TMI Department: “Circus Halbert”

Tuesday, 3:39pm
Reno, NV
Well, you’re sitting back, in your rose-pink cadillac…” (Stones, “Dead Flowers”)


I’ve been going through shoeboxes stuffed with old photos, discovering treasure right and left.

Hard to believe some of this stuff is decades past, but since I’m forever being asked what it was like working so closely with Gary Halbert for so many years, I thought you might get a kick out of some virtual album-viewing.

This month, April, is the fifth anniversary of Gary’s exit from this mortal coil. He remains dearly missed, and the great work he accomplished in his career still reverberates loudly among entrepreneurs (including those who only learned about him long after he split).

I was just hosting our Platinum Mastermind group, in San Francisco, this past weekend… and damned if Gary’s teachings and stories didn’t pop up in the interplay frequently and with shocking relevance. His effect on the marketing world was profound. I am one lucky, happy bastard to have spent so much quality time with him as co-conspirator, partner and close friend.

In fact, I’m staring at my phone right now, knowing that if he was still alive, he’d be calling right about now. To chew over some absurd matter in life, to share business gossip, to discuss a book, to float new project ideas, to rip into life with gusto again and again and love every freakin’ second of it.

The teachings of Gary will endure. There are precious few videos out there with him, but that’s all right — his audios, which are plentiful, are like experiencing him in your brain, and I recommend them. His sons, Bondo and Kevin, are doing an amazing job keeping Gary’s prolific writings available (and relevant).

Still, you kinda had to be there in the room with him to get the full brunt of his personality. He was truly a force of nature, unique, powerful and unwilling to settle for anything less than spectacular in his dealings with the universe.

Anyway, if you haven’t read my post “For Gary” yet (which I wrote in the hours after learning of his unexpected, untimely passing) go here.

You’ll find multiple other postings related to the dude all over the blog archives, too. All free, of course.

But today, I’m just gonna share a few photos I’ve dug up, and maybe a related story or two.

Gone, but never forgotten, pal.

Photo #1: Up top, with Gary leaning against his car.

Okay, so I’ve been told it’s coral pink, not rose pink. (Remember, I’m red-green color blind.) And it’s a Rolls, not a Caddy.

Still, Gary loved the Rolling Stones (and the quote I open with, above)… believing himself to be the advertising world’s embodiment of Mick Jagger. And he was, too. I tried to teach him how to play guitar a couple of times (at his insistence), but what he really wanted was for it to be 1964 again… so he could form a rock band and rule the world.

We never trashed hotel rooms… but we did tour the country, and worked our stages with panache and boldness and a rock-and-roll attitude that shocked our audiences. Until, that is, Gary’s unique marketing advice broke through (thanks to the stunning results he insisted on compiling, in spite of the naysayers who wanted to keep business boring)…

… after which, it really did become a kind of road show. (See the Circus Halbert poster, below.) Each day was an unpredictable stew of surprises and horrors and gut-busting fun.

Favorite Memory: Gary bought that Rolls in Los Angeles, for his girlfriend. The big secret was that used Rolls Royces were actually pretty cheap — the folks who drove them mostly wanted only new ones. Still, it was a fancy freakin’ automobile, with all these vulnerable parts to it, and Gary was loathe to ever drive it.

One day, up in the Hollywood Hills, we had to get somewhere, and he decided I was gonna drive the Rolls — again, officially his girlfriend’s car. So we got in, and I tried to quickly familiarize myself with the cockpit. Looked straightforward enough, until I let off the parking brake before turning on the ignition. In a Rolls, the brakes don’t work if the car ain’t running.

Seriously. No foot brakes. The car was parked on a steep hill, and we instantly started rolling backwards, picking up speed.

Oh, wait, did I mention that the STEERING doesn’t work, either, with the engine off?

In a second, we were careening downhill, backwards, with no control. About to go off-road.

Gary and I looked at each other and screamed in unison. Doing the 3 Stooges proud.

The car slammed into the hillside and stopped. We got out and surveyed the damage — not much, it looked like. We decided to never, never tell the girlfriend. Pinky swear. I started the car (having figured out the idiosyncrasies of the damned thing) and we headed toward our meeting.

A block later, a Mercedes tailed up close behind and began honking, so I pulled over. It was David Caradine (“Grasshopper”), who had noticed our tailpipe was stuffed with dirt. Probably would have caused the engine to blow up. He got down on his knees and yanked out clumps until it was clean, then stood, smiled, and got back in his Mercedes, job well done.

I looked at Gary. “That was weird, right?”

“In a Rolls, we’re just part of the Hollywood Tribe,” he said, and we continued on our adventure.

Career Lesson: You really should try to know what the hell you’re doing before embarking on a project. However, faced with an obvious lack of knowledge and simultaneously causing real damage… at least get a good story out of it. (And no, I never drove the Rolls again, my choice.)

Photo #2: Gary at his Big Desk in the 9000 building on Sunset Blvd, with girlfriend…

I love this photo. It was a peak moment, soon after I joined his operation as a writer and co-hort. Clients were bribing us to take them on (and we had so many offers, we were turning down even stupid-lucrative projects with a shrug)… Gary had a stable home life in the Hollywood Hills and a great office with a great view… plus his newly-acquired boat, The Sea Hunt, was anchored nearby in Marina Del Mar…

… and I was having so much fun and adventure, I resented having to sleep at night to recharge. There was so much happening, so much to learn and profit from and laugh about, that you just never wanted it to stop. And it didn’t, for a very long and happy stretch.

We actually were a pretty tight advertising team, Gary and I. The now-infamous term “Operation MoneySuck” was coined to define Gary’s habit of closing the door of his office — locking the assistants and secretaries outside to deal with the small-shit problems (like the landlord making a fuss, the printer crashing, emergency calls flooding in, etc) — so we could concentrate on closing clients, plotting campaigns, and finishing copy.

You know — the activity that brings in the moolah.

Still… no one would ever confuse our offices with a “normal” ad agency. Gary had a peculiar quirk: He actually functioned better amidst chaos, than when things were calm. Wrote some of his best ads by hand in airports, putting off boarding til the last second. Liked to spread absurdly-false rumors to the staff moments before starting a seminar, so everyone was running around anxious, with tensions flaring (until we got hip to his scheme). He hated relaxed situations. Just hated them.

Favorite Memory: Once, while road-dogging around the Keys (definition: Goofing off), we swung by the office to “see how things were going.”

The place was humming like a well-oiled machine. Phones getting answered, files being filed, stuff gettin’ done. So Gary got busy screwing it all up. By the time we left, five minutes later, there were papers fluttering through the air, ignored phones ringing angrily, a chair knocked over with a crash, and everyone running around like the joint was on fire, with hair out of place and files spilling from their arms.

I swear that Gary never touched anything. He just gave some conflicting instructions, whispered something in a secretary’s ear that instantly set her off, and capriciously changed the deadline for some upcoming project. It was like introducing a herd of bison onto a smoothly flowing freeway — immediate chaos.

