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"Here's a tape of our little visit."
April 10, 2014 2:39 AM   Subscribe

In 2000, Conan O'Brien taped a comedy segment at the NYC offices of Foote, Cone & Belding. The premise: take a chainsaw-wielding furniture huckster from Texas, and try to turn him into a star using a top-tier ad campaign. In the segment, Conan is introduced to a team of FCB copywriters, who dutifully come up with an appropriately ridiculous TV ad.
The segment went as planned; Just another remote for Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Little did he know where it would lead. Conan and one of the on-camera copywriters took a shine to each other, and stayed in touch. Two years later, Conan O'Brien and Liza Powel were married. Today they live in Hollywood with their two kids.
In a 2012 interview, Conan told CNN's Piers Morgan: "Somewhere, in the vault at NBC, there's footage of me literally falling for my wife on camera."
Roll the tape.
posted by Silky Slim (46 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
I could hear the audio on Vimeo, but I couldn't see anything. Curiosity compelled me to look on Youtube, and here it is. The thing that mostly jumps out at me is that Conan looks about 16 years old.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:50 AM on April 10


Until I got to the sentence about the on-camera copywriter, I was sure this was going to be about the furniture huckster's new History Channel reality show.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 AM on April 10 [8 favorites]


I am really disappointed that this is not a post about the life and times of Hilton the Chainsaw Guy.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:00 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's just a phase I'm going through, but *awww*, god damn it, Hilton is just adorable in that lead up piece.

(So I guess that someone, somewhere in the NSA has footage of me, aah hum, literally gee-gawing for [Hilton - 14 years] while watching my computer. Can you feel the incipient inception?)
posted by pjm at 4:10 AM on April 10


Hilton the Chainsaw guy is destined to make a living as a cut-price Tom Cruise impersonator.

Would someone tell me what he is saying when he explains the "That's the Fact Jack" bit? It sounds like "well, when we moved into the building, we didn't have any capratude to do anything." Huh?

She's cute and that is a nice story.

And Piers Morgan is a twat.

And Conan's hair quiff is growing Big Boy sized with the years
posted by C.A.S. at 4:20 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I think it was "capital"?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:24 AM on April 10


I only saw Liza falling for Conan. She was /so/ into him.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:33 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Aren't we all?
posted by Optamystic at 4:51 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I only saw Liza falling for Conan.

Really? To me she just seemed sort of "there" through the whole clip. When the dark-haired lady with the mile-wide grin showed up later on at the conference table, I was sure she was gonna be the one.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:02 AM on April 10


I fell in love with Hilton.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:40 AM on April 10


I fell in love with capratude.
posted by chavenet at 5:41 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


capratude! its gonna win the internets if we play this right
posted by C.A.S. at 5:42 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


With a man that powerful, connected and responsible for her career in the immediate, how could she possibly say no to a date with a critical client adorable hunk?

I'm glad it turned out well in the end, but man. I've seen it end very, very badly, and usually not for the guy in charge.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:51 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


It's not really on topic but the main thing I got out of this post was the image of a Foot Cone designed to help people who have an unpleasant habit of biting their tonails.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:39 AM on April 10


With a man that powerful, connected and responsible for her career in the immediate, how could she possibly say no to a date with a critical client adorable hunk?

I'm glad it turned out well in the end, but man. I've seen it end very, very badly, and usually not for the guy in charge.


Lots of things often go badly. I'd like to, this time, focus on when it went well.
posted by josher71 at 6:41 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]


Hmm, yeah, that's kind of a weird derail about a relationship.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:49 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Upworthy headline: The most romantic story involving a chainsaw humping maniac you'll see today!
posted by Think_Long at 6:57 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


I put this story on the vimeo link, as a little gift for people who stumble on it in years to come.
posted by jscott at 7:02 AM on April 10


Lots of things often go badly. I'd like to, this time, focus on when it went well.

The circumstances and context here are like a black hole from which no fun can escape to reach my brain despite the black hole having a magic wormhole that lead to happy times and the opposite of !FUN! after all was said and done.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:12 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


We need Stephen Hawking's explanation of the wormhole's inability to allow fun to escape from that black hole.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:29 AM on April 10


For those who'd prefer not to watch Piers Morgan in the oleaginous flesh, here's the transcript:
MORGAN: Let's start with love. How many times have you been properly in love in your life?

O'BRIEN: As you know, I'm married. So there is one answer to that. That is once.

MORGAN: Is that the diplomatic answer?

O'BRIEN: I would say properly in love, yes, my wife, Liza.

MORGAN: You've never had your heart broken before that?

