08/09/2010 12:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

De Wrong de Rochemont

This story is at best second hand and it was told to me by a television director almost forty years ago. Although the director is long gone, I will not use his real name and I will call him Bruce. Is all of this stuff that I tell true? Probably not, yet I love the story as it reflects the vulnerability and stupidity of corporations and individuals. I am in fact a specialist in this in that I have done more than one "stupid" in my career.

It was in the late forties or early fifties when the senior people at the "gigantic" advertising agency J. Walter Thomson decided that television was going to be very important to them. They decided that they had no television creative credibility so they set out to acquire some.

A committee was formed and a couple of senior people traveled to "Hollywood" to hire the producer they needed. Their investigation led them to Richard (Dick) de Rochemont, one of the famous de Rochemont brothers, and with the approval of their JWT associates, they signed him to a lucrative long term contract. The JWT people returned to New York to be followed several weeks later by their new TV head.

de Rochemont's first day arrived and he was picked up at his hotel and brought to JWT's headquarters on 42nd Street, shown his office and introduced to his new secretary and told to get comfortable and that they would pick him up at noon for the introductory lunch with the board.

His "handlers" arrived in front of noon and he was not in his office and his secretary announced that he had gone out shortly after they left.

Chaos ensued as the frightened group set about finding their newest hire which they did at a nearby bar. Sadly he was drunk and in no condition to meet with the board. One of the group spoke to de Rochemont and said: "Louis, how could you do this to us?" and de Rochemont replied: "Louis, Louis, I'm not Louis, I'm Dick de Rochemont."

It became apparent that the group that went to Hollywood had hired "the wrong de Rochemont." They apparently thought that they were hiring Louis and had mistakenly hired Dick!

For the remainder of his employment at JWT Dick was referred to as "de Wrong" which was short for "the Wrong de Rochemont."

Bruce was a young man in the JWT mail room when all of this took place. He told me that they delayed the lunch until Dick was sober enough to attend and no one ever, ever admitted the mistake to the board.

This to me is another "welcome to America" story. In my forty years of corporate employment I hardly recall anyone in a position of authority saying these precious words: "I don't know, or I was wrong."

For younger people reading this always position yourself in a way that will enable you to avoid taking the blame when things go wrong yet be able to take credit when things work out well. This is not easy to do and it requires gall and duplicity to pull it off.

A short cut to learning this is to watch politicians who can in the same interview support both sides of any issue without a moment's hesitation.

Forty years ago my CBS boss Ralph Baruch wanted me to screen a pilot that we had done while I was away on a trip in that he valued my opinion. Following the screening I wrote two memos to him, one praising the pilot and the other (my truth) said how horrible it was. I placed one in each of my jacket breast pockets and waited for Ralph to appear.

When he did I asked him what he thought of the pilot and he said that he loved it. Of course I took out the "I loved it" memo and Ralph was pleased and as he turned to leave I gave him the other memo and he wanted to kill me.

Had I not been messing with my boss I would have never given him the second memo.

In conclusion, were you ever to hire "de wrong de Rochemont" be ready at all times to blame someone else for the decision. Truth in the entertainment industry is at best an "elusive" commodity and as a rule has no place in the entertainment business or politics.

Always, please remember the ... I did not have sex with that woman statement.