And we went back to our road-dogging, Gary smugly happy about another job well done.

Career Lesson: After a year as Gary’s sidekick, I dubbed his operation “Circus Halbert”, and commissioned this poster from an artist friend (Mark Landstrom) for Gary’s birthday. Because, like a real circus, what looked like barely-tethered madness was actually a well-tested method of getting stuff done. (The poster now proudly hangs in Bond’s home.)

I’d been toiling for “real” agencies and the largest direct mailers in the world until then… and I realized that getting actual results (like winning packages, and bloated profits) had nothing whatsoever to do with how well-run the office was. Or how close you operated to a protocol that made accountants and Vice Presidents happy.

We were a small rebel band, solving problems as we went, far ahead of the main column and into territory that freaked out everyone else. It’s not an environment that just anyone can thrive in — you gotta have real entrepreneur blood in your veins, and a taste for risk that brings other men to their knees. Plus: A huge sense of humor about the whole thing.

Don’t sweat the small shit. And don’t allow “common sense” to overwhelm your instincts, once you’re proven to yourself that your gut has been trained to be right more often than not.

Photo #4: Trying to film the madness.

Yeah, yeah, we look like a bad late-80s Hair Band… but I swear to you this was all normal at the time.

Hey, go check out your own photos from 1990, if you were around then. Goofy glasses, gnarly haircuts (with perms galore), and zero sense of style.

Yep. We had to work our coolness with no tools. It was raw, and to my mind better: Nowadays, you can fake being hip by buying the right clothes and paying close attention to minute-by-minute style changes… and not have a shred of substance. Why you’d do that, I cannot fathom, but it’s pretty rampant in the culture.

Here, we have Mr Cool himself, the great Dan Kennedy… who had organized an infomercial centered on Gary, shot on this Key West wharf and in a Phoenix studio. Using my boyhood baseball hero, Dodger flame-thrower Don Drysdale (rotation-mate of Sandy Koufax, probably the best pitcher the game has ever seen) as the celebrity interviewer. (That’s him on the far left.)

I’m there to cause trouble (and keep Gary on track). His girlfriend did the girlfriend thang, keeping it from descending into a Boy’s Club.

Sadly, the infomerical never scored as a big hit. Dan did a great job, but it was a doomed experiment to try selling serious biz advice and advertising tactics to drunken late-night TV viewers. Didn’t work. Damn, it was fun making it, though.

Favorite Memory: Gary and I actually wrote some of the very first infomercials in the late 80s… when a client discovered he could book late-night spots on cable for nothing — literally nothing, it was FREE broadcast time because the stations didn’t believe anyone could sell anything at 2am, ever — and summoned us down to a local LA studio where he scored scrap time with cameras and sets. The dude got filthy rich before the cable TV world wised up and realized the bonanza that was late-night programming.

He really had the whole process nailed down: Cheapest studio time available, whatever set was laying around, zero production values (like lighting, make-up, or rehearsals). If he had secured an hour on, say, the BET network that night, then he shot exactly one hour’s worth of a show. No editing. Warts and all, that thing went live.

There wasn’t much writing for me to do, either. Mr. Infomerical had found some inventor who had a product (I don’t even remember what it was) that might sell on late-night TV. So I sat the inventor down and interviewed him for notes, looking for hooks and ways to position the thing as “must have”. Then I gave the notes to Mr. Info… who never bothered to introduce himself to the inventor before the cameras started rolling. The first minutes of tape had Mr Info chattering away like a used car salesman, while the inventor looked around asking “Are we filming already?”

At the hour mark, bang, “Cut!”, Mr. Info walks away to get the film in the can and sent to BET… while the next inventor is brought into the studio looking like dazed prey, and I set about grilling him for talking points. The infomerical would run that night (again, for free)… and if the phone bank in Utah lit up with orders, it ran again. If it bombed, it was tossed, and the next show filmed that afternoon ran in the following spot.

It was a ruthless assembly line, yet with almost no overhead. Mr. Info had figured out the game completely, and made a mint before the secret leaked out to competitors, who promptly introduced the current era of “real” informercials (which, last time I checked, required six figures in production costs and media buys before you even knew if you had a winner or a bomb).

Career Lesson: Everyone agrees that the early days of Internet marketing were like the Wild West — few rules, lots of opportunity, the entire game being created as we went.

Every detail of the way you now market online had to be invented, and the early years of this century are going to be the subject of books, movies and lore forever. Those of us doing the inventing were just clearing a path to get where we needed to go: A viable, safe place where good ol’ capitalism could thrive online.

However, us old-timers knew the bigger secret: EVERY marketplace in history starts out like the Wild West, and follows a similar path to acceptance and viability. It all comes down to fundamental salesmanship and street-level psychology… plus a few copywriting chops, when you’re ready to go after bigger markets.

My career spanned the re-emergence of direct response direct mail (which had gone largely dormant in the 70s), the invasion of the infomercial, the rise of toll-free and reverse-toll (900) phone numbers, the biggest self-publishing boom since Guttenberg inked his first sheet, and the explosion of the Web. (And Gary’s career went even further back, to pre-computerized mailing and the hey-day of print ads.)

And yet, it’s all just different vehicles for a killer sales message. The fundamentals do the heavy lifting, always and forever.

Photo #5: Preparing to prowl and howl at the moon…

Gary and me in his Key West hovel, just before he moved to Miami Beach. Gary left Los Angeles (shortly after we met) because he claimed it didn’t have enough truly sunny days. The guy needed massive quantities of Vitamin D from the sun, and got surly when denied his fix… so he researched the places available boasting the most sunshine, and promptly moved there.

Personally, I despised being a “local” in the Keys. Fun for a day or two, but grinding after a week or more. Hot, humid as hell, populated by drunks, reeked of sulphur, hot, humid, hot and hot year-round. I like my high desert multiple seasons, thanks.

But we had us some times down there, yes we did. He never stayed anywhere very long, though — went from the North Hollywood Hills semi-mansion, to the famous Bahia Mar hotel in Fort Lauderdale, to a trashy compound on Vaca Key (and then a bitchin’ little house on the marina next to his boat), to an entire two-story heritage building in Key West, to multiple apartments in Miami. Working his way north, south and elsewhere.

Favorite Memory: On our first visit to Key West, we docked late and headed out to the tourist area (foolishly) to find a hotel. We made his son Bond sleep on the boat.

But the island was all booked up, even at the usurious rates they charged. Finally, we stumbled across an old hotel on Duvall Street that not only had rooms available, but was absurdly cheap. Like, $14 for the night. So Gary and I each snagged a room, and went back out to cause some trouble downtown.