O'BRIEN: It wasn't a woman. It was a cat that betrayed me. We don't want to talk about the animals. Yes, I would say I -- I'm going to go with my answer, my wife. My beautiful wife. She's my only true love.

MORGAN: When did you realize she was the one?

O'BRIEN: Instantly.

MORGAN: Was it instantly?

O'BRIEN: I'm just giving you the answers that are going to make it all OK for me. Don't screw with this, OK? Instantly, I knew right away. Yeah, actually I did know very quickly. We were -- it was being shot for television, so somewhere in the vault at NBC there's footage of me literally falling for my wife on camera. It's --

MORGAN: What was it about her?

O'BRIEN: She -- well, to be crass, she's incredibly beautiful. So that was the first attention getter. And I'll admit that does work occasionally on a guy. Ladies, little trick for you. When you're really beautiful, that can work sometimes. And then what was nice is that we just talked on the phone for a while. That was our relationship, because I'm impotent. Is any of this going to get in the papers, do you think? This won't get out.

So we -- we -- but we did talk on the phone for a while, and she's very intelligent and funny, and a really good person. So the nice thing is that that was the basis of the relationship. So I just knew.
When O'Brien was summing up his career on his last appearance as host of The Tonight Show, he said, "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."—which turns out to cover his romantic life as well.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:33 AM on April 10 [11 favorites]


The whole ad was chainsynched. I hate when they do that.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:53 AM on April 10


We didn't have the carpatude.
posted by Kabanos at 8:02 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Doktor Zed favorited for oleaginous.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:30 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Oleaginous flesh
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 AM on April 10


Yeah, I think that's a bit of an unfair derail. It was just one little comedy bit, not like they were consulting with NBC for months and months and had millions of dollars riding on the outcome. Lots of famous people marry non-famous people and they have to meet somehow.

And I will say that my experience in an ad agency was that, well, not that sleeping around was rampant, but more than one relationship was formed, so to speak, across the conference table. She was a professional, I'm sure she knew what she was getting into.

Back to the topic, at 2:25 the camera swings around and she is, well, just jazzed. I mean, meeting protocol would have you turn your head to listen to the speaker, but her eyes are all for Conan! And there's a short glance with a warmth to it while Hilton is speaking about "capratude", and a wow, what a dreamboat look while leaning on her arm at about 7:07. My video analysis then, is: smitten.

Conan looks about 16 years old.

In the early years of the show that was a frequent self-deprecating thing he'd say about himself, so, yes.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


Is it Carp-a-tude, Crap-a-tude, or Capra-tude? Was he saying they didn't have the bottom feeding fish-like tenacity to change the sign? They didn't give a crap about changing the sign?

I heard Capratude, the Frank Capra-like believe in the everyman to change the system to make sense given the sign they were stuck with on the shop.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:26 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Tom Cruise? No, not really. Hilton is 1980s Bill Paxton, who is just coming off Weird Science and Aliens and gets a small part in something (not Near Dark, something else) and decides to do something a little different with his voice, and even nearly thirty years later, he winces a little when he thinks about it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:50 PM on April 10


We here in Houston have a tradition of over-the-top furniture dealers. You'd think that Jim "Mattress Mack" McInvale would be sui generis -- he of "We'll Save! You! Money!" -- and yet, Hilton's not the only imitator. He was also rather more successful than the "hick" as portrayed on Conan -- his store is still there, and he had enough cash to own a WNBA team when we had one of those.

Fuqua is on the other side of town from Mack, though.
posted by uberchet at 1:56 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


There's something bizarrely likable about Mr. Hilton , despite him seeming a little bit of a 'huckster,' as the intro said. I'm happy to say that Hilton Furniture is still around at http://www.hiltonfurnitureandmattress.com/ , complete with Mr.Hilton's intonation of the "That's a Fact Jack" slogan (and XYZ-FACT phone number!).
posted by Yowser at 2:18 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


In the early years of the show that was a frequent self-deprecating thing he'd say about himself, so, yes.

Oh, I remember. (Because I am also old.) But it's still freaky to see. A few months ago I saw an early 90s clip of a young Jon Stewart interviewing a young Conan, and damn. They looked like their own nephews or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:22 PM on April 10


how could she possibly say no to a date with a critical client adorable hunk

Who thinks this way? You're assuming Conan was being a creep about it. He could have said he knew it was a little improper, and that there was no pressure for her to say yes. We have no idea.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:20 PM on April 10


I don't think it was "capratude", I think it was "captitude", a spoonerism of capacity + aptitude
posted by Bugbread at 4:55 PM on April 10


You're assuming Conan was being a creep about it.

