My life in mugs

Every mug told a story #11 final edition

Today’s mug, the last in our series, represents a public relations agency that doesn’t exist and a partnership that does.

The mug is from Bozell PR (aka Bozell Worldwide) which, in the 1990s, was one of the country’s largest PR agencies. It was later absorbed into another agency.

I was hired by the Chicago Bozell office in November, 1989. Over the next five years I worked on accounts such as Harley-Davidson, DirecTV, the National Pork Producers Council and, my favorite, Quilted Northern Bathroom Tissue, for which I helped create the Quilted Northern Bathroom Survey.

Promoting bathroom trivia (“25 percent of those surveyed admit they have used personal items — such as toothbrushes, combs or makeup — in other people’s bathrooms without permission”) was trivial compared to the fact that I met my future wife, Jeanne, at Bozell.

We started dating a few months after I came to the agency and things moved quickly.

You know all those cliches in romantic comedies; surreptitious hand holding in crowded elevators, stealing kisses when the couple are alone in the elevator headed to the office?

We invented those!

Our relationship was a secret to almost everyone we worked with until it was time to invite them to the wedding, September 5, 1992.

Image may contain: Jeanne Corrigan and Charlie McBarron, people smiling, people sitting, night, child, table, drink and indoor

There is no one I’d rather be under house arrest with.

This is the last of the series on mugs. I’m looking for ideas for a new project.

Since it looks like the shutdown might be with us for a while, should I lead a stroll through my record collection?


Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thanks for reading.

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McBarronBlog Bonus:

Recruiting psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers to comment on “bathroom behavior” helped make the Quilted Northern survey successful, much to the annoyance of newspaper columnists who couldn’t resist writing about how much they hated it. They failed to understand that was exactly what we’d hoped they would do.

I consider the survey my greatest PR legacy. This infographic is from a recent edition





My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #10: “Hello, Dali”


The penultimate mug in our series comes from the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. “The Dali” is dedicated to the works of the famous/infamous surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

The museum gift shop had many appealing items but this one caught my eye because the statement was amusing and provocative.

I once brought it to a work meeting at which I knew would be sitting across from an angry colleague who had me in his cross hairs.

I placed the mug directly in front of him and watched as he stared and squinted, looking at the mug and then me, trying to parse the meaning of the inscription and wondering if I was sending him some sort of message. He became increasingly unnerved and sat silent for the entire hour.

It was a good meeting. Thanks, Dali!


McBarronBlog Bonus

Of course, the museum is temporarily closed, but you can visit virtually, via the Dali Museum app.

Dali had a huge impact in a variety of media. Including as a painter…

The Persistence of Memory.jpg


… and as filmmaker. With the great Luis Bunuel, he made Un Chien Andalou a surreal fantasy

Un Chien Andalou has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.’

If you missed seeing this in college, or when it was used as the “opening act” for David Bowie concerts in 1976, you can watch it now.

Note: It’s weird, wild and contains (simulated) violence and lots of other crazy stuff.

Oh yeah, he also did album covers.




My life in mugs · Sports

Every mug tells a story #9″Fame”

Today’s mug represent a visit to, what I’d argue, is, along with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, one of North America’s two top sports museums: The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.

By Ian Muttoo –

There are beautifully displayed exhibits inside, but the Holy Grail is the the iconic  Stanley Cup. Original Stanley Cup in spotlight to celebrate its 125th anniversary

When things get back to normal (and they will, I think), it’s well worth a visit.

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Until sports leagues resume activity, we have to settle for YouTube, where you can see the greatest players of all time competing in their prime.

None of them greater than Bobby Orr.

Ive been going to Blackhawks games since the late 1960s. There was nothing more exciting than watching Bobby Hull take the puck in his own zone, and rush through everyone before unleashing his famous slap shot.

A career overview is here. His record-breaking 51st goal is discussed at the 9:00 mark.

it’s hard to believe it’s almost a decade since future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Kane’s overtime goal gave the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1961.

My life in mugs · pop culture

Every mug tells a story #8 “Looney”

Today’s mug was acquired when we toured the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA a few years ago.

I’m old enough to remember when Saturday matinees at the movies included at least one cartoon. Sometimes there were hours of them.

Time well spent.

Bugs, Daffy and the other Looney Tunes characters were a huge part of my childhood. I have never outgrown my love of the cartoons of my youth.

With a little extra time on my hands, I might need to do a deep dive back into the classics. IMG_1551

There are lots of cartoons available on YouTube. My favorite posted comment from one collection:

a lot of people grew up with these cartoons and turned out to be decent human beings

Is there a better testimonial than that?

McBarronBlog Bonus

Someone has posted a high quality compilation of “The Top 10 Best Classic Looney Tunes Cartoons,” based on YouTube viewings. Everyone’s list is different, but these are all pretty good.

I don’t know much about classical music, but I probably would know nothing at all if not for the use of the music of Mozart, Wagner and other geniuses in hilarious cartoon shorts. I’m sure, if they were with us today, the great composers would feel honored.


My life in mugs

Every cup tells a story #7 “London Calling”


I come from a family of Anglophiles but that love for things British was cemented on February 9, 1964BeatlesEver since that night, it had been my burning desire to go to England.

My first trip was in 1981 when a friend was gifted a trip for two by her employer. It  wasn’t much fun because I had no money and my friend had decided she didn’t like me.

But the second time was on my 1992 honeymoon. SHE liked me a lot!

The last trip was a few years ago with the family, where I picked up this cup with a “Tube Map” of the London Underground transit system

I never got to England when it was all “Swingin’ London” and Austin Powers-y, but I remain a fan of the city of London and I hope to go back someday.

We were supposed to be in the UK today, in fact, but…something came up.

But at least I’ve got this cup which contains words we all should live by:


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McBarronBlog Bonus

I don’t really need an excuse to post “Beatles on Ed Sullivan videos,” but since I have one…


For obvious reasons…

Growing up · My life in mugs · pop culture

It’s a bird. It’s a plane! It’s Cup #6 “Super”

(I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, I’ll try to explain what that “something” is)


I picked this up on a family vacation to Universal Studios Theme Park, but this story isn’t about the vacation. It’s about what Superman meant to me as a boy.

In a word: “Everything”

I watched a lot of TV as a child. A whole lot.

My mother (who used the TV as my babysitter, for which I will always be grateful) would say “You’d watch an armpit licking contest if it was on TV!”

“What channel?,” was my standard response.

My mother was right, I would watch anything. But, by far, my favorite show as a child was The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as Superman (secret identity, Clark Kent, “…mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper”). I couldn’t get enough of that show and I still love it even though, as an adult, I can’t help but notice the low budget sets and the corny plots and dialogue.

What I liked best about the show was that Clark Kent (tall, dark hair with tortoise shell glasses) looked like my dad. As far as I was concerned, there was an excellent chance my father was, in fact, Superman. When I was little, I repeatedly asked him to admit this.


He denied it about 500 times a day.

I was obsessed. As soon as I could read, I asked for Superman comic books and studied them like the Dead Sea Scrolls. But what I really wanted, no, needed, was a Superman costume.

I remember seeing one on a shelf during a trip to Marshal Field’s with my grandmother. I never had wanted anything as badly as I wanted that outfit. My grandmother was incredibly kind and indulgent, but, for whatever reason she would not buy it.  Surprisingly, “But it has a cape!” didn’t move her.

It was the greatest disappointment of my life until the 1969 Cubs came along.

I’ve told my wife that, if I had a Superman costume that fit me, I’d wear it around the house.  Every day.

Yet, still no costume.


But I do have this cup, which reminds me of a boy who desperately wanted to believe his dad was a Superhero.

McBarronBlog Bonus

A good father tries to ensure his children have the things he himself was denied.

SuperHugh 2

The Adventures of Superman had a classic theme and opening credits. This is the open of the first episode (1952). George Reeves isn’t in it because it’s the “origin story,” but it’s quite entertaining.

It was always amazing that no one recognized that Clark Kent looked exactly like Superman. That was his real super power. Here’s a reel of Clark/Superman in action.

Clark Kent for Frosted Flakes

Each Clark Kent had his own style of eyewear


Growing up · My life in mugs

Every cup tells a story #5 “Saluki”

IMG_9082(I have a cupboard full of mugs, each of which represent…something.  In this space, until I run out of mugs, I’ll try to explain what that “something” is)

Today’s cup represents a significant chunk of my 20s. Two years after attending the last of three high schools, I talked my way into Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Someone with my unimpressive high school record getting into a four-year university was not really possible. How did that happen?

As they say, “Don’t worry about it.” The important thing is, it happened.

By 1973, my Chicago neighborhood had become frightening. People I knew had died violently or from overdoses. Some of my friends were experimenting with serious drugs.

I was scared. I realized I needed to leave Chicago.

When I escaped to Carbondale, a place I had never visited, I traded a tough urban environment for a laid-back college town. It was quite a contrast. Once I adjusted to the slower pace, I loved it.

I started at SIU in January, 1974. Over the next eight years, there were many highlights including:

  • Passing a remedial math class (a first)
  • Discovering my calling as a broadcaster when I stumbled into WIDB, a student-run college radio station
  • Getting a (paying!) job playing album-rock on WTAO-FM
  • Becoming serious about radio news at WSIU-FM, where I benefited from adult supervision.

It was sometimes a bumpy ride.

In high school, I had never developed study habits. That took some time.

I had to drop out after contracting mononucleosis.

With no college fund, education was interrupted for financial reasons.

Through it all, I remained in Carbondale, working, until I was financially able to finish school. I graduated in 1982.

Everything good in my life, including my career and my family, would have never happened if not for SIU’s (questionable) decision to admit me.

SIU saved my life, so I’m happy to be a “Life Member” of the Alumni Association.

The cup represents a simple truth: I am a proud Saluki!

Me and Kathy A
At SIU, probably 1975

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