Column

The flack who brought you Hush Puppies is selling the Prime Minister like dog food

Allan Fotheringham April 16 1979
Column

The flack who brought you Hush Puppies is selling the Prime Minister like dog food

Allan Fotheringham April 16 1979

The flack who brought you Hush Puppies is selling the Prime Minister like dog food

Column

Allan Fotheringham

Eric Nicol, the humorist who deals with tragic things, once wrote that each one of us—every human being—is diminished slightly every time a grown man stands on a TV screen and tells how his life has been changed by an underarm deodorant. Each lie, each debasement of dignity, chips away at what man has been trying to achieve ever since he crawled out of a swamp. It’s a good point, and especially pertinent during an election campaign when all the deodorant-pushers pause for a tiny moment from their steady role of diminishing our souls and instead tinsel-wrap the politicians we will choose in the polling booth.Before you get to Pierre Trudeau, you must first encounter Jerry Goodis, the Trudeau-packager who shifts products and ideals with all the élan of the local teen-ager enfolding the lettuce in plastic at your friendly supermarket.

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Goodis, an aging flack z with a paste-over ' hair« style, brought you Speedy £

Muffler and Wonder Bra. £

He is now working his g wondrous cynicism on the mighty Liberal Party to imbue it with the gifts that spell home run with Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch. Goodis is a good flack, a superior shill. That means he would spike his mother sliding into second base. The Liberals hire only the best. If you’re going to buy a huckster, go to the top.

All this is of special interest to thee and me because, under the new Election Expenses Act, politicians receive a subsidy from the public purse for a certain level of campaign expenses. During the last 28 days of this tedious election— about the time the voters will tune in on what’s going on—the genius of the man who devotes his life to mufflers and brassieres will be exposed on the boob tube to illuminate the democratic process and the instinct for greed.

Goodis, a high priest of MacLaren Advertising of Toronto, the tame agency that sucks at the vast Liberal teat, is involved in something called Red Leaf Communications Ltd., a laundered Liberal connection that exists only dur-

ing election campaigns for the purpose of buying Liberal advertising space in newspapers and on radio and TV. The Liberals take care of their flacks. George Elliott, a MacLaren vice-president immortalized for inventing THE LAND IS STRONG slogan, has been rewarded with the No. 3 spot in the Canadian embassy in Washington. (It is a large hoot among agency rogues that out in the boonies, in Moose Groin and Otter Haunch, the ticky-tacky radio stations and such—never having heard of something called “Red Leaf”—often

demand cash on the barrelhead, unaware that the corporate wisdom and bankroll of all that is good and fine in Canadian life is behind it. The NDP use the Toronto agency of Lawrence Wolf to place their ads; the Tories use Media Buying Services.)

The vehicle is not important. What is important is the mind of the man who will shill, for a buck, a prime minister as readily as dog food. If we are to understand modern politics, we must understand (however distasteful that may be) Jerry Goodis. He is an intriguing little cat who, several years back, portrayed himself as a crusader on social issues, although he’s never really done anything more daring than trade in his Lincoln for a newer Cadillac (when GM became a client). He is a charlatan, but a successful charlatan, someone who has been able to create for himself a high-profile image of an ad man with a conscience—the social conscience being a cloak, as a friend says, “for what has been a long series of advertisements

for himself.” Here is Goodis during the last campaign, defending his flogging of Trudeau: “Why is it immoral to sell a politician? Everybody sells something. Sure you try to emphasize the candidate’s strong points. Why not? When you’re chasing a girl, you don’t tell her you’ve got bad breath.”

Here is Goodis in a rare moment of candor admonishing a reluctant jobseeker at the ad agency: “If you don’t want to prostitute yourself, how come you’re looking for work in a whorehouse?” This confession came in a pitiful little book, Have I Ever Lied to You Before?, supposedly written by Goodis several years back. In fact—true to his ethics—it was written for him (with no acknowledgement). It fits in with his modus operandi. For a recent speech to a marketing group, on the Canadian media, he paid Larry Zolf, the certified zany and future senator, $1,500 to write the entire thing. Then, asked to expand on it for a magazine article, he utilized Michael Callaghan (a factotum within MacLaren, son of Morley, brother of Barry) among others before fleshing it out some more. Says Zolf: “Aside from bad jokes, he cannot put a thought together.”

He hopped onto the trendy bandwagon for beseiged consumers, but then told a forum of insurance firms that consumerism is out to get them and — nudge, nudge, wink, wink,—“you need all the help you can get.” In that dreadful little book, which Kildare Dobbs accurately described as “a fatuous exercise in self-congratulation,” Goodis had his ghostwriter say: “If there is an unresolvable conflict between the communication needs of business and the communication needs of Canada, guess who’s going to have to move over? My stakes are in advertising.”

There is something pitiful in observing the mind of Pierre Trudeau being packaged and sold by a man whose life has been devoted to Hush Puppies and cross-your-heart ethics.

Has he ever lied to you before?