Sunday, September 19, 2010

PICKING THE WRONG DAISY: A CONELRAD CORRECTION

Imposter Daisey GirlFaux Daisy Girl Birgitte Olsen on CBS Eye on People in 1998 

PART I: TOO EASY

When we first posted our interview with the woman we thought was the Daisy Girl in 2007, we wrote that she proved to be “easy” to find. That should have been a major red flag that something was amiss. But we presented Birgitte Olsen as the star of the infamous 1964 political advertisement anyway. We did this because we felt we had more than adequately substantiated her claim to fame.

Specifically, we did the following:

  1. We found Ms. Olsen through the office of a key creative participant in the ad (Tony Schwartz) and we were provided with a 1998 audio recording of Mr. Schwartz interviewing both Birgitte Olsen and her mother about the experience of shooting the commercial. During this conversation the name of Ms. Olsen’s childhood agent came up: Monica Stuart.[1]

  2. We learned from Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) that a “Monica Stewart” (sic) represented the star of the Daisy ad (a representative from DDB informed us that they did not have the name of the “talent” for the commercial, only her agent).[2]

  3. We obtained a 1998 CBS Eye on People cable television segment narrated by Paula Zahn that presented Birgitte Olsen as the Daisy Girl. In Olsen’s on-camera interview for the piece, she discusses her memories of filming the Daisy commercial.[3]

  4. Birgitte Olsen claimed to be the Daisy Girl when originally contacted and interviewed by CONELRAD in 2006. She maintained this claim to a New York Times reporter for an unpublished article on CONELRAD’s research in 2007.[4]

PART II: SOMETHING OF A SHOCK

In the years since CONELRAD’s original Daisy Girl interview was published (and since taken down) no one had ever come forward to dispute our story. Thanks largely to CONELRAD, Birgitte Olsen’s name has gone on to become linked to the iconic commercial role in a variety of online sources.[5] So it came as something of a shock when in August of 2009 we received a series of e-mails vehemently challenging our presentation of Ms. Olsen as the Daisy Girl. Because there was no explanation accompanying these missives, we asked for proof. We got it – and then some. We are now certain that Birgitte Olsen is not the person who appears in the Daisy ad. We sincerely regret our mistake and apologize to all of our readers.

But if Birgitte Olsen isn’t the Daisy Girl, who is?

CONELRAD has spent a significant amount of time investigating the claim of Ms. Olsen’s challenger. The results of our research confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that Monique Corzilius is the person who appears in the Daisy ad as it was broadcast on September 7, 1964 (and re-run endlessly to this day).

Child Adult ComparisonMonique Corzilius in the 1964 Daisy ad and in 2009 

Screengems-Tax-1964 CONELRAD’s research indicates this tax slip is evidence of payment for the Daisy Ad

The following key components are what support our conclusion:

  1. A November 5, 1964 New Jersey Courier newspaper article that names Monique as the child actress in the Daisy ad.

  2. A December 8, 1964 letter from Time magazine to Monique’s grandmother that references her granddaughter as being in the shot from the Daisy ad that appears on the collage cover of the newsweekly’s September 25, 1964 issue.

  3. An August 19, 1965 letter from the Democratic National Committee to Monique’s father concerning the Daisy ad and Monique’s appearance in it.

  4. Photographs and film that illustrate the similarities of Monique as a child and the Daisy Girl.

  5. Payment documents from 1964 to Monique from Screen Gems / Elliot Unger & Elliot – the company that produced the Daisy spot for DDB.

  6. Ample documentation that Monique worked as a child model and actress in New York City during the time period in question. This evidence includes financial records, portfolios and scrapbooks that include clippings on the Daisy ad and a 1965 form letter to Monique from Rod Serling, the then-president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

  7. Interviews with Monique and both of Monique’s parents in which they all share memories of their involvement with the Daisy ad. Quotes from these interviews are included in an accompanying posting entitled “Meet the Real Daisy Girl.”

Comparison Kids TEST  Monique Corzilius in the 1964 Daisy Ad (two left-hand shots) and in a 1965 Kool Pops ad

This body of evidence, when viewed collectively, proves that Monique Corzilius is the Daisy Girl. Of course, many historical events important and trivial continue to inspire spirited debate long after the experts have considered matters settled, so we have no illusions about the finality of this issue. We can only do so much…

Kool Pops-Film Container Kool Pops film container from Corzilius family collection

PART III: THE ‘OTHER’ DAISY GIRL AND HER AGENT REACT 

At this point the reader may be wondering what Birgitte Olsen’s reaction was to her challenger’s story. CONELRAD contacted Ms. Olsen via e-mail and received the following reply on August 10, 2009:

As you know I was very little and had very little to do with the logistics concerning the Daisy spot… As far as I am concerned let it be as she wishes… I know I was paid as a child to do this and Monica [Stuart] at the [William] Schuller ad agency told me this was the fact. With documents to show for it to boot. Yet I have absolutely no debate nor am I interested in taking away what this woman wishes to be, and I am sure there is truth in there. I am certain as in many instances ads are placed with many faces to play the part and one is chosen… [Birgitte concluded her response by referring to herself as “the other Daisy Girl?”].

In her reply Ms. Olsen refers to “documents” that either she or her former agent possesses that prove she was paid to appear in the Daisy ad. Neither Ms. Olsen nor her family has provided CONELRAD with the referenced documents. Moreover, Ms. Olsen and her family have refused to provide CONELRAD with childhood photographs of herself for comparison purposes.[6]

CONELRAD did manage to track down Monica Stuart[7] who informed us that she does not have any documentary evidence of her old client’s appearance in the commercial. However, the retired agent was adamant in her telephone interview that Monique Cozy (the modeling name for Monique Corzilius) was not the girl in the ad: “I know Cozy wasn’t [the Daisy Girl] because she was not one of my kids [clients]… and I was the agent that booked that commercial, so it couldn’t have been her.”

Monica Stuart Monica Stuart, right, 1985

Stuart told CONELRAD that she was “pretty sure” that Birgitte Olsen was the Daisy Girl and that she remembered that the casting person was very clear about what type of child they were looking for: “They kept telling me they wanted sort of a typical all-American little girl…they were very specific about the kind of look they wanted.”[8]

There is evidence that connects Olsen’s former agent to the Daisy ad in the form of a document that is retained by DDB. A representative of the advertising agency would not provide a copy of this document to CONELRAD, but did quote from it. The document cites “Monica Stewart” (sic) as the agent for the “talent” in the Daisy ad, but does not name the star.[9] None of the Democratic National Committee records obtained by CONELRAD from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum mention the little girl or her agent by name.[10] However, it is clear from speaking at length with Ms. Stuart that she had involvement—almost certainly with Olsen—in the final stages of the casting of the Daisy ad.[11]

As Birgitte hints in her August 10, 2009 response presented above, it is entirely possible that she was cast in the ad at one time and maybe even filmed (perhaps as an alternate or “standby”), but that the version with Monique Corzilius was the one that was “chosen” for broadcast. The notion of Olsen as a “standby” actress was dismissed by Ms. Stuart in her telephone interview with CONELRAD, but in a newspaper article published about Monique in 1967 such contingency planning was described as commonplace. In detailing the selection process the article states: “A principal and a substitute are chosen. If the principal gets sick, she loses her chance.”[12] Monique’s mother also confirmed to CONELRAD that “standbys” were common during her daughter’s career and that, indeed, there was one for the Daisy ad.[13] Veteran child actor manager Kathleen Dowd, who has no connection to the Daisy ad, told CONELRAD in an interview that the use of standbys was “standard.”[14]

