George Eastman

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

One of the great thrills of traveling far from home—Nairobi, Cairo, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Amman—was to wake up in the middle of the night and turn on my tiny, portable shortwave radio with a pillow speaker. Suddenly breaking through the myriad static would be “Lillibullero,” the BBC’s signature tune at the top of the hour, always sounding tinny, as though it were coming over an old 78-rpm phonograph. This would be followed by series of beeps and a voice with a very English accent coming out of the blackness of a hotel room in a foreign land: Beep ... Beep ... Beep ...

The king of high-end tchotchkes (Richard Thalheimer, former CEO and chairman of The Sharper Image) and queen of low-end tchotchkes (Lillian Vernon) have been dethroned. Lillian Vernon and Sharper Image—two iconic catalogs—were known to have been struggling in recent years. Their bankruptcies were expected. That they were announced on the same day is astonishing. How could this happen? Both Vernon and Thalheimer launched businesses without paying their dues. Ultimately, neither of them knew what the hell they were doing. Lillian Vernon’s Story In 1933, Lillian Katz’s family fled the Nazis. They left Leipzig, Germany, for Amsterdam, and four years later were lucky enough to

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