Mike Flemming Story

Rob Cotter was a friend of the 1010.  He was a local guy probably 10 years older than us.  Back in the early days he helped us get a few gigs.  Rob was creative and always doing something interesting.  By now I was well into Moss Hill and was glad to see him come to my store one Summer day in 1974. 

Rob was now directing films and had a project he hoped my friends and I could help him with.  The bicentennial anniversary of the United States was coming up in a couple of years.  Commerce and industry was keen on tying into the bicentennial.  The leather shoe industry trade group wanted to make a public service television spot to promote walking that would celebrate the bicentennial.   

Rob’s job was to direct that public service TV spot.  He was to assemble a group of people that typified the diversity of America and have them march in a parade led by the three classic revolutionary war characters playing the fife and drum, and the flag bearer. 

Knowing that me and my friends and I had long hair and looked the part, Rob asked if we’d consider being in the short film.  I asked Russ he’d be up for it and he eagerly agreed.  Filming would take place the following week in Hinsdale on Fifth Street East of Garfield…  one of the few remaining original red brick paved roads in the country. 

We arrived early on a Saturday morning along with about a hundred extras and were given costumes of the period to wear.  I was to be the flag bearer, Russ the drummer, and another guy would play the fife.  The revolutionary war uniforms were perfect and we all looked wonderful.

The large cast of extras represented airline pilots, construction workers, business executives, doctors, nurses, service people, police and firemen, etc.  Russ, and I led the parade. 

There was a large crane holding the camera, big reflectors for lighting, production crew, hundreds of friends and neighbors standing on the sidelines watching.  We practiced marching over and over and finally everything was set to do the actual filming.  After marching up and down the brick road several times the filming was done. 

All participants were given a real silver dollar as compensation after signing the proper release forms.  We were pleased to be part of the filming.  None of us did it for the money.  It was just fun to be in a TV spot. 

I made some photographs that day.  One of Al, Russ, and our friend Jude Anderson is among my most favorites. 

A few years later Moss Hill closed its doors forever.  I pursued photography to make a living and was soon reunited with Bill LeClare, one of my early photography mentors.  Bill used to work for Nick Thermos at Hinsdale Camera and ran the custom darkroom upstairs.  I would often assist him and he taught me much about commercial darkroom techniques. 

Years later, Bill hired me to assist him in his color darkroom in the basement of his Bolingbrook home.  After a few weeks of working evenings for Bill, he got a call from associate Mike Flemming asking if he could come downtown and help in a big slide duplication project that needed to be done overnight.  Bill asked if I was up for working all night.  I needed the money and said yes.

Mike Flemming produced a large multi-media slide show for a major pharmaceutical company consisting of a several thousand slides.  His client needed several identical slide shows presented the next day in various cities.  The job was to make duplicates of each of the thousands of slides, develop and mount the film, insert the images in the correct order in numerous slide trays,  and ship them Federal Express over night to specific destinations for the next day.

It was already dark when Bill and I hit the road and headed downtown.  Mike owned an advertising agency called Avcor located on the second floor of McClurg Court in Chicago next door to the CBS television studios.  We arrived just before 10:00 pm.

The doorman called upstairs to announce our arrival.  We found Mike’s door and waited several minutes before someone opened up for us.  The room was totally dark.  We hesitated before entering fearing we were at the wrong office.  There was an obvious commotion inside as light from the hallway flooded the darkened office.  Numerous people were seated on the floor viewing a film projected on the white wall inside. 

As my eyes grew accustom to the darkness, the movie projected on the wall became clear.  It was ME marching with Russ in the TV spot filmed in Hinsdale two years earlier!  I shouted out “that’s me” but was quickly hushed by the others present. 

It turned out that Mike Flemming was the producer of that spot and had hired Rob Cotter as director.  Apparently I was the only one amazed to find myself on the screen there that night.  Soon the viewing ended and work on the slide show resumed.  Mike showed Bill and I what needed to be done and we worked though the night to finish the project. 

Though exhausted from lack of sleep I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about slide show duplication.  Mike Flemming worked hand in hand with us the whole night.  I admired his dedication. 

The next day Mike asked if I would consider helping him with other projects.   I was eager to work and gladly agreed.  I would spend the next several months working for Mike.  He was particularly attentive to me and seemed to recognize my talents. 

Mike was a Christian man often giving credit to God for his many blessings and notable accomplishments.  He shared many professional insights teaching me much about the intricacies of operating an agency.  I was in awe of his openness.  Mike taught me about writing proposals, billing procedures, the value of creative concepts, and business in general.

I was in my late twenties when I met Mike.  One of the most important things Mike taught me was about my talents.  Mike recognized that I was uniquely gifted with the ability to produce in any media.  Prior to meeting Mike Flemming I struggled with many apparently diverse areas of interest. 

Well intentioned people often told me that I needed to focus on one single area of pursuit.  I was all across the map.  I enjoyed business, photography, music, and wanted to do it all.  I worried that I should forgo one or another interest confining my endeavor to just one area of interest yet my creative nature wanted to do it all.  I wanted to produce music.  I wanted to be a photographer.  I wanted to make films.  I wanted to operate businesses. 

Mike showed me that my talents should not be confined to one or the other disciplines but rather would flourish as a producer having the unique ability to produce in any media.

He was right.  From that day forth I redefined my career as that of communications consultant broadening the horizon to take on any project regardless of the media involved.  I went on to produce major comprehensive projects for AT&T, Pioneer Seed, ServiceMaster, Holiday Inns, and Motorola as well as for many other smaller companies. 

 


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