Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Georg Olden lives on the internet

One of the most interesting but ultimately frustrating projects I ever worked on was when Print, a New York communications design magazine, asked me to write an article on Georg Olden.

Georg who? I know most of you are asking. (And, yes, I spelled his name right.)

I would guess that few people, even African Americans in advertising, graphic design or television today, have ever heard of Mr. Olden. But almost 20 years before the March on Washington, Georg Olden was one of, if not, the first television art directors. He was definitely the first art director for CBS Television. He was there at the very beginning, creating many of the first logos and graphics ever seen on the air, anywhere. And, just to make sure you're not missing my point - he was what was then known as "colored".

Print magazine's head editor, Martin Fox asked Julie Lasky, managing editor, to ask me if I would write an article whose theme would be, "Whatever happened to Georg Olden?"

Well, to make a long, long story very short, the article I wrote was rejected by the magazine. They said I had failed to find out what actually happened to him. And technically, I guess they were right. Even though I dug up lots of previously unpublished information about Mr. Olden's life, before and after he left CBS, I didn't find out that he had been shot in LA by an irate girlfriend. Julie Lasky found that out, and she then used my material as the basis for much of her article. She even quoted me a few times.

But remember I said "technically" I didn't find out what happened to Georg. On a larger scale, I think I did. Good ol' American racism happened to Olden, even though it took its own sweet time getting to him. Ironically, for most of his life, the tall, handsome, light-skinned Olden seemed to think himself exempt from the realities of race and racism.

I just stumbled across a video of Olden on the old "I've Got a Secret" show on May 20, 1963. Isn't the internet amazing? When I was writing the article in 1993, the www was still just a glint in a DARPA techie's eye. Click on "Olden on YouTube".

16 comments:

blkprof30 said...

Wow, the internet can still amaze us. The video of Olden an amazing find (and somewhat puts to rest the question of whether or not he designed the CBS "eye" because he verbally denies it). Still it's interesting to see this black man who scaled to the heights of the profession when he did, unfortunately only to have his life end very tragically.

golden68 said...

Thank you for keeping my father's memory alive.

Northern said...
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Northern said...
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NorthernPartition said...

Apologies, previous comments removed due to typographic and grammatic errors, but to reiterate: Olden's death did not occur in the manner you describe. The girlfriend, who waived trial by jury, pleaded NOT GUILTY and was acquitted (READ: her life was in peril and she acted in self-defense). Still -- and even in this scenario -- there is also evidence that Olden, whose career was on a steep downward slide, took his own life. Truth is stranger than fiction. Thank you.

Georg said...

The truth is, Maya did it. She admitted that much to me. He did not kill himself and as far as his career goes, it started when he was "let go" from McCann. From there there were some "business politics" which he was going to bring to light, but was killed a day or two before his talk at a So. Calif. university. There were also some past connections with the infancy of what became the CIA.

Peter said...
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NorthernPartition said...

Dear golden68:

But again, our understanding is she acted in self defense. Can you contact me on the following?

NorthernPartition@gmail.com

Thank you!

NorthernPartition said...

Conflicting stories persist:

"When they found the great Georg Olden dead in the front seat of his gold Cadillac, his reward for a lifetime of amazing work a self-inflicted bullet to his fertile brain, a part of me went with him to Paradise."

http://kissmyblackads.blogspot.com/2011/01/advertising-sucks-mr-webber-puts.html

NorthernPartition said...

But back to the first, apparently true story line, as the victim of an abusive, violent relationship, there would be nothing to either "admit" or deny. It is the girlfriend who is lucky to have survived.

Anonymous said...

This article and other references to graphic designer Georg Olden on the www, most of which appear to derive from the Lasky article you mention, prompts bemusement. While never personally acquainted with Olden or the girlfriend, we clearly recall friends of both the man and the lady expressing concern for the her general welfare and safety (surely umbrage would be taken at the description of her an an "irate girlfriend"). Only days before the fatal incident police were called following a life-threatening assault on the woman. Friends were later understandably relieved upon word of her acquittal.

Anonymous said...

On a final note, in light of the information put forth in the Lasky article (readily available Online), fail to understand, to grasp definitively, conclusively, how "good ol' American racism happened to Olden, even though it took its own sweet time getting to him."

Anonymous said...

And regarding an above comment, fail of to see how "past connections with the infancy of what became the CIA" had anything to due with his demise and death in what clearly was a case of domestic violence backfiring on the perpetrator.

Anonymous said...

Stated bluntly, the alleged CIA connection is a red herring. There are those still alive who remember, and only apologists for good, old fashioned sexist abuse will have the equanimity to find merit or virtue in this story.

kun563 said...

Once again, to set the record straight, the girlfriend did NOT kill Olden. The above statement of her alleged "admission" is misleading and libelous.

kun563 said...

To continue... a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.