What we hadn’t noticed — and the signs were obvious — was the hotel we’d picked was so cheap because the rooms usually rented out by the hour. The primarily gay clientele checked in, partied, and left all night long. The plumbing didn’t even work (a dead cockroach fell out of the showerhead when I tried to turn it on). And there were no locks on the doors.

At two a.m., exhausted from travel and carousing, we barricaded the doors of our rooms and tried to catch at least a few z’s while the hotel remained as busy and loud as a prison riot.

Bond was the only one who got any sleep that night, peacefully rocked into slumber by gentle waves. And he never, never let us forget how we thought we’d snookered him into staying on the boat.

Career Lesson: You can get too cocky trusting your snap decision-making process — it’s a trap for all successful entrepreneurs, and the consequences can be brutal. I’ve seen many a biz owner hit it big, and believe his success was all based on his personal mojo and mysterious ability to just be a great marketer right out of the blocks.

And it just ain’t so. You tend to forget the hard work that brought you your early successes (just like women forget about the pain of childbirth, I’ve been told)… and your memory gets warped by your Ego. Your goddamned Ego, which needs to be strangled daily and locked away somewhere safe in your brain… or it will create constant havoc with your ability to make good decisions.

Personally, all of my failures in business and in life are the grist of my best stories. As long as we lived through it (or most of us did), there’s a story to be told. And within that story lies a lesson that may or may not have been learned.

The key to a long, full and successful life is to recognize this, and embrace it, and keep learning.

Also: Learn to laugh at yourself. We’re all Bozo’s on this bus, essentially slap-sticking our way through the universe, shaved apes believing we’re actually noble creatures bending Life to our will.


Just, ha.

Photo #6: On the Sea Hunt, heading to paradise.

Gary loved boats and scuba, and was elated to have located one of the original Jeffries dive boats created for the early 60s TV series “Sea Hunt” (which starred Lloyd Bridges as a scuba diver, which is funny because Lloyd hated the ocean and never went underwater for any of the episodes… or so I’ve heard. Good story, anyway.).

I knew a little about small cabin cruisers, because my Pop had ordered one from Sears back in the fifties (seriously — you could even buy pre-fab houses from Sears back then), which arrived in a series of boxes that he had to construct. Had one Mercury outboard engine, a cabin that slept two comfortably, and was the coolest playhouse I had as a kid. He got rid of it before I hit my teens, though, so my memories were a little weak…

… but I seemed to recall that wooden boats were a bitch to maintain. Fiberglass was much more efficient.

But Gary wanted the mojo of that ancient Jeffries, and he had it shipped to Florida when he moved there about a year after I joined his operation. I refused to move, so I became bi-coastal (racking up 100,000 miles on Pan Am very quickly).

On the first trip there, Gary decided his son Bond (then still in high school) and I needed to learn how to scuba dive… so we took the course offered at the Bahia Mar hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. The idea being that we’d get certified, then truck on down to Key West and dive the underwater National Park there (a coral reef). Many stories stem from this simple beginning (including having a former British Special Forces drunk as our teacher, who took us for a wreck dive on our first deep-ocean qualifying dive in the Atlantic, against all PADI regulations) (it was super-cool, though).

This photo is on the Sea Hunt, of Bond and his Pop, cruising down the interstate waterway on our maiden voyage.

Favorite Memory: I’m sitting here laughing, just trying to pick a single memory I can write about here. That damn boat and I have a long, long history together, and I’ve got stories about it that serve as anecdotal evidence both of Gary’s genius and his capacity for creating pandemonium.

Soon after this shot was snapped, though, Gary decided to take a nap… and handed the controls over to me. I, who had never steered a boat before (and certainly not one with crossed-up rudders like the Sea Hunt) (which later explained many of the frequent accidents and collisions with piers and other boats). I did my best, but once we hit an area littered with crab-traps, I was toast. I promptly snagged a buoy rope, which wound around the prop and left us stranded in the water.

Damn it. I put on my mask, and went under to see if I could unwind the rope. Very shallow water, very choppy, with the boat going up and down five feet or more… and I was almost instantly conked by the hull and knocked unconscious for a moment. I awoke floating in seaweed, with Bond pulling me aboard. Bond grabbed a knife and went back under, managing to cut the rope and free us, and off we rumbled again toward the middle Keys.

The boat had failed in its first attempt to murder me.

Career Lesson: The key to long-lasting success… especially when you’re moving fast, and risking mucho while stumbling along doing your thang in strange waters… is to have trustworthy pals watching your back. Cuz we all do stumble, yes we do…

Photo #7: Hot Seat action.

Here’s a scene from one of those infamous $7,000-to-get-in Hot Seat seminars in Key West. (This might have been the time the tropical storm hit and flooded the town — and hotel — and cut the power… which left the entire audience with nothing to do on Day Two except wander downtown and get roaring drunk on Duval Street. They claimed it was the best seminar ever…)

That’s A-List writer David Deutsch behind Gary (who, from the way he’s standing, is deep into either his famous “sorting mail over a trash can” speech, or his biz-op tale involving rutting porcupines).

Favorite Memory: My main job at these events was to be Gary’s straight man — I was on-stage the whole time, keeping track of what was going on, prodding him with tips, and (most importantly) trying to make him spit up coffee laughing.

We were merciless with each other, and held faux-grudges (keeping score on who had the most recent “win” at making the other look silly). As I’ve said, Gary liked operating within chaos, and I did my best to keep things unhinged.

At this event, there was a long, serious spell where some attendee was droning on and on about their marketing woes… and as I scribbled notes, I leaned over to Gary and mentioned that — if you scrunched down and leaned over a bit — you could look up the dress of the woman in the third row.

Delivered, of course, just as Gary was sipping coffee. He managed to keep it down, but was so distracted during the ensuing Hot Seat — twisting his body and dropping the mic so he could lean down to get it, all in ways that had the audience wondering what the hell was going on — that I nearly lost it stifling my laughter.

It was almost better than the time Gary dropped his pants in front of the Mormon audience at a Utah seminar (to prove he wasn’t wearing women’s underwear, as I had publicly accused him of earlier in the event). Ah, but that’s another story…

Career Lesson: Life’s a grind when you take everything too seriously. You need to find that balance where you can have fun, while accomplishing a lot. You’re no good to anybody if you burn out.

Gary lived life with gusto and a sense of awe. Every freakin’ day was an adventure, both good and bad. (Also both screamingly funny and heartbreakingly sorrowful. That’s life.)

Okay, that’s all for now.

If you guys like this kind of trip down Memory Lane, maybe I’ll do another post like it. I’ve got more photos I’ve found. In fact, here’s one last one.

This is one of my favorites. It’s at Gary Bencivenga’s amazing seminar in New York. Though I’d actually worked with Gary B before (writing bonus reports for him in the 80s), I’d never met him. What a treat.

Joe Polish, Gary, Gary B and I posed for a shot at the after-hours party, and Joe had it matted and framed (and then gave it to me). Gary B liked the shot a lot — he dubbed it “The Four Amigo’s”.

