Los Angeles County Adoption Services

L.A. County, CA

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In one of those improbable, only-happens-in-showbiz stories, I started working as a writer-producer for Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" in my late teens. It was incredible to be contributing to a program that had been a regular staple of my radio listening habits for the previous decade. The only thing more incredible would have been to write jokes for Johnny Carson. But that's another story...

Anyway, the company that produced "AT40," Watermark, was a great place to work, and it had a fun, creative staff. Not surprisingly, the company and its employees would host some pretty great parties, and you never knew what sort of fascinating outsiders would attend as well --actors, musicians, producers-- pretty much the whole Hollywood spectrum. But you'd find some interesting people there outside that realm as well.

At the Christmas party in my first or second year there, one of the guests was a gentleman who held an executive position with the Los Angeles County Agency that was in charge of adoptions. He was telling a group of us that they were having a tough time finding homes for minority children-- pretty much anyone who was non-White, and that they had recently been brainstorming marketing campaigns geared toward clearing that hurdle.

The sadness of that situation struck me deeply and simply, and I pulled out a pen and wrote down the immediate thought that had come to mind on the back of a cocktail napkin. I then drew a rudimentary illustration over it indicating a collection of kids of all different racial extractions. The caption read: "They're not colors. They're kids. Adopt." I handed it to the gentleman who had been talking to us and he said, "Yes, this is it! Simple and to the point, but it has impact."

I'll eschew future tales of back-slapping and talk of compensation (I declined it), but the county agency used the idea the following year, and I saw it once on a billboard on La Cienega Blvd. on the way to the airport. That was pretty incredible. I wonder how long it took the photographer to get those eight or nine kids to all smile and be looking in the proper directions for the shot? Today, they would simply photoshop it.

The fellow with the adoption agency sent back my napkin a few months later with a note of thanks and the suggestion that I give up Top 40 radio for advertising, but it would many years before I did anything that resembled a heeding of his advice.

Found last year in the bottom of a box containing old office artifacts from the dawn of my career is that original napkin and illustration. Please pardon some of the words used in my directions, such as "Oriental" and "American Indian." It was another era, long before the age of political correctness and the coinage of new, less offensive terms. The photo at the top of the page is an approximation of the original display. I changed the third-person approach to first-person--"they're" to "we're." It resonates a little more deeply when the message comes from the kids.

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