The Money Room: Wrong Turn in New Jersey

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series The Money Room
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Money Room is a bit of history written by John Kerr, John Carver, and Sam Tyler whose fundraising careers at WGBH spanned three decades.


By John Carver

I had been to visit the big drug maker, Warner-Lambert, in New Jersey several times in search of someone to carry the ball internally for me as I tried numerous ‘GBH offerings to catch their attention.

Finally, I found my man, and I sold him on the notion of underwriting a 90-minute documentary reenactment of the first abdominal surgery performed in the world at Mass General Hospital.

The show was to be called Tales of Medical Life, and would be produced by Jo and Francis Gladstone. The idea was that program would be the first in a series about medical breakthroughs around the world. Perfect fit for a drug company.

About a week after we got the green light to issue a letter of agreement and then going to contract, my guy at W-L called and asked if I would mind coming back down to NJ to meet the chairman of the company. It seems that the chairman, a former salesman himself, liked to know everything that was going on, and enjoyed “pressing the flesh” with sales people.

So off I went to Morristown one more time. I camped outside Mr. Chairman’s office for about a half-hour as a troop of ad agency executives came walking out, unsmiling. Now it was my turn.

The chairman’s office was that of a big game hunter, with the heads of stuffed boars, tigers and other beasts that he had shot mounted on the walls A white bearskin rug lay under his coffee table. The room itself was cavernous and about the size of a basketball court with a huge bay window providing a panoramic view of the front lawn, reflecting pool and a pair a swans.

We sat at a table overlooking all this and chatted for about ten minutes. The chairman reflected on his student days at the Harvard Business School and how much he loved Boston. I took this opportunity to invite him up to see WGBH studios some day, but that would never happen.

Before I knew it, the meeting was over. We shook hands and he walked me half-way across the office toward what I thought was the door out. But to my chagrin it turned out to be the door to his private washroom. It took me a moment to get my bearings and for just a second I thought about using the facilities. Instead I sheepishly backed out, made my apologies and left as he pointed me to the other door, the exit one.

All the while, Mr. Chairman had a mischievous look on his face and I suspected that this had happened before. I think he took pleasure in my predicament and wanted to see how I handled it. I must have passed his test because the funding went through with no glitches and the production went ahead as planned.

One of life’s embarrassing moments!


Read more entries in The Money Room series.


Special thanks to Gene Mackles for the series wordmark.

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