I’ll end by saying I wish all of you the same kind of rollicking, ass-kicking life I’ve enjoyed. The way to achieve it isn’t hard, and there are no obstacles that can hold you back that others have not already faced and defeated.

You just need to get after it, and learn your lessons.

Gary remains such an important part of so many people’s lives because he was a role model. Not one you’d want your kids to emulate, particularly — he could make hash of his personal life, and did so regularly.

But he did it with grace, and humor, and a deep love for life and his fellow humans. What he did well, he did brilliantly. And what he did wrong, he did with enthusiasm and the sincere hope that things would work out eventually.

We’ve all got to come to terms with our own peculiar vulnerabilities and blunders and dark needs… and how we do that defines who we are. Nobody’s perfect, and most of us are shit-weasels struggling to get a handle on the game. (Gary referred to himself as The Head Shitweasel, by the way.)

This was fun. I’m still chewing over that decades-long adventure with Gary, which ended too soon. I hope you enjoyed me sharing some of it with you.

Stay frosty,


P.S. This is good.

Just had a long chat with Bond and Kevin, Gary’s sons. I hope they climb into the comments section here to add, rebuff, or expand on these stories.

Meanwhile, if you’re jonesing for more Gary, Kevin has slapped up a special page with a screaming deal on The Brainstorm Tapes hereexclusive for you and other readers of this blog post.

I’m on the tapes — it’s a session we did before holding the first big seminar (“The Seminar Of The Century”, at the Century Plaza in LA, which featured Jay Abraham, Joe Sugarman, Michael “E-Myth” Gerber, and a circus-worth of other stars). You can hear Gary honing his chops, telling many of the stories that later became well-known staples in his events.

No one had figured out how to do real Hot Seats yet, either — we finally nailed it during that later seminar. Here, we relied on tried-and-true “brainstorming” to solve business problems.

It’s powerful stuff. If — as I have been teaching folks for decades now — you understand how critical the fundamentals of great salesmanship are to becoming mega-successful…

… then you’ll want to grab these tapes immediately. (Just as all the top writers devour old books like “Scientific Advertising” and “Think And Grow Rich”, so too are these tapes an amazing treasure trove of timeless wisdom and mojo.)

Kevin, as a gesture of good will to blog readers here, also added a special bonus.

It’s a smokin’ deal, again exclusive and special only for blog readers.

Go here to check it out, if you’re so inclined.



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  • John Lloyd says:

    Excellent post John.

    I used to live on Duval st, so I know you must have some great memories.Here’s to good times.

    • John Carlton says:

      I’m not sure anyone actually “lives” on Duval, John — it’s more a case of Duval allowing you to survive there, especially near the “Duval Crawl” area. But yes, I grudgingly have to admit having had a blast there multiple times. Got to know Cap’n Tony, saw a bunch of sunsets with the crowds, adapted to the slow pace pretty well, in fact. It was the humidity and bugs that got to me…

  • Phil Lomboy says:

    “Life’s a grind when you take everything too seriously. You need to find that balance where you can have fun, while accomplishing a lot. You’re no good to anybody if you burn out.”

    One of many powerful nuggets in this one, John – thanks for sharing!

  • Mark says:

    Keep the stories coming, John.

    Always great to see the personalities behind the collective genius!

    • John Carlton says:

      The greatest perk of all was getting to see behind the curtain, and experience the mechanics (and foibles) of how stuff actually gets done.

      Biz can be fun, and fulfilling, and still excitingly profitable… and some of the best at the game are the whackiest you’ll ever meet…

  • In getting to know this family (the Halberts) and being able to talk with Bond pretty much everyday–I have no doubt that the hilarious (and often quite strange) sense of humor has passed onto Bond.

    We have a great time–publicly make fun of eachother–and are now creating products together.

    I have no doubt that Gary and you John and many memories together.

    Here’s to best friends, good times, and great work.


  • Justin Quick says:

    Time just flies by doesn’t it? I’m sorry you lost your best friend so early, Mr. Carlton. It’s extra painful to lose someone who’s had a strong impact on your life.

    This April is also the fourth anniversary of losing my mom. I guess we were having similar thoughts this weekend.

    Thanks for the post.

    I purchased the Brainstorm Tapes when Kevin first released them; they’re on the shelf to my left right now. I love listening to Gary Halbert… no matter what he’s talking about. Every time I listen to him, I feel like I know him better. Just wish I could thank him for what he’s done.

  • John,

    This was an AWESOME post. I felt like you put me in a time machine. What wonderful stories.

    The Rolls Royce one is freak’in hilarious!!!

    And I don’t blame you for hat’in on Key West. The only time I was there was to bail my brother out of jail.

    It’s definitely Margaritaville. Noth’in but a bunch of drunks there. In fact, I saw a drunk guy nearly get his skull cracked on the street one night down there.

    I stepped in to save the guy before his lights went out (actually, they were already out…he just wasn’t dead…yet) and as I did, the police showed up so I hightailed it outta there.

    Thanks for taking the time to dig up these photos and share them with us. They’re priceless John.


  • Bond says:

    Awesome share!

    These pics bring back so many memories.

    By the way, the first car he painted “coral” was a Cadillac.

    When I saw it and laughed, he said, “you can’t even see it, you are color blind.”

    To which I replied, “I may be color blind but I can still see ugly.”

    He first painted the caddy “the proper color” because one day he had a hard time finding it in a large parking lot. At that time in Florida, a white caddy was about as common as a white Camry is now.

    Anyway, people either loved or hated that coral Caddy with a serious passion and he relished the powerful reaction he got, just like he enjoyed stirring up the office.

    Soon, he started painting everything in his new color including three cars, a houseboat and two pleasure boats.

    The pic from 9000 Sunset gives me a sentimental feeling because, that was a peak time in all of our lives. I loved that particular office just for the view. Although he wrote the first few letters before we moved ther, I consider it to be the original home of The Gary Halbert Letter.

    As you know, pop didn’t give a hoot about material stuff.

    You could count the number of things he had over a 5 years on one hand and the Circus Halbert picture is one of them.

    It meant a lot to him, and now it is one of my most treasured possessions.

    When you mentioned infomercials, my mind went right to memories of filming the Nancy Kwan Pearl Cream infomercial. I think I even have the hand written ad he did for her.

    It is amazing to see how clean and smooth his first drafts were, even for a guy who spent as much as 30 days perfecting the copy in his head.

    Our first trip to the keys was an adventure in the truest sense of the word.

    Remember getting lost and finally pulling in to get 119 gallons of gas for our 120 gallon tank?

    That one boat was the source of more stories than a Rolling Stones tour bus.

    I can’t tell where that picture with Dan and Paulette was taken but I certainly remember many hot seat seminars.

    Sadly, pop never saw the four amigos pic but when Joe sent his copy to me, I knew instantly that he would have loved it.

