Mongo’s Last Adventure

Tuesday, 4pm
Reno, NV
Photo, clockwise from bottom left: Big Jason Henderson, Brian Kurtz, me, Stan Dahl, Joe Sugarman, and Scott Haines, Las Vegas, after one of our Platinum Group mastermind meetings.

Howdy…

Several years back, Mongo and I were road-dogging with Gary Halbert in Beverly Hills, looking for a new-fangled television option that had just become available…

… allowing you to project video images onto a huge screen in your home. This was ages before 70″ HD TVs were even a glint in a Samsung engineer’s eye.

As usual, Gary needed to find out every detail of this wondrous new contraption. He loved cameras, movies, and all interesting new technology… especially when it promised to entertain him.

Hanging out with Gary meant exploring the world deeply, with gusto.

Also with lots of irreverence.

We parked on Sunset and wandered across the street to an audio/visual store, where the awesome new projector TV was being sold. Several salesmen descended on us immediately, ushering us into a special room displaying the magic.

We stood there for a few moments, watching some soap opera show play out larger than life on the screen. It was pretty impressive.

Mongo and I looked at each and raised our eyebrows. We both had the same thought.

“Um…” said Mongo. “Do you have any porn you can put on? This soap opera crap is pretty boring.”

Gary nearly choked, laughing. I grinned at the salesman, nodding.

He looked sheepish, then grinned back. “Of course,” he said, leaning close. “We watch porn after-hours on this thing all the time…” and he went over to fuss with the video player.

“Score,” said Mongo.

“I’m gonna buy this thing,” said Gary. And he did. But not until after the demonstration.

So we watched some late-nineties grind-and-slobber video for a while (much more intriguing than the soap opera crap) before getting bored and wandering back outside to see if there was better trouble to get into.

Because that’s what we did, Mongo and I, when we were with Gary. A little research, a little exploration, a little visit to the tavern next door to share tall stories and see what else we could get into on this fine sunny day in Southern California.

Mongo is, of course, my great pal and cohort Scott Haines. After I’d done my several years being Gary’s main road dog, Scotty took over. We both were thick as thieves with Gary, traveling around the country to seminars and biz meetings and chewing up scenery in as many different cities as possible. Miami, San Diego, Key West, Phoenix, LA, Orlando, New York city… it was an education in how the U.S. was cobbled together, as much as an ongoing lesson in dealing with clients in every type of market imaginable.

Scotty earned the prized nickname “Mongo” after the Alex Karras character in the movie “Blazing Saddles”. Scotty was a short, broad shouldered, incredibly strong man — with martial arts skills that would have made him fearsome, if he wasn’t also saddled with a heart as big as any man I’ve met. If you were Mongo’s friend, you had someone who would watch your back and sacrifice himself without hesitation when the chips were down.

I valued him as a pal, and also as a colleague. He was a brilliant copywriter (the only way you could get the road dog job with Halbert), and understood the marketing game as well as anyone. He arrived into our world from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late nineties…

… suffering some serious culture shock moving near Gary in Key West, and then Miami and Hollywood. Sort of a trial-by-fire for a young man eager to tackle the big wide world on his terms.

Scotty and I got along famously, liking each other on first sight. Writers are like that, you know. The “tribe of scribes” is an ancient guild, going back to the beginning of civilization. We’re the dudes and dudettes who get the stories down on paper, who translate the culture into novels and ads, who keep watch over the way history is tracked. It’s a lonely gig, often just you and the blank page…

… and that inherent loneliness bonds us together. We know the drill. We understand what goes into the process, how tough it can be even while seeming like we’re goofing off driving around Hollywood destroying shit.

Writers love to hang with other writers, cuz we never need to answer the question “how do you do it?” We get to skip past the mystery and incredulous quizzing, and just move straight on to our other main job: Drinking and making each other laugh so hard it hurts.

Mongo remained a close friend with Gary, as did I.

And when I decided to become a guru, writing my books and courses and hosting the now-legendary “Copywriting Sweatshop” seminars, I didn’t hesitate to ask Scotty to be my sidekick. He was there for the first three seminars, right beside me, as I faced down 40 marketers who paid $5grand each to have me critique and fix their miserable ad copy. They expected a lot. We delivered more than they ever dreamed possible.

He also was one of the first teachers we hired to honcho a classroom in the Simple Writing System. His students adored him, and he became good friends with many of them.

When I had a problem myself, whether in life or biz, Mongo was one of the first guys I called. Level-headed, despite his shocking appetite for good booze. Fearless when facing problems, despite being a shy introverted giant.

He was the most fun, thoughtful, and generous man I’ve ever known.

And he’s gone. Left this mortal coil today at noon Tulsa-time, surrounded by grieving friends and family, to go see what Gary’s been up to in that Big Marketing Joint in the sky these past ten years.

