By Ray Schultz
I should have known better than to get involved with Mo Moss. A few years ago, trying to do him a favor, I hired his troubled son Yale as an editorial intern. He spent the summer texting his girlfriends, and in the fall, I had to tell him there was no job for him.
Mo called me right up. “You’re dead in this industry!” he said. “If you ever show up at a conference, I’ll bring you down!”
I’d heard that several times from Mo, as had many other people. Thus, Mo was the last person I expected to receive a Silver Apple Award, but he got one last year, probably due to a clerical error.
There he was, well-tanned from sunning himself in his new home in Tampa, his pony tail now silver. We greeted each other warmly, and his wife Wendy gave me a peck on the cheek. You couldn’t help but feel good for the old crook.
In his acceptance speech, though, Mo launched into a bitter tirade about how he should have gotten the award years ago. “For what I’ve done, I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame,” he said.
A dreadful pall descended over the event, and even the excellent wine failed to relieve it. A day or two later, Yale Moss called and demanded to see me. I wanted nothing to do with Yale (or with Mo), but my judgment failed me, and I visited him at the new Data Shack.
As you may recall, the old Data Shack was in a Quonset hut on the side of the Ridgewood, Queens subway yards. It has since been torn down for a condominium, and Yale now works in a desk-share place in Williamsburg.
His corner of it seems to be a small sliver of a long conference table, but it’s all he needs to sell Mo’s old Proclivities Database, an out-of-date list of bulimics, alcoholics, opioid abusers, and Mlllennials who have moved back in with their parents.
We sat down on a pair of couches, and drank hot chocolate laced with hot shots of caffeine. Yale, dressed in a knit hat, a Bernie Sanders sweatshirt and shorts, said, “I’ve never liked you. But here’s the deal. We need you to help get my dad into the DMA Hall of Fame.”
I thought about that for a minute, my head reeling from the caffeine. Obviously, this was going to be a pro bono project.
“Yale, that’s not so easily done,” I said. “It’s not like the Silver Apples–even the greatest direct marketers sometimes don’t get in until after they’re dead.”
“Are you saying my dad isn’t a great direct marketer?” He glared at me in a threatening way. (He’s a full foot taller than Mo).
“Not at all, Yale. All I’m saying is that it will be tough to do even for someone with Mo’s, uh, accomplishments.”
“Spread a little money around,” he answered. “Let me know what your expenses are.”
I’d never heard of anyone buying their way into the Hall, and I sure wasn’t going to lay out my own cash, assuming I even had any. But I figured I could at least fill out the application, so I Googled Mo to get some material, and came up with the following:
1984: Federal Trade Commission vs. Data Shack, Data Hut, Wendy Moss Lifestyles, Mo Moss, Moe Moss, Wendy Moss, et al. Re: False Advertising
1988: Supreme Court of New York: Uni-Mail Lists vs. the Data Hut, Illegal List Conversion
1988: Supreme Court of New York: Prescott Lists vs. The Data Shack; theft of mailing lists
1988: U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, R.L. Polk vs. The List Hut; List Abuse, theft of property
1994: NY Attorney General vs. List Hut, Wendy Moss Lifestyles; commercial fraud; $350,000 settlement
1994, U.S. Bankruptcy Court: Moss Equities d/b/a/ The Data Hut, the Data, Shack, Wendy Moss Lifestyles. Chapter 13. Assets: $8,750, Debits: $1.75 million
1994: DM News: “Moss Bankrupt; List Managers Burned”
1998, U.S. Attorney General vs. Data Shack, Mo Moss, Hy Moss, Wendell Moss; John Doe, civil issue; misrepresentation; consent decree
2004—U.S. District Court, Middle District Florida, InfoGroup vs. The Data Shack; nonpayment $85,009
2004, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District Florida, Moss Properties, d/b/a/ the Data Hut, the Data Shack, Chapter 11. Assets: $300, Debits: $85,009
2008: Tampa, Hillsborough Circuit Court, John and Brenda Stevens vs. Mo and Wendy Moss, illegal construction
What a record: About the only “positive” reference was a Chief Marketer article titled, “Big Data, the Big Lie: Why You Need the Proclivities Database,” that I had ghosted for Mo.
I filled out the application as best I could, wondering when I became an unpaid employee of the Data Shack. Then I waited for the Hall of Fame entrants to be announced. Mo didn’t even make the long list.
Yale called me. “You’re dead in this industry!” he said. “If you ever show up at a conference, I’ll bring you down!”
Thanks, Yale. Strangely, there were no hard feelings in Tampa: At Christmas, Mo sent me a large tin of caramel popcorn. We’ll try again next year.