Kudos to Beth Cuzzone and Jill Zwetchkenbaum on the publication through the ABA of “The Law Firm Client Service Interview Playbook” – with a blurb from yours truly

Thank you, Beth Cuzzone and Jill Zwetchkenbaum, for this lovely surprise in today’s mail! Congrats on the publication by the American Bar Association of your fabulous new book The Law Firm Client Service Interview Playbook: https://www.americanbar.org/products/inv/book/419389568/.

I’m beyond honored that my thoughts grace the back cover. Thank you for your leadership and incredible contributions to our community. 🙌

“We know that healthy and open conversation is key to life, let alone business. We know that attorneys promote that legal is a ‘relationship-driven business’ (particularly when we marketers try to suggest new approaches!). Yet, why are lawyers at best reticent and at worst recalcitrant around candid performance dialogue with their clients? How do we bridge this divide? Well, those of us in legal marketing and business development are in luck as Beth Cuzzone and Jill Zwetchkenbaum have written the perfect primer on how (and why) to conduct client interviews effectively, efficiently, engagingly. This book is substantive yet accessible, a breezy and inspiring read that is structured in such a way that both attorneys (small and large firm) and their support teams can find quick, actionable tips as well as a sustainable engagement strategy. I suspect this book will happily suffer much dog-earing, highlighting, and margin note-taking in its long shelf life.”

“Whatever I can do to spread the word.” Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor board member spotlight … #KeepingFamiliesClose

Thank you, Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor, Lauren Budhu, Kim Kelly, Julaine DeMink LeDuc, and team. This means the world to me. Proud to support this incredible mission ❤️. #KeepingFamiliesClose

Original post: https://www.facebook.com/RMHCAnnArbor/photos/a.115264581827478/5919021801451698/?type=3

“Roy Sexton has been on the RMHC Ann Arbor board since September 2017 and has served as a liaison to the executive committee and as marketing committee chair.

“His niece Gabby as an infant had a series of asthma-related health problems, and the RMHC Detroit House was there for her mom at an incredibly challenging time. ‘I can’t imagine what life must have been like for them during those early challenging days when Lori stayed at the House – and it always pains me that I wasn’t yet around to show my support,’ Roy said. ‘When I project forward, I think about those families now under similar circumstances, and it motivates me to do whatever I can to spread the word on RMHCAA’s incredible work, to drive revenue to support our mission, and to show our fantastic staff the love and respect they richly deserve.’

“Every December for his birthday, he does a Facebook fundraiser and five years later, it’s going strong. Last year, he raised over $4,000, and this year to celebrate year five, the goal was $5,000. ‘I am so heartened by all the stories I receive from friends who were impacted by RMHC around the country, experiences I never knew they had had, all positive.’ Learn more: https://rmhcannarbor.org/ #KeepingFamiliesClose #BoardSpotlight”

Photo by Scott Lawrence / Headshots by Scott Lawrence

Thank you, Madelyne Lawry and Charley Lawler and Ingham County Bar Association! Alex France and I had an absolute ball presenting today! #lmamkt

Event description:Clark Hill marketing pros Roy Sexton and Alexandra France will share their professional and personal perspective on how to authentically connect with others and maximize the power of social and digital media. This landscape is ever-evolving and over the past 18 months using these channels to connect with clients, prospects, and colleagues has become more important than ever. They will share their own victories (and horror stories) in this space, and offer tips on how to efficiently and effectively establish a lasting digital presence.”

Roy Sexton Is Appointed as President-Elect to the 2022 LMA Board of Directors

Poster / photo by Megan McKeon

CHICAGO, December 22, 2021 — The Legal Marketing Association (LMA), which represents thousands of legal marketing and business development professionals around the globe, is pleased to announce that Roy Sexton has been appointed President-Elect to the 2022 LMA Board of Directors. His appointment becomes effective January 1, 2022.