    Now that you have me thinking, there really are a ton of life and business lessons in almost all Gary Halbert stories.

    And, as odd as it may seem, even after all the houses, cars, vacations, boats and other trappings, he really taught me that a life filled with a lot of stories, is far better than life filled with just a lot of stuff.

    By the way, thanks for sharing my long hair days so the kids can get a good laugh.

    Seriously though, I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Thanks again.

    See you soon.

  • John Carlton says:

    Hey, Bondo, thanks for the post. Yeah, I thought you’d dig that old shot of you looking like a girl, too.

    Remember those pink shoes I bought? Hey, being red-green colorblind means you don’t SEE pink the way everyone else does. Sometimes, it’s just a coolish color you can’t really identify. So I bought these pink deck shoes in Key West (probably the only place that sold them), and caught hell for an entire seminar after wearing them. I knew they wouldn’t play well back in California (I was then living in my notorious Hermosa Beach hovel), so I left the shoes somewhere in the KW office…

    … and, Bond wandered by, found them, they fit… and he wore them happily. Just as red-green colorblind as I am, he had no idea he was flashing pink shoes to the world. Gary had years worth of insults and insinuations to use off those damn shoes.

    Never give The Big Ugly Guy an inside advantage, we used to say. You’re toast.

    Feel free to post more, if you want, Bondo. Looking forward to seeing you in SF…

  • Addison says:

    This is greatly appreciated. Thanks for the peek inside what it was like with Gary. I smiled and laughed several times.

    Part of me thinks that even though you are “the world’s most ripped off copywriter,” and you can write like the best of them, words don’t do your time with Gary justice.

    Thanks for posting some pics and sharing as well. I would vote “Yes” for more. 🙂

  • Buzz says:

    Just a flat out beautiful post and tribute to G. Halbert. The career lessons are invaluable. THANK YOU.

  • rob says:

    From: Rob Joy
    Glenelg, SA
    10:21pm Monday
    30th April

    Dear JSC

    Thank you so much for sharing the stories about Gary…he inspired me to start learning how to write threw some audio interview done…

    Gary threw the power of being himself I guess would have inspired lot of other people to write as well.

    I feel prevliged to have read this blog tonight after reading all of Gary’s newlestters at least three times and some rare clips I have of him on DVD.

    In fact one of the clips shows you and Gary at some seminar where you have thick brown hair and beard…

    Some chick is sitting next to you and she has some sort of muscle stimulator and both you and Gary make a wise crack about what it does…

    The entire seminar erupts into roar of laughter…

    I have to say you would have to be one of the luckiest guys in the biz to have spent so much time with Gary and to have seen all the behinds the scenes stuff…

    That would have been every writers dream to have had just few minutes with Gary and got huge chunk of his time…

    …in any case I feel fortunate to have read this post…it’s nice of you to share such valuable memories you hold dear to your heart for that I thank you…

    Later big dog…


    P.S. I sent letter of intro to ‘Brat’ she was delighted with how I got her attention…
    I’m hopping to work with her as soon it’s possible…tip I got from the freelancer course…sent one to Bond as well…not sure if he got it just yet…

  • Sir Gary of Halbert… your newsletters always fire me up when I stop in for a looksie.

    Here’s hoping they always stay where they are. I imagine quite a few “Halbert virgins” people stop by every day via google, not knowing the fantastic written adventure they are about to embark on.

    That makes me smile.

    Love ya Gaz and JC.

  • Hi John,
    Wow…what a gift these photos are and the stories to go with them. It’s like finding long lost treasure. I’m sure posting all of this is bitter-sweet, so thank you for going down this road so we can all get a peak into a life we will never have the honor of knowing first hand.

  • Ken Ca|houn says:

    Thanks for sharing the memories… one of the most valuable things I learn from what you wrote, in working with Gary, is the attitude of entrepreneurship, and bravery you guys had.

    In these depression-era times where there’s too much pc, sales tentativeness (selling from heels of the shoes), people meekly trying to eke out modest sites and moves… what I get, your perspective from working w/Gary, is the candor, the strength of world-class entrepreneurship, the energy/juice to make things Happen.

    Which is a welcome read, in these troubled meek give-up-itis times. Great read, thanks.

    to boldly going where no entrepreneur has gone before,


  • This post is full of great memories. John, ask Bond to tell you what he said to Gary outside the special hotel lol.

    I told him, “Call John right now and tell him what you just told me.”

    It’s on you Bond!

    • John Carlton says:

      I know that story. Not fit for publication, Lawton. Like about half of the stories I have with The Big Ugly Guy…

      • Neil says:

        By not fit for publication you mean a private members are is about to launch?

        My favorite quote:

        “Learn to laugh at yourself. We’re all Bozo’s on this bus, essentially slap-sticking our way through the universe, shaved apes believing we’re actually noble creatures bending Life to our will.


        Just, ha.”



  • OMG! I’m rolling with laughter. I can’t believe those pix. I think I was the one who dug up the coral pink Caddy pic. I know Gary sent it to me years ago…not the Caddy. That would have been COOL. I recognized Dan Kennedy before reading it was him. A little scary how, as much as you’ve all aged (tee hee), you still look the same. Fortunately I look the same in all my pix (unless you go back to high school).

    Great post, Dude. Can’t wait to see you and the guys in San Fran this weekend!


    • John Carlton says:

      That’s the Rolls in the pic, Brat. God, don’t get me started on the Caddies… he had something like five of them in the Keys, all painted pink, and he destroyed each and every one of them, driving them into the ground or off bridges or into swamps. One time, we were about to enter 7 Mile Bridge (that famous stretch where they’ve filmed lots of action movies, because it really IS 7 miles of all-bridge, no off ramps, no respite)… and the Caddy boiled over. I pulled into the last gas station on Marathon Island, popped the hood… and saw that the radiator was toast. Probably hadn’t been filled in weeks. I slammed the hood down, and told Gary we weren’t going anywhere in that car. He shook his head. “Here’s how this works,” he said. “We get back in, you start it up, and we drive.” Visions of being stranded at Mile 3 on 7 Mile Bridge floated before me… and I convinced him not to do it. Thank God. I’d already experienced multiple misadventures in the damned boats from that attitude of “sure, the engine’s fucked up, and we’ll probably die in a flaming explosion, but screw it, let’s go anyway.”

      And let it be said that you do, indeed, still look like your pics from years ago…

  • Kevin Mask says:

    I didn’t know him as well as most of you who have posted, but I did speak with him a few times on the phone when I was getting coaching from him and he really knew how to get through the BS and fix a problem.

    Sorry, but it makes me sad that he’s gone.

    Thanks for the post John, even though it makes me sad, it also makes me remember how much I owe him.

  • Mike Caruana says:

    Damn, that was probably one of the most amazing blog posts I have ever read. Thanks, John.

    When I got to the part about the Rolls, I thought you were going to say he got it cheap because it was a right-hand drive….

