Humor, Gossip and Partying in Adland

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Boy, do we take things for granted-Christmas for instance. It turns out St. Nick, aka Santa Claus, was once an odd old bugger in jackboots and spurs who took babes for nightrides on his broomstick. Now we know the truth, thanks to Jock Elliot's excellent book-and Adages Christmas Book Club selection this year-"Inventing Christmas. How Our Holiday Came to Be." Jock, who will be 82 on January 25, is chairman emeritus of Ogilvy & Mather. This is his first book. "P.T. Barnum thought the Swedish Nightingale needed as good a launch as possible so he enlisted the services of Santa Claus," says Jock of an 1850 drawing promoting Jenny Lind's first tour of the states.

According to Jock, the real St. Nick was not a fat geezer who slipped down people's chimneys at night while they were snoozing; he was one Nicolaos of Patara, Turkey, who was obsessed with rescuing prostitutes. Nicolaos found his calling after bailing out a penniless widower who was about to sell his oldest daughter into sex slavery. Nick tossed a bag of gold through the old man's window. "And she was saved," writes Jock. Nicolaos performed this particular service more than once. On one occasion he was caught in the act and was so embarrassed by it that he left home to join the Church and became a saint. The question remains: How did Nicolaos know for certain which daughters were naughty and which ones were nice?

Outlet: unplugged

Speaking of naughty, here's the quote of the week: "The word `outlet' is the place where the entire gay population can come together and connect with each other." Shocking, isn't it? This is from an alleged internal Viacom memo, posted on the Internet, from Matthew Blank, who runs Showtime, and Tom Freston, head of MTV, to their staff regarding Outlet, the 24-hour gay and lesbian entertainment network they hope to launch in spring 2003. The memo, which MTV insiders say is a legit draft, goes on to say that the network is not "technically" a joint venture between the two Viacom parents. "However, we will be working very closely together." Perhaps they should be listed as joint legal guardians.

An MTV spokeswoman declined to comment.

Here's to your health

How do British punters maintain those incredibly pale, dissolute physiques? By lifting pints instead of dumbells, of course. J. Walter Thompson just opened a new London office after demolishing the old one, a pre-World War II relic. Before rebuilding, they canvassed the staff, asking whether they wanted a bar or a gym in the offices. According to a spokesman, 98% voted for the bar.

The dawg is in the house

Margeotes Fertitta & Partners just put out a clever little promotional hardcover handbook titled "If dogs ran the agency." It contains shots of recent adwork by the shop with other clever photos of a German Shepherd leg-humping a businessman with the caption: "If dogs ran client meetings," and so on. The book is cute but confusing. It appears to suggest that canines run Margeotes. The agency referred all calls to the local animal shelter....

Actually, Fritz Westinberger, creative director, says of the book: "It's a nice thing that people might keep around because it's funny." Woof woof!

Punting: Jean Halliday Housebreak your pets at

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