Last night hundreds of current and former colleagues gathered at the New York Public Library to celebrate Siegel+Gale’s 40th anniversary. Alan Siegel’s wife, Gloria, the firm’s co-directors, Howard Belk and David Srere, and the veteran head of the naming practice, Jeff Lapatine, took to the podium to thank those who had made Siegel+Gale an enclave of creative brilliance.
All eyes were on Alan – who circulated, spoke and presided – prompting, as always, questions from the rest of us, his lifelong retainers and personal hoplites. How is it possible to achieve such success? For a man to be so admired and envied? To be such a jock and also to have such an artist’s eye? How can this deeply conservative man take dramatic risks in life – and wind up adored by this throng?
Who can assemble talent from all disciplines – poets, ad guys, search firm executives, programmers – and weld them into a company that grows over four decades into a citadel of simplicity, clarity and expressiveness?
And that personality! How can a man be so cavalier with trivial facts (he once told a prospect that we had worked for 500 insurance companies and then, after the coffee break, that we had worked for 1000) and be so true to his friends? – and unfailingly true to the principles on which he runs his firm?
How can a man roar with frustration and anger over a missed train (Okay, Alan, I was the one who mis-took the Southbound departure time for the Northbound time) and in a flash drop the issue and wait on the platform in the sunshine discussing the Nicks and Nickelodeon?
Who is so impatient that he tosses your paper aside after reading one sentence – half a sentence – and then on a four-hour flight peppers you with detailed questions about your life and views?
I dimly remember that the Ancient Greeks pondered the definition of happiness… Did it entail wealth... fame... peace of mind?
Let’s ask again: How can a man achieve a happy life? You look across the room – the marble halls of the Public Library – and you see Alan in a dark jacket accompanied by a noble and loving wife, surrounded by hundreds of talented people he has brought together through will and charm – and the key to happiness becomes plain: Caring.
Whatever the activity, whoever the actor, however it turns out, Alan Siegel is curious about it, critical of it, and by some magical instinct, truly caring of all its participants.