Not many parents can say their child is an approved Gerber baby, cute enough to represent the children’s food, clothing and accessories brand. Gilda and I can.
With the passing last week at age 95 of Ann Turner Cook, the original Gerber baby selected in 1928 to represent the brand, there’s been renewed interest in babies that receive the Gerber seal of approval.
Back in July 1983 our 18-month-old daughter Ellie qualified. More precisely, she was a Gerber toddler posing as a Gerber one year old.
Total strangers would tell Gilda how beautiful a baby Ellie was as she was pushed around in her stroller, three-year-old big brother Dan walking alongside. It got so bad we feared all the attention would negatively affect Dan, no slouch himself in the looks department, to keep hearing praise of his sister and nary a word about how handsome he was.
So how did Ellie win Gerber’s approval? When she was 18 months old my magazine, Chain Store Age, signed Gerber to run an eight-page advertising supplement featuring its expanded baby accessories product line. We would design, create and print the piece. We always tried to produce supplements at the lowest possible expense, so we asked around our company if anyone had any babies who could model for us. For free.
Gerber wanted babies no older than 12 months. Ellie would have been too old, but since she was small for her age our art director, Milton, submitted some of our family photos for Gerber’s approval which came immediately.
Ellie and Gilda journeyed into Manhattan to the photographer’s studio downtown. Gilda dressed Ellie in Gerber’s pink one-piece pajamas with white sleeves and white Peter Pan collar with stitching along the edge, a bear face outlined across her heart. She was given a bright pink cube to hold.
Uptown in my office I anticipated the beginning of a lucrative child modeling career. Ellie had always had a keen sense of when the camera was focused on her. She became even more lustrous before the lens. With the Gerber photos to be taken that morning we’d have a ready-made portfolio to bring to modeling agencies.
All set for the one hour shoot, Stan (the photographer) pulled down a sheet of white background paper on which Ellie was to stand. She went ballistic! As Gilda related to me, it was the worst hour of her life. Not Ellie’s life. Gilda’s!
Ellie was inconsolable. She cried to the extreme. No amount of cajoling by Gilda or Stan could get her to stop. She pouted and bawled for 60 minutes. Somehow, Stan was able to snap four pictures that could be sent to Gerber. Remarkably, Gerber chose one for the back cover of the supplement. We keep a framed print of that picture in our living room.
Ellie had her moment of stardom, but Gilda advised if I had any hope of a future modeling career for our daughter, I would have to be the one to take her to future shoots.
I chose not to give up my day job.