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Bernie's Top Ten: Got Milk Pics?

Tony Cartmill

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Bernie, when you get the time, could you post the top 10 ads that you were involved in that you are most proud. Best pics, best themes, biggest stars would be 3 of the criteria...


P.S. Then start gathering your top 10 sexiest ads, top 10 funniest ads,...

How much does your out-of-print books run these days?

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Well, I'm actually pretty fond of a bunch of ad campaigns I've done over the years, but milk has certainly been catapulted to the top the list on sheer pop culture status alone. I actually have plans to write an advertising book as my next project. (Ha! We'll see how soon that happens!)

Until then, I have often been asked to name my favorite milk ads. After having done nearly 300 of them, it's quite a task to pick favorites, but since you asked I'll make an attempt here. Mind you, this list changes frequently :-)

So, in no particular order:


Lauren Bacall

"To Have and Have Not," "The Big Sleep," "Key Largo!"—Beautiful when she made her best films in the '40s, still beautiful when she worked with me in the '90s. I just love classic films, and getting to spend time with her was just incredible. I remember she had a raspier voice than in her heyday and had picked up some salty language from Bogie. So, it was rather amusing to hang with her on the set.

Jennifer Aniston & Lisa Kudrow

We were originally scheduled to shoot all three "Friends" actresses after their second smash season. Kudrow had just won an Emmy, leaving her two female co-stars empty handed. Courteney Cox, perhaps miffed at Kudrow's win, contacted us and said she would only do the ad alone. So rather than shoot one "Friend," we opted for two. I remember Kudrow was a bit standoffish on set, but Aniston was sweet and funny. While her counterpart was having lunch behind closed doors, Aniston sat down with us to eat. She was very down-to-earth. Later on, she overheard my copywriter partner and I making dinner plans, and she asked if we were looking for a "scene." We said, YES! So, she told us to make a reservation at the Ivy in Beverly Hills because that's where she would be dining. When we arrived that evening, Aniston and her party were already seated. As we entered the restaurant, she got up, gave us hugs, introduced us and made US feel like the big stars.

Van Halen

I grew up playing the guitar. The closest I ever thought I was gonna get to Edward (that's how everyone who works with him refers to him) was a nosebleed seat at Madison Square Garden. So imagine what thoughts were crossing my mind when I found myself sitting knee-to-knee with him, each of us holding guitars and plucking away? It was mind-blowing in all respects! The way I ended up "jamming" with EVH, was by simply asking him a question about his guitar. That led to him asking if I played. My answer was, "Well, next to you I can't play." That made him laugh and he said, "I just wanted to know if you played. Because if you did I'll show you my guitars." I'm still pinching myself over that one!

Nastassja Kinski

Yeah, everyone knows her mostly from that Richard Avedon photo where she posed naked with the snake wrapped around her. She also made some critically acclaimed movies. But it's neither the snake nor the films that put her on my Top 10 list. In a word, she was SEXY. And to turn the heat up even more, Annie Leibovitz photographed her wearing a white, oversized men's shirt. That's all. Nothing else. Just the shirt. In between shots, she'd just be sitting around in that white shirt with her legs curled up under her, chatting in her cute little accent. I remember she had incredible green eyes. Man, she was hot! And, well, I am a man. So she makes the list!

TV Moms

What kid growing up in the '60s wasn't a fan of the Partridge Family, Happy Days and the Brady Bunch? Those shows still make me laugh, and so when I got the chance to work with Shirley Jones, Marion Ross and Florence Henderson, it was a TV Junkie's dream come true. We shot the three of them under hairdryers. They were all dressed appropriately for their characters. But the biggest treat was their hair. We had Hollywood's top hair guy craft wigs that were letter perfect reproductions of each of their character's hairstyles. Just seeing the wigs on their stands was amazing, but when all three actresses came on set in full hair, makeup and wardrobe it was spectacular! I remember I walked over to them and said, "Well, one thing's for sure. If anyone does anything wrong on set today they're sure to be sent to their room without supper!"

