February 2007 - Per Inquiry

The Ty That Binds

By Rick Petry

Last December, I was leveled by the tragic news that the gifted writer, Ty Stratford, had died suddenly at 49. Ty worked on some of the seminal DRTV campaigns of our time including Hooked On Phonics and Jet Stream Oven, and after several years’ hiatus, had returned to the industry. We became fast friends, collaborating together on this past September’s ERA Awards Show, sitting around like two giddy school boys conspiring ways to satirize the industry.

That night in Vegas was a triumph for Ty, as the fruit of his comic invention brought down the house. It kick-started a prodigious period and the buddy I had nicknamed “the fastest scribe in the West” was excitedly engaged on several projects. He’d phone me to rant about his latest endeavor, saying things like, “Dude, they only gave me five days to write a whole half-hour, but I dead nuts nailed it! Ha!” Ty was full of colorful colloquialisms I had never heard before.

He would camp out in my office unannounced, startling me. Ty was like that raucous kid from your childhood who would egg you into doing things that challenged your more conservative nature. Like many of us in this industry, he had higher artistic aspirations, and just a week before he died, we had lunch and discussed collaborating on writing projects that might have a low probability of putting food on our table, but would, nonetheless, feed our souls.

When he wasn’t pulling all-nighters crafting persuasive advertising copy, Ty was writing a screenplay entitled, “The Purpose.” It tells the story of a man who has lived his life as a striver. He’s attained great material wealth and professional respect, but as he comes to the end of his days, he realizes that his life’s highest purpose hasn’t been the accumulation of power or money. His highest purpose was loving his family and raising his children and the little moments that comprise our daily existence-the ones we take for granted, say, bathing your child-end up manifesting the “purpose” of the title.

For Christmas, I had bought Ty a DVD of interviews of the late Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers called “The Power of Myth.” Campbell, a foremost authority on mythology and the hero’s journey espouses the philosophy, “Follow your bliss” and goes on to say, “Follow your bliss, whatever it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it. When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”

I believe this is exactly what Ty was doing as this life wound down-and what he is doing now. It was what he was trying to tell me that day at lunch and what he had hoped to communicate with “The Purpose.” To the end, he was perfecting the call to action with his appeals that we follow our dreams, echoing Campbell’s credo. I am bound to respond to his entreaty because as I peck away on my laptop, he’s hanging on my shoulder just like he hung around my office. And you know what? He’s there to stay.

Rick Petry is chairman of the ERA Board of Directors and the chief marketing officer of Downstream. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment