8 Maniacal Patience

I MEET THE TOP brass at Seagram, among them Sam Elias, Con Constandis, Neil Gallo, and Arthur Shapiro, senior vice president of marketing. Arthur, I learn, has enormous power, influence, wisdom, and authority. He markets the whiskey, has final say on advertising—he runs the show. He wants to talk to me.

This is good.

I think.

I take a seat across from Arthur in his corner penthouse office. He smiles kindly and folds his hands on his desk, a gesture I associate with very grave or deeply troubling news about to be delivered. I have a sudden flashback of sitting across from a professor at University of Kentucky as he mutters and slaps the transcript of my abysmal grades.

“Bourbon,” Arthur says.


“Bulleit Bourbon.”

He pauses for what seems like forever.

“Love the name,” he says.

“My father gave it to me.”

He doesn’t crack a smile. “It could work.”

“Good,” I say.

“So, Tom,” Arthur says.

“Yes, Arthur?”

“What’s your concept?”

I glance at the view of Manhattan below us, squint at the skyscrapers in the grid of Manhattan pressing toward the East River. Then I look back at Arthur and I nod. “My concept?”

He nods.

“Arthur,” I say.


“What is a concept?”

“You need to figure that out and then come back to me.”

“I will, Arthur,” I say.

“Keep the name,” he says.

I leave the meeting with Arthur feeling confused and a little shaken. I call Betsy.

“We need a product concept,” I tell Betsy. “Could this impact our negotiations?”

“It could,” she says.

“Not the answer ...

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