Goodbye Chalks

Charlie Sutherland (Chalks) was a good guy; a guy who spent a long time wrestling with his own particular demons. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Charlie, so I want to recall the good old days when he was something of a rock star in a young, emerging Colenso. And those were tough, competitive days.

Charlie’s peer group included the late Mike McCabe and my old mate Len Potts. The best writers in the business back then. Charlie managed to hold his own in this company and get a fair amount of his work onto the Colenso showreel.

Cadbury was Charlie’s favourite account. Mine too in those days. Charlie, Mike Meechan and I would regularly make the pilgrimage to Dunedin to see the Cadbury boys. A magic relationship that lasted more than fifteen years. Funnily enough, Charlie didn’t much like chocolate. He preferred Steinlager. But that didn’t stop him from doing some excellent work.

Charlie’s Cadbury ads were invariably funny, imaginative and made great use of music. Charlie’s collaborations with the jingle maestro Murray Grindley were legendary.

My other great recollection of Charlie’s talent was the famous dunny ad. On one of those Dunedin trips, we got talking about Wellington Harbour. I’d been scuba diving at Seatoun and, on coming to the surface, was appalled to see a large turd floating by. We agreed (over a few beers) it was disgraceful that a city like Wellington should discharge its raw sewage into its beautiful harbour.

Anyway, we naively decided to do a protest ad and persuaded Ian Wells of the Dominion to give us a full page. The ad was a ripper. It was a full page with a large photograph of a toilet sitting by itself on Oriental Bay beach. The headline read ‘How do you feel about going on the beach?’ Brilliant stuff. The ad caused a political storm, but that’s another story.

It was probably Charlie’s finest ad. It won the grand prize at the Caxton Awards and I think it won Charlie some kind of a trip. So when I think of you Chalks, I think of those great days and that great talent. Cheers Chalks, here’s to you.

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