It all began with the decision to make a television commercial of a
large luxury sedan. It was a beautiful automobile but today, it would
be pounded to a pulp by tree huggers with sledge hammers, the handles
of which would all be made of wood. The problem that people nowadays
have with such an automobile is that it achieved at least six miles to
the gallon on the highway. Those were the days my friend.

far, so good. The product was pure elegance. Even a trained gibbon with
an eight millimeter movie camera could not have made this car look
ugly. Without a doubt, this commercial would be gorgeous; the agency
would proudly display it on its demo reel; the client would sell plenty
of cars in spite of the salesmen with powder blue jackets, plaid pants
and beautifully matching white shoes and belts; everyone would be
happy; the bill might even be paid; there was not a cloud on the
creative horizon.

Then, a huge mistake was made. The agency
hired a director from Europe to make the commercial "come to life." No
one saw the thunderheads forming in the distance. Hopes were high and
hearts were happy.

The creative meeting went this way:

The director laid out the plan in his best patronizing tone and with an
accent that could be turned on and off at will depend whose hand, or
other anatomical region, he was kissing.

Zo, we open ze commayrshal wiz a byoodifool shoot of a condor in flight, no?"

From this point on, everything went to hell in a hand basket. One of
the creative staff offered to obtain some stock footage from the bureau
of tourism and wildlife including condors, or whatever government
department might have spent thirty or forty thousand dollars getting
the required six seconds of film.

Oh no. That was not nearly
good enough for the director. He announced to all and sundry that they
would get the shot themselves. No stock footage for him. After all,
this wasn't just advertising, this was ART!

He then picked the
camera crew and believe it or not, added a sound man to try to record
the flapping of condor wings "on the fly." He then flew them all to
Brazil, rented a fixed wing aircraft and once they were airborne told
the pilot to "Fly into ze mountains and find us un condor pour le

The pilot respectfully informed him that the
condors were usually in Argentina at this time of year. No problem. The
whole crew then flew to Argentina and with the not-too-productive help
of a pilot who hated Gringos and made no secret of it, scoured the
unfriendly Argentinean heavens for almost two weeks with not even a
glimpse of one of the majestic rulers of the skies. They did see
several vultures and a couple of eagles, but "so sorry senor," no

By this time they had exceed the entire
budget for the commercial by a factor of three and were happily eating
into the money allotted for the media buy. They had shot sixteen feet
of bumpy film of one of the Eagles and that was it. This called for
desperate measures. The team flew back to Toronto to ponder its
strategy. Suddenly the gaffer (a polite way of saying go-fer) had an

He knew one of the animal handlers at the largest zoo in
the area. He was sure he could "borrow" a condor from him. They would
tell him they were going to shoot the bird in a studio with an Andean
Mountain rear screen. They weren't. they were going to take the bird up
in a plane, throw it out and get "ze byoodifull shot, no?"

plan was that the condor would accidentally fly away and they would
apologize profusely to the animal guy. He would probably be fired but
the commercial would meet its rapidly approaching air-date. After all,
advertising is far more important than life.

On the appointed
day they took off into the smoggy skies and after checking the focus,
the sound and everybody's blood-type, they tossed the bird out of the
plane and rolled the cameras. The footage they got was never seen by
anyone. The bird, because it was kept in a zoo, had its wings clipped.
It fluttered weakly down several hundred feet and landed on the hood of
a '69 ford.

Here's where the story gets a little cloudy. There are several endings:

The director took off with the agency promotions director and was never
seen again. The car company sued the agency. The zoo sued everybody.
The animal guy reported the condor stolen and got to keep his job with
nothing more severe than a reprimand.

No matter what the real
ending, if the story is true at all, I can't get the image out of my
head. That poor bird taking the long dive and ending up as a hood
ornament is just too much. I know I'm not supposed to laugh and I know
if any environmentalist finds out that I am, he or she will probably
run to my house and throw blood on my coveralls when I'm taking out the

I think I heard somewhere that the commercial ended up
being a head and shoulders shot of a guy in a powder blue leisure suit
and sunglasses yelling, "C'mon down. We're blowin' these babies outta
here. The boss is away and we're selling everything in the lot at rock
bottom prices. Bring the whole family."

Thanks for reading. I'm going to take my meds now.