It should be noted that in a subsequent letter to CONELRAD—after she had had an opportunity to view the Daisy ad and a later commercial featuring Monique Corzilius—Ms. Stuart was more inclined to believe that the same actress was in both ads: “She does seem to have a lot of the same facial quality, although the age difference [between the two ads] appears to have changed her freckles somewhat.” In the same letter Ms. Stuart stated that there may have been two Daisy commercials because the one that she remembers seeing is different from the one that was presented to her by CONELRAD. “The one I remember seeing definitely was Birgitte [Olsen], but the shoot was different. If memory serves me, she seemed to be on a slope or hill, more distant from the camera at first, then came the Daisy scene.” Ms. Stuart also wrote that the hair of the little girl in the commercial she recalls seeing was “unquestionably lighter than Monique’s.”[15]

PART IV: SECOND OPINIONS

CONELRAD got back in touch with Sidney Myers, the Art Director of the Daisy ad, regarding the issue raised by Ms. Stuart. Mr. Myers, who was present at the Daisy location filming, confirmed that it was possible that there was a standby on the Daisy shoot. Sid MyersHe also confirmed that separate footage of two girls might have been shot, but he added that only one girl would have been chosen to proceed with finishing the shoot for the final commercial. He has, however, no direct memory of this actually happening and was adamant that only one spot was produced – not two. Mr. Myers, who was provided a copy of the Daisy ad by CONELRAD, stated that this was the same ad that he worked on and this was the same ad that was broadcast on September 7, 1964. He also pointed out that it was a still from this commercial that wound up on the cover of Time magazine a couple of weeks later. A photograph from this version of the ad also appears in the 1965 edition of the Art Directors Club Annual.[16]

distinctive_merit_award_196

Richard Goodwin claims in his 1988 memoir “Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties” that he viewed 20, 30 and 60 second cuts of the Daisy spot in 1964 when he was a Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, but he does not mention whether a different actress appears in any them. His main observation in this passage is that the 20 second iteration—without Johnson’s voiceover—was the most “cleanly powerful.”[17]

When provided with film of Monique’s 1965 Kool Pops ad, Mr. Myers told CONELRAD he was “80% sure” that it was the same girl who stars in the Daisy ad. When told that Monique was approximately a year older in the Kool Pops ad than she was in the Daisy ad, Myers’ was even more convinced that the same person is in both spots.[18] It is important to repeat here that our efforts to obtain a childhood photograph of Birgitte Olsen were rebuffed by the family. We were unable to independently locate such a picture. Had we been able to provide Mr. Myers with such a photograph for comparison purposes we would have.

At the suggestion of Monica Stuart CONELRAD checked two other sources for possible confirmation of the identity of the Daisy Girl: The Screen Actors Guild and the City of New York – for records of work permits for child performers. Per our source at SAG they have no records for Corzilius or Olsen. A contact at the New York State Department of Labor informed CONELRAD that work permits from 1964 have long since been “purged.”[19] In an October 1, 2009 e-mail Monique conveyed to CONELRAD a statement from her mother that she remembers having to obtain work permits twenty-four hours before “each shoot” and that the permit was then given to the crew with no receipts returned to her.

PART V: CONCLUSIONS

In reexamining all of the facts of the Daisy ad, we understand how Birgitte Olsen could have come to believe that she was the actress in the famous Daisy commercial. She was, after all, very young during the time period in which she may have been considered—and perhaps even filmed—for the role. But questions remain about why she and her mother persisted in their claim for so many years after the commercial became easily viewable on TV re-runs and videotape. Surely they must have known by the time of the CBS Eye on People interview in 1998 that the little girl in the broadcast ad was not Birgitte.[20]

It is unlikely that we will ever know exactly what transpired with regard to the possible dual casting and / or alternate filming of the Daisy Girl back in 1964. The overwhelming weight of the evidence has convinced CONELRAD that Monique Corzilius was and is the real Daisy Girl – the girl who appeared in the ad that aired on NBC on September 7, 1964.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Fred Corzilius, Monique and niece, Chloe, are surrounded by ‘Daisy’ artifacts and daisies

