I Married a Mad Man

A Chicago ad legend inspired countless memorable campaigns, my own unbelievable love story, and, decades later, a hit leading man

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The company grew and changed. We landed pieces of several major accounts—Colgate-Palmolive, Swift, Maytag, Consolidated Foods. It was an exciting time; the advertising business was going through a revolution and getting lots of attention—shifting from the tired, straight-ahead hawking of products to innovative, thoughtful, surprising campaigns. When the John Hancock building opened in 1970, we took over the 25th and 27th floors—a nice, comfortable workspace with a splendid view of Chicago.

In effect, Dan was the creative director of the company and I was the marketing director. All of the finance and account people reported to me. It was a good fit. We hired several of the best creative minds in the business to work for us: men like Ernie Evers, who had done the Dial In, Dial Out campaign for Dial and was head of creative at Foote, Cone & Belding, and John Matthews, who had created Tony the Tiger.

I learned a lot from Draper Daniels. He wasn’t a great businessman, but he was a brilliant wordsmith and conceptualist, who taught me to state my ideas clearly and concisely, as if I was talking to one person. That was his philosophy: Advertising should talk to one person at a time. We worked on a number of memorable campaigns together, including Motorola car radios, Freeman shoes, Derby Tamales, and many others.

Dan enjoyed work, but he also knew how to have fun—more than I did. He would often be off swimming or playing handball by six o’clock, while I would still be in the office sometimes until eleven or midnight. He had a boyish, mischievous sense of humor; often, it was hard to tell when he was serious and when he was joking.

One day, after he had been with us for about two years, Dan came into my office with a card in his hand. By this time, the firm had been through several buyouts and mergers and I had a funny feeling that he was about to tell me of another one. I asked, “Are you going to sell me with the next merger?”

“Not exactly,” he said.

He showed me the card. On one side, he had written out his own best character traits. Then he turned it over. On the other side he had written out mine. Mine were better than his, so I knew he wanted something. I thought, What in the world has got into him?

“I’ve been thinking about this for nine months, Myra,” he said, “and I think we would make a great team.”

I said, “I think we are a great team. Think of what we’ve accomplished so far this year.”

He said, “I’m talking about a different sort of merger.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, I’ve decided I’d like to marry you.”

I lost my voice for a moment, because I had never thought of the man that way before—and had no idea he had thought of me that way. Dan was twelve and a half years older than I and had been married before. I was against divorce in those days. But more importantly, I was happy with my life. I told him that.

“All right,” he said. “Let’s talk about it again tomorrow.” And then he walked out whistling—which, to me, was one of the most maddening things anyone can do, particularly under the circumstances.

My assistant said, “Did you get another account? Mr. Daniels seems very happy.”

I went home early and called Len, my fiancé, back in Washington. I told him what Dan had just said.

Len laughed. He knew Draper Daniels. “Come on,” he said. “He’s pulling your leg.”

The next day I wrote out a note and had it placed on Dan’s desk. “Merger accepted in fifteen years,” it said. “Today, let’s get some new business.”

Well, Dan came down from his office on the double, carrying a Peacock jewelers ring box. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “Put that in the safe. I couldn’t even think about marrying someone without a year’s courtship.”

“All right,” he said. “We’ll count today as day one, then.” And he put out his hand and we shook, as if sealing a business proposition.

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