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…

 

22 Responses to Mongo’s Last Adventure

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

      • 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 😢🙏

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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

    • 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.

      • 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

  8. 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.

    • 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…

  9. “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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