Sexton is the director of marketing at Clark Hill, where he helps lead marketing, branding and communications efforts, collaborating with the firm’s exceptional team of marketing and business development professionals. Sexton has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business and strategic planning.

He has been heavily involved in LMA as a regional and international leader and serves on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor, Royal Starr Film Festival, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and encoremichigan.com. Sexton earned his Bachelor’s degree from Wabash College and holds two master’s degrees from The Ohio State University (M.A., Theatre) and the University of Michigan (MBA). He is also a published author with two books, “Reel Roy Reviews,” Volumes 1 and 2, taken from his blog of the same name, http://www.reelroyreviews.com.


“I am honored to serve on the 2022 LMA Board of Directors, and I look forward to the opportunity to help guide the association’s important work,” said Sexton. “LMA will continue to provide outstanding programming and opportunities for professional development and networking to our members and advocate for our profession, locally, regionally and internationally.”


“Being on the LMA Board of Directors is the apex of one’s volunteer leadership within the Legal Marketing Association and is significant in advancing the legal marketing profession as a whole,” said LMA Chief Executive Officer Danielle Holland. “LMA would not be the strong organization it is today without the stewardship and dedication of its volunteer leaders. It is my honor to be able to work alongside the 2022 LMA Board of Directors in shaping the future of LMA.”

Original release: https://f.hubspotusercontent10.net/hubfs/457112/2022%20Board%20Press%20Releases/Roy%20Sexton%20Press%20Release.pdf

News post: https://www.clarkhill.com/news-events/news/roy-sexton-is-appointed-as-president-elect-to-the-2022-lma-board-of-directors/

Photo by Scott Lawrence

ABOUT THE LEGAL MARKETING ASSOCIATION


Founded in 1985, the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) is the universal voice of the legal marketing and business development profession, a community that brings together CMOs to entry-level specialists from firms of all sizes, consultants and vendors, lawyers, marketers from

other professions and marketing students to share their collective knowledge. LMA has eight regions and more than 40 local groups across the U.S., Canada and Europe, and its members hail from 48 U.S. states and 24 countries. More than 90 percent of the largest 200 U.S. law firms employ an LMA member. Members at every stage in their career development benefit from participating in LMA’s array of programs and services. For more information, visit http://www.legalmarketing.org.

Photo by Scott Lawrence

Thor’s hammer, ‘Mjolnir!’ Attorneys with dogs! Superman t-shirts! Thank you, National Law Review, for having me as a guest on your podcast … PLUS gratitude for birthday love

Thank you, National Law Review and Jennifer Schaller and Rachel Popa, for including me as a guest on your excellent podcast. And to Jennifer for these incredibly kind words captured here. Deeply honored – what a lovely birthday present for this episode to launch today: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/hiring-and-marketing-legal-industry-roy-sexton-clark-hill-law-and-legal-marketing

Episode description: “Thor’s hammer, ‘Mjolnir!’ Attorneys with dogs! Superman t-shirts! Roy Sexton leads a lively discussion about how the little quirks make your law firm more attractive to new hires, current staff, and the audience of your marketing efforts. He shares his career anecdotes and Clark Hill’s recent branding revamp while being frank about the need for a new type of law firm culture. Learn more about the Legal Marketing Association here.”

Thank you, wonderful Lauren Hoffmann of Lexicon, for the fab swag and the lovely note. I feel the same about you! So grateful the podcast gods – and dynamite Randy Schorfheide – brought us together. I had a ball with you and terrific Brad Paubel guesting on your show in March (https://lexiconservices.com/resources/unique-challenges-facing-law-firm-marketing-and-branding/) and May (https://lexiconservices.com/resources/being-anti-social-law-firms-need-to-be-more-outgoing-and-consider-social-media-the-lexfactor/). And I guess there are plans for more 😉… muah ha ha ha!! Love you, friend ❤️

Thank you all for the birthday love. I made a failed attempt to try to go through and like or comment on all of the Facebook posts, but Facebook is being stubborn and I think about 100 of them are lost to the ether. Given that part of my mantra was to unplug and chill out, I hope you will forgive me.

