My first job out of grad school was at J Walter Thompson Co in the Graybar Building, 420 Lexington Ave. They gave me a battered Smith Corona, a ream of yellow paper, and I was a copywriter. It wasn't long before I learned about pecking orders.
A very big suit had been imported from some lesser agency to work in the Ford group and pour oil on troubled waters in Dearborn. JWT was quite a bankerly place then, and though there was in-fighting nobody’d seen anything like him.
We read a lot about “branding” one’s self these days. What this big swinging d**k did was have his assistant (they were called secretaries then) make a lunch reservation and then be sure she paged him at the restaurant - an accepted practice before cell phones and good for name recognition. One day he called a meeting and nobody showed up. He did not last long.
There was much movement of offices on the 10th floor where we writers sat. The furniture in one’s office was definitely a signal. JWT had a large stash of antique chairs, desks, tables, etc., that had been collected over the years by Mrs. Stanley Resor, the boss’s wife. The most expensive stuff was assigned to the big dogs. The furniture wrangler at Thompson was a lady who always seemed to be rushing from one important assignment to the next. Her name was Margaret Tempest and the furniture she kept constantly in motion was referred to as “tempest tossed.”
After two years I moved up the street to Benton & Bowles, still a copywriter, but with more money and more responsibility. The Margaret Tempest at B&B was named Anne Octaveck. She moved at flank speed - about twice as fast as Ms. Tempest.
I landed there in an office facing 52nd street, between Sam Miller and Ed McCabe, both journeyman copywriters like me. I discovered that I’d played lacrosse in college against Sam. Ed went on to greater things.
Before long a move was decreed and I was sent to an office at the other end of the floor. I felt I was moving up in the world, for though the window looked out on an air shaft I was many steps closer to the creative director's office. One day, not long after I’d settled in, Anne O. went streaking by my office, glanced in and stopped dead in her tracks. She stalked in and stared at the plain, ordinary, industrial strength table lamp on my desk. “You can’t have that lamp,” she said. “That’s a group head’s lamp.” Whereupon she got to her knees, unplugged it and took it away, presumably to bestow it on someone who’d just been promoted.
You can’t make this stuff up.