A Dream Come True

Guys, let’s be honest. Let’s admit to a universal pastime. At the very least, let’s acknowledge that during our formative years, many guys—but not us!—spent an inordinate amount of time secreted behind locked doors in various porcelain libraries, “reading” Playboy magazine. Even today, the dreaded M word brings fear to the hearts of otherwise brave and bold men in denial. Not the act of doing it, but the act of doing it AND GETTING CAUGHT!

We were on missions from God, only we didn’t want him to know about it. Thank God I wasn’t Catholic. Can you imagine? “BlessmeFatherforIhavesinned … again. And it’s the same sin, Father, for the 247th Sunday in a row.” By then, he’d be required by law to place you in an institution or call for an exorcism or something.

But we were not to be denied. Like salmon swimming upstream. And Playboy was always there to help.

And if you told me back then that I was actually going to grow up, meet, get to know, hire, work with and otherwise get in bed with (as in, do business with—but why split hairs?) one of these elusive Goddesses, I would have said I stand a better chance of becoming a black man and playing rhythm guitar behind Ike and Tina Turner—another teenage fantasy of mine.

And anyway, I did. All it took was a career in advertising, a client with huge cojones and enough sense to know right from wrong and a creative partner who straddled enough libidos to understand that some combination of sex, cleverness and political timeliness just might raise hell in advertising. And me, Ad Man, who was willing to rationalize all of it—and present such a she-creature to this client as his new GoDaddy Girl, his spokeswoman for launching his heretofore little-known and nonadvertised brand on the Super Bowl.

By now Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of GoDaddy Group and all-around cowboy, is notorious for being … notorious. And a pretty damn good businessman, too. Eighteen months earlier, he was nearly as successful but not nearly as notorious. Then he hires The Ad Store and says he wants a Super Bowl commercial, and by God, what he ultimately wants is “a girl with big tits” in his spot, “with my company name across her chest.” He assumes that if we can find the right context for it—not that that’s his first priority—he’ll send his brand awareness through the roof—which he knows is all he’s missing from his so-called marketing mix.

And that’s just what he gets. But not before we jump through hoops trying to make sense of his “creative brief” and otherwise save him from himself. (Paul Cappelli, The Ad Store’s founder and creative director, would famously describe it as turning “melons into melonade.”) We land on a script everybody can live with, convince Bryan Buckley to direct and put out the casting call. And, oh my, here they come. Audition tapes from N.Y., Los Angeles, Miami and, maybe for the first time ever, Las Vegas. But hey, we’re looking for a … certain kind of girl. Cappelli and Buckley land on an under-the-radar vixen they like for the part. Her name is Candice Michelle, and she, well, she’s amazing.

First of all, she meets the brief. But forget that. On camera she’s, well, engaging. Coy, personable, confident. Magnetic. And yeah, sexy. Big whatevers. A total package. Fine, so anything else I need to know about her, I ask? Well, yeah, she’s been … active, trying to break into the business. Posed for some … photo spreads. Made a … movie. Has her own Web site.

She’s fabulous.

They want her. I want her. And I want her in our commercial, too. And of course she wants the part. Now it’s my job to sell her to the client, Cowboy Bob, who has a real conscience along with his diamond-encrusted wristwatch.

But first, yeah, I go to her Web site. Hey, due diligence! Candice is … everything I could have imagined. And hoped for. And feared. She’s brave. She’s out there. OK, fine. Everybody has a past. Hey, who am I to judge? I mean, whatever.

And what the hell? She’s great on camera.

So we send Parsons the audition tape, which would speak for itself under normal circumstances—which don’t exist in this situation—and I call him up.

At first he likes a radiant redhead, our backup. “Bob,” I say, “take another look at Candice. We’re going for a personality here, somebody who can capture the essence … of what our GoDaddy Girl wants to be, who can plus the script, who can emote, who can, ah, fuck it. Look at her! She’s … unreal.”

“Yeah, well, maybe,” he says.