Thank you to everyone who supported my fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor: https://www.facebook.com/donate/674960266804808/?fundraiser_source=external_url. We’ve raised over $3000 already! ($2500+ on Facebook and a $500 check dropped off at the house). You all take my breath away. Bless your hearts!

I had a wonderfully relaxing day with John and my dad Don and Hudson. I was suitably spoiled by John with an avalanche of superhero-themed gifts, a CD player for my car (yes, I’m a dinosaur), and a much-needed desk chair (after nearly two pandemic years of sitting in an antique straight back kitchen chair 🤣). My dad had this great T-shirt made up for me and brought this scrumptious cake as well as some beautiful family heirlooms I’ve been nagging him about. Dear Rob Kates surprised me with this rare Cyndi Lauper disc he knew I was coveting (and treats for Hudson!). And Megan McKeon and Susan Ahern continue to ply me with liquor with a very thoughtful Caskers gift card. 🍸

We kicked back in our movie room watching Tick Tick BOOM (glorious!!) and listening to my dad’s new Christmas gift jazz CDs. (There we are with CDs again!) More than a few gin-and-tonics were imbibed, and then John chauffeured us to Seva Ann Arbor and treated us to a quiet, lovely dinner. Thanks to the staff there for the surprise tiramisu. Seva has become our “Cheers” in pandemic, a welcome haven for which we will be ever grateful.

This year has been a LOT. But today was just what the doctor ordered. Feeling deeply calm and content right now. Love you.

Holiday musings: my mom and Wabash College, my grandma and Christmas decor, and my friends and the Legal Marketing community

Part 1 …

Thank you, Wabash College (and Karen Linn Handley!), for this lovely shout out to my mom Susie Sexton in the latest alumni magazine. She and my father Don Sexton loved Wabash and the positive and profound impact attending and, later, working there had upon me.

I still remember vividly the day they dropped me off for freshman year, her standing in front of Sparks Hall (right after a shutter on the stately building crashed off its hinges to the ground) exclaiming with pride, “Go and have fun! Enjoy this!” That exhortation may have been an immediate response to me tearfully asking them to take me back home. As I understand, my mom herself cried during the entire car ride back to Columbia City when they left me that day, but I never got one hint of her own anxiety about setting me on my path. To be honest, I was even a bit shocked that she seemed so ready to get rid of me! 

My mom had an incredible superpower to be the eye of a hurricane in the truly important moments and to exemplify bravery when others were caving around her. That takes an incredible energy, selflessness, and love – it also takes a toll on the person who sets that intrepid tone day after day, year after year. The older I get the more I realize what a high wire act that can be. I will always be grateful for that quality my mother had and how I benefited from it.

I’m glad this particular issue’s theme is “gratitude” as that is what I’m feeling right now.

Please check out Editor Kim Johnson’s excellent foreword – she nails with candor and warmth and wit the anxiety we all are feeling these days and how moments of pause and of appreciation can re-center us.

Part 2 …

My grandma Edna Duncan had an inimitable way of decorating for the holidays. If I were to give her style a descriptor, I’d call it “how to avoid putting up a tree while still seeming festive for the grandkids by utilizing one’s fireplace, some tinsel and garland, and assorted marginally Christmas-related items.” There was a nurse doll (still scratching my head about that one), a handful of glass ornaments, some mid-century flocked reindeer, a half-drained snow globe or two, and THIS little item. (Well, not THIS very one pictured, but you get the idea.)

I’m guessing some liquor vendor gave this novelty promo item to my novelty-promo-item-loving grandpa Roy Duncan (this apple doesn’t fall very far from THAT tree) when he ran #ColumbiaCity’s “Blue Bell” (Wrangler Jeans) factory. I’m not sure how/if it survived years of inquisitive grandkids (myself included) pushing the lid down off sequence, shoving fingers in the automaton pups’ mouths, and plugging and unplugging and plugging it back in. I also don’t know where the original ended up, but I decided late one night the other week to see if I could find a replacement on eBay.

