Rita Hayworth was painfully shy, Lauren Bacall protested when she wasn’t fetched in a limousine, Marlene Dietrich disapproved of one style of coat after another, and Rudolf Nureyev stalked off the set, exclaiming, “Enough, finished!” after only 20 minutes of shooting. Still, advertising executive Peter Rogers is obviously a man of great patience and persuasion. He convinced 40 famous (but unidentified) people to swaddle themselves in luxurious ranch mink for the Great Lakes Mink Association ad campaign. A collection of the ads plus his anecdotes—of courting, then coddling celebrities through the photo session—has just been published as What Becomes a Legend Most? The Black-glama Story.
“Most people want to do the ad,” concedes Rogers. “It’s an ego trip, and they also get an $8,000 Blackglama coat.” Diana Ross asked for sable, then paid the difference. Judy Garland left the studio without bothering to have her Blackglama coat lined, and Carol Burnett, the only celebrity to turn down a fur, requested a donation to her favorite charity instead.
Rogers clearly loves his legends. “Most of them are professionals,” he says. “There has been very little friction.” Perhaps. But Barbra Streisand did keep him waiting an hour, and Pearl Bailey wore a cap that “made her look like a taxi driver.”
There are those who can’t be lured by either fur or flattery. “Katharine Hepburn has turned us down repeatedly,” sighs Rogers. “She doesn’t endorse any products.” Jackie Onassis and Dolly Parton also said no. “I’m still trying to get Elizabeth Taylor,” he admits. “I’d also love to have Hitchcock—that marvelous profile in a cape.” Frank Sinatra agreed to pose in a mink-lined mackintosh but bowed out at the last minute. “You have to catch them in the right mood,” observes Rogers. “I’m very persistent.”
Pluck, talent and a $500 loan from his sister Merle brought Rogers to New York in 1959 from Hattiesburg, Miss., where he showed an early gift for illustration. “While other children did their ABCs, I was drawing hula girls.” A couple of ad agency jobs led him to Jane Trahey, who had set up her own firm in 1958. She conceived the Blackglama campaign 10 years later. He bought her out in 1974. Today Peter Rogers and Associates have a staff of 15, 30 accounts and annual billings of $20 million. The agency has been responsible for such crisp one-liners as “Danskins are not just for dancing” and “When your own initials are enough” for Bottega Veneta leather goods.
Hardly a week passes that bachelor Rogers, 45, isn’t hounded by an agent longing to wrap a client in fur. Among others, he has vetoed Steve and Eydie (“Not for my pelts”) and Cher (“Where is she today? Off rollerskating someplace”). There is also a certain gaudy Hollywood producer who can stop wishing. Says Rogers: “There is no way that Alan Carr will ever pose in a Blackglama ad.”