Bio

My earliest mass-produced words were bright pink and olive green and appeared in a spiral-bound book called

The Mother/Daughter Cookbook.” My brother’s idea, my father’s perfect pitch, my mother’s time-tested recipes… and my pathetic quest to set the world record for Liquid Paper consumption. Typing with ten fingers works for some – but I still prefer two fingers. Simon & Schuster published the book and set me on my path. They talked about maybe a sequel, but I stepped out of the kitchen and took up tragicomedies, instead.  It  was the late sixties, and I was a senior at the High School of Music and Art (NYC), where I feebly played the cello and co-edited the newspaper, when I wrote “The Door,” a short play about an aging cellist locked outside in a storm, and then another that probed the meaning of life.  “The Door” debuted at my Bryn Mawr interview, complete with a calculated crash off the couch. My second play, “The Hemlock Root,” had far too many parts to perform by myself, and stayed home on my desk.

Bryn Mawr was my home for four years, until I returned to NYC, and a  month after graduation began checking facts for Reader’s Digest General Books.  I spent hours every day in the New York Public Library and then sat down with writers and artists to help shape a colorful history book about the great explorers.  Marketing  was right — very few readers wanted to buy the book. I still have my copy of Great Adventures That Changed Our World, and I’ll never forget what it was like sitting across a table from my first boss, Peter Lacey, and Edmund Morris — way before he landed his Pulitzers.

My first freelance magazine assignment involved deciphering a heartful but Byzantine memoir submitted to a music journal by conductor Milton Katims.  My financial reward was sub-microscopic, but I was thrilled to hear that both the conductor and his wife liked it. And that’s how I learned to talk about financial details right from the start. Next, I interviewed a famous child photographer who went on and about a book he never wrote  – who would have guessed that my father had ghosted it for him, the year I was born!

Dinner in those days was often a slice of cheese pizza at the uptown Ray’s -- sometimes with a pal whose “audition press release” announcing the invention of the paper clip won him a desk at a Fortune 500 company.  Inspired, I began scribbling never-to-be released press releases about paper clips, staplers, toothpicks, and cranberry juice, and in a few months I was crossing the Hudson River to collect paychecks from an ad agency.

I held on to my rent-stabilized Manhattan apartment and set off every morning for  Orange, New Jersey, where I doubled as a copywriter/publicist in a converted jailhouse – after I passed the Duesenberg test.  I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was until the ever-amazing  John Puglionisi  drew a picture with enough detail for me to pull together the 3×5 inch ad I needed to pass muster.  For the next year or so, I managed publicity for Oticon, on the East Coast the mind-dashing Danish hearing aid company, and wrote ads and collateral for Hugin and Emeloid.

And of course I’ll never forget ATT, and the priceless opportunity they gave me to help launch “Call Waiting”  (So while you nervously waited for a date to check in, you could chat with a girl friend without tying up the line!)

Now talk about an example of personal/professional growth…  to make a veep at ATT  (Baskin Ridge) more comfortable,  we changed my name to Sam. The same words that missed the mark when Pam wrote them, somehow sparkled when they came from Sam’s typewriter.  So, Pam took Sam’s calls and passed along the changes.  And when the client wanted to meet Sam in person, everyone in the creative department took turns inventing excuses.

It was about that time that I came up with Erica and Erico — cartoon characters scripted to motivate Airco workers to work harder.  I prepped in a brand new 1979 Avanti in the parking lot with a skeptical veep, assuring him that we had quite a hit on our hands, as he anxiously squinted at the story boards. On our way back to the office, he sternly asked me to calculate my hours and estimate the art department’s time, multiplying the juicy sum by a three-digit number to reveal the damages.  The art department kept the story boards up for months — but the client wanted something more conventional; my productivity brochure was ready in a day.

It was one thing to be a contact person on top of the page and quite another to have my own by-line!  Having enthusiastically staffed on Al Lowenstein’s final Congressional primary bid, (working long nights for the fledgling pollster Penn and Schoen after work), I was invited to some memorable political fundraisers, including one where I met trade publisher and SANE co-founder Herb Brandon. At the old age of 28 finally came a trickle of fame and fortune, when I was in time named managing editor of Brandon’s Shipper and Forwarder, a weekly filled with shipping schedules and ads of every size, plus about 40 pages of news stories, interviews, profiles, and features which the staff and I wrote.  (And you know what –that oh so pretty cobalt blue evening gown I wore at the Pierre for a freight forwarder gala was just what I needed for my pre-wedding reception at NYC’s Murray Hill Townhouse, a few years later…)

Yes, it’s undeniable,… I knew as little about Duesenbergs as I did about ocean carriers – but asking questions has always come easily.  What joy to hear a Telex machine chirping in a real newsroom in the World Trade Center. Home at last, where a messenger vanished with Herb Brandon’s checkbook, and loquacious PR flacks tied up my phone line all the time.  Only one other female reporter wrote about shipping back then, and we ran into each other at freight forwarder dinners and carrier press conferences — shoulder to shoulder, along the way.  Virtually impossible to write at my noisy office, I composed most of my stories on Saturdays at the genteel New York Society Library… where I also first began learning about the mysteries of Pythagorean numerology.