Lo and behold, my insomnia-fueled nite owl online shopping adventures struck gold. And $150 later (Merry Christmas to ME!), this very cute and, yes, incredibly annoying piece has been added to our own eclectic decor. Let the holiday traditions live on!

Now, when and if I start gifting bottles of Old Spice cologne with checks lovingly affixed (not to mention wearing little straw hats), you’ll know my transformation into Edna Duncan is complete!

Yoda does NOT look amused. 🤣

Part 3 …

I am truly lucky to have a wonderful friend with whom I also happen to work. I’ve known Megan McKeon maybe about 10 years now? But we first actually collaborated in 2015 on a Legal Marketing Association – LMA International annual conference quick start panel. Fellow panelists Heather Morse-Geller and Gina Furia Rubel said, “We gotta get Megan to join us!” They were absolutely right. Few people are as devoted, as hard-working, as caring as Megan.

Flash forward a few years later, and Megan introduced me to Clark Hill. Heather told me that I MUST take the job – as she saw it as the right next step for me. Don’t tell Heather I said this, but she’s darn right 99% of the time! 😉

This legal marketing community blesses us with guardian angels at every turn, and three years ago when I received the distinct privilege to work with Megan my life improved for the better. I’ve never worked harder in my life, been challenged to be a better professional, or had someone so consistently in my corner as I have had with Megan, and our wonderful boss Susan Ahern, and our incredible colleagues.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s late. And I’m in a reflective mood. And this magical surprise (pictured above) appeared on our front doorstep. Admittedly, one can argue it’s a year early as I will be president elect of the international association next year and president the following. Nonetheless, when my husband opened this, thinking he was going to find new floor mats for his Jeep 😅, we both squealed with delight. Of course, being me, I couldn’t get this on our movie poster wall fast enough.

(NOTE: I added the word “elect” to the image in the hopes of avoiding controversy! 😅)

This gift puts such a big smile on my face after one hell of a year. Everyone knows I love movies obsessively, but Megan has a distinct giftgiving prowess and somehow she found somebody who could turn me into my own movie poster. The tagline is hysterical: “Only the marketing is legal.” 🤣

Fun fact, Megan took this picture of me – and it is one of my favorites. We were in Chicago, on a sidewalk patio, shortly after I had started with the firm (halfway between a couple of my quarterly nervous breakdowns 😂), waiting for Ray Koenig and Susan to join us for drinks. Little did that naive Roy know what incredible adventures were ahead. But I’m looking at this poster, reflecting on the past year, the past three years, the past 10 years, incredibly grateful for what our legal marketing community has given all of us and for this friendship with dear Megan. Love you, Megan.

I hope everyone rings in 2022 with love in their hearts and an appreciation for what makes us each uniquely perfect in our own beautifully fallible ways. My holiday prayer.

Dear friend Beth Kennedy always slays (sleighs?) with her clever handmade birthday cards. We have glitter EVERYWHERE. And we LOVE it. Fun fact: she’s also statistically the most prolific commenter on this blog – after my mom! I reach tens of people with each post! 🤣
Hudson and I are modeling “The Comfy” – in essence a ginormous velour sweatshirt billed as a “wearable blanket.” It’s an apt description 😍🥰❤️. A Christmas gift from my adorable, gracious, generous, QVC-loving mother-in-law.
Loving this fabulous card from Alexis Menard. So grateful UM-Flint School of Management brought us together – she’s a gem!