He was just 46 years old, far too young to leave us so suddenly. The entire writers’ community is in deep shock, emotionally shattered by the passing of a beloved colleague, friend and cohort.

I talked to him the day before he left Austin for Tulsa, to visit with family over Christmas. Twenty-four hours later, he suffered a massive stroke, and was on life support for almost two weeks before his family was convinced by the docs to let him go.

I can still hear his thunderous laughter. We joked and shared old Halbert stories during that call, howling at the misadventures and insanity that wonderful man could generate. It was two longtime pals, talking like we always had. I expected to talk to him again this week, when he got back from the holidays, maybe meet up somewhere for fresh adventures.

Those adventures will have to wait, now.

I’m not a religious man, but I do have a raucous spiritual side, and you can’t tell me I won’t see both Gary and Mongo again, somewhere. In due time.

Life is wondrous, but also heartbreakingly fragile… and you can never predict what the morrow will bring.

Hug your loved ones. Never assume there will be plenty of time later to tell them you love them, plenty of time to enjoy their company, plenty of time left to share your best stories.

Scotty lives on in our hearts, of course. In that ever-growing place where those who have left remain with us. So crowded, that special place.

But that’s what happens when you live large, and embrace life fully. You collect friends, you love them, and sometimes… they have to leave early.

Folks, he’ll never be forgotten…

… but for now…

Mongo has left the building. 

I love and miss you dearly, pal.

Here’s to you.

For the rest of you:

Stay frosty.

John

P.S. Feel free to share your own Mongo stories in the comments here. His very large group of fellow writers have been supporting each other since Scott went down, and while we’re grieving, we’re also laughing through the tears… sharing the funny, embarrassing, wild stories and memories of the big guy.

He was a force of nature. A damned good friend.

And someone we’ll all miss for a very long time…

UPDATE: Big Jason Henderson, one of Scotty’s best pals, set up a GoFundMe site to help with the funeral and hospital expenses Mongo’s family is now faced with.

Go here if you want (and are financially able) to contribute. Doesn’t matter how much. Every penny is appreciated.

You are invited to leave comments and stories on the page. You’ll see that many of Scotty’s cohorts, clients, colleagues and many notorious and famous friends have already done so…

Leave a Comment:

35 comments
Harlan Kilstein says January 11, 2017

Scott was a fun guy to be around. Great copywriter. I have some letters he did. When he was on his game he was fucking brilliant.
I met him for the first time at Gary’s seminar in Phoenix. Scott did the bullets for the sales letter for the seminar.
I remember thinking, these bullets are outstanding.
It was always good to hang with him.
I spoke with him a few months back.
Can’t believe he checked out so soon.
RIP Mongo

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    John Carlton says January 11, 2017

    I remember that seminar vividly. Art deco hotel from the 50s, designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright associate. Scott and I had some roaring times behind the scenes…

    Reply
Michael D Walker says January 11, 2017

What a wonderful, loving tribute you’ve penned John.

A mighty big thanks is owed to you for connecting me to Scott via the SWS program. He was my first copywriting coach and he did a damn good job teaching me how to assemble words into marketing messages. I consider myself damn lucky for that experience and to be friends with him for all too brief a time.

I wish I had some great stories but the only two that come to mind are from our last get together in Vegas with Big Jason Henderson, Mike Morgan, and Mike’s brother-in-law.

If memory serves me correctly, Mongo asked Mike’s brother-in-law “Hey, do you have any good stories from when he had hair?”

Soon we were off into stories from Mike’s younger, wilder days that he probably would rather keep to himself. 🙂

The other thing I remember clear as day is Scott asking me how I managed to deal with living in Vegas and working on the Strip.

I told him I just had to keep reminding myself of one thing:

That the Strip is essentially the vortex where the worst dressed neanderthal’s from Wal-Mart collide with the phony Hollywood, GQ wanna-be’s all vying to be the most vain and vapid in order to be discovered by the Kardashians.

If you can always bear that in mind you’ll be fine.

At which point a respectable amount of beer exited Mongo’s nose as he started laughing.

To get Mongo laughing was an honor and a memory I’ll always cherish.

His ability to ask simple straight forward questions unlocked stories, experiences and information that would be sitting right in front of you waiting to be discovered if you only asked the right questions like he did.

I’ll always remember that about him and always be grateful that he took a screwball like me into his world. I only wish I’d me t him much sooner.

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Million Dollar Mike Morgan says January 11, 2017

To add more color to Michael’s funny story, Mongo was putting on a drinking clinic there at Gordon Biersch Brewery. Waiters brought him beer after Jägermeister, after beer. Yet you rarely saw the dude drinking because he was talking or howling with laughter. Sneaky bastard, our Mongo.

