“I just turned 89,” Jackie Robinson of Advertising, Roy Eaton told me. I ran into him this morning on Roosevelt Island in New York City, the community we both call home. Then, he told me about his upcoming gigs at the piano.
It’s Roosevelt Island Day, sunny and warm as usual, and I’m leaving the fair after taking some photos for tomorrow’s early edition. There’s Roy on his way home from the farmers market. A recyclable bag filled with fresh produce is propped on his walker.
Roy’s a wonder. A child prodigy as a classical pianist in the late 40s, he went to fight in Korea. He came home awake to the realization that he had to earn a living.
In the mid 50s, he broke the color line on Madison Avenue, just as Jackie Robinson did for major league baseball. He was hired by Young and Rubicam, the first African American in the business during the Mad Men era.
Before saying goodbye to advertising, leaving behind a string of tunes and jingles Americans hummed after hearing them on television, he moved in to management and started his own business.
Inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame (just as Jackie Robinson landed in Cooperstown), Roy returned to music. He performs regularly, slowed some by a stroke in 2018.
He fulfills his annual, weeklong residency as a lunchtime featured artist in Bryant Park.