Year-end Legal Marketing Coffee Talk holiday extravaganza 2021: zany costumes, beloved pups, heartfelt sentiments, plentiful laughs, and maybe a show tune or two

View on …

Facebook: https://fb.watch/9XP8lzXK6-/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/robkates_legalmarketingcoffeetalk-legalmarketing-lmct-activity-6875147102234648576-j7aF

YouTube: https://youtu.be/GVE6T6Ye32k

We had a ball this afternoon with our year-end holiday broadcast. Yes, there were zany costumes, beloved pups, heartfelt sentiments, plentiful laughs, and maybe a show tune or two. (Yes, I sang – about midway – WITH prerecorded accompaniment because I’m fancy like that.) So grateful to be part of this fab Legal Marketing Coffee Talk crew: our fearless leader Rob Kates and fellow hosts Tahisha Fugate, Jessica Aries, and Andrew Laver. The kind words offered during the show about my late mom Susie Sexton, our honorary sixth cast member, were so appreciated and healing.

Thanks to today’s incredibly brilliant special guest stars, including Gina Furia Rubel, Amy Payton Verhulst, Nancy Leyes Myrland, Brenda Pontiff. You are such beautifully authentic souls.

Shout outs aplenty during today’s show: Heather Morse-Geller, Gail Porter Lamarche, Terry Isner, Nikki Girard Sherrill, Toni Wells, James Barclay, Ed Lovatt, Marcia Delgadillo, Nikki Bagdady Horn, Scott Lawrence, Nathalie M. Daum, Jay Harrington, Heather Harrington, Jennifer Forester, Cyndy McCollough, Timothy Corcoran, Jenna Green, Rachel Shields Williams, Shade Vaughn, Jennifer Simpson Carr, Trish Desilets Lilley, and likely many more I won’t remember until I watch again tonight! 🤣

Thank you to Kates Media: Video Production and By Aries for supporting this show and to amazing Katelynn Audrey Wynn McGuire and Clarita Bonilla for the exceptional promotional work on our collective behalf.

See you in 2022! #LMAMKT

Postscript … I am truly lucky to have a wonderful friend with whom I also happen to work. I’ve known Megan McKeon maybe about 10 years now? But we first actually collaborated in 2015 on a Legal Marketing Association – LMA International annual conference quick start panel. Fellow panelists Heather Morse-Geller and Gina Furia Rubel said, “We gotta get Megan to join us!” They were absolutely right. Few people are as devoted, as hard-working, as caring as Megan.

Flash forward a few years later, and Megan introduced me to Clark Hill. Heather told me that I MUST take the job – as she saw it as the right next step for me. Don’t tell Heather I said this, but she’s darn right 99% of the time! 😉

This community blesses us with guardian angels at every turn, and three years ago when I received the distinct privilege to work with Megan my life improved for the better. I’ve never worked harder in my life, been challenged to be a better professional, or had someone so consistently in my corner as I have had with Megan, and our wonderful boss Susan Ahern, and our incredible colleagues.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s late. And I’m in a reflective mood. And this magical surprise (pictured) appeared on our front doorstep today. Admittedly, one can argue it’s a year early as I will be president elect of the international association next year and president the following. Nonetheless, when my husband opened this, thinking he was going to find new floor mats for his Jeep 😅, we both squealed with delight. Of course, being me, I couldn’t get this on our movie poster wall fast enough.

This gift puts such a big smile on my face after one hell of a year, and I won’t lie that it tickles me to be side-by-side with fellow Hoosier James Dean here. Everyone knows I love movies obsessively, but Megan has a distinct giftgiving prowess and somehow she found somebody who could turn me into my own movie poster. The tagline is hysterical: “Only the marketing is legal.” 🤣

Fun fact, Megan took this picture of me – and it is one of my favorites. We were in Chicago, on a sidewalk patio, shortly after I had started with the firm (halfway between a couple of my quarterly nervous breakdowns 😂), waiting for Ray Koenig and Susan to join us for drinks. Little did that naive Roy know what incredible adventures were ahead. But I’m looking at this poster, reflecting on the past year, the past three years, the past 10 years, incredibly grateful for what our legal marketing community has given all of us and for this friendship with dear Megan. Love you, Megan.

