Using the sparsest of documentary styles, the spot features the disjointed ramblings of Lenny, an almost comical junkie recruited off the streets of the Lower East Side. Cliff Freeman's David Angelo and Glenn Porter (the latter now at Fallon McElligott Berlin) came up with the not too radical idea of finding a real live drug addict and getting him to talk not so much about how horrible smack is but just about his life. In this setting, the delusional quality of Lenny's perceptions-his absurd notion, for example, that a year after the shoot "you can come back here with your cameras and I'll be successful"-provides stunning proof of how drugs do the darndest things.
We see Lenny stripping off his pants to show the film crew where he had pus coming out of sores on his legs, or talking about how he almost lost a foot to gangrene. His body is covered with ghastly scars, his arms are pitted, his cheeks sunken, his eyes piercing behind a narcotic gaze. "I consider myself pretty intelligent, I can do whatever I want to do," he says with conviction, never once realizing what a fantasy this is.
The spot has so far won medals at the International Andy Awards, the Clios, the New York Addys and the One Show. In some instances it was entered by Kaye-the 3-minute version that won at the Andys was the director's more graphic cut, with a haunting recording of Doris Day singing "When I Fall in Love" playing in the background-and in other shows the Partnership-approved cut, sans obscenities, needle shots and music, has prevailed.
The controversy centers around what Doria Steedman, executive VP-director of creative development at the Partnership, says is both the agency's and the production company's unauthorized distribution of the spot and its entry into awards competitions. Seems Angelo had managed to find a way to get a 2-minute version of the spot on CNN in mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve, even though a clearly irritated Steedman says that no version of it was authorized to air. She adds that the Partnership had asked all the agencies contributing to its anti-heroin effort to embargo the work until a press conference could be held in June. The issue of authorization is a serious one; "this is our brand name," Steedman states flatly, adding that this kind of flap has never happened to the Partnership before.
Things started to get confusing when a friend of Lenny's mother saw it on the air. Next thing, Lenny's sister was calling the Partnership and complaining that her brother had been exploited. The call caught the Partnership off guard-according to Angelo, they weren't aware the spot was going to run.
"The shorter versions of this spot don't tell the story, they don't let you get to know Lenny," says Angelo. Worried that the long version would end up gathering dust on showreels, he tried to get it distributed in Manhattan theaters, then a last-minute opportunity arose to get it on CNN on New Year's Eve.
As far as Angelo is concerned, even in its drastically limited exhibition so far-mostly just awards show audiences and those who have seen it on Kaye's or editor Chad Sipkin's reel-the spot can do some good. "If this can keep one person from shooting up, then it's worth it. It doesn't matter whether this ran