Yesterday's Bears vs Lions game was so awful to watch that announcers Chris Spielman and Thom Brennaman had to invent stuff to talk about. Like Spielman's Wheaties box.
Oh sure I'm in the process of painting a clueless John Fox who... please Football Gods let him be something so embarrassing and insignificant that, like Mark Trestman or the Segway, we forget about him soon.
Anyway, Spielman was one of 6 winners for the Wheaties "Search for Champions" contest in 1984.
Back before the internet, during a time when people still read newspapers and cereal boxes.
The contest asked that people from around the country nominate a local athlete by mailing it in, and the athletes with the most votes from their community would get to have their own Wheaties box.
So... not like the current All-Star voting, where each fan can vote 35 times for the same dude. It was actual work, writing it down and mailing in your vote.
And I was the junior art director on the Wheaties account who got the assignment: one big photo shoot, one print ad and 6 Wheaties boxes.
There were no computers back then - if you were an art director you had to comp up the ad with markers and rulers and do character counts for body copy which you sent off to a typesetting place and prayed it looked okay later.
In this case... well lets say it was a learning experience.
The client liked it at least.
(and sorry - I found the ad by accident in an art portfolio that got soaked in the basement)
All these athletes, their families, and their local press would be coming to the shoot which had to happen in New York (I think there was a fancy dinner for them or something as well).
A big deal to organize.
I found a NY fashion guy (can't remember his name, sorry) who had a big studio that was probably something else before that because he had a big stage and more importantly, an actual chain link fence around the stage.
Maybe before it was a small time boxing venue or something.
So everybody flies to NY.
The day of the shoot... I'll guess there were maybe 40 people behind the fence so if you were an amateur athlete from a small town like Massillon, Ohio, then this was kind of daunting.
Dressing rooms and wardrobe people and photo assistants and make up artists.
There's no such thing as a digital camera yet, so they're shooting massive polaroids of an assistant posing as an athlete on the stage until the photographer feels that the light is right.
And finally the athletes come out, one by one.
The photographer's job is to relax the athletes and make them feel at home so that later we don't have Wheaties boxes covered with terrified faces.
He was really not comfortable with anything, especially make up (and all make up was trying to do was dry the faces with probably powder or something so that they weren't sweaty).
On the stage, he looked like a deer in headlights.
The photographer's asking him questions and trying to get him to think of anything but all those people.
"How'd you get to be so big, Chris?"
Stuff like that.
Finally, he relaxes some and we get some shots - he's in the upper left of the ad.
The photo in the ad - group shots are a nightmare.
I bet you've experienced this yourself.
Someone will be looking the wrong way or something, and besides I think I remember that the swimmer (Mary T. Meagher) couldn't make the shoot.
We had to comp 6 different pictures together and yeah, photoshop hadn't been invented yet.
Someone did that with an X-Acto knife, rubber cement, and airbrush.
And fun stuff for sure.
I got to do boxes (and commercials) for Mary Lou Retton and Walter Payton, too.
My buddy Brad Morgan got to shoot Pete Rose.