Happy holidays from Legal Marketing Coffee Talk: December 16 at 3 pm ET!

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is ending 2021 with a bang!

Join us to celebrate the holidays, as Rob is joined by the whole gang of hosts with Jessica Aries, Tahisha Fugate, Andy Laver, and Roy Sexton, plus some of our fabulous By Aries social media team including Katelynn McGuire and Clara Bonilla plus a few special surprise guests.

Join us Thursday, December 16th at 3PM ET for fun and holiday cheer on our final episode of 2021 on …

Facebook: https://fb.watch/9XP8lzXK6-/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/robkates_legalmarketingcoffeetalk-legalmarketing-lmct-activity-6875147102234648576-j7aF

YouTube: https://youtu.be/GVE6T6Ye32k

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by: By Aries and Kates Media.

Photographer Scott Lawrence joins us on Legal Marketing Coffee Talk

VIDEO LINKS …

Facebook: https://fb.watch/9Fi1RyjuDv/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7GvGtRrX0

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/video/event/urn:li:ugcPost:6871173503022964736/

Scott’s website: https://scottlawrencephoto.com

VIP package referenced in show: https://www.mellermarketing.com/holiday-bundle

Thank you, delightful and talented Scott Lawrence of Headshots by Scott Lawrence, for joining Rob Kates and me today on Legal Marketing Coffee Talk. A robust and lively conversation about the power of smart, authentic portrait photography in legal marketing efforts and how to put your subjects at ease, how to introduce a contemporary and accessible feel, and how to incorporate styling for different digital audiences and individual branding needs.

Many, many shout outs (you have to watch to make sense of this list!): Gina Furia Rubel, Marcia Delgadillo, Brenda Meller, Sarah Ryan, Pentatonix, Gittings, Gittings Global, Gloria Pak, Nick Lachey, Jeff Timmons, MotorCity Casino Hotel, Laura Benanti, Susie Sexton, Don Sexton, Alan Cumming, Betty Buckley, Cyndi Lauper, Superman, Tiffany Elie, Hello Dolly, Patty Buccellato, Erin Kennedy, Meller Marketing, Zelig, show choirs, Minnie Driver, Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor, Kim Kelly, Ronald McDonald, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Gabby Confer, Lori Mola Compagner, Cleveland Agora, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Chris Marrone, Kathy Cook, and heaven knows who/what else!

And thank you, Scott, for my incredible gift presented at show end!

#keepingfamiliesclose – Let’s go $5K for the FIFTH year of my birthday fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor

LINK TO 2021 FUNDRAISING PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/donate/674960266804808/?fundraiser_source=external_url

Want to join me in supporting a good cause? From now until my birthday on December 28, I’m raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities Ann Arbor and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. This will be my fifth year of doing this birthday fundraiser for RMHCAA. Last year you helped us raise over $4000. Shall we go $5K for year 5? I think we can! I’m honored to be an RHMCAA board member but I’m even more honored to help support this incredible mission.


The mission of the Ann Arbor Ronald McDonald Houses is to provide families of children experiencing a serious illness or injury requiring hospitalization or treatment on an outpatient basis, a “home away from home” that assists in alleviating the families’ emotional and financial stress.


Facebook pays all the processing fees for you, so 100% of your donation goes directly to the nonprofit.


#keepingfamiliesclose

“These are your ghosts. Not mine.” King Richard, Belfast, and House of Gucci

Belfast

The world has been so upside down for so long that it’s hard to reconcile what “normal” even is anymore … if there ever was a “normal” in the first place. For my family, Thanksgiving wasn’t really much about turkey (vegetarianism tends to hamper the typical American holiday diet) or large gatherings (if you met my extended clan you’d understand). Rather, we typically were cloistered away in the dark comfort of the cineplex – sometimes taking in as many as three movies in a row, much to the chagrin of my father’s aching back and wallet. Tickets are expensive enough, but you’ve never seen us hit that concession stand!