    Whenever I’m stumped or in the dumps, glancing over Halbert material is more than educational, it lifts your spirits up to another level (the dating ad is my favorite). Do does reading about him here.

    It is an honor and privilege to have met Bond & Kevin here in LA a few times. The three of you guys totally rock!

    As I sat and wrote this, I glanced over at the bookshelf and the handwritten Boron letters, brainstorming CD’s, and Kick-Ass copywriting secrets blared out in my face.

  • Aaron says:

    Thank you very much for this, John.

  • David Cohen says:

    Absolutely love this post, John. You and Gary have had such a profound impact on my life as a marketer. And you may not even realize this, but young entrepreneurs like Noah Kagan (#30 at Facebook, founder of AppSumo) credit Gary for helping them succeed. Many thanks.

    • John Carlton says:

      I did not know that, David. We mostly never hear about, or from, the people we influence or virtually-mentor, and it’s good to see that folks are getting something out of it. Gary loved his fans. Thanks for the note.

  • Karen R. says:

    Aww JC, they really are great memories aren’t they! We were the lucky ones, that’s for sure. I have yet to meet anyone who could ‘kick the anthill’ like the Big Ugly Guy and make the resulting state of total chaos so much fun!
    Hugs xo

    • John Carlton says:

      Ha! I knew this post would get your attention, Karen. Thanks so much for writing — the last time we communicated was right after the earthquake in NZ. Hope you’re still doing great.

      I found a couple of shots of you in the mix, too — one I’ve already posted in the photo section of the blog, with you, me and Gary. But I also found one with you on the boat, and us walking down Duval. If I do another post on this topic, I’ll post them. If you want them sent to you separately, let me know…

      I’ll be hanging out with Bond in San Francisco this weekend, just by coincidence. It’s like the world is wrapping back around itself, time-wise…

  • Hey JC,
    Great history here. I should have done the the poster in straight acrylics instead of opaque water color. It had vivid brightness when I painted it those 25 years ago.
    I was in a near hallucinogenic state, with one of the worst cases of the flu I’d ever had in my life when I painted this.
    I’d slither out of bed and paint (oh yeah, gotta add clown cars). John had given me metaphors of what it was like to work with Halbert. Hence, being shot out of a cannon.
    Interesting symbols of power and chaos when I look at it now.
    Thanks for sharing “more of the story”. I had no idea David D. was part of the wrecking crew back then…always new revelations on da blog.
    As they said in the cult classic “Repo Man”, “The life of a copywriter is ALWAYS intense!”. (I switched it out a bit…but it turned out to be as you described it back in those grand adventures with Halbert.)
    Semper Fi, Mark

    • John Carlton says:

      You did a fabulous job on that poster, Mark. It was the first time you’d ever drawn an elephant, wasn’t it? Ah, our old cartooning skills still come in handy now and again, don’t they.

      You know, a shrink traveling in our circles down in Miami once ordered Gary to destroy that poster. ORDERED him to do it — he thought it was too destructive an image, and that Gary needed more “order” in his life.

      Yeah, right. Like a shrink could ever fathom the genius of creating brilliant advertising. I’m very happy that Bond rescued the poster from a future in some dumpster…

    • Brett Allen says:

      Heh Mark,

      Your painting will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars some day.

      When you consider that the highest art auction just occurred yesterday, for a piece titled “The Scream” ( and sold for a whopping 120 million.

      With that in mind, Circus Halbert has to be worth a half a Billion easy! (That’s a 5 with nine zeros behind it!)

      You are man of many talents, and your worth as an artist, like so many, will probably not be recognized until you’re gone. Lo, the life of an artist…

      Shoot me an email, I haven’t heard from you in a couple of days.

  • Bruce Ruby says:

    What a cool stroll down Halbert Memory Lane!

    I met Gary and you John, and Bond in Orlando almost exactly 10 years ago. A seminar, where for 3 days I got to see you and Gary snipe at each other – too funny!

    His girlfriend from Costa Rica was there too. WOW. I really am glad I got to see him (and you) in the flesh…hope you’ll post some more pics and more stories.

    Oh, and the pic of you and Halbert and Dan K and Don Drysdale is a treasure!

  • Dear John,

    Here I am on the other side of the globe in Israel and I’m reading about you and Halbert.

    Then you, Kevin and Bond pull out a Halbert set I don’t have with Gary on hot seats.

    You’d have to have rigor mortis set in not to go for that.

    I mean if you’re a copywriter and you don’t get everything Gary put out, you’re brain dead.

    And that’s being kind.

    So thanks for the memories.

    Glad I got to meet Gary a few times.

    One of the biggest honors of my life was sharing a stage for hot seats at the Under-Achiever seminar with you and Gary.

    From Ramat Gan, (outside Tel Aviv)


  • Bill D. says:


    Is there a way to see that Halbert-Kennedy infomercial?

    • John Carlton says:

      I haven’t seen hide nor hair of that thing in twenty years.

      Anybody? Is there a copy floating around anywhere?

      You gotta remember, we seldom kept anything very long. Moving was frequent, nobody was in “charge” of archives, and the media kept changing (film to video to DVD and, uh, what, .mov now?). I’ve only got a handful of my old letters and ads (which I’ve used as bonuses for the Insider’s Club over the years) myself. I know that, at one time, Gary had a single big portfolio of his old print ads… and I have no idea where it ended up. Thank God for sites like “”, cuz they at least have preserved a few of the old ones.

      Bondo? Do you know where that infomerical video went?

  • Scott L. Haines says:

    Great stuff John! I actually took the picture of Gary sitting on the Rolls. We were in Marathon. And didn’t you learn to NEVER, EVER get on a boat with Gary? It only took me once!

    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, Scotty! Great to hear from you. I owe you a call.

      And nope, I never learned that lesson. Gary had to freakin’ LOSE that boat before I stopped giving it chances to kill me. Does anybody know where the Sea Hunt is today, even?

      BTW, I had a shot of you at the memorial that I almost put in here, but ran out of room. It definitely goes in if I do another post on this subject. You did a great job that night at Buddy Hackett’s house, telling stories about Gary that made us bust a gut, and shed a tear…

  • Robert Antwi says:

    I feel honoured to look into these pictures and stories.

    “I resented having to sleep at night to recharge”

    You must of been having so much fun.

    I listen to the late great Gary Halbert a lot and wish at times I knew about this man when he was on earth.

    Thanks tremendously John!

    Robert Antwi

  • Dave Bross says:

    The guy who writes “News of the Weird” always said he would be toast if not for Florida.

    I can only imagine what it must have been to experience the natural crazy of FL with a piece of work like Gary Halbert.`

    Which also reminds me how much we miss Lawton’s dad. It’s a whole other game politically now…and not to our benefit.

    Thanks for taking the time to post that.


