By Gordon Hughes
According to historical myth, Lord Chumley was the first true advertising executive in history. Somewhere in the mists of time, in England, Lord Chumley took on his first client, the Earl of Sandwich. He built a brand. The first brand, the ‘sandwich,’ has withstood the ages. Lord Chumley also established an advertising industry.
Let’s fast-forward to 1993. A remarkable advertising executive named Bernie Flanagan of Wall Street Journal fame, and six other high-powered ad executives brought Lord Chumley back to life. They developed an advertising society.
What better name to give it than that of the man who created advertising? And so, The Chumley Society was born. The membership criteria were modeled after Lord Chumley’s basic code of ethics—rules such as:
- When going out for dinner or drinks, mainly drinks, always use your expense account. Never ever use your own money.
- Smile, always smile.
- Never hire anyone with better than a ‘C’ grade point average.
I could go on, but you get the picture. The second major piece of work these ad guys did was select a place to gather. Well, you guessed it—Chumley’s in the West Village. They created events, meetings, and casual gatherings. During meetings, there was a somewhat austere mood mixed with mirth and merriment. For example, Bernie Flanagan, the titular first leader of The Chumley Society, was referred to as ‘The Grand Gherkin.’ A giant gherkin was hung from the ceiling between the bar and restaurant at Chumley’s. All members were to wear gherkin pickles proudly on their lapels.
Membership was highly selective and entrance/membership now required a voting process as well as a pledging process. New candidates were sponsored by members. They had to present their ad credentials and (the toughest part) tell a joke—a joke that really brought the house down.
Ad people, and I say people because women were always a part of this, were some of the business’ best. Names included: George Lois, Jay Schulberg, George Frittata, Frank Ginsberg, Ed MacCabe, David Bell, Burt Manning, Tom Glass, Nina DaSesa, Fergus O’Daly, and too many more to mention. That said, I was one of the luckiest guys on earth the day I was inducted. Introduced by David Bell, I was on top of the world to be with these giants of an industry I truly love.
There really are too many stories to tell but I’ll share one. In the middle of our lunch one afternoon, navy men who were in town for fleet week came through Chumley’s on a tour. They tried to run off with our women. They did look great in their uniforms. All we had were our pickles.
These types of festivities/antics went on for years. The owners loved us and we loved them and their dogs. Then one evening, as legend would have it, the fireplace caved in, and then a wall. It was the end of Chumley’s as we would know it. The Society moved to different locations but nothing came close to our original home. Sadly, the original Chumley’s does not match the current Chumley’s, and there really is no room for us.
So there went The Chumley Society and Chumley’s, like so many other West Village icons. The memories, however, will live forever.