Before Charlie Piccirillo became my brother-in-law, and, by familial obligation, I had to
sing his praises, I sang his praises. Going back to before I even met him. Going back to
an ad he did (with copywriter Monte Ghertler) that, in my opinion, is one of the finest
ads ever to come out of Doyle Dane Bernbach.
The ad was for National Library Week, and the visual was simply the alphabet, sitting
arrestingly in an expanse of white space. The headline, which I can’t remember
verbatim, said in essence: Your New York Public Library has these arranged in ways
that can make you laugh, cry, ponder, understand, (and several more evocative verbs).
What does this have to do with basketball? Nothing…but since this is a tribute, I felt it
was worth mentioning. Now, on to hoops and the day Charlie decided it was time to
Back in the ‘70s, there was a group of us DDBers – the mainstays being Charlie, Mike
Lawlor, Tom Messner and myself – who used to play basketball once a week or so.
Usually in the playground on 42nd St. and the FDR. We were often joined by other
aging jocks, including two former college stars: Carl Ally’s Ron Berger and, from the
TV production side, the great Phil Suarez.
As we increased in age, our injuries increased in number. One day I badly cut my head
and had to be rushed up to Tom Messner’s nearby apartment, where Tom’s wife,
Terry, administered first aid. Then there was Bob Tucker’s broken leg, which not only
sidelined him from basketball but from advertising as well. And, of course, Charlie was
no exception, having repeated injuries, some of which sent him cabbing it up to New
The one hospital visit, however, that made Charlie seriously rethink his schoolyard
basketball career was when the nurse at the emergency room desk, who now knew
him, gave Charlie something resembling a credit card, so that for future visits he
wouldn’t have to again and again fill out a form supplying all his information but
simply present the card. It was now time, Charlie realized, to move on to a less
hazardous sport, like tennis…and eventually golf, which he plays – quite well, in
fact – to this day.
But enough about sports, back to accolades. Charlie once said to me how talented he
felt the DDB copywriters were and how good they made the art directors look. Which I
found somewhat ironic, considering how talented he was and how good he made so
many copywriters look. Including me.