  • Miguel says:

    John: I love your personal post, I can really see how you have had a great life, hanging around with some great folks, doing what you love and getting paid for it and basically living on your own terms, you are one of the ones that inspire me John, I am thinking about making some personal post like this one day with the pictures of mi friends and the lessons I have learned along the way, not quite sure I can give a marketing lesson to all of them, but it may be a great writing exercise

  • Thanks for the trip down memory lane, John.

    I remember, at the Bencivenga seminar, cavorting through Times Square late one night with you, Halbert, having just eaten eaten our way through the famous Carnegie Deli, and thinking “life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

    And speaking of pink…

    How could you fail to mention our excursion to the store, Pink, in New York City — with its hundreds of ties that straddled pink on the color spectrum.

    And we, two poor color-blind souls, holding up tie after tie, asking the salesperson: “What color is this one? What color is this one?”

    And he patiently replying: “Peach … salmon … apricot … coral … fuchsia … mauve … puce … rose …”

    Until finally, the denouement: “Well, that one’s actually is … I believe … yes … it’s just … plain … pink.”



  • Hal Hoadley says:


    I never got to meet Gary but I have enjoyed all his works. I have referred back to his material many, many times and have used examples of his work in my marketing. What a fun experience you had hanging out with such a man.
    Keep these stories coming and put up more photo’s. Especially the ones from the 80’s. I don’t think the fashion police were on duty then but those were fun times even if we dressed like dorks.
    Until your next post, haste la vista,


  • Olav says:


    Thank you for making this post…and the writing skills that made me open, read, and click the link in the email that sent me here.

    When reading this I can’t help thinking how much life I still have left to live. I am only 48 years old, but have not been one to live life to the fullest.

    That will all change soon…

    I want a piece of this life too, which I guess is why I am on most of you guys lists.

    I am trying to learn how to sell stuff…still have on luck though, but one thing is for sure…I will keep on keeping on until I have it right and can generate moolah from thin air.

    Thanks for sharing pieces from a couple of lives that has done more living than anyone can even dream of.

    I am looking forward to reading more.

    I love this stuff…and I will learn how to do this marketing stuff no matter what the cost is.


  • mark goggin says:

    All of this reminds me of something Einstein said: Creativity is the residue of wasted time.

    When Einstein was a kid he would “waste time” “riding light”. Obviously, that helped him come up with his theory of relativity.

  • Bernie says:

    Great Post John! It was really great to read about your adventures in “Halbert Land.”

    It always seems that we never really seem to recognize the best times of our life when they are actually happening. Only after the fact. The gravity of the moment always seems to weigh us down.

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    That’s actually one of my biggest annoyances, being too young and not involved in marketing early enough to meet Gary.

    His works are pretty legendary, hell I had to hand write 10 of his mailing pieces by hand to get an internship last year.

    I hope I get to meet you, John, and Dan Kennedy at some point in my career too…

    I’d love to hear the story again of the seminar where Gary told you the shoes where black but they were bright pink and had told the staff not to mention to you that you had pink shoes on… though a picture of that would be best if there is one haha!

    My Best,

  • Mike Griffin says:

    Thanks John, I enjoyed reading about your exploits with the great Gary Halbert. It is amazing the mark he has left in marketing, everyting from lumpy mail to call to action secrets. Thanks again.

  • Great post John,

    My dad actually gave me one of his pink (salmon) caddilacs along with the “Sea Runt” the Boston Whaler that I drove across the country (a whole other story).

    While Jeff and Bond were lusting for the Jeffries and the Ribovich… being an unwilling first hand witness of the reality when you mix Gary Halbert, boats and Murphy’s law. Running out of gas… heading out in 30 foot seas… flipping in a Zodiac with a running outboard in the surf on a beach in Malibu.

    I knew the “Runt” was the best bet… it’s unsinkable… and it hauls ass.

    Speaking of Murphy and Gary… then there was the time we almost died driving right back home from Big Bear(2 hours each way) after just a 30-minute ski lesson, where dad decided to save some gas by turning off the car… which immediately shut off the brakes… cut the power to the steering while simultaneously locking it… with a curve approaching fast.

    Thank god he got the car started quickly… just in time to turn the car into the dirt off the side of the road. We ended up only a couple feet from a very different fate.

    I also remember a time when he was backing up in a parking lot and I yelled “STOP!.” He looked back and finally saw the BMW he was about to crush… to which he said “Where did he come from”… I said “It’s parked!”

    I also remember when he locked his keys in the trunk of his Mustang and had no patience to wait for a lock smith. He just got a crowbar and pried it open. He always let lesser mortals fix his shit while he hatched his plans to dominate the world.

    Here’s some more Gary madness. Not many people know my dad bribed me with a lot of money to leave my job and start . He wanted all his newsletters posted on the web for free.

    He was stead fast that each page of his newsletters was to be posted on separate web page. No matter how hard I tried he wasn’t having it when I suggested he put each newsletter on a single page.

    He said he wanted the bottom of each page to have a link that that said “click here to go to page two.” He said it was to sub-conciously establish compliance/obedience into the reader.

    This meant creating literally hundreds of individual pages (8-12 for each issue).

    Later on when he flew back to L.A. to hold a seminar. I was there and we were showing attendees the new website. One of them said that each newsletter could be on a single page… to which my father turned to me and said “Why didn’t we do that?”

    Unbelievable?… Ask anyone who knows Gary.

    • John Carlton says:

      Absolutely believable, of course. Too bad, on that webpage fiasco, you didn’t use the trick Karen and I and some of the staff used… basically, tell Gary “okay” and then go do it the way you were gonna do it anyway. It’s not like he’d remember later.

      Thanks for the post, Kevin. What’d you do with that pink Caddy? (And, per a question from another poster, do you know where a copy of that infomerical Kennedy did for Gary might be hiding?)

      Another story I just remembered: When GHB came out (supplement bodybuilders took to recover faster, which also brought on deep sleep whether you wanted it or not), Gary spiked my drink with the goop to “test” it first. I then went off to grab some pizza, and it hit me as I was coming back to the hotel… and I nearly fell asleep right there on Duval St. (Yeah, just curl up next to that fire hydrant, why not, jeez I’m so sleeeeeepy…) Barely made it back to the hotel room, weaving and catching split-second standing-snoozes as I stumbled along, and slept for 14 hours. Gary, a lifelong insomniac, was an instant fan of such a potent sleep aid, and thanked me for the test (which he considered a warning to never take the crap without being with falling distance from a bed or couch). I never touched it again.

      And, as always, I (like everyone else) forgave him without consequence (except maybe a practical joke or two). Consequences never mattered much with Gary, so it was useless to try to change him…

  • mark grove says:

    Every friggin’ post you teach us something new to chew on and take action John. This post is no different and you teach us to get the most out of life, or else we have no one to blame but the resident shithead,that being me or who ever reads your post.

    And more than just making nice piles of cash, most of us don’t have enough fun.I know I had too much fun in my twenties and thirties,but I paid a heavy price. But I’m still here.

