Last year I had posted some of my funnier experiences (well, I thought they were funny) while working as an artist at Hallmark Cards many moons ago. Since it seems there’s always so much gloom, doom, anger, and downright pissiness on Social Media and the internet, I thought I’d share a couple of more today, just to lighten the mood.

Dick Hertz

Readers might recall my earlier stories about my pal Susie H. (young, smart, attractive, quick-witted, and meaner than a tiger with a toothache) who was always playing pranks on me—but others got their share of her attention, too. She used to have nicknames for almost everyone: one brief vice president, Bob Stark, was “Bulldog Bob Stark” because she thought he vaguely resembled a local wrestler named Bulldog Bob Brown. One quality editor was “Sausage Toes” and a guy she knew in manufacturing was “Yigon” (short for “Yep I Got One Nut”—don’t ask). A humor writer friend of mine named Bob Elser was single at the time and liked to wander from department to department (often carrying a clipboard to look “official”) chatting up single women: most called him “Bachelor Bob” but to Susie he was “Bob Eyesore” or sometimes “Bob Barker.” And me? I was “Arnold O’Fender” or sometimes “Mr. Fender.”

Oh, some people had nicknames for Susie, too, but since I’m trying to keep this post at least PG-13 I’ll refrain from repeating them.

ANNNYYYway, back then there was a TV commercial that started out, “Mike Johnson, kayak instructor, begins each day right with a steaming cup of Folger’s coffee…” so when an artist with the same name joined the department she immediately dubbed him “Mike Johnson Kayak Instructor.” Naturally. And for one reason or another (and only she ever really knew why) Susie decided to slowly, methodically prank Mike.

At the time we all shared phone lines (direct private lines were still a few years in the future) and it was a given that when someone wasn’t around we’d take messages for each other. So when Mike left his booth she would quickly sneak in and leave a note on his drawing table: “Dick Hertz called.” He would be perplexed and ask everyone around him if they had taken the message, but no one knew (or admit to knowing) anything about it.

This went on every few days for weeks—and with each note Mike’s confusion and frustration visibly grew.

The pot was really starting to bubble and finally reached a boiling point when Susie got his home phone number from the department’s administrative assistant and called his wife one day around lunch: “Hi, this is Dick Hertz’s secretary. Mr. Hertz has been trying to get in touch with Mike about an important matter for quite some time but hasn’t been able to catch him. He has the number: could you have Mike call him right away?” Within minutes Mike’s wife phoned to relay the message and he exploded at the top of his lungs: “I don’t know this guy!! Who’s Dick Hertz???

Several voices from the adjacent booths answered, “Not mine!” “Mine’s fine!” “No complaints!” And Mike finally got the joke.

After about a month Susie snuck into his booth and wrote with a marker on an orange he’d brought for a snack, “Dick Hertz called,” but of course he didn’t fall for that one. Even later she left him a message saying, “Rosie Buttz called”; he made a show of crumbling it up and saying to whomever was nearby, “Rosie Buttz: must be Dick Hertz’s secretary.” He left the company not long after and I don’t think he ever really knew with 100% certainty who had been leaving him the notes. (If he ever stumbles across this post, well, Mike, now you do.)

Me So Horny

Hallmark made the move to digital very aggressively early on and both Cathy and I were among the first artists given Macs to train and work on around 1985. They were slow (with maybe 80 megs of ram if you were lucky) and clunky with small screens; there were no corporate networks, servers were few, sometimes glitchy, and hard to access, color printers were expensive and crappy, and you had to give the production managers your original art on a disc to be printed. Everything lived on your hard drive: software, fonts, and images. When you showed your art for approval the committee room didn’t have a Mac and the art director, editor, quality manager, scheduling manager, and lettering rep had to come to your booth and crowd around looking over your shoulder at your work on the monitor. That changed rapidly, of course, with each new advance and upgrade, but in the Stone Age the computer was something magical, challenging, occasionally frustrating, and genuinely exciting. And, of course, a tool for mischief.

I tended not to mess around too much with my computer’s “fun” options; I used it as an art tool and once it was set up to do what I wanted I didn’t want to change settings or features unnecessarily. Subsequently, I was fairly clueless and didn’t realize that early Macs came with a microphone that would allow you to record personal messages or sounds to play instead of the default setting (“Boink!”) with different functions: I soon found out.

One day committee squeezed into my booth to look at a wedding card I was working on; at the conclusion instead of the little discordant musical note signifying I had successfully quit the program sounding I was shocked to hear instead a woman’s voice coo, “Ah-nie, me so hor-neee.”

A friend had snuck in and recorded themselves speaking a line said by a hooker in the then-just-released Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket. (As the old saying goes, with friends like these…) Blushing multiple shades of red, I turned to see the committee—all women—staring wide-eye at me; I stammered out some sort of half-assed excuse and apology and they left (I can imagine their conversation out of my earshot).

Yeah, I recognized the voice immediately and knew who did it (the scamp): no, it wasn’t Susie—who did something even more embarrassing to me, if you can believe it, on another occasion. After the initial shock, I actually felt flattered and thought it was pretty funny; it was a joke and, as I’ve said, I knew how to take a joke, even if there was an unintended audience added into the mix. I figured out how to erase the recording and when my manager came by later to find out what had happened and who was responsible (obviously someone on the committee squealed), I pled ignorance.

The first rule of Fight Club: don’t talk about Fight Club. (Yeah, that movie came years later, but the Rule always applied.)

Do I have other stories? Oh, sure, plenty. Anyone want to hear them?

Top: “The Jester” by Norman Rockwell. Above: The scene from Full Metal Jacket