograph Carly Simon for a record album, but just in case fortune doesn't smile, her father may help out by buying the loft building she lives in. In the past, the series prompted viewers to wonder if Nancy, Elliot's wife, will resume the artwork that once made her so attractive to her husband. (She does, illustrating and writing a children's book with her son.) Lately, creative tensions have centered on whether Elliot will be allowed to actually direct commercials rather than just write them. Ultimately, the show's terrific visual form seems to exceed its content. The air of culture works primarily to give a smart, informed gloss to extremely conventional values. Present as it is, art is never allowed to threaten hearth, home and a steady income. Instead, it is used to make a point, is deftly blended with life issues and then pulled away from.
During the writing-course segment, for example, Michael comes to see that he's a better writer when he starts with his own experiences rather than lifting details from other people's lives - in other words, art begins in honesty. But this lesson is subsumed in a larger, safer scenario when Michael gives up the idea of writing fiction altogether, confessing, rather sappily, to Hope, ''I could never make a sentence that means half as much to me as you.''
But the story goes on. Regarding Michael's decision to abandon a career as a writer, Edward Zwick notes, ''The notion of having to reckon with compromise may become more central.''
In the meantime, one can only wait and watch, intrigued by each moment of recognition and wondering if the art and culture of '' Thirtysomething' ' will spread to other parts of the small screen.
The New York Times
March 6, 1990, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final
Section D; Page 21, Column 1; Financial Desk
THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Advertising; A TV Series Uses Agency For Realism
By RANDALL ROTHENBERG
LOS ANGELES: JUST outside Marshall Herskovitz's homey office, with its old, beaten leather couch, there is a basketball hoop attached to a wall, about six feet off the ground. It looks exactly like the basketball hoop that used to be in the office of Michael Steadman and Elliot Weston before their advertising agency went under and they started work at Drentell Ashly Arthur, the hottest shop in Philadelphia.
Although not an advertising man himself, Mr. Herskovitz has come to know advertising quite well through his association with Michael and Elliot. To be exact, he helped invent them. He and his partner, Edward Zwick, are the executive producers of '' thirtysomething, '' the weekly ABC television series broadcast Tuesday nights at 10 o'clock. Its two leading male characters, Michael and Elliot, are a copywriter and an art director trying to balance their personal lives and professional ambitions.
In an interview in the Studio City office of his production company, the Bedford Falls Company, Mr. Herskovitz, a personable man who exudes energetic wonder over his involvement in a hit series, explained that making the show's lead characters ad men was a ''seat of the pants'' decision.
''When we put them in that little company, we had no idea how the advertising business worked,'' he said.
But when the show's second season dawned in 1988 and the decision was made to make Michael's and Elliot's profession a more integral part of '' thirtysomething, '' verisimilitude was needed and help required. Both came from Chiat/Day/Mojo, whose main office is in nearby Venice, Calif. The agency acceded to a request for advice by opening its headquarters and offering its employees as resources.
The dynamics of creative partnerships, personal relationships inside an agency and how campaigns are created were all observed and later discussed by four Chiat creatives in a three-hour debriefing by two Bedford Falls producers. The agency's involvement gave rise to a rumor that coursed through the advertising industry that Miles Drentell, Drentell Ashly Arthur's mercurial head and Michael's and Elliot's new boss, was based on Jay Chiat, the occasionally inscrutable founder of Chiat/Day/Mojo. But Mr. Herskovitz, who is eight years into the thirtysomething period, said that Miles, who has become the show's most commented-upon character within the advertising world, was modeled after a television producer whom he and Mr. Zwick once knew.
''We figured if such a guy could exist in the world of TV, he could exist in advertising and other fields,'' Mr. Herskovitz said.
Other advertising people have also proferred advice. Miles was named, despite a slight spelling difference, for William Drenttel, a partner in the New York agency Drenttel Doyle Partners and an old friend of Mr. Zwick's, who helped the producers draw an emotionally accurate portrait of the failure of an ad agency.
With the help of Rob Cohen, a commercial director, one '' thirtysomething' ' episode was able to provide a reasonably accurate portrayal of the creative process in action. Faced with an opportunity to help revive a flagging brand of candy, Michael (who is played by Ken Olin) and Elliot (who is played by Timothy Busfield) devise a method to appeal to young urban professionals, much like themselves, by reminding them of their childhoods. They call the strategy ''retrosnacking.'' The commercial they create was actually filmed by Mr. Cohen, who directed the episode and appeared in it as the commercial director.
Mr. Herskovitz, who was dressed in Reebok sneakers, workpants and a gray open-collar shirt and, with his brown hair and brown beard, looked not a little bit like Elliot, noted that there was a distinction between the advertising and television crafts.
'' Advertising is so much about very targeted decisions about very minute topics,'' he said. ''It's different from what we do. We spend our time trying to get out of the fog to tell a story.''
He stretched his legs out from his worn couch, under the old farm table in front of it, then quickly leaned forward again with new revelation. ''But there is a similarity,'' he said, emphatically. ''It's the basic silliness of what we do.''
The New York Times
January 15, 1990, Monday, Late Edition - Final
Section D; Page 7, Column 3; Financial Desk
THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Advertising; An Agency As Depicted On a TV Hit
By RANDALL ROTHENBERG
MYSTICAL and manipulative, Miles Drentell is every advertising person's nightmare: an agency boss who speaks in epigrams, pits copywriters against art directors and has a god complex that rivals that of a minor deity.