“There’s one more thing,” I admit. “She’s, well, she’s done some other stuff. She’s got a Web site: www.candicemichelle.com.”

He’s on it. “Jesus Christ,” he says, and he’s not exactly complaining.

“Man, oh man. I have to call you back,” he says. “I have to consider my Bible Belt customers, and what they’ll think.”

We hire Candice 24 hours later.

Now we fly out to L.A. to meet our brand-new, first-ever GoDaddy Girl face-to-face, get acquainted, rehearse her, bless her heart, and sign the contract. We meet at Hungry Man’s production offices in Santa Monica and, ta-da!, there she is, physically organized, mentally prepared and everything else. We introduce ourselves all around. And finally, Parsons asks what everybody else is wondering. “Are they real?” “Sure,” she says, “real expensive.”

And she’s got us right where she wants us.

Turns out she’s fabulous. Witty. Funny. Spontaneous. Earthy. Down-to-earth. We review the script. She’s already ad-libbing lines. And she carries herself and her personality all the way through the shoot the next two days; she actually plusses a couple of the lines in the now notorious GoDaddy spot of Super Bowl 2005.

The spot airs. (A second scheduled airing is cancelled!) It makes semi-history. GoDaddy’s business goes through the roof, and 60 Minutes does a piece on it. It gains a measured $11.6 million in nonpaid media coverage. Candice goes on The Howard Stern Show—and holds her own. And then Playboy calls the agency and says they’re interested in her. I make the introduction and forget about it.

A weeklong adventure in la-la land. Shoot all day. OK, watch a shoot all day—for the first time in years. Do The Ivy at night.

And then I coast-to-coast home and lose it. Literally, I have what the ER doctors at Westchester County Medical Center call transient global amnesia, and I’m in a complete fog for 24 hours. They say it can be brought on by exhaustion and stress, exacerbated by drinking, all-night partying—and frenzied sex.

Exactly. I’m thinking it’s no doubt the result of unrequited Candice fantasies and what I’ll call … blowing my brains out. At least that’s what I told the doctors, in my stupor, over and over, looking for laughs even in my suspended state of whatever. (Note to file: There are no residual effects from this transient shit; nothing at all that would affect an ad guy’s ability to perform brilliantly in any work environment—except maybe a glaring rash of honesty—which I recover from instantly.)

Dissolve to this past March. I’m passing through Grand Central for my nightly New York Post and commute home and, holy shit, there she is: Candice Michelle on the cover of Playboy, the April 2006 issue! And for the first time in my entire still emerging life—gathered first in rabid teen angst, stewed in hormonal young adulthood, whipped through frat boy wannabe studness, propelled through early semi-adman promiscuity, born along the horns of prematurity and finally settled into missed-opportunity adult resignation—I actually pay for a Playboy.

In support of our girl, you know.

I settle into a seat on the train, strap on my iPod and randomly, serendipitously, turn instantly to page 110. And, oh my. There she is, Miss Everything. Candice. Our GoDaddy Girl, in all her glory. And suddenly I’m Ping-Ponging 40 years, between youth and truth, between then and now, in total flashcut.

And you know what? It may be that I’ve finally had my peek behind the curtain and seen the real Wizard of Id. Whatever, I’ll take now. Here’s a semi-perfect example of one of those elusive fantasy babes, pancaked, blow-dried and wind-swept, cosmetically enhanced and de-pantsed. Leaving nothing to the imagination. And the fact is, for my money, I think she’s sexier with a few clothes on. Maybe all women are. Yeah, they are.

And suddenly, I’m thinking what truly makes a woman attractive: imagination, intelligence, energy, a zest for life and a thirst for adventure, a rowdy sense of humor, independence, experiences, toughness, softness, loyalty to people and a passion for ideas and a willingness to break a few rules once in awhile. And the ability to drive a stick shift. These things are sexy. Near as I can tell, Candice has all these qualities, too. So does my wife of 23 years. They’re more limited in most younger women. And men. And not bad attributes for ad people to have.

Either that, or I’m suffering from something akin to mental masturbation.