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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.