    But I need to get back into some fun as I turn fifty in less than 6 months. I’ll continue providing value for musicians and ride the fun train to where ever it takes me.

    Thanks again JC.

  • Kevin Halbert says:

    I don’t know anything about the Kennedy infomercial. Haven’t discovered it in the archives.

    Yeah I was still young and naive so I didn’t know any better… you’re right I should have shined him on the web pages.

    I remember when he would come in to the office… and act like what the fuck are all you idiots doing. Create a three alarm fire on something that needed to get done yesterday. But when he’d get back from lunch he’d tell people that was no longer a priority.

    I gave the Caddy to my mom. I remember being stuck in El Paso for two days with a mad man as a co pilot driving that pink thing and towing a boat. Everyone tried to buy the boat from me. Still have it. Dad used to correct everybody that his cars weren’t pink… they were salmon… to which I had of fun telling him it’s pretty gay when you describe colors as food… it was one of the few times I got under his skin… good times.

    I remember the GBH story… I remember you said you said to yourself “Stay tough… they won’t mess with you if you look tough”

    I guess you can tell that story now. If anyone only knew all the real stories… they make the characters in “Mad Men” look like a bunch of pussies.

    • John Carlton says:

      Yeah, I must have looked real tough careening along the sidewalk in a near-crouch, dragging my sack of pizza slices and gnarling my face up in what I hoped was a “nothing to see here, move along” warning. If the hotel had been one block further, no way could I have made it. You guys would have found me snoring in an alley.

      Good times.

      Let us know if you discover a clue about the infomercial, Kev…

  • carlos says:

    tahnks for the post John, I just love reading everything about gary and it sounds you both had a blast together…

    also, Bond, is there any way we take a glimpse on that Handwritten ad gary halbert wrote, the one you still have…??


  • G says:

    Calrton… publish your book already man!

    This reads like a short extract from it, and, I can only imagine all the other amazing stories left 🙂

    Thanks John!

  • God I love reading your stuff John, but anything Halbert related will get my attention and your memories made me smile.

    I wish I could remember how I got there,but I remember coming across thegaryhalbertletter and I was hooked! That dude got me into DRA and his love of and lust for life was infectious, even in print!

    God knows what he was like ‘in the flesh’ but you’re giving us a pretty good idea…

    Before I go, the previous poster just mentioned ‘a book’. I think that’s a damn fine idea John.

    C’mon, what else do you do all day?

    Thanks again,


    • John Carlton says:

      I’m enjoying a writerly “semi-retirement” these days… which means I work like I used, which is a lot. But just not the crazy, detail-dense, horrific day-to-day kind of work required to run a biz. (Like talking to lawyers. Brrrrr…)

      I’ve got several books in the works. Trying to keep the blog sizzling, I just spoke as a guest star at Garf’s copywriting seminar in San Francisco (where Bond Halbert and I hung out for a couple of days, btw), and knocking some shit off my Bucket List.

      The problem with any “book” about my time with Gary is that — seriously — I can’t write about most of the best stories. Not until everyone else involved is dead, at least. The insider’s all know the stories, but we’ve keep many of them secret for decades now. When you’re as intensely involved in biz and life as we were, you step on some toes and cause some gnarly gossip along the way. Great tales, but I’m not gonna ruin someone’s reputation by tattling too much.

      Still, there remain many tales I CAN tell here in the blog. I’ll post some more pics soon.

  • Brett Allen says:

    Good stuff man! Thanks for sharing – I was right there laughing with you!

  • Now this is the way things are supposed to be, J.C. Love everywhere … for Gary, for you, for his boys … for the entire frickdiddlyboomba process.

    Man, I’m feeling sooo California Jammy right now, I could just …

    What’s that? Me, weeping? Hell no. It must be the SoCal smog.

  • Craig Perrine says:

    John, sincerely, thanks for posting this. I was damned lucky to spot an ad for ‘Maximum Money In Minimum Time’ circa 88-89, which launched my direct marketing career and ended a bumpy parade of bizop failures. As I blogged 5 years ago, I ponied up every dollar I could spare to stay subscribed to the GHL and tore it open the second it left the postman’s hands.

    Gary literally changed the direction of my life and I am so glad I got to meet him in 05 at a seminar.

    Here’s to The Head Shitweasel (a better word has never been uttered, btw)

  • David Franklin says:

    Great post John. What happens when you don’t watch for John’s emails and scurry your hiney over to the blog? You miss out on the opportunity to buy cool shit. Damn.

  • Patrick says:

    Gary Halbert was a true genius, like Archimedes (so immersed in his topic), he sometimes stepped out of the bath and ran through the streets naked yelling “Eureka” (I found it!!).

    And we are all reaping from his findings.

  • Selise says:

    LOVED this! I’m a massive Halbert fan and reading this was a real treat.
    Thanks so much for sharing, John. It’s people like you who keep his messages alive.

  • rob says:

    Hey JSC.

    ***Nothing direclty to do with your post***

    Caught up with Bond on skype…only to have skype bomb on us….

    There was few times where few things he said or how he said them reminded me of how he kinda sounded like Gary….(from the DVD seminars I have of Gary and few audios)…

    I felt honoured to have the chance to chat with him…

    He is so switched on bout marketing it was like getting schooled on what is currently hip…

    Kinda made me feel last 6 years has been worth it just to understand dudes like you & Bond…



  • Danny Welsh says:

    That was a hilarious post John! I love hearing stories of my marketing and business heroes living life with “gusto” and really pushing the envelope both in business and in life.

  • Harley says:

    Damn, your stories took me back – have lived in Ft Lauderdale/Miami for 35 years. My 2nd job was selling South African wines which involved calling on groceries, bars, & restaurants in the Keys, which resulted in some memorable wine tastings as you can imagine.
    Had a friend that owned an art gallery on Duvall, with a 3 bedroom cottage behind – very convenient.
    Probably crossed paths at some time.
    Anyway, good stuff Carlton, looking forward to more.
    PS : Don’t quit your day job !

  • Mario says:

    Nice to seeing this privat Pics form Gary. I’m a big, big, big, big……. big fan of Gary trying to suck all informations I can geht right into my brain. Greetz form a german Copywriter trying to bring something of the american Marketingspirit to good old Germany.

  • Robert says:

    Wow, just WOW! This was such a fun read… I felt like I was riding along with you guys on your adventures. I hope you continue to share more stories like these – as they’re inspiring and a boatload of fun to read. Thanks!

  • Richard says:

    GREAT stuff John!

    I’m a MASSIVE fan of the late Gary Halbert…sadly missed BUT never forgotten.

    RE: “The Seminar Of The Century”, at the Century Plaza in LA, which featured Jay Abraham, Joe Sugarman, Michael “E-Myth” Gerber, and a circus-worth of other stars).

    Was this recorded? and if so is it avaiable to purchase?


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