Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. This week, it’s that of Leo Greenland, a Jewish advertising executive who died earlier this month at 91. Let’s tell the truth about Greenland, because Greenland’s Madison Avenue schtick was to tell the truth: Leo Greenland was a little rough around the edges. He made his mark selling Johnnie Walker, and selling it with sex. One slogan that read, “He loves my mind. And he drinks Johnnie Walker” attracted some controversy; another one, with gay undertones, attracted more when it was not placed in gay outlets (“We did not target gay people, but we are delighted they could relate to it,” Greenland said). One of his clients was Penthouse.
Of course, another of his clients was I. Rokeach & Sons, as in kosher food. And, unlike many dependent on corporate largesse, he welcomed the investigations of Ralph Nader—this was back when Nader was a good guy (a great guy, in fact)—arguing that his muckraking activism forced people like him “to make ourselves more responsible.” Greenland was a man of his time, except in the small ways in which he was ahead of his time. And one imagines him going through life with a smile. Certainly you need to have a sense of humor if you are—as the obituary fails to note—a former Friars Club chairman.