LETTER: Nat Ross Never Missed a Beat
I was lucky enough to have addressed his NYU classes several times over the years and admired the way he introduced each presenter, "a cappella" (i.e. without notes.) And he sat up front and paid close attention to what each "instructor" said.
In the mid-1970s when I was closing out my dozen years as the Direct Marketing Association's first vice president in Washington, DC, I was pleased to be included among the privileged few dozen who gathered in Manhattan to celebrate Nat's 70th birthday. After all the salutes and joyous incantations, we had a bit more time in the evening, so I asked Nat whether he'd do what he does so well and demonstrate his fabulous memory.
One way to do this would be to reintroduce all the guests. Without hesitation or any type of notes, Nat went around the room in order and not only correctly pronounced each person's name and present affiliation -- but in many cases was able to tell where they'd worked before, and sometimes once or twice before that. In a few cases, you could watch as the next person to be introduced visibly wondered how much Nat would say. He never hesitated with a name, and his details were right on. Nat never missed a beat.
At the end, he deservedly got a standing ovation for this tour de force. Considering this was more than a quarter-century ago, you can deduce that to me it was a most memorable occasion. (And, if you don't think this was a remarkable memory feat, try to publicly introduce unexpectedly on short notice without notes several dozen random business associates -- not family or close friends).
Yes, Nat, you were a very Direct Male, so for that and many other reasons, all of us in DM salute you. And this recounting is just one of many memorable vignettes I'm sure will be told at the Oct. 3 memorial.
•John Jay Daly
Chevy Chase, MD