Fortunately, Miles is only a character on '' thirtysomething, '' the ABC television series shown on Tuesday evenings at 10 o'clock, Eastern time. He isn't real. Or is he? In ad agency creative departments, the debate rages over the veracity of '' thirtysomething' ' and of the character who owns the hottest shop in Philadelphia. The verdict is a decided thumbs sideways.
''We have this discussion at work all the time - is it realistic, is it not realistic?'' said Julie Newton, a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, New York. ''Anybody who would be as obnoxious as Miles, nobody would follow around.''
''On the other hand,'' Ms. Newton added, after a pause in her fast-paced meditation, ''there are a lot of obnoxious people in this business who do have cult followings.''
A handful of creative people find Miles to be an accurate representation of people they know. After all, the character bears the same last name as Stephen Drentell, of Drentell Doyle Partners in New York, and the fictional agency is modeled after Broyles & Associates, the Los Angeles agency that fashions promotions for '' thirtysomething. ''
''He's a close reflection of a number of people I've worked with,'' said Dave Leinwohl, a journeyman art director about to start working at Keye/Donna/Pearlstein, New York. ''A lot of bosses are manipulative, especially guys that run their own place.''
But most ad people find Miles, as depicted by the veteran character actor David Clennon, to be an exaggerated version of reality; a monster in the contemporary agency uniform of European suits and hand-painted ties.
''The kind of blatant, blatant power games he plays - while there are power games in the ad business, they are usually more subtle than that,'' said John Nieman, the chief creative officer of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles/New York. ''And he's an uncooperative egotist. While egotism is a pretty big part of the creative product and the creative psyche, it's portrayed to an extreme that you don't, in 1990, see.''
Jan Egan, a Saatchi & Saatchi copywriter, agreed. ''He's a caricature of what a real creative director should be,'' she said. ''I remember an episode last season where some poor zhlub brought a storyboard to him. He looked at it for two seconds, said, 'no, no,' and this poor person slunk off into the background. Most people aren't that way. You sit, you talk about the board.''
But if creative people find Miles to be more overtly sadistic than their employers, most nevertheless found the show's overall depiction of their profession to be lifelike. And last week's episode, in which a creatively fallow creative director was forced from the agency and temporarily replaced by Michael Steadman, the show's copywriter-protagonist, was fodder for much lunchtime chatter from Madison Avenue to Tribeca.
''The idea that he just stopped taking risks and he's being threatened by creativity around him is very realistic,'' said Ms. Newton of Ogilvy. ''I've definitely had creative directors like that.''
And Marty Cooke, a group creative head at Chiat/Day/Mojo (who disputes any resemblance between Miles and his own boss, Jay Chiat) says '' thirtysomething' ' has accurately depicted the frustrations of the creative process, especially those that arise when a creative team learns that another team within the agency has surreptitiously been assigned to the same project, a process known in advertising as a ''gang bang.''
''When Michael and Elliot found out about it in one episode, they got really upset,'' Mr. Cooke said. ''You try to explain to your mom why a gang bang is a bad idea, but they actually got across the anger and frustration a creative feels when he finds out a gang bang is going on.''
While the feelings may be real, though, facts occasionally get in the way of some creative peoples' identification with the show. Such was the case with Angela Dominguez, a copywriter at Berenter, Greenhouse & Webster, who thinks '' thirtysomething' ' fails on one crucial point.
''They covet the Clios,'' she said. ''Any real advertising person would covet the One Show.''
The New York Times
May 14, 1989, Sunday, Late City Final Edition
Section 1; Part 2, Page 34, Column 4; Style Desk
STYLE MAKERS; Drenttel Doyle Partners - Advertising and Graphic Designers
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
To Stephen Doyle, a 32-year-old co-conspirator behind the design of the magazines Spy, In Fashion and The New Republic, graphic design is a bit like driver's education. ''You communicate through layout,'' he said. ''Type tells the reader when to speed up and when to put the brakes on.''
In the hands of Mr. Doyle and his partners, William Drenttel, 35, and Tom Kluepfel, 33, typography is a turbo-charged vehicle through which mischievous and sometimes subversive ideas occur. Their three-year-old firm, Drenttel Doyle Partners, has already had an impact on the look of American magazines.
Their design for Spy, with its collage-like use of tiny type, sidebars, background tints and snippets of information whispering like groundlings in the margins, has spawned a host of imitators, some seemingly separated at birth. ''We don't have a house style, but we do have a house thought process,'' Mr. Doyle said. ''We like to analyze stuff to pieces, then shoot from the hip.''
The firm was born on a spring day when Mr. Drenttel, then a senior vice president of Saatchi & Saatchi Compton, and Mr. Doyle, then an art director at M & Company, expanded their friendship and decided to talk business. ''It was an off-the-wall idea we both jumped on,'' recalled Mr. Drenttel. ''We incorporated two weeks later.''
Today, they are attempting to ''mix up the lines between design, advertising and marketing,'' in Mr. Drenttel's words.
He is reputedly the inspiration for Miles Drentell, the supercilious ad man on the television show '' Thirtysomething. '' It seems one of the show's creators, Edward Zwick, is an old friend of Mr. Drenttel. It is a dubious honor, but better Miles Drentell than Michael and Elliot, characters in the show who ran an ad agency. As Mr. Doyle noted, ''There's a major distinction; we're still in business.''
GRAPHIC: William Drenttel with his partners Tom Kluepfel and Stephen Doyle (The New York Times/Sara Krulwich)
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