When Ad Men Cry


Have you seen the most recent issue of Islands Magazine? If you haven't, you've gotta read the Letter from the Editor. I was laughing out loud. This should be prerequisite reading for all rookie travel writers. Then they can question their decision to pursue this seemingly glamorous career.

“When Ad Men Cry”
by Editor James Badham
April/May 2003
Islands Magazine

Like most magazines, Islands has a clear cut division between the advertising staff (who bring in money) and the editorial staff (who spend it — on writers, photographers, and so on). Editorial makes the magazine; advertising sells it. It’s a time-honored arrangement that everyone on both sides understands…most of the time. Lately, however, a couple of members of the ad clan have acted as though we downstairs scribes were running some kind of a scam.

One of them stomped into my office a few weeks ago, looking, well, unhinged.

“We’re paying someone to golf in Hawaii?” he cried, his face glowing beet red, his voice a screech of incredulity so high pitched it shorted out his cell phone and singed his sideburns.

“Sixteen courses in ten days,” I answered cooly, referring to Jim Gullo’s story (“Swinging with Aloha, page 90) about his five-island marathon across the best links on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, and the Big Island.

“He put up with a lot, I added. To prove my point I related Gullo’s plea for workman’s comp based on the fact that, as he reported (with the brevity of a seasoned professional), “My back hurt, I had hardly any time to snorkel, and I was so busy rushing to the next golf resort that I only got to go to the spa once.”

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The ad guy left, and a moment later I could have sworn I heard the sound of weeping coming from down the hall.

A week after that, one of our East Coast reps called, incredulous that good money had been spent to send Henry Shukman (“Salsa Kings of Old San Juan,” page 66) to drink, eat, and search out the best salsa music in Puerto Rico’s exciting tropical capital.

“Brutal hours,” I said, recalling the heart wrenching appeal for hazardous-duty pay Shukman had left on my voice mail.

“I had to mingle with svelte Latin ladies who moved like gazelles, and I had to drink beer and even dance — yes, dance with them,” He told me in a quavering voice that only hinted at the ordeal. “Plus, I’d be lucky to get to bed before 2 A.M., and some of the breakfast buffets closed at 11 A.M. — and a couple of them didn’t even have cinnamon buns!”

The line went dead.

Finally, someone from our European sales office E-mailed to complain that we had paid William Scheller (Prideful Isle of Italy,” page 78) to do nothing but drive around Sardinia, climb sunny Mediterranean peaks, check out street murals, and eat pasta and drink wine while anchored in an empty, crystal-clear cove.

“Tough gig by any standard,” I replied. “Do you know how hard it is to avoid stains while eating red sauce and drinking red wine on a boat? If further proof were needed, Scheller faxed me an entry from his journal.

“The sunny 75-degree weather is getting a bit monotonous,” he had written. “Ditto the wildflowers — and it’s hot driving the Alfa with the top down. But a job’s a job, so I suppose I’d better cruise by the harbor once more to make sure I didn’t miss a wine bar or gelato joint.”

Kidding aside, to turn out the compelling stories that fill this magazine, our writers and photographers work extremely hard on the road, and then again when they get home. But I don’t let on to the ad staff. To them I just say,” Do you have any idea what it’s like when your nose is already sunburned and you have to go to the beach?”

—James Badham
Reprinted with permission, Islands Magazine
Thanks James!