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    John Carlton says January 11, 2017

    I’ve gone to the well with him many, many times. Some of the finest moments I’ve spent in a bar, and you know I’ve had a few, Mike…

    Reply
      rob says January 11, 2017

      I never met ‘Mongo’ or ‘Prince or prince of print’ only via learning materials I’ve accumulated over the years, I do have copy of “copywriting sweatshop” & licence to steel” which has great man himself, Gary always mention Scott, in high regards…to get such respect from Gary you have to earn it, as read all posts this last couple weeks on social media about Scott, my thoughts where about those closest to Scott, as senior member of Brethren those of us coming thru ranks are sincerely sadden to learn of his passing, on behalf of us here in land down under who know of ‘Mongo’ I’m so sorry for the loss of admired, respected, loved writer. Thoughts are to his family…may he forever be raising hell with Gary and will have quiet beer for Mongo shortly. #RIPMongo ??

      Reply
Steven Sefton says January 11, 2017

I never knew, Mongo. But from this article, I wish I did. Sorry for your loss, John. And to everyone else who knew him.

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Jason Moffatt says January 11, 2017

I never had the chance to meet Scott, but it’s obvious he was the kind of guy I would have enjoyed being around. What a bummer to lose such a fella. Thanks for the write-up and shedding more light upon your pal.

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Alex says January 11, 2017

His course was the one that brought me first “bigger than usual” money. After this I wrote my first good sales letter, not mediocre one that was before. Big thanks to you, Scott!

He was a great teacher, a great copywriter and a great man.

He loved life, loved goods that life brings to you.

I hope he was happy for his life in his last days.

Now he can hang out with Gary Halbert again…

RIP

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Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero says January 11, 2017

Goddamn you, Carlton. You got me crying all over again. Yesterday (January 10th) was much, much harder on me than I expected.

Mongo and I connected immediately, but I’m not even sure where I met him first. Or how many events I’ve hung out with him. I know I never had his phone number but if I ever wanted it, I know without a doubt he’d not only give it me but encourage me to use it.

He was one of the biggest hearted people I’ve ever known. I’m honored I was included in the final close circle of Gonks and friends invited to say our final goodbyes the night before he left us. It’s great that so many others are learning of (or already knew of) his legacy. He was deeply loved and is deeply missed.

I’m going to miss a few of the Gonks with the ferociousness I miss Scott…you’re at the top of the heap, Carlton so don’t even think about checking out anytime soon.

Love ya, man!
CPW Brat

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    John Carlton says January 11, 2017

    There’s a lot of love in the Gonk group, and it fuels me every day…

    Reply
Etienne Juneau says January 12, 2017

Knew him only through you. Yet I’m shocked he’s gone at 46. Gotta live hard and fast. Thanks for the reminder.

Etienne
A fan and customer

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    John Carlton says January 13, 2017

    I hope you got a good idea of what kind of man he was from our writings. His fellow writers have written through tears all week long, praising Mongo and doing what they can to ease the burden on his family. Thanks for the note.

    Reply
      Etienne Juneau says January 13, 2017

      I kept thinking…

      Better tell you this now than never:

      You’ve been my first and biggest influence in copy. I bought your kick-ass binder when I was a broke student. It was a big purchase for me back then.

      Now I’m living the life.

      I can’t thank you enough.

      Cheers John,

      Etienne

      Reply
Eric Grimstead says January 12, 2017

I met him, shocker of shockers, in the bar at one of Jay Abraham’s seminars.

Shared a couple drinks and good laughs. One of the most approachable guys I’ve ever met. Left such a mark on me that I’d regularly stalk him online and try to figure out where the heck he was and what he was up to, though never did get a chance to work with him in my direct mail days.

Sad to hear of his passing.

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    John Carlton says January 13, 2017

    I’ve always said, the bar is the place to hang at seminars. You don’t need to imbibe, but skipping the experience means you’ll seldom meet the folks who matter. Good on you for approaching him and getting to know him, Eric…

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Jimbo Curley says January 13, 2017

Nice tribute John. My heart’s hurtin’ today.
Mongo like beer. Mongo be missed.

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    John Carlton says January 13, 2017

    Thanks, Jimmy. I’m toasting him again tonight, as he would have demanded…

    Reply
Tony says January 13, 2017

“It seems the good die young, yeah”. Marvin Gaye, (Abraham, Mavin and John).

It was as if were yesterday when he was ribbing and spinning yarn at Gary’s tribute about working and road dogging with him and the ensuing adventures.

And now he’s gone.

From the raw emotion being played out here it showed he meant a lot to many people.

Everyone’s ticket is going to get punched one time or another.

The only thing we can do is to leave a good legacy of our time here on this ball of mud.

Scott through the thoughts shared here had this in spade.

His life will live on through his work.

What a write up tribute, John.

