Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jeff Selis here with my main man, Spike Lee

I shook hands with Spike Lee the other day. It wasn't the first time, but Spike wouldn't know that. He's Spike Lee. I'm merely Jeff Selis.

He was visiting the offices of Wieden +Kennedy at the ivitation of Bill Davenport and Jim Riswold. Bill and Jim have a long, legendary relationship with Spike. The three of them, along with some cat named Michael Jordan revolutionized advertising. As Spike pointed out, it was the first time corporate America had the guts to present a black man as the face of their company. Spike praised Bill and Jim, Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, and Phil Knight as the visionaries willing to just do it. It was a nice moment for everyone. Bill and Jim sitting in the atrium next to Spike. Dan and David next to each other in a front row seat. The rest of the agency enveloped around them. It was a reminder of our roots. A reminder of why we are all there in the first place. A reminder, personally, of why I dreamt of one day working with such an unordinary, extraordinary group.

Bill and Jim retold the story of how they came to discover Spike in the first place. Without retelling it here, it's one of those tales that makes you realize how random life really is, yet how wonderfully opportunistic it can be if your mind is open and at the ready. The marriage of Bill and Jim to Spike was basically a happy accident. But what they accomplished together was no accident at all.

After the retelling of their collective story, Spike took a few questions. One question focused on the difference between sports of today versus sports of years past, and if Spike thought that sports were as great now as they seemed to be then...in this case, all the way back in the 90s! Spike's answer was thoughtful, as all of his answers were. With regards to sports of today, he believed that sports exhibit what they always have, a winner and a loser, oftentimes with classic match ups and sometimes with surprising outcomes. He cited the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl as an example of what sports can mean to a community. He mentioned the dramatic NCAA basketball final, and how even though he hates Duke, it was an amazing game to witness.

Then he went on a tangent. He wanted to make a point of why sports are better than art.

"Sports," he declared, "has a true winner. Art, doesn't."

And then you quickly realized where Spike was going, and how his heart is somewhat wounded.

"In 1989," he said, "Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar...Driving Miss Daisy."

A long, dramatic pause was followed by nervous giggles from all of us. He didn't mention that his groundbreaking film Do The Right Thing wasn't even nominated.

He continued.

"In 1992, Al Pacino won the Oscar for Scent Of A Woman."

Another pause.

"Scent Of A Woman," he exclaimed.

More nervous giggles.

He went on to mention how the academy overlooked Pacino for Godfather 1 and 2, and for roles like Serpico only to later make up for it and give it to him for Scent Of A Woman, which, much to Spike's chagrin, happened to be the same year Denzel Washington was up for his role in Malcolm X.

Another pause, maybe a little more awkward.

"Then..." he continued, "Denzel later wins an Oscar for Training Day."

He had us in his hands now. It was inspiring, to be honest.

"He didn't win it for Malcolm X, but they gave it to him for TRAINING DAY!"

We all let out a big laugh.

"And in 1980, Ordinary People...ORDINARY PEOPLE won the Oscar over Raging Bull. And the academy chose Robert Redford as best director over Martin Scorcese. MARTIN SCORCESE!"

That last point was interesting to me. I didn't see the relation it had to Spike and his work, other than it must be some consolation for him to be in the company of the maestro Martin Scorcese.

But his point was taken. It was a popularity contest. I couldn't help but feel for him. Here he was, one of America's most respected voices, but you could tell he felt somehow slighted in a way that his New York Yankees or his New York Knickerbockers never could.

Upon learning that he would be attending the Blazers playoff game that evening, I asked him if he'd be rooting for the home team.

"I just want to see a good ballgame," he replied.

Unfortunately, the Blazers never showed up. But irony of ironies, look who did...

TIMOTHY HUTTON - star of Ordinary People! What a funny, funny world.

*Disclaimer: Spike's quotes are based on memory from the day. They may not be word for word accurate, but the truth lies within. You gotta believe me. Please baby, please baby, please.



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