Why I’m a newfound fan of rereading what I’ve written in the distant past
I came up with the idea for this column after interviewing Dear Abby’s grandson, Dean Phillips, who is operating a coffee shop chain while running for Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District seat (the interview was for our sister publication Foodservice News). It got me thinking about the way Dear Abby—or maybe it was her fellow advice columnist sister, Ann Landers—took summers off, leaving behind the best of her columns. The sisters got a lot of fan mail, along with a multitude of letters from people with problems.
I don’t get a lot of fan letters, but I’ve come up with a plan to remedy that sad situation since fans are especially useful during global warming. I take a regular sheet of typing paper, pick a letter from the alphabet to write on it and then fold the paper sideways over and over again, flipping from front to back. I turn up one end about an inch, maybe less, to make the handle and then fan out the accordion folds. (If this is too complicated to follow, there’s a YouTube video on our website.) It doesn’t make me feel appreciated, but it is cool.
One of my favorite pieces from Doc Cohen’s art collection in Houston.
Another thing I don’t get a lot of is people writing in with their personal problems. I would never discourage people from emailing me their sordid tales, because I’m much better at solving other people’s problems than my own.
So with Abby and Ann in mind, I went back through 10 years of columns to revisit what I had found interesting at the time.
Since Hurricane Harvey was delivering flood waters to Houston at the time I was writing this, it made me wonder how Doc Cohen’s art collection and lake-filled backyard were surviving. I had seen pictures the former IFA chairman and cookie franchisee had posted on Facebook. In late 2006 I flew down to Houston to write about Doc’s house in our January 2007 Franchise Times’ Better House and Yard edition, and I was in awe of both his three-story wine cellar and vast modern art collection.
Here’s how I described Doc’s art in the cover story:
“Cohen’s eclectic collection includes the pop art of Peter Max; a splashy, culinary-themed LeRoy Neiman; two surrealistic paintings by Miró; Norman Rockwell’s “The Pharmacist”; two square plates from Andy Warhol’s infamous Marilyn Monroe series; Salvador Dali’s sterling silver “Wailing Wall”; and a vivid mixture of glassware, from vintage stained-glass panels to a futuristic “fruit bowl” of organic shapes of blown glass that nestle precisely into each other.”
It was a light-filled museum with a restaurant-worthy kitchen, since Doc is also a talented chef. He was also an impressive businessman, I discovered as I followed him around as he checked on his Great American Cookies stores.
The headline for the story was Cookie Master. I thought at the time I was being particularly clever to come up with that title, but in looking back at the pic of Doc wearing a Sesame Street tie featuring the blue Cookie Monster, it was kind of obvious. Here’s the ending to the story:
“I’m just a cookie guy,” Doc said on more than one occasion during our two-day interview. If that’s true, the rest of us would be more than happy with the crumbs.
Franchise Times also imitated Vanity Fair and Vogue. The president of FT always wanted a Vanity Fair-style gatefold cover, but had to wait 18 years for my successor Beth Ewen to come through with it. (You probably noticed it in this edition.)
I, however, delivered the Vanity Fair-style poolside edition photographed during the IFA convention in Palm Springs and the fashion issue in April of 2007.
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The idea of the fashion issue was to show off attractive franchise notables’ personal style. Models were Christine Harris, then of FRANdata; twins Chad and Brent Hallok, founders of Home Franchise Concepts; Joel Siegel, Bryan Cave (which sounds like a men’s store, but is a law firm in California); Nancy Bigley with Dunkin’ Brands; Barbara Moran of Moran Industries; and Brian Spindel, co-founder of PostNet.
Here’s how Joel (our lawyer) answered the questions:
Describe your style: Humphrey Bogart meets Tom Jones.
Signature accessory: Shoes. Real men don’t accessorize.
Designer or off the rack? A mix of both.
Weekend attire? Shorts and sandals.
What makes work worthwhile? Winning.
What do you want to be remembered for? Winning.
What do I want to be remembered for? Writing. And solving people’s problems. Just email me, and if I can’t answer them, I’ll see if Dean Phillips’ grandmother, Abby, will.