Sunday, December 29, 2013

My client, my friend, my boon companion in this glorious adventure: Richard L. Gilbert

I knew this day would come.
After all, the man was 83 years old when he queried me, and none of us get younger, no matter how vital and enthusiastic we are.

He was 87 when I sold his book MARCHING UP MADISON AVENUE, a look back at the world of advertising in the 40's, 50's and 60's. What the real world of advertising was like, not what you're seeing on Mad Men (a show that drove him NUTS.)

And he was 93 when he died yesterday.  His son told me this morning and suddenly this bleak rainy day in New York City is bleaker still.

I knew this day would come but I hadn't prepared for it.  I don't have an obituary stored away like they do at the New York Times (a paper he read without fail.)

I don't have a list of his accomplishments, awards or accolades. After all, he was so much more than that.

What I can say is that he enriched my life in ways beyond measure. And not just mine. There will be hundreds of people in New York, and around the country who will feel this loss as I do. The man who gave me his confidence and trust, who believed in me, may be gone, but what he accomplished lives on.

He queried me with his memoir when my agent shingle was still shiny and new.  Thank goodness for that, because he made every query mistake in the book and invented a few of his own, right down to not numbering the manuscript pages. Of course, they went flying in a breeze as I read on the couch. I sent them back and asked for another copy -- with numbers this time. (We laughed about that for years.)

And re-send he did. Cheerfully.  Exuberantly even.

Exuberantly was how he did everything.  When a revision came in, his cover note to me would inevitably be "what's next?" It was my own small version of working with Jed Bartlett.  It took years for "next" to be "send to editors" but he never wavered in his enthusiasm or belief in me.

And it did sell. Twice in fact.

As the years marched on, Mrs. Gilbert passed away and we mourned that event here.  I was afraid he would join her more quickly than any of us were ready for, but that vibrant enthusiasm didn't waver even with the loss of his beloved wife of more than 60 years.

He visited our new offices on 29th Street to work on the electronic edition of his book, now called I Was a M/ad Man (an homage to Mad Men that he wryly accepted) even though he needed a wheelchair to get around.

I'd get notes from him with his editorials for the Riverdale paper, and he mentioned that breathing was getting tougher.

I knew this day would come but that sure doesn't make it any easier.

Richard L. Gilbert was a friend, a client, and a true New Yorker. He will be missed as deeply as he was loved.   

Requiescat in pace


Terri Lynn Coop said...

What a blessing to have known him. We are losing our pioneers too fast. Thank you for bringing his story to the world.


Ali Trotta said...

It sounds like he was a truly extraordinary man, and I'm glad to have read a little bit about his life and who he was. Thank you for sharing this, Janet -- it was beautifully written.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm very sorry. Landing you as an agent was apparently one of many things he did right in his long and productive life.

LynnRodz said...

This was not exactly the "brighten up my day" post I was looking for on this morose Sunday. I'm sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing a glimpse into his life.

Susan Bonifant said...

It is the best people who touch others in the biggest ways, then take the least amount of credit for it. If you don't know already how you touched this man with your simple gift of faith in him, you will. But in my book, you are a gem for helping that spirit fly.

Bill Scott said...

Condolences. Sounds like he was a lovely man. I'll raise a drink in his honor.

nightsmusic said...

I'm so, so sorry for you loss. The world is that much poorer today.

Lance said...

Here's to Mr. Gilbert. Beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing. Sorry for your loss.

Sandra Cormier said...

I remember his book on your blog page way back when. Sorry for your loss, and hugs to his family and friends.

Tom M Franklin said...

I tip my hat to both of you, with deepest respects.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You know Janet; I think that many of us who visit here forget what a good writer you are. You have honored Mr. Gilbert well. My condolences.

french sojourn said...

I believe our souls are energy.
As he and his wife are reunited, this energy is released to the new souls that will populate this planet.
I honestly believe he will visit you again another day, in a younger form. Unfortunately not one you will recognize, but one you may sense.
Sorry for your loss.

JeffO said...

That was beautifully said. I'm sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

How inspiring for older writers! How great he must have felt to find you, and clearly you felt the same. Gems, the both of you.

Stephanie said...

What a wonderful tribute to a person who was clearly much more than a client to you. Beautifully written and sad; you are as compassionate as you are fierce.

MNye said...

Bless him. People touch your life for a reason and remain your Angels long after their they rest. It's the memories that will keep you warm-

Elissa M said...

This is what a eulogy is supposed to be. Honest and heartfelt, showing people who never knew the subject just what kind of a man he was, making me tear a little as I get a sense of your (now our) loss.

Condolences to all.

Bill Plante said...

Your writing - as good as it gets.

Geek Amicus said...

I now feel the loss of a man I never met. I am sorry for that, I think my life would have been richer for knowing him.

My deepest sympathies.