Mr. Dane can be seen regularly at Lincoln Center. On this night he and his wife will be at the Metropolitan Opera. And, outside of "60 Minutes," he prefers public TV to those networks into which he and his agency pumped so many millions of dollars over the decades.
"That's my taste," Mr. Dane says without a trace of pretense. "I never gauged by my own taste the shows I was buying for my clients 40 years ago."
THE SURVIVING PARTNER
He favors originals. Maybe good taste is a function of good health. In any case, Mr. Dane, at 93, is now himself something of an original, the surviving partner of that famous limited edition of three -- Doyle, Dane and Bernbach.
He still walks daily from his Park Avenue and 59th Street apartment to his office, where he attends to concerns that have little or nothing to do with advertising anymore.
"I usually come in five days a week when I'm in the city," he says. "I arrive late and leave early. It's nicer that way." When not in town, he might be at his weekend home in Westchester County or at his winter place in Palm Springs, Calif. He has given up golf and driving, but still does 20 minutes of situps every morning. All in all, he's a firm believer in retirement.
"We set up a mandatory retirement age of 65," he said. "I thought it was a good idea then and I still do. I was delighted to retire in 1971, though I stayed on the board until 1986. After that I dropped all official tasks.
"I don't believe in being a consultant, because without the power to execute, the best ideas in the world are meaningless. I prefer to have a good relationship with the present generation of executives without the complications of consulting with them. They don't bother me, and I don't bother them. I tend to my own business."
Looking back, Mr. Dane gives the impression that it was much more fun building a young agency than sustaining a great one, especially when one is constantly held accountable to such past glories. Was it a simpler business then?
"No doubt about it," he grins. "And more fun, too. The first big change, of course, was the arrival of television advertising, and the dollars started going into TV."
Because Mr. Bernbach cornered most of the market on glory at the agency with his brilliant and witty creative work, some of Mr. Dane's proudest moments lie in unexpected areas. Though he was too young and unimportant in 1950 to be among those named in Red Channels, a list of those in the worlds of communications, show business and the arts suspected of being Communists (Leonard Bernstein, Orson Welles, Edward R. Murrow, Norman Corwin, etc.), he did make the next best thing a generation later -- President Nixon's enemies' list.
"I was, of course, flattered by it," he says with a broad smile. "But I often wondered why me and not Bernbach. As I looked down to the list of business people, I came to suspect something. There had been a luncheon at the Plaza, and the co-chairmen had been John Tishman and Bennett Cerf.
PICKING THE `ENEMIES'
"The guests were mainly people in real estate. I was at the luncheon, and I think the people listed on the program were picked up en masse and put on the enemies list. The irony is that the two men who where the co-chairs were not picked because they were on the top line.
"So my standing [as a Nixon `enemy'] may be something of an unearned distinction. But as far as I knew I was never harassed. It was stupid, of course. When an administration can take someone who is opposed to it and make it difficult for that person, that is not democracy."
Whatever he may say, Mr. Dane's distinction was not entirely unearned. He and his partners had made DDB an agency of conspicuous Democratic sympathies that had once rejected the account of a prominent advertiser because it was also a prominent supporter of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Such agencies had not been easy for the Democrats to come by. Prior to 1964, the GOP had enjoyed high-profile involvements with BBDO and Ted Bates, while the Democrats constantly found themselves shunned by major shops, which feared client "consequences." DDB would change all that, as well as the amount of advertising deployed into presidential politics, with its entry into the 1964 campaign on behalf of Lyndon Johnson.
"Yes," says Mr. Dane, "but after we did Johnson and then Hubert Humphrey in 1968, we made it a policy that we would never again handle political advertising. There were too many cooks and too many pressure jobs to be done too fast. They [the candidates] would want our best people, but we had clients to serve, too. And we didn't want to force anybody to work for a candidate they didn't support.
"There always was the problem of staffing up for something so intense, but temporary, too. How much of your regular staff do you take away from your long-term clients? We found it disruptive."
Does he still take a proprietary interest in the agency he helped found?
"Oh yes, very much. I still hold some shares, though not a great deal. And I'm pleased when they pick up business or do a campaign that I especially like. I take pride in that.
"I was still on the board at the time of the merger in 1986, and so was Ned [Doyle]. We were both in favor of it because Saatchi & Saatchi wanted to buy us. And that we were opposed to. On the other hand, we had great respect for BBDO and Needham, which had a major Chicago office and we didn't. And with Bernbach's death there were problems that had to be solved. So we were both very much in favor of the merger.
"I've been out of the agency since then. Actively inactive, you might say. David Ogilvy stayed involved more than I have. But he was a very colorful character, and very articulate. I never had the kind of client relationships he did, or the kind of celebrity. So it's been easy for me to retire to a more private life."
He is still called upon from time-to-time to make an appearance or speak to the troops, something he's willing to do for the good will shown him by today's DDB.
"At the 50th anniversary party," he says, "Keith asked me to speak for a few minutes, which I did. I talked about the fact that he gave me exactly 600 seconds, which is 12 seconds a year by my calculation. And that's even less than a commercial."