Richard Frisbie
Author, advertising and
publishing consultant, former
editor of
Chicago and other
magazines, former creative
director of Campbell-Ewald and
other advertising agencies. For
more information, click here. Or
Who's Who in America or,

Margery Frisbie
Consulting editor, historian, poet
and author of several books. For
more information,  click here or

The Uncommentator
BLOGS and GLOBS:  I have
been writing a blog since 1966,
only I didn't know  it. In those
days, it came out in the form of a
newsletter on paper. Remember
paper? It never got lost in
cyberspace, although if it got wet
enough blog turned into glob. I
called it
The Uncommentator,
and tried to make it amusing.  To
read some of my favorites, see

Recent Books by the Frisbies.

No. 111

(Just before the Chicago Press Club marked itself "delete," I was asked to contribute an essay to a fund-raising book they planned to publish. Although the piece was intended for an audience of journalists, it should be of interest also to some readers of this newsletter.)

The moods of my friends in the communications business are easy to read. When their jobs are going well and they're collecting travel folders for a four-week paid vacation, they never ask me any questions about my consulting business. When their boss gets unreasonable and their desk is moved into a closet formerly occupied by the person in charge of losing the interoffice mail, they're suddenly full of curiosity.

They become fascinated by the details of how I have managed to exist without a job since 1966 by cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit. For example:

Q. How did you know you had an entrepreneurial spirit?

A. I rubbed a curiously wrought planter containing grass from greener fields and it just leaped out.

Q. What happened then?

A. It took me up to the cocktail lounge at the top of the John Hancock Building, showed me all the markets of Chicago and promised me infinite tax deductions if I would fall down and worship it.

Q. So you sold out?

A. "Sold out" is too strong a phrase. It implies the transfer of substantial sums. "Eked out" would be more accurate.

Q. What exactly do you do?

A. Whatever work the Spirit brings in. Although I much prefer to continue writing books, the Spirit has a sordidly commercial outlook and refuses to specialize. At various times, it has forced me to write the back of the official Illinois state road map, the slogan that once appeared with the Northern Illinois Gas (Nicor) logo and scenarios for illustrations that appeared on Sears Roebuck catalog covers.

Q. Have you ever had trouble getting paid?

A. Not much.

One client waited for the subpoena from pro se court. Another sent me a rubber check. I'm still hoping he'll make good in time, but he seems to be taking an extra-long vacation. He sent me a postcard from Brazil. In all these years I've collected all but about half a dozen bills sooner or later. Only one of these losses was for a significant amount. That was when I was called in to revive and edit Chicago Magazine for the New Chicago Foundation. Although ostensibly backed by the City of Chicago and a long list of our biggest corporations, the foundation was allowed to go bankrupt, paying only 11 cents on the dollar to creditors, including me.

Q. Has the Spirit helped you with such mundane problems?

A. Yes. The Spirit tells me not to be offended if a client wants to haggle a little about the price. That's a sign he intends to pay. The clients to watch out for are the ones who seem relaxed about prices. They can afford to be unconcerned because they have no intention of paying anyway.

Q. How do you get assignments?

A. People call up and offer them.

Q. What if no one calls?

A. That would be a problem. I don't have a good answer to it because if I spent my time trying to get work I wouldn't have time to do the work I already have. Fortunately, people do call.

Q. You mean you write flashy marketing plans for others and you don't have a flashy one for yourself?

A. Where would I send the bill? Anyway, I can always offer up a human sacrifice. I have a victim in mind as soon as he gets back from Brazil.

Q. Why don't you have employees after all these years?

A. The Spirit has often suggested hiring full-time staff. When my wife and I are both extremely busy, we consider it, then bring in free-lancers instead. What stops me is the fear that I might inadvertently hire someone as opinionated as myself. Happily, the Spirit doesn't eat much. I don't have to provide a cage or a litter box. It prefers to wander around loose. My only complaint is its lack of dog-like loyalty. When I'm not looking, it takes other writers up to the top of a tall building to show them the markets of the world. I keep urging it to shove some of them off. There are already too many writers. But it doesn't listen. The Flash is willing, but the Spirit is weak.

Richard Frisbie 1987

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