Richardson dies; was star of AA cartoon

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Gladys A. Richardson, who for nearly 13 years appeared as the Gladys in the "Gladys the Beautiful Receptionist" weekly photo cartoon in Advertising Age, died Sept. 12 at the age of 86.

Ms. Richardson was a receptionist at former Chicago agency Henri, Hurst & McDonald when she first posed for her eponymous "Gladys" photo shot in 1953.

"Gladys the Beautiful Receptionist" was a reader favorite, evidenced by the cartoon's longevity and a crucial vote of approval by readers.

It also had an interactive element: Ad Age sometimes would run shots of Gladys and Audrey, a young office ingenue (later replaced by Ilsa, an Audrey look-alike), in stereotypical office situations, and the reader was asked to provide a caption. The writer's name appeared with the caption when the photo ran.

The cartoon wasn't without its detractors, however, and some were within Ad Age. Only a year into the cartoon's run, editors decided to let readers decide if "Gladys" should stay or go. Of 731 ballots cast, 538 approved of "Gladys." One writer challenged, "Anyone who doesn't like Gladys is a Communist!"

Ms. Richardson remained the receptionist at Henri, Hurst & McDonald through its various incarnations until it was bought by Draper Daniels in 1965. Soon afterward, she moved to Edward Petry & Co. (now Petry Television), where she was working when the cartoon was discontinued in 1966.

Ms. Richardson would later tell her niece Kay Wedell of Northbrook, Ill.: "When I die don't give me a funeral. Have a party." The family did just that, eulogizing her in a service staged on a pier jutting into Lake Michigan, spreading her ashes into the lake and then adjourning to a local restaurant.

Said Ms. Wedell: "We had an Irish wake for a Swedish lady in a Greek restaurant."

Contributing: Steve Clover.

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