Inside the 1991 Clio Awards debacle, 30 years on

On June 13, 1991, the prestigious Clio Awards for excellence in the promoting business was an evening to recollect – for all the fallacious causes.

Unlike the dignified affairs of earlier years, the banquet at New York’s Manhattan Center studios descended into what journalist Trip Gabriel referred to as a “crush of muscle and tuxedos” when a mob of friends stormed the stage.

Most of the insurgents — the kind of creatives who introduced you the Energizer Bunny, the singing raisins and the Pillsbury Doughboy — grabbed coveted statuettes they hadn’t received.

In his autopsy for Vanity Fair, Gabriel described the debacle as “advertising’s own ‘Day of the Locust.’ ” A witness advised Adweek journal it was “beyond the beyond-o.” Another attendee in contrast the spectacle to “watching piranhas eat the flesh off a cow in a river.”

Now, on the 30th anniversary of the fiasco of a fête, these concerned in the ceremony — an annual present generally known as the “Oscars of advertising” that was as soon as featured on AMC’s “Mad Men” — have shared their reminiscences with The Post.

“It went from this peaceful, sophisticated environment to crazy and frenetic,” mentioned Ron Henderson, a junior copywriter in 1991. “It was surreal and ridiculous to see folks in suits and ballgowns climbing the stage.”

The Mad Men cast (from left) Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery sit at a table at The Clio Awards.
Until that fateful evening in 1991, The Clio Awards was a staid event. The Mad Men solid (from left) Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery, was actually much more respectful forward of Don’s Clio win featured in Season Four of the present.
©AMC/courtesy Everett Collectio

The celebration was organized by then-Clio president Bill Evans, a multimillionaire with a a penchant for prostitutes and crack cocaine. His mismanagement of the awards was attributed to greed, incompetence and even fraud, an accusation that was later investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney.

Even earlier than the Thursday evening apocalypse, there had been rumblings of hassle. Rumors unfold throughout Madison Avenue that the flamboyant Evans, who often handed himself off as the brother of “Dynasty” star Linda Evans, had fled to the Bahamas to dodge his collectors. Practically the solely piece of gossip that was true was the mass resignation of greater than 10 disgruntled Clio staff who went unpaid for a month.

The cash collected for the awards, which, at the time, value $85 to enter and $125 to attend, went straight up Evans’ crack pipe. Earlier that 12 months, his erratic conduct was challenged by his daughter, Kema Whelan, a member of the Clio employees. He spat in her face, and she or he retaliated with a proper hook, knocking her dad out chilly.

Ron Henderson with his 1991 Clio Award.
Ad man Ron Henderson legitimately received a Clio in 1991 however needed to combat for his rightful possession.
Courtesy of Ron Henderson

That spring, Page Six logged a sequence of police calls to Evans’ townhouse in Sutton Place. The residence close to the tony house of Henry Kissinger had turn out to be a drug den.

“A bunch of young runaways preyed upon very wealthy people like Bill,” mentioned Tony Gulisano, who had labored at the Clios since 1982. He added, “Before that, he’d just been an alcoholic — like the entire industry — but it never impacted the business. The crack was the beginning of the end.”

On the evening that lives in infamy, the buffet was catered by the upscale firm Sterling Affair. Then co-owned by Stephen Pieretti, whose job concerned schmoozing with celebrities like Tony Bennett, Norman “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf and Cyndi Lauper, it additionally equipped luxurious platters to the Plaza and Waldorf Astoria lodges. The boldface names who used the agency’s companies included Donald Trump and Diane Sawyer.

Caterer Stephen Pieretti with Tony Bennett and Peter Fazio,
In this picture from the early 90s, caterer Steve Pieretti (left) poses with crooner Tony Bennett and Peter Fazio, the present proprietor of Sterling Affair.
Courtesy of Stephen Pieretti

In the late Nineteen Eighties, Evans had paid the vendor to construct a reproduction of a 25-foot yacht christened the SS Clio. The spectacular vessel — which had 15,000 shrimp hooked up to its sails — grew to become synonymous with the awards ceremony and the excesses of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

That explicit night, nevertheless, Pieretti’s position went past supervising the hors d’oeuvres.

“We kept waiting for Bill to arrive, but he was a no-show,” he recalled to The Post. After 90 minutes — when everyone took full benefit of the free bar — a frazzled celebration planner requested Pieretti to emcee. He mentioned, “A caterer will always protect the client, so I said, ‘I can pull it off.’ ”

Unlucky for him, most of the winners’ checklist was lacking. Slides on a projector displaying the profitable entries had been the other way up or out of focus. Much to the annoyance of the more and more stressed crowd, the creators of the unidentified radio and print advertisements had been requested to introduce themselves onstage.

Thirty years on, caterer Steve Pieretti looks back on the bonkers 1991 Clio Awards with a combination of horror and amusement.
Thirty years on, caterer Steve Pieretti appears to be like again on the bonkers 1991 Clio Awards with a mix of horror and amusement.
New York Post

“Eventually, I ran out of script,” admitted Pieretti, of New Hope, Pennsylvania. “I said to the audience: ‘I’m sorry, I’m just the caterer.’ And that’s when the place went crazy.”

He heard booing and sensed unrest. (*30*) he recalled. The crew packed up their meals vans and sped off.

It was a sensible transfer. Spying the remaining awards on a desk, an opportunist from the peanut gallery shouted: “F – – k it, I’m taking one!” He dashed to the entrance, climbed onto the platform and scooped up two Clios, holding them aloft like Rocky Balboa.

This act of defiance triggered a stampede. Close to 150 folks jostled to bag a trophy. Evans hadn’t bothered to get them engraved or labeled, so it didn’t matter who received what.

A collection of Clio statuettes.
Golden Clio statuettes are recognized in the business as “The Oscars of Advertising.”
Getty Images

Meanwhile, copywriter Henderson, the official recipient of an award, surveyed the proceedings with bemusement. He noticed an acquaintance standing on a chair, frantically waving his arms and shouting, “Please, please, everyone stop this madness!” But no person paid consideration.

Minutes later, the rookie was referred to as to motion by an govt from his company. “He yelled: ‘Go get your Clio!’ ” mentioned Henderson. He didn’t want telling twice.

He vaulted onto the stage the place a sharp-elbowed colleague handed him a random statuette. The chaos was caught on digicam by photographers, one in every of whom landed the cover of Adweek. The headline learn: “Clio Free For All” above an incriminating picture of the looters serving to themselves.

The following day, The Post despatched an intrepid reporter to query Evans at his Midtown workplace. But our newsman was confronted “by a young man who threatened him with brass knuckles.” The boss was nowhere to be seen.

Evans filed for chapter in 1992, claiming $1.8 million in debt. He was compelled to promote the Clios, and died in 2014 at the age of 83.

Today, the Clios, established in 1959, are nonetheless held – with a significantly improved status. So a lot in order that Bravo and SiriusXM star Andy Cohen hosted the 2018 occasion, marking the ceremony’s sixtieth anniversary. Ironically, it was held at the Manhattan Center.

As for Henderson, now a artistic director in Dallas, Texas, he has received 4 extra Clios over the previous three many years. But the first award from 1991 is the one he treasures most. “The unlabeled statuette from that circus of a night,” mentioned Henderson, “is oddly more fun to own than the rest.”

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