2021 has been rough. It hasn’t been the sweet relief from 2020 all had hoped it to be. I lost my beloved mother, but her spirit is with me every day. I’ve lost track of what letter of the Greek alphabet this virus and its endless variants have adopted as nomenclature. I feel sadder and fatter and more exhausted than ever in my life. There have been bright spots, sure, but I feel myself aching for the mundane joys of life circa 2019 (and earlier) more and more.

King Richard

Hell, writing this blog entry is both comforting and daunting. I crave the click of the keys under my fingers, barely keeping pace with the popcorn thinking in my addled brain. Yet, I also feel like someone has asked me to enter an Olympic pole-vaulting competition as I stare at this blank screen.

My wonderful dad and I started some new traditions this year, with an eye toward our past. We met up with new pals for lunch (try the Lucky Moose/Turtle if you’re in Fort Wayne, Indiana – wonderful atmosphere and service and a menu that goes on for days, including many veg-friendly options), and we rekindled some longstanding friendships (Phyllis and Scott Gates are lovely, loving, lively hosts with a cocktail and appetizer array that deserves a Michelin star). And, yes, we finally got back into the movie theatre, safely masked and distanced with hand sanitizer at the ready. We skipped the concession line, though, for multiple and obvious reasons, and my father’s wallet breathed a sigh of relief.

Thanksgiving collage … with pics of new addition Hudson for good measure

We caught up with three marvelous films over the holiday. As I have the unfortunate habit of forcing patterns that may or may not actually exist on random collections, it was clear, at least to me, that King Richard, Belfast, and House of Gucci – taken together – explore, dissect, and celebrate the power of family – the good, the bad, the ugly, the essential, and everything in between.

King Richard covers the developmental years of tennis aces Venus and Serena Williams and the fierce commitment of their parents Richard and Brandi. This is Will Smith’s best work in years as he imbues Richard with a haggardly leonine focus that walks the fine line between Great Santini-esque obsession and Mister Rogers“you can do anything as long as you’re having fun” positivity. I guarantee you’ll never look at tennis shorts and knee-high athletic socks the same way again!

Aunjanue Ellis is an understated marvel as mom Brandi, a fine counterpoint to Richard’s relentless push, filling in the humanity where Richard’s parenting falls short. Jon Bernthal is a delight as endlessly exasperated yet mindfully hopeful coach Rick Macci. His Dorothy Hamill-ish bob deserves an Oscar. The film – never a bore and consistently entertaining – ends where it should, at the beginning of Venus’ pro career and offers unassailable proof of the foundation to success that involved parenting provides.

In Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast, the parents play a similar yin-yang role in their children’s lives. Jamie Dornan (shedding all the ooky kink of his Fifty Shades of Grey days) and Caitriona Balfe are on the razor’s edge of heartbreak, their idyllic neighborhood torn asunder by the Protestant/Catholic “troubles” in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. The push-pull of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs hangs over the picture, as Dornan’s character urges the family to leave for greener pastures, and Balfe struggles with her husband’s profligacy and not losing the creature comforts of family and friends sharing child-rearing duties.

Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are akin to a warm, woolen, slightly scratchy blanket as Dornan’s ever-present parents, and Jude Hill is a luminous find as the young protagonist Buddy, golden child of the family. Filmed in lush black and white, the film is a throwback to coming of age fables set against the backdrop of cultural turmoil like To Kill a Mockingbird, at times a bit too artsy for its own good, but leaving the viewer with a poignant, optimistic gut punch as the family finds its legs again.

“These are your ghosts. Not mine,” Maurizio Gucci (a compelling Adam Driver deftly balancing giddy nebbishness and aloof austerity) declares to his father, Gucci fashion empire scion Rodolfo (a miscast Jeremy Irons, desperately in search of an Italian accent by way of Downton Abbey), a spectre who lives hopelessly in the past. Ridley Scott’s fizzy, haunting House of Gucci exposes the dark underbelly of family survival: love and admiration that curdles into resentment and maneuvering. Much has been written (unfairly) about the film and its script, claiming it’s a loose amalgamation of riffs last seen on Dynasty and Dallas. Hogwash. That isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of escapist disco-era glitzy materialistic fun to be had, though.

