Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Roger Prince Reflects

Roger talks about the Studio and My Dad

Morgan Studio was very much a product of my father’s view of how things ought to be. Of course, I have carried many lessons with me all my life. What a pleasure it was to chat with a Roger Prince on December 22, 2015. We were on the phone for 90 joyful minutes. It is the anecdotal stuff of legends that I feel compelled to record here. Roger is 80 and my father passed just over two years ago and yet the memories of the familiar nuances remain.  The following notes are presented to share. As always, I take some poetic license but welcome further discussion of detail and larger implications.

On being hired
Roger reported that he interviewed with a production manager when a client meeting made it not possible to meet with my father. He left his portfolio. A telegram from my father summoned him back downtown “Can you meet me today?” The result was being offered a job. It’s telling that this young man in his early 20’s was so thrilled that salary was not even a part of the discussion.
Basic Training
My father liked military precision and likened his indoctrination as a sort of basic training. Roger, was not alone in finding this distasteful. Jim Morgan had ideas about how things should be done and he was the boss. Roger clearly remembers, in hindsight however, the value of swallowing his pride. So much of what Jim Morgan was asking for made sense.
Competitive Leverage
Wyse Advertising was a sort of cross town rival but with a big agency orientation. (Morgan Studio and Wyse were both founded in 1951 and this was 1955). Roger managed to get an offer that included the title of Art Director. Jim Morgan was able to match that offer and keep Roger. Roger settled in at the Studio for the balance of the decade leading up to 1960.
Punctuality
Roger was able to mimic my father so well that I could recognize the cadence of his voice calling for Mary Evers when the Art Director was a few minutes late to work one day. “Mary, Mary, Mary…Roger here apparently wants to change our hours. Roger --- What time do you think we ought to start around here? 9:05? 9:11? Or perhaps it would be more to your liking if we started at 9:15?” Great stuff (and a wonderful illustration of how important being on time was to the Morgan Studio model.
Mary Mary
Mary Evers was chief administrator at Morgan Studio and Mary Morgan was my mom. Both Marys figured in the success formula and support network of Mr. Morgan. Not surprisingly, Roger and the employees liked to speculate and imagine a more salacious bond between the Mary and Jim at work. Roger was more than a bit amused to learn that mom would sometimes refer to the studio’s Mary as “twinkletoes.” The dynamics of women in my father’s life is the subject of a much longer discussion. Suffice it to say both Marys were incredible and indispensible.
A Big Car and a Boatride
Roger reported an incidence that began one day at work with Jim Morgan waving to Roger with his thumb gesturing to follow him and waving others in the shop to follow him. The employees did not know where they were going as they followed the leader. They found themselves in front of the Caxton Building where my mom’s White Lincoln Continental was waiting for them. At dad’s urging they piled into the car and he drove them to the 9th street pier where dad’s boat, The Leprechaun, was waiting. Roger described a quick round trip to the five mile crib on Lake Erie and a return to work. According to Roger, “Jim said --- I just wanted you to see the boat you helped me buy.” 
Layouts and Humility
Roger described a Jim Morgan that could be both cruel and supportive. He offered an example of reviewing some layouts that he critiqued with a devastating rejection. “These are Nnnnothing,” Jim Morgan said.  This was near the end of his run at Morgan Studio --- Roger was at the end of his rope. He admitted to being angry and needing an hour or so to cool down. He threw and broke a small radio. Roger gathered the layouts and peeked in on my father at his drawing table to discover him smiling and offering . “You finally got mad about something.” It was as if the object of the game was not about design but passion. 

Roger, Thanks for sharing these stories. The best thing about our conversation (for me) is your comment at the end of the ninety minutes. You said, “I learned a lot from your father and the reason I am telling you these things is that I built my business based on the Morgan Studio model and I wanted to thank your father. Talking to his son is the next best thing.”

Wow.     

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