He commanded the respect and earned the friendship of clients, employees and colleagues. Maybe it was his Midwest upbringing, but he was always warm and approachable.
I doubt there were many clients who turned down Bart Cummings. His charm and determination were a formidable combination, and he built Compton Advertising into a powerhouse by following client Procter & Gamble around the world. (Contributing Editor Fred Danzig looks at the life and times of Bart Cummings, Page 12.)
Bart also had a high tolerance for the eccentricities and foibles of his friends. One time at a Western Region American Advertising Federation gathering, Howard Bell and I were making fools of ourselves by going up on the stage, rolling up our pant legs and doing the hula. "Isn't that the president of the AAF and the editor in chief of Advertising Age?" a very proper Victor Bloede, who ran Benton & Bowles at the time, said in a disapproving tone to Bart. "Indeed it is!" Bart replied as if we were performing some intricate dance routine worthy of praise and appreciation.
Merrilee and I spent some great times with Bart and his beloved Margaret. A couple of years ago we were up in Cape Cod with Bart and Margaret and my aforementioned co-conspirator in crime Howard Bell and his long-suffering wife, Chan. Hurricane Bob was fast approaching the New England coast, and we were battening down the hatches to prepare for the onslaught. Howard, Chan, Merrilee and I rode out the storm in a high school gym; Bart and Margaret said they had a previous appointment and departed. As usual his timing was impeccable.
Bart loved his place in the Adirondacks, Old Forge. One time when my daughters were little girls we spent a weekend there, and Merrilee was smitten by a batch of gingersnap cookies prepared by their cook. When Merrilee asked Bart for the recipe, he said, in a protective way, that his cook never divulges any of his recipes. So Merrilee coerced our girls into crying and begging for the recipe. Bart's cook finally gave in and granted us access to the secret and closely guarded ingredients. Bart was impressed that his cook relented (he did not know about our shameless tactics).
Many years later Bart and Margaret visited us in Greenwich, Conn.-after Bart had sold Old Forge and with the sale lost the services of his cook. So Merrilee pulled from her recipe file the card for "Bart's Gingersnaps" and had a giant jar of the cookies waiting for them.
Bart also had a passion for advertising and its role in society. In the forward to his book, "The Benevolent Dictators," Bart said the head of an advertising agency must devote his or her whole life to "the success of the agency, its people, its clients. (And believe me if it's done right, it ain't easy!)."
We're glad he had a little time left over for his friends, who count themselves very lucky to have shared a part of his extraordinary life.