And, no, Lady Gaga – who is incredibly nuanced and infinitely watchable as Maurizio’s ambitious, brilliant, tortured wife Patrizia – does not sound like Natasha of Bullwinkle fame. I was fine with the accents and mannerisms throughout the cast, Lyons notwithstanding. Italia! (I’ve never seen so many cigarettes smoked or espressos drunk in my life.) Pacino is in fine form as swaggering yet bedraggled Aldo Gucci, and a thrillingly unrecognizable Jared Leto is heartbreaking comic relief as Aldo’s dingbat-yet-deeply-misunderstood child Paolo.

But the star of the show is Gaga – she continues the stunning movie star path she began in A Star is Born, commanding the screen like Liza Minnelli or Susan Hayward, vibrating with the fiery frustration of a woman who knows the way ahead but can’t quite reach past the male egos around her. Like Liza, her eyes can flare from limpid to enraged in a nanosecond. I’d watch her read the phone book at this point.

Family defines us, shapes us, inspires us, frustrates us, comforts us. These three films unpack in beautiful form how one reconciles individuality in the face of such influence. Highly recommend them as a triple feature. Popcorn, candy, and soda pop optional.

Holiday postscript … in the spirit of new traditions

LINK TO FULL PHOTO ALBUM: https://lnkd.in/e_A5CyUM … It’s the hap-happiest season of all. In part because I sort of dust for once in anticipation of putting up our mammoth tree, at which time I spend HOURS nestling what seems like 1,000 ornaments amidst its branches. I know some might go for aesthetics or theme in their holiday decor. But we’re not much on restraint. No, we go for nostalgia.

Every well-loved, slightly tired knickknack or ornament we unearth reminds us of happy times – and a few not-so-happy – but all essential. Yes, John and I have ordered a personalized stocking for Hudson (on its way). And, no, we don’t want to think about packing all this holly jolly away in a little over a month. We shall just enjoy the season as the world spins nuttier and wilder every day.

And thanks, Don and Corinne, for this nifty shirt from Sechler’s Pickles, Inc., reputedly the purveyors of Frank Sinatra’s fave gherkin. Alas, Frank didn’t accompany today’s festive shenanigans – but Jennifer Nettles, Kylie Minogue, and Taylor Swift kept us humming (and singing) along. Happy holidays!

And thank you, Lori, Andrew, and Gabby – between you all and my mom Susie, you account for about 90% of those thousand ornaments on our tree! ❤️

And shameless self-promotion post-postscript …

THIS THURSDAY AT 3 PM ET …

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/155057871244919/posts/4648251118592216/?d=n  

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7GvGtRrX0

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/video/event/urn:li:ugcPost:6871173503022964736/

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is back this Thursday to kick off December with host Roy Sexton and his guest, Scott Lawrence, the man responsible for Roy’s professional headshots. Did you know that Roy moonlights as a superhero? He has the headshot to prove it, thanks to Scott!

Roy and Scott will talk about the fine art of personal and professional branding and how having a range of headshots is essential in this glittering age of digital marketing. Different audiences require different looks and styles to create lasting engagement.

Scott observes, “I believe people hire people, so you must use a professional image that reflects who you really are. … I’m a headshot photographer with a business background. Get noticed with an authentic professional headshot. Leave your selfies behind. I work with individuals in customized sessions. We discuss your personal brand and craft an image that sends just the right message to your followers – both professional and personal. I also help large organizations to properly highlight their people – the most valuable asset.”

Join us Thursday, December 2nd at 3 PM ET right here on Facebook

Legal Marketing Coffee Talk is brought to you by: By Aries and Kates Media.

Gaga for Lady Gaga in House of Gucci