From time to time, I said I would relive some of my favorite memories of Kenrick Advertising. This is one of those times.
Warren Wiethaupt was one of the most interesting humans I’ve ever worked with in my 30-plus years of advertising. Warren was an account guy and worked almost exclusively on the Missouri Division of Tourism account. For a while, we also did work for the Missouri Division of Community and Economic Development as well as the Missouri Film Commission. But the tourism account was Warren’s primary piece of business and he was a fanatic about it. Warren had an extremely interesting way to view creative work – if the client loved it, he loved it. If the client hated it, he hated it – and there really was no in-between.
Warren also had an extremely interesting way of working. He would arrive in the office around 4 am, create a flurry of memos (long before people would send out a flurry of emails), distribute them to the necessary recipients throughout the office and then he’d be gone, out of the office by 6:30 or 7 in the morning leaving everyone who received his meanderings wondering what exactly we were supposed to do next. Cell phones weren’t even around back then so he would largely be incommunicado, showing up occasionally for a meeting, particularly when client deadlines were looming. As long as Marjorie (our tourism client) was happy, everyone seemed to be happy.
Kenrick changed dramatically when Ken Hieronymus, Ric Sides and Gene Duncan all opted out for retirement, made possible by Denny Long, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, who bought Kenrick Advertising, along with several other companies (including Technisonic Studios, Aragon Public Relations, Kingsbury Graphics, Multa-Vista Productions, Patrick Promotions and I think there may be one other I’m forgetting). Anyway, with Denny in charge, things were – well different. I came back from a tourism shoot to discover that I had lost my corner office and that I would be reporting to a newly installed Creative Director. Okay. When the Christmas holidays rolled around, our Christmas bonuses were eliminated – instead there was a party at the Sheldon where we all received a Waterford ornament. Okay. Things continued to change, none really seemed for the better, but there was still plenty of work to be done.
One day, I needed to get in early myself – not exactly Warren time but I did roll in before 7 am. I was walking toward Warren’s office and could hear the furious sounds of him typing away on his electric. As I approached his doorway, I noticed a small pile of sawdust on the floor and when I actually saw his door, noticed there was about a four inch circular hole that had been cut where the door knob once was. I stopped at Warren’s office, peered in and asked, “Hey, Warren … what’s the deal with the door?”
Warren stopped typing, turned in his chair and faced me.
“Those bastards locked me out,” Warren said and then turned and resumed typing.
That wasn’t enough of an answer by me so I dug a little deeper. “So you cut a hole in the door?”
Warren got up, walked up to me and was mere inches away. There were little bits of sawdust on his forehead and sawdust specs covered his glasses. He was red in the face. He said, “I come in early to try and get work done and someone goes and changes the locks on my door. I’ve got to get work done. So I got in my car, drove home, got what I needed and sawed my way in.” He then smiled, went back to his desk and resumed typing. I looked at the door again. It was solid oak or walnut and I figured cost at least $800, if not more.
“Someone’s not going to find humor in this,” I thought to myself.
I was correct. Warren paid for a new door. A few months later, Kenrick Advertising and all of the other Aragon Companies that had been purchased 11 months earlier closed their doors when Denny Long filed Chapter 11 and about 130 advertising and marketing related employees were out on the street.
We all went on to different things – several agencies sprang up as a result – Brighton, Geile-Rexford (now Geile-Leon) among them. Warren died a few years ago – but his memory lives on.
So I guess it’s true what they say – when one door closes, another one opens – preferably without a hole marking the spot where the door knob belongs.