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Storytime with George Lois, Part 4

Juxtapoz // Monday, 06 Dec 2010

We continue our Storytime series with December feature subject George Lois, the original of "Mad Men," as he explains to us how easy it is to get Mick Jagger to come to a random address in NYC to fillm a commercial spot for a television program Mick has never heard of.

Juxtapoz: I know we’re jumping around a bit, but you created the “I Want My MTV “campaign, and I think that is a story that is a relevant to a lot of our readers who remember MTV as groundbreaking as opposed to the cultural wasteland it is today.

George Lois: MTV, in the beginning, was great. All the music videos were just terrific and of course now it’s a joke. Robert Pittman called me up to do some work for two projects he had, Nickelodeon, which was big, and MTV which wasn’t doing so well. I really wanted to make sure I got the MTV project, so I had to do Nickelodeon as well.

So I said with MTV, this is what I want to do: I did a campaign in the mid-1960s called “I Want My Maypo!” So now its 1982 or 83, and these kids running MTV were like 6 or 7 years old or whatever when the “Maypo” ad ran. We had Mickey Mantle saying “I want my Maypo,” then it cuts to Wilt Chamberlain and he says it, then Oscar Robertson, and all the greats all saying “I want my Maypo.” I asked the MTV guys, do you remember that? And they said, “We loved that campaign!” So I got all you kids telling your mothers that you want your Maypo, and now I’m going to get all you 25 year-olds now to yell, “I want my MTV!”

I told them I was going to do a 60 second commercial, quick cut stuff, where towards the end it said, “If you don’t get MTV where you live, pick up the phone, dial your local cable operator and say”… and at that point I was going to get somebody like Mick Jagger to pick up the phone and say, “I want my MTV.” The MTV kids said, “You can’t get Mick Jagger, they hate us. We are deadly, they think MTV is going to kill their business.” I said don’t worry about that, I’ll get a rock star.

I called up Bill Graham, somehow I knew him from something. I called him and said I want a rock star. And so I explained the whole concept of the MTV commercial I wanted to do.  And he said, “George they all hate the whole idea of MTV.” But asks who I want, and I say Mick Jagger. So Graham gives me Jagger’s phone number in London. So, a bit surprised, I hang up and call Jagger and get him right on the phone. Again, surprised. I’m talking and talking about the whole MTV idea, and I say, “Mick, are you there?” And he says, “Yeah, I’m listening. So I go on and on again, and again, “Mick you still there?” He says “I’m going to be in New York next week, I can make it maybe on a Tuesday morning. Just give me the address.” And I gave him the address of a place I know we shoot at a lot, and then I tell everybody. First off, I hoped we could actually book that studio I just told Mick Jagger to meet me at, and second I hope he’s going to show up.

Because you just told Mick Jagger, the biggest rock star in the world, to be somewhere on a random Tuesday morning in Manhattan...

I’m not even sure if it was Mick Jagger. So we book the studio, and if Mick doesn’t show up I have to figure out something else we can shoot. So it was 8AM, or whatever time I told him to be there, then 8:30, 8:45, 9:00, and at 9:15, in walks Mick with two other people. He says “I brought a couple of other people maybe you want to shoot them, too?” It was Pete Townsend and Pat Benatar. Yeah, they would work.

We knew exactly what we wanted to do, and I put it all together, and about a week later we run the 4 spots. And Pittman was getting calls from cable operators there were thousand of phone calls for MTV. After a couple of weeks, everybody started hearing about it, so I ended up shooting every rock star there was including this girl, something Ciccioni. This woman called me two times, and then I got a 3rd call and she said they call me Madonna. I said what the fuck, she wants this so bad, I’ll shoot her, too. People mentioned that she might get big…

For the December issue of Juxtapoz, click here.


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