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I was a huge KISS fan when I was in high school. In fact, my high school band has been officially acknowledged by Paul Stanley as the first KISS tribute band, since we did a show in full KISS makeup and costumes in 1974 for a Halloween high school dance! So, imagine how cool it was to have all four original members together—Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter—with me in charge! Gene arrived on set at least 3 hours before the call time to check things out. He's a very shrewd businessman, and the band is his baby. I was asked to create a milk mustache ad for chocolate milk, and I thought the best candidates for the "brown stuff" was a group of guys with white faces! I was right. Annie Leibovitz once again shot this one for me, and the iconic photo picturing the four members of KISS posed like an album cover shot had Gene spitting chocolate milk instead of blood and carried the headline: "Lick it up."

Elton John

Everyone was so nervous when we heard Elton was on his way to the set. We were told all kinds of horror stories about how flaky Elton could be. He often made commitments that he didn't keep. In fact, he cancelled three times before we finally received work that he was actually coming. All that mattered is that he showed up. His people said he could only stay a VERY short amount of time. So, with work that he was on his way, I decided that I didn't want to take any chances. I told photographer extraordinaire David LaChapelle, "Listen. When Elton gets here, just get him on the set, shoot a dozen or so photos so we have an ad. Don't worry about the milk mustache, I'll add it digitally later. I just need a few picture of Elton so I'll have an ad." For those who don't know, the milk mustache is actually made up of milk and other dairy products and is applied on set by simply drinking it our of a cup. It sort of tastes like a cheesecake milkshake, and because it is applied just by drinking everyone has their own custom mustache based on their own lip shape. So, Elton arrives, we hustle him onto the set, my heart is beating fast as David snaps a few frames with is camera and Elton stops and shouts, "Hold it...hold it...HOLD IT!" Everyone stops. It's so quiet that you can hear a pin drop. Then Elton continues, as all of us are bracing for the worst: "Where's my milk mustache?" We gave him his mustache, he posed for at least an hour and then when we were saying our goodbyes as the crew set up for lunch, Elton asked, "Aren't you going to invite me to stay for lunch?" Se we did, and I sat directly across from Elton fricking John at lunch. Good lord, what an amazing afternoon! And the photo was (and still is) one of my favorites: Elton is standing behind a white piano, in a completely white room, with white candlesticks, white statues, a white chandelier with a white piece of cake on a white plate sitting atop the keyboard along with a glass of white milk. Of course, he's donning a white milk mustache. Everything in the photo is white—except for Elton's green and pink polka-dot Versace suit!

Muhammad Ali

"The Greatest." What else can I say? Even with his Parkinson's, he exuded charisma. I got to shake his hand and talk with him a bit. It was a day I'll never forget. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, just stopped whatever they were doing and stood there speechless when he entered the room. His presence simply shook me to my core. He knows that he's not the same man who used to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." Back then, he'd enter a room and shadow box a bit, which made everyone feel like they were seeing someone worthy of the moniker "The Greatest." Only now, he can barely get up off a chair without help, let alone throw a punch. So he does magic tricks. That's right, magic tricks. He pulls coins out of the air and then makes them disappear again. He then shows you how the trick is done, explaining that as a Muslim it's against his beliefs to trick people. He will always be "The Greatest" in my book.

Mike Myers

We shot Mike Myers on set in costume while he was filming the Austin Powers sequel, "The Spy Who Shagged Me." We were told that filming would be over by 5 or 6 o'clock, so we got there around 3 pm. Turns out, Mike was shooting a scene with actress Heather Graham and things were not progressing as planned. The shot, and shot, and shot. It was pretty cool to watch them film as Myers never does a take the same way twice. there's lots of ad-libbing, which causes everyone to crack up periodically on set. Filming didn't finish until well after midnight! We were afraid Mike was going to cancel our shoot, but he didn't. While we set up, he simply kicked back and waited, then brought his character full-on into our photo shoot. We were warned ahead of time that Mike doesn't break character when he's in costume, and they weren't kidding. Frankly, it was pissing Leibovitz off a bit to have to deal with snarky responses from Austin Powers, rather than Mike Myers. Every sentence he spoke was peppered with ample amounts of "Groovy!" and "YEAH, baby!"

