Acclaimed boxing writer Bert Sugar passed away last month from cardiac arrest at the age of 75. But calling Sugar just an influential scribe would be selling his life just a bit short.
Before his foray into sports, he graduated from the University Of Michigan law school. But Sugar never practiced law, instead he spent the 1960s working in advertising on Madison Avenue.
Sugar went onto become the editor of popular boxing magazines such as Boxing Illustrated and The Ring, appeared in movies such as “The Great White Hype” and “Rocky Balboa”, and wrote over 80 books.
He was also a frequent guest on Canadian sports radio personality Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports show. In his last appearance on the show, he discussed his time as an ad man in New York, and how it compared to AMC’s “Mad Men”. You can watch the video of the interview here.
Below is an excerpt of the interview, which was published in this month’s Sportsnet Magazine:
Bob McCown: Have you watched Mad Men?
Bert Sugar: Oh, yes.
BS: It’s understated. We were worst.
BS: One agency I was in, the drinking was so bad they put a bar on the 14th floor called The Meeting. So if somebody called - your wife, a client - you were in the meeting.
BM: “He’s In The Meeting!”
BS: You were drunk. And then you’d get on the bar car coming home and get worse.
BM: I have a few stories of ad agencies here in Toronto from the early 70s. A group of guys who regularly, on Friday afternoons, would rent a limousine and drive up and down one of the main boulevards mooning people.
BS: That was about right. There was a group in New York called FATWA - and it had nothing to do with the Muslin world. Fifth Avenue - and I won’t say the word but it’s a mammary reference, the “T” - Watchers Association.
These were $200,000 - and $300,000-a year executives who stood out on the sidewalk comparing girls all lunch period. It was the final frontier, Wild West type of approach - and yet you came out with great commercials.
There were all kinds of funny things going on. Panasonic had a TV Set in the 60s - and at that point Americans were not buying anything Japanese except cameras and TV sets - and Panasonic didn’t sound Japanese, which it was, so it couldn’t take advantage of the disadvantage.
So there was one copywriter who came in with an ad and he showed it to the Japanese clients.
The headline? “From those wonderful people who gave you Pearl Harbour”
BS: He was fired, and the agency was fired.