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Charlie Chaplin, St. Louis Ad Agencies, and Time Travel

How a novel was born, starting with St. Louis ad agencies and ending in Hollywood with Charlie Chaplin.

During the mid-1980's I worked for an ad agencies in St. Louis on Budweiser and Busch beers. One was D'Arcy Advertising, the other was Gardner Advertising. Both were great agencies. Both are now shuttered, done in by New York management and business departures from St. Louis. Fortunately, the job frequently took me to L.A. for production of commercials, both TV and radio. My favorite trips were the music sessions, some of which took place at A&M Studios on Sunset & LaBrea. The musicians and leaders I worked were some of the best in the business. They included Perry Botkin, Jr.; Don Specht; Brad Miller (of Mystic Moods fame); Don Piestrup; and musicians such as Shelly Manne, Milt Bernhart, Pete Jolly, Bill Perkins, and Lou Levy. I always loved West Coast Jazz and spent a lot of nights at Dante's, Shelly's Manne Hole, the Baked Potato, Catalina Bar and Grill, and others whose names I've forgotten.

I was also a big fan of Charlie Chaplin. Which explains why, late one night, during a break in a music session at A&M, I wandered away from the studio and found my way onto The Chaplin Stage. The door was unlocked. I walked onto the hallowed stage. And my imagination went to work. "What if," I wondered, "I could contact the spirit of Charlie in here." Yes, I believe in stuff like that. I concentrated, conjured, drifted mentally, and any other trick I could think of to enter that distant realm. Nothing happened. Except.... except an idea for a book. A novel about someone who has an assignment to write a documentary about Chaplin and, somehow, he and Chaplin meet.

Twenty years passed, my trips changed, my career advanced, I got fired, I freelanced... but I never forgot that idea. And I started a novel, worked on it, put it away, worked some more, revised, put it back on the shelf, let it gather dust. Then in 2010 came word that the first Charlie Chaplin International Conference would be held at the U. of Ohio/Zanesville, imaginatively organized by Lisa Stein Haven, a professor there. And I thought, "I'm going to finish the novel so I can bring copies to the conference, sell them, give them away." 

And the rest is literary history, in a way. The book has received some nice comments and reviews. It takes place in Hollywood in the very recent past (about 10 years ago), and the distant past - during the 1920's and '30's. Charlie Chaplin is a major character in it. In fact, the story revolves around him. It's a fascinating read, according to many who have read it.

The title is "Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin." It's available on Amazon, both as a real book and on Kindle. It's also available directly from me, and I'll even autograph it for you, no charge. My email is huevista@gmail.com.

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