Steven Tyler

Steven Tyler called us and asked to be a part of the campaign. Seems his daughter Liv was a big fan of the ads growing up and he just couldn't wait to be a part of it. Steven was so into his ad that he wanted to create his own ad concept. So, we did one ad, which featured an extreme close-up shot of Steven's trademark mouth wide open with milk mustache prominently displayed and another that was Steven's own idea. This second ad only ran in Rolling Stone and featured Steven as a rock and roll prisoner in a chain gang. He was wearing a distressed black and white striped prison outfit, had a ball and chain attached to one of his legs and was singing into his sledge hammer against a sea of broken granite rocks. The idea was "rock hard bones!" He loved his rock and roll prisoner outfit so much that he wore it on stage that year when Aerosmith played Japan. Oh, did I mention that Steven was really into helping create his ad? He was so into it that he called me at home at least a dozen times to work out his concept. You can imagine how thrilling it was to have my phone ring, pick it up and hear, "Bernie, this is Steven!" :-)

So, that's ten. But, like I said earlier, ask me again tomorrow and the list will surely have changed!

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I Love the one with Ali myself....simply because he is one of my all-time favorite athletes. He was GREAT and he was hilarious too...."If you want to lose your money, then bet on Sonny"...is that great or what?? Hey Bernie....how about one with Keith Richards??? That would be a GREAT shot!! Actually, they are all great!

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Great having you tell the stories with each photo!! Regarding the Elton one, how much effort was there in gathering the white room(piano,candlesticks,etc.) while knowing he may not show??? Seems it would be a considerable rental expense.

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Regarding the Elton one, how much effort was there in gathering the white room(piano,candlesticks,etc.) while knowing he may not show??? Seems it would be a considerable rental expense.

If it were a normal photo shoot where the photographer rents out studio space it would have been a disaster! But, it was a David LaChapelle shoot and David owns his own studio. So, he was able to keep the set up for several days awaiting Elton. He's such a big star that I just extended my stay in L.A. until Elton finally showed. It was more expensive, but due to David owning the space, we didn't have to pay for the set to be taken down and rebuilt each time Elton failed to show.

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Bernie...Is ISABELLA ROSSELLINI....as stunning in person as he looks in her ad? Gosh she is such a classic beauty....Valorie

I waited a bit to see if Bernie would answer your question. He hasn’t yet, so I’m going to take a chance and volunteer my perspective. I hope I don't 'catch hell' for hijacking Bernie's post, but I also don’t think my two cents on this subject is worth starting a whole new thread.

I did Isabella’s make-up for a press junket for the movie “White Nightsâ€. While she is a lovely, gracious, intelligent, and classy woman, I have never understood how she cultivated this reputation for being an incredible beauty. I think being the illegitimate daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini gave her the kind of celebrity that ‘pumps up’ a person’s aura and opens up a lot of doors, and she had the good sense to walk through them.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. This is is particularly true when you factor in the concept of being in love. But I have maintained for years that beauty is also ‘assigned’. There are a lot of actresses that couldn’t get picked up in a bar at 3AM, but because they’ve acquired fame and success through the movies and/or television, they are introduced as the ‘beautiful and talented'... and that just becomes an accepted fact. And of course you have to factor in the ‘magic’ performed by photographers, lighting technicians, hair and make-up people, wardrobe stylists, and Photoshop.

So, while ‘just my own opinion’, if it was the first thing in the morning, and Isabella Rossellini had just rolled out of bed and was sitting next to you on the bus, I don’t think you would be overwhelmed by her beauty. Again, a very pleasant looking woman, but no more remarkable than most women.

And because of the way people freakout and ‘fly off the handle’ on this forum, I want to emphasize that this is not an attack on Isabella Rossellini as much as it is just another effort to ‘reassure’ the average woman who has been led to believe that these famous women are so naturally and remarkably beautiful. It’s just not true.

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Hi Jerry...I have no problem with you expessing your opinion. In fact I find it very interesting and insightful. I guess I think in my own way, she is a classic beauty cuz I am so sick and tired of everyone thinking the "Pam Andersons" of this world are so stunning. Isabella is more of a real women than many. IMHO Valorie...

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I am so sick and tired of everyone thinking the "Pam Andersons" of this world are so stunning. Isabella is more of a real women than many. IMHO Valorie...

I agree. Pam A. actually was a very pretty/cute woman back in the day. But when she became 'Barb Wire', she pretty much became a living representation of that over-blown (pun intended) 'cartoon character'. Not for me.

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