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

CONELRAD would like to thank Monique Corzilius, Fred Corzilius and Colette Brunner for their willingness to be interviewed by Bill Geerhart and for temporarily entrusting him with the many invaluable artifacts from Monique’s childhood career. This article would not have been possible without the family’s cooperation. We would also like to thank Sidney Myers, Monica Stuart, Jeffrey White, Eddie Brian, Kathleen Dowd, Anton Schwartz, Cynthia May and the archivists at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum for their earlier help in researching the many different aspects of this story.

EXHIBITS:

Exhibit Series A: New Jersey Courier Article

Exhibit Series B: Time Magazine Letter

Exhibit Series C: DNC Letter

Exhibit Series D: Monique Corzilius Portfolio Selections

Exhibit Series E: Elliot Unger & Elliot Pay Slip / Screen Gems Tax Document

Exhibit Series F: Modeling Contracts and Miscellaneous Evidence

Fine Print: All of the archival images and documents used in this article were provided to CONELRAD by the Corzilius family and they are used with exclusive permission. No images or documentation from this article may be reproduced without the written permission of the Corzilius family.


[1] Tony Schwartz audio tape interview with Birgitte Olsen and her mother dated April 24, 1998 provided to CONELRAD by Mr. Schwartz’s assistant in 2006. The portion of the interview re: Monica Stuart concerns Stuart getting back in touch with the Olsen family due to renewed interest in the Daisy ad approximately 15 years earlier (1983-1984 – the 20th anniversary of the ad’s first broadcast). Stuart, however, told CONELRAD in a September 20, 2009 interview that she had lost touch with Birgitte Olsen after she stopped working for her as a client. It is not clear how the Olsens got in touch with Schwartz (or vice versa). Mr. Schwartz’s son, Anton, and widow, Reenah, do not recall the circumstances of the Olsens meeting Mr. Schwartz. Mrs. Schwartz does recall that the Olsens (mother and daughter, Birgitte) visited her husband sometime after the 1964 election and then again decades later. This information was conveyed in an August 11, 2009 e-mail to CONELRAD from Anton Schwartz. If the Olsens’ goal was to seek out the most prominent person associated with the Daisy ad, Tony Schwartz would have been that person.

[2] E-mail dated January 7, 2007 from Pat Sloan of DDB to Bill Geerhart.

[3] CBS Productions Presents: P.S. – Eye on People: “Daisy Spot and Birgitte Olsen,” September 1998. See YouTube posting for the complete Birgitte Olsen interview. Note: CONELRAD attempted to locate the producers of this segment to inquire about the methods they used to authenticate the identity of the Daisy Girl, but the one person we were able to find who worked on the segment was an editor, Michael S. McHugh, who was not involved in vetting Olsen. He could not recall the names of any of the producers either (McHugh e-mail responses to Bill Geerhart on September 16, 2009 and November 20, 2009).

[4] CONELRAD’s first contact with Birgitte Olsen was via telephone on August 30, 2006 and our in-person interview with her took place on December 27, 2006; in a September 1, 2007 telephone conversation CONELRAD confirmed with the New York Times reporter covering our research that Olsen reiterated her claim of being the Daisy Girl to him.

[5] The Wikipedia entry on the Daisy ad accessed on November 7, 2009 identifies Olsen as the Daisy Girl and cites CONELRAD as its source. CONELRAD was not the editor on this Wikipedia page addition. Olsen’s name appears connected to the ad in other random Internet searches conducted on the same date.

[6] CONELRAD corresponded with Birgitte Olsen via e-mail on August 10, 2009. In an e-mail dated September 30, 2009 from Olsen’s brother, Frits, we were informed that no childhood photo would be provided to us. It should be noted that CONELRAD reviewed editions of the Academy Players Directory (1963 through 1968) in an unsuccessful attempt to independently locate a childhood photo of Olsen. And in a letter to CONELRAD dated September 24, 2009 Monica Stuart informed us that she had been unable to locate a photo of her former client, Ms. Olsen.