Rip Mongo

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Phil Alexander says January 17, 2017

Damn. When I was burning out at my job in the 90’s Scott was the only friend I had. One of the first I knew on the internet. I’ll never forget palling around Disneyworld with him and you, John.

Damn.

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Chris Di Re says January 17, 2017

John,

Thanks so much for the fantastic tribute to Scott. I hadn’t talked to Scott in about 2 years, since my last trip to Vegas where we got to reconnect and share some laughs.

So sorry to hear he’s left us. Great guy overall.

RIP Scott.

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Carl Picot says January 18, 2017

This was a nice story thanks John. I was quite haunted when I first saw the news about Scott’s stroke on Christmas day. Somehow I thought he would be OK – 46 is way to young to exit this place.

It kinda didn’t add up! Also I have been running through his bullets (again) on and off for a few weeks and hand copying as I try to improve my own writing.

They were (and will remain) genius and I wonder if I’ll ever get so good I can write my own like this one day.

Scott did a sales letter critique for me once and gave some awesome suggestions – which ramped the copy up in to a different league!

Yes its a shock – but it must be odd for you guys who were part of each others lives.

THe world is less one more writer with that “magic” but he leaves a gift to us all in his wake – and I will continue to copy the remainder of the bullets with a slightly different emotional feeling as I write.

Thanks for the great post.

R.I.P Mongo – I hope I’m as good a writer as you when I join you for the great gig in the sky!

Cheers Carl

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Christine Hoeflich says January 18, 2017

I am so sorry for your loss, John.

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Keita says January 18, 2017

Scott and I had only exchanged emails on a small number of occasions.

The last one he’d sent me was on Dec 23rd 2016.

I’d only heard about him a couple of years ago — (something that John C. or Gary H. had said) — which set me scouring the interwebs.

I devoured what little I could find by him… and the stories about him by copywriters I’d already held in highest esteem (Carlton, Halbert, Rogers, etc). I was immediately a fan-boy on the far outer-rings of his acquaintance.

I found out about his passing shortly after it happened, and posted this to a group some days before the ripple affect began to cut a swath of ache across the industry.

“Reflecting on the brevity of this mortal coil’s dance… and those masters of copy who’ve paved the way… yet shuffled their path all too briefly.”

In grief-stricken delusion, I feared invoking his name in the post… (because then it would seem real)… and even deleted it as if guided by a naive, childlike wish to set time back.

Then John Carlton began posting about it, and…

floodgates.

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    John Carlton says January 20, 2017

    We were all fan-boys of the big lug, Keita.

    Thanks for the note and story. I, too, resisted making it “real” by posting, but it’s part of the process.

    Reply
Rob Jones says January 22, 2017

I met Scott for the first time in person that weekend in Vegas from the photo you posted above, John.

Before that, we were basically just Facebook friends who said happy birthday to each other. I’d gotten a few copy reviews from him and bought his course, but we didn’t really know each other.

However when I met him in person, we instantly clicked, and I felt like I’d already known him for ages.

Thing is, I’m guessing a lot of people who met Scott would say the exact same thing.

He had what Mexicans refer to as “la sangre liviana” or light blood. It means you’re a kind, good hearted, easy going person. Easy to know.

After I met him, I felt like I could randomly show up unannounced on his doorstep and say “hey man remember me” and he would immediately invite me in for a beer with a smile and a dirty joke.

That weekend in Vegas was a great time sharing stories and talking shop over good food and a few too many drinks.

Obviously Scott had copy chops, but aside from that he really was an awesome, good hearted guy, and I wish I’d gotten the chance to get to know him better. Wherever he is now, I hope he knows the mark he left on the world.

Thanks for the post John.

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    John Carlton says January 23, 2017

    Thank you for the story, Rob. Sounds like you really did get to know the real Mongo.

    Stay safe, wherever the hell you are now in the world…

    Reply
Ike says January 23, 2017

Condolence to the bereaved!

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Big Jason says February 10, 2017

Every time I talked to Scott about growing up in Oklahoma, he always mentioned their evil pet billy goat.

He hated that damn thing. It was always ramming him and knocking him over when he was a kid.

During the time I was in Tulsa to see Scott off to the bar with Gary, his big brother Jamie asked if I wanted to see some old pictures of Scott.

I said, “Hell, yeah!”.

As we’re going through all these pictures, I suddenly screamed, “Holy shit! Was that your pet billy goat?”.

Jamie started chuckling and said, “Yep. I loved to rile that goat up so he’d ram Scott and knock him down. I’d get a kick out of it every time.”.

We laughed our asses off for quite awhile.

After we finished looking at all the pics, Jamie asked if I wanted to keep some of them.

I now have a picture of young Scott looking down in horror at their evil billy goat.

It’s on my desk, and I look at it every day…

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    John Carlton says February 10, 2017

    Great story, Big Jason!

    This probably explains some things about Mongo, too…

    Reply
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