Once upon a time, a little red TV wondered aloud Dear Lee Clows beard... did any birds build a nest in you?...
I hate wrens.
— Lee Clow's Beard (@leeclowsbeard) June 2, 2009
Ha! Songbirds might surround him but Lee Clow's beard is a writer in Texas, Jason Fox. "What? You mean Lee Clow isn't tweeting all hours of the day, surely you jest?" We all knew this already, but lets get to know Jason Fox a little better shall we?
DB: "Ad-celeb" twitter accounts was a bit of a trend for a while, but they were "BogusBogusky" and dead admen like Paul Arden, what made you chose to be the beard of Lee Clow?
Jason Fox: When I started LCB, I was actually quite unaware of the "dead ad guy" trend. Or maybe that trend really hit after LCB started in April 2009. I have three small kids, so timelines tend to get quite jangled in my brain. I was aware of @bogusbogusky, which turned out to be Bob Knorpp's doing. I discovered his account about an hour after registering @bogusalex, which is still around – although I tweet there maybe twice a year. Seems a bit anticlimactic now that Alex is off saving the world from carbon lovers like myself. Anyway. After my initial plans of satirizing advertising were mildly thwarted, I decided to try a different tact. Maybe doing something with a little less pure snark and a bit more inspiration. I didn't want to just swipe someone's identity, but I did want to have the voice come from someone or something that would at least have a reason for sounding smart. So I narrowed it down to anthropomorphizing either Lee's beard or Jeff Goodby's ponytail (my own white-boy 'fro just wouldn't cut it). Since beards denote wisdom, Lee's beard won. Originally, the account was to be a mishmash of ad nuggets along with things an actual beard might tweet, but that direction ran out of steam rather quickly and before few people started following.
DB: You were being very secretive about who you really were behind that beard for a while, were you ever worried that impersonating someones beard might get you in trouble?
Jason Fox: I never thought I'd get in any real trouble. At worst, I thought Lee or someone at Chiat would tell me to just knock it off. Instead, Rob Schwartz invited me to lunch with him and Lee. And then Lee tossed out the idea of doing a book. Surreal is an inadequate description.
DB: Now that you've impersonated Lee's beard so well TBWA/Chiat/Day even published a book of the tweets you made, do people know that it's you writing it?
Jason Fox: People should know that it's me writing it, but many still do not. I've posted many links to stories about the book that feature my identity, as well as links to my own blog recounting the story. My Twitter bio now includes a link to a video by Lee giving his side of the tale. But not everyone sees everything in their Twitter feed and I get that.
What I don't get is when people angrily accuse me of pulling one over on them. I was very careful through the years to not ever claim to be Lee. If someone invited me to speak at their ad club or in class, I'd forward the request on to Chiat and let the people know I was not the Lee they were looking for.
I do think there is still some confusion over what, exactly, I do and what Lee does. As pertains to @leeclowsbeard, Lee does nothing. He views it as my thing. He even had a custom stamp made that he uses when signing copies of the book that reads "I didn't write this book." He's been extremely generous throughout the entire experience, as has the entire team at Chiat that I dealt with. In the end, the account is mine and mine alone. No oversight or editorial dictates by Chiat, aside from not being a jerk.
It is funny to see people quoting LCB and attributing those things to Lee. Such is life. But if I've written something smart enough that people believe a legend like Lee could've said it, well, I can't really complain.
DB: When you started the account, did you ever envision that TBWA/Chiat/Day would run with your spoof account, publish the book, and basically make you a ghost writer for Lee Clow himself?
Jason Fox: Not at all.
Lee Clow himself weighs in:
“The tweets were somewhat of a mystery,” said Lee Clow. “It was all stuff I would have said – advertising and life truisms – stuff I hear all the time from clients and people in the industry. When I found out it was Jason I wanted to meet him. One thing led to another and we decided to make a book.”