Garrett Brown on Anne Winn
To a 24 year old agency writer/producer in Philadelphia, Anne was mysterious, fabulous, intriguing--at once approachable (she was the girl next door with her desk just six feet from mine), and as remote an enigma as Mata Hari. She was gorgeous and we were all somewhat awed by her. Her rich smoky laugh welcomed you in--and then eased you right back out! In those innocent, antediluvian days, she was hit on by everyone in the agency and by clients and suppliers of all sexes; and all were affectionately fended off, egos intact.
"Her rich smoky laugh welcomed you in--and then eased you right back out!"
She was a copywriter, newly arrived from New York, and I had just been bumped up to producer. We were assigned to work together and began to realize that we were kindred lost souls. We became each others' perfect audience (a condition which, thankfully, has persisted to this day). She was funny and sharp, and could jump in on my stuff and play it straight or ratchet things up to another level, but it was never just shtick (she had paid her dues writing spots for Borscht Belt hotels, and had an aversion to easy one-liners). Her stuff was always disarmingly authentic. Our banter in the office led directly to our radio career because when our pal Arnie Roberts started his own agency, he remembered our extemporaneous riffing and hired us to knock off Nichols and May and attempt some ad-lib dialogue spots for a local clothing store. I have recently heard those first efforts and they are amazing. I got paid with a three-piece suit and our radio careers immediately took off like a rocket.
"She was funny and sharp, and could jump in on my stuff and play it straight or ratchet things up to another level."
Meanwhile, Anne was never exactly forthcoming about her personal history. My attempts to decode her (like Watson's dossier on Holmes) eventually yielded the following:
- Raised in Philly; a rebellious loner, cutting school to sneak into theaters and the Free Library, and sing in coffee houses, etc.
- Appeared in three plays at Temple U., but no classes (with me it was folk-singing and no classes), bounced out to a small college in central Illinois, and then to NYU, and then back to Temple (on-air talent on the radio station, but no classes)
- Worked for an invisibly small ad agency in Phila. for a year, learned to buy print, and to write ads; quit, went to a NY agency, handled every hotel in Catskills, got fired on Christmas Eve.
- Wrote real estate ads, got fired, then back to another Philly agency, but got fired because she told the owner's brother-in-law that he was an idiot (Anne was frequently fired for speaking her mind).
- Thence to yet another agency, which finally merged with our little shop, Werman & Schorr.
There are some eerie parallels between Anne's career(s) and mine (a friend steered me into advertising by calling it the 'great bolt-hole for ne'er do wells'). On the surface, just two more disaffected children of the 60's--ambivalent about life and work, getting along by successfully posing as normal persons
"Truth be known, doing radio is my favorite occupation."
But together Anne and I began to do excellent, highly original work, and we started winning awards that got our little agency noticed and eventually acquired by Rumrill-Hoyt--whereupon we promptly quit.
Our ad-lib dialogue spots for Arnie Roberts got us started as radio artistes (we still light candles at his shrine), and within a few years we were doing all of Kodak's network radio, but I began to work on movies and Anne married a real-estate developer and began to raise racehorses, and we left the business at the height of our new-found success.
"No conversation with her, whether on radio or in life is ever less than memorable."
We were only lured back to radio when Molson dusted off a spot we had made earlier called "Border Crossing", and tested it in focus groups. It apparently broke all records for recall, etc. and they began to call us for more. (Incidentally, that spot became the longest running commercial in history. It ran without interruption from 1980 to 1993.) Eventually we made a deal and rebuilt the studio and made some of the most successful spots ever for clients like Molson and American Express. If the truth be known, doing radio is my favorite occupation and Anne is still as mysterious and intriguing and funny as ever. We are still each other's best audience and no conversation with her, whether on radio or in life is ever less than memorable.