[7] During Monica Stuart’s long career she represented numerous child models and actors including Linda Blair and Emmanuel “Webster” Lewis. See Jet Magazine, February 1985, p. 142 in Google Books for a photo of Ms. Stuart with Mr. Lewis. For Linda Blair reference see “Commercial Stars Learn It Pays to Advertise,” Leo Seligsohn, Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal, November 29, 1972, p.20. Ms. Stuart is now retired, but continues to be active as a volunteer in high school theater productions in Florida. Prior to our interview with Ms. Stuart, CONELRAD provided her with still photographs from the Daisy ad and modeling photos of Monique ‘Cozy’ Corzilius.

[8] CONELRAD telephone interview with Monica Stuart, September 20, 2009.

[9] E-mail dated January 7, 2007 from Pat Sloan of DDB to Bill Geerhart.

[10] Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, DNC Files Series II Box 224.

[11] CONELRAD telephone interview with Monica Stuart, September 20, 2009. CONELRAD believes Ms. Stuart was involved in the Daisy ad for two reasons: Her name is linked to the commercial in DDB’s file and during our conversation with her she stated that Elliot Unger & Elliot filmed the ad (EUE’s production role has been published in more than one source but it is far from common knowledge). Olsen’s professional connection to Stuart has been established through (a.) the April 24, 1998 taped interview with Birgitte Olsen and her mother conducted by Tony Schwartz in which the Olsens bring up the name of the agent in reference to the Daisy ad; (b.) Stuart confirmed that she was Olsen’s agent in our telephone interview with her.

[12] “Given New Title” 1967 newspaper clipping on Monique Corzilius datelined Berkeley Township (New Jersey). Name of newspaper and exact date of publication unknown.

[13] E-mail dated November 20, 2009 from Colette Brunner to Bill Geerhart. Per Brunner, she never knew the name of the standby actress for the Daisy ad.

[14] Telephone interview with Kathleen Dowd, November 20, 2009. Dowd is quoted as a child modeling agent in “Commercial Stars Learn It Pays to Advertise,” Leo Seligsohn, Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal, November 29, 1972, p.20.

[15] Letter from Monica Stuart to Bill Geerhart, December 13, 2009. Note: The other ad CONELRAD provided to Ms. Stuart was Monique Corzilius’s Kool Pops spot (circa 1965).

[16] Telephone interview with Sidney Myers, December 17, 2009. Note: The issue of “standbys” or “alternates” was discussed in a previous telephone interview with Myers on November 20, 2009. The still from the Daisy ad appears on the collage cover of the September 25, 1964 issue of Time magazine and in the 1965 edition of the Art Directors Club Annual (an image can be seen at the bottom of the left-hand margin of page three of the Daisy feature article).

[17] Richard N. Goodwin, Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988), p. 305. CONELRAD attempted to interview Mr. Goodwin for our original article on the production history of the Daisy ad, but he did not respond to a message we left on his answering machine (July 12, 2007) and a fax that we sent to him (July 13, 2007).

[18] Telephone interview with Sidney Myers, October 21, 2009.

[19] Per Colette Brunner in a November 8, 2009 e-mail, Monique Corzilius was not a member of SAG when the Daisy ad was shot. She did join by 1965, however, and CONELRAD has evidence of her membership in the form of a pension document provided to us by the family that is viewable on the Exhibits Page. Confirmation that the child work permits from 1964 had been “purged” came from a representative of the New York State Department of Labor named “Judy” in a return telephone call to Bill Geerhart on October 2, 2009.

[20] Birgitte’s mother, who is recovering from a stroke, could not be interviewed for this article. Frits Olsen informed CONELRAD of Mrs. Olsen’s condition and inability to be interviewed in an August 18, 2009 e-mail.

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