It wasn’t too long before I finally got the word out before the daily did.  With the help of a generous and trusting shipping exec, who whispered into his receiver, I debunked the need to ship coffee beans in costly ventilated containers and broke the news with “Tempest in the Coffee Box.”

Next came the exhausting but totally worthwhile challenge of profiling the extraordinary Oregon entrepreneur who started a revolution by automating shipping tariffs.  Not only was this my first high tech assignment, but our post-story  romance catapulted me out of NYC out to the wilds of the Northwest, where I added a hyphen to bridge our last names, and reluctantly surrendered my remaining subway tokens.

Not long after my arrival on foreign soil,  I helped open the gates of our local science museum to a stampede of out-of-state  dinos   —  every kid loves stegosaurs, so it was a cinch. My next assignment at Gerber Advertising got tougher.  I had to pep up Portlanders about a less than popular exhibit called Nature’s Fury. After The Oregonian turned down each of my story ideas, I concocted a PR/Advertising cross-over I dubbed “OMSI Quakes” Phew, it passed muster as free education for young readers and made my client so happy!  I also landed national coverage for a tiny NW diaper-maker, Baby’s Choice, when it churned out its 1,000,000th diaper.  This adorable NBC radio spot helped me land my dream job.!

From 1987-89, I was director of the Oregon Symphony’s PR department where I worked with so very many celebrated guest artists, and successfully pitched the folks at Newsweek, Time, CBS, NPR, and leading music journals to boost our orchestra and maestro to greater fame.  It seemed like a matter of minutes before I was named James DePreist’s publicist, and simultaneously, the American publicist for the ineffable Swedish royal conductor, Maestro Sixten Ehrling.  Jimmy  and Sixten!!!  (I miss them both so much… truly, nobody had a better sense of humor than Sixten! Well, Jimmy was pretty funny, too. I adored and nurtured them both, my night and day clients.)

So after two lively seasons with the Oregon Symphony, I resigned and came home to pitch Sixten’s legacy to music journals and cover NW shipping news for San Francisco’s Pacific Shipper, and best of all, to nurture Baby Myles!  The radiant stripes of a political scientist-in-the-making surfaced quickly, and starting at age five, Myles and I volunteered together on Congressional campaigns (and the big race in 2000), wrote a play together called “Jack and the Fourth Amendment,” organized a local history club at the Beaverton Borders, and when he joined the high school debate circuit, I took up judging.

There’s a tale about the college chase in my story section.  So when Myles headed off to Rice and created a debate series for their think tank, the Baker Institute, I stayed busy helping local parents meet challenging admissions hurdles at home.  And I also helped kick creepy Gordon Smith out of office and I joined Nanowrimo, the writers’ November bandwagon, churning out a spoof about the admissions game, Seeking Number 20, and then two years later, another called  We’re Buying the Post Office, quite possibly the very first Post Office romantic comedy.  I’ve never stopped editing my third and probably my last Nanowrimo, Much Ado About the Mauna Kea, and it will likely never pull past the edit stage…  Nowadays, I’m extremely excited about finally following my muse and writing “Mostly When I See Rolls Royces,” a comedy that has been stirring my brain cells since 1980!

The gloomy news …back to dreary 2012 for a moment — Year of the Water Dragon. Bill  and I turned our full focus to my parents and Bill’s mother, as they courageously lost their battles to dementia and cancer, months apart.  I’ve written tributes in my blog about how much my parents meant to me and how very much I miss  them.

Meanwhile,  while I own very few gems  … you should see my precious campaign button collection!  I’ll  never stop trying to help elect congressmen, senators, governors, and presidents and other thoughtful people who fight for progressive causes and deeply share my love for Israel.

So, the summer of 2013, on my September birthday, Bill and I flew out to Paradise with one-way tickets.  After all those pilgrimages as tourists, we finally made the leap! I’m gradually becoming a neophyte gardener like it says in my Pammyloaf Twitter and Nanowrimo profiles, and I will never stop doting on our wild turkeys, walking the hills of Makalei, swimming in the ocean, and blogging, now and then…and a dream come true: I’m co-editor of the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin Class Notes for 1974.

– Pamela Gilbert-Bugbee, 2016