Anyone who approaches someone romantically while in a position of authority over them or who can otherwise directly influence the direction of their professional life is, by definition, being a creep. This was true even in the '90s. I'm glad it worked out and all, but... it's not as heartwarming as I would prefer.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:02 PM on April 10


Slap*Happy: "Anyone who approaches someone romantically while in a position of authority over them or who can otherwise directly influence the direction of their professional life is, by definition, being a creep."

Ok, maybe I'm missing something, but does it say anywhere that he approached her romantically while he was working with her? Is this just one of those MeFi things where we assume the worst in people by default?
posted by Bugbread at 7:49 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


eHarmony has a poll, not scientific, but which jibes with what I've generally understood.

The largest number of respondents -- 37.8% -- said that they met their spouse through work or school.

Another unscientific poll by DearWendy.com found again a plurality -- 31.81% -- who met their spouse at work or at school.

So clearly, even though we all know there are conditions where making googly eyes at someone who's making googly eyes at you might still risk creepiness, a lot of people are doing it and making a big deal about one of these situations that worked out is a little off-putting. The ones that end up in successful marriages are pretty much not going to be the ones where there was a creep factor.

BTW, just watched The Shop Around the Corner. James Stewart was Margaret Sullavan's supervisor, and then her manager! He even strategically lied to her. It's generally considered one of the best romantic comedies of the classic era.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 PM on April 10


Anyone who approaches someone romantically while in a position of authority over them or who can otherwise directly influence the direction of their professional life is, by definition, being a creep. This was true even in the '90s. I'm glad it worked out and all, but... it's not as heartwarming as I would prefer.

Yes, they sure dodged a bullet! Conan should have played it safe and approached a fellow celebrity talk show host. I hear Roseanne Barr was single at the time.

In all seriousness, Conan sounds like a classy Catholic guy, so what is the big deal here?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:26 PM on April 10


And I certainly don't want to turn this into another whacha reading thread, but the Guardian just had this handy guide (written by a woman):

Flirtation or sexual harassment? Here's how to tell the difference
Strange though it seems to have to keep reiterating it, the difference between sexual harassment and flirting is really fairly clear. It's actually quite insulting to the vast majority of men to suggest that they aren't perfectly capable of knowing the difference between complimenting someone, starting a flirty conversation, and harassing them. The clue is in the name: harassment. And if you're hoping to end up in bed with someone, of whatever gender, it's really in your interests to steer clear of harassing them, as it's likely to be fairly unhelpful to proceedings.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 AM on April 11


I'm kinda hung up on that "by definition" part. Do I need to buy a better dictionary, or what? It's missing so many things that people say are "by definition".
posted by Bugbread at 12:18 AM on April 11


Don't mind the obligatory thread turd. By definition, a thread turd is something at least one person feels compelled to do in order to signal their profound sociopolitical awareness to others. I do get it and I've seen it but this isn't it and Conan's love story isn't subject to anyone's approval
posted by aydeejones at 2:53 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


Anyone who approaches someone romantically while in a position of authority over them or who can otherwise directly influence the direction of their professional life is, by definition, being a creep...
posted by Slap*Happy

Less "Slap*" more "Happy", please.
posted by Optamystic at 4:41 AM on April 14


Happy to see co-workers become former co-workers (note the plural) because they told someone "no, I just want to do my job" or said "yes" and things didn't work out? Sure. Why not? You've convinced me, and I also now believe the rich and popular should definitely get a free pass, especially if it happens to follow the fairytale script. We should only get upset if their bad behavior leads to someone being ruined, and not disapprove of it in principle.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:57 AM on April 14


....but....they weren't co-workers. She was working at an ad agency and he was working for a television show. This is like when I went to get a ticket for a show at the box office to The Bottom Line and ended up getting into an amazing conversation with the box office guy about comics that lasted 3 hours and ended up with us making out and we dated 3 months; my requesting a ticket from him did not make us co-workers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 AM on April 14


He was a client, not a customer. With clients, there is expectation of future work - and from the perspective of the agency and those who worked there, why wouldn't Conan try this schtick again if it was a popular segment? This means he's not only a collaborator and co-worker, he's her boss.

OK, I get it, the charmed and charming are all exceptions, and this time it's different and I'm not seeing the Big Picture and... I'll just drop it, lest it become a point-counterpoint round robin of disappointment.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:33 AM on April 14


Firstly, it was furniture guy who was the client, not Conan.

Secondly, if you honestly think that the ad agency thought this would be an ongoing client relationship, then....actually, that's endearingly naive, I can't bust your chops about that after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 AM on April 14


Conan is not Letterman.
posted by Optamystic at 6:34 AM on April 14


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