I met David Tree at some sort of ad business social so ordinary that I remember not a thing about it except that it was overlit for an event where drinks were served. It would have been around 1980, 81.
David, himself. He’d walked right off a movie screen somewhere. Bigger than life? Hell, he was bigger than most, over 6’3, very solidly built, but carried himself so elegantly, that’s what struck you first.
A man both English charming and pub friendly. Sparkling with mischief and easy wit, good conversation flowing readily from the start.
We became instant friends. He was new in L.A. A Young & Rubicam art director and creative director, his career with Y&R sounding more like a British Foreign Service career than advertising. London. Stockholm. Tokyo. New York. And, at that juncture, posted to Los Angeles.
Thinking about David, he is for me something like a character in a Graham Greene novel. A close friend, someone I’ve known well for 30+ years, but with much in his backstory I don’t know.
The David Mystique.
But, of course, that is part of the fun.
David Tree. For any American meeting him, he filled that space that in another era was held by David Niven. The essence of a Brit. Evoking ‘Swinging London,’ but with an earlier savoir faire – part Cary Grant, part Michael Caine. An Alfie at home at Ascot.
As to Swinging London, David collaborated with photographer, John D. Green, and writer, Anthony Haden-Guest, art directing THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN, the 1967 celebration of Beatles Era beauties.
A subject abut which David knew more than most. And the girls of many other a nation, too.
David Tree, catnip to women. Every woman fell in love with him, including my wife.
Woman’s man. Man’s man. Great companion, David.
Energy for work. Energy for fun. A constitution of iron. Partying prodigously all the eve and often enough, all night, he will arrive at work by 8.30 or 9 as fresh and ready as if he’d slept nine hours in a Cotswolds feather bed.
The client’s idea of what a creative director was. What an ad man in his pinacle manifestation was supposed to be. Cary Grant in MR. BLANDING BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE. Cary Grant, also, in NORTH BY NORTHWEST. A valuable space to hold in your client’s mind.
David is a campaign presenter for the ages. His presentations mesmerized as he painted pictures and imagined scenes before your eyes, soothing the savage breast of feared agency killers like Ernest Gallo, and many others a bit less daunting.
He would seduce with a story, not a pitch. Bringing to his stage presence a bit of the Young Winston whom he must’ve channeled for the occasion.
David Tree, with his unflagging energy for fun. Seeking out and sharing with friends like us the pleasures of the marvelous places.
He took a villa in Cannes and had us there. A house in Bridgehampton which he gave us and our young family for a week when he couldn’t be there. Had us for another week at the villa in the hills above St. Tropez.
There played out a made for movies scene, in which Wendi, my wife, played a critical role, helping him in his critical mission of getting one girl on a plane out of Nice, where another girl was to arrive within an hour of that departure.
Only the outgoing girl had lost her passport in the burglary of the night before. There’s more. Have to save for another day.
David Tree. Merry as a barmaid with a bottomless sense of humor and mirth. Wonderfully intelligent. A connosieur of history. A beloved infidel, charmer of beautiful movie stars. Faithful friend.
David finally made his big score through a brave business deal on a Minneapolis ad agency that paid off big time. He retired, returning like all good Englishmen do after decades abroad, to Britain and to London.
When in L.A., he’d always call us, usually on short notice. And we’d meet him at the Peninsula where he always stayed, finding him as always, surrounded by beautiful women who forever delighted in him, and he in them. Then, he’d lead us all off somewhere to dinner, usually Mr. Chow.
About a year ago, he rang. At the Peninsula. But, that time, we had an engagement and couldn’t join.
We learned a few days ago that David died in London earlier this year on the 15th of February. Not having mutual friends in London, we did not immediately know.
So, for us, David Tree was alive for three months more.
And, of course, for us he always will be.
The man described above, doesn’t really go.