July 29, 2007
The name “Hewitt” has been in the industry news a lot this past week, thanks to Joe Hewitt, one of the founders of Parakey, a web-OS start-up which was recently purchased by Facebook. As I mentioned on Twitter, Joe Hewitt is sadly of no relation to Jennifer Love Hewitt, although that would have made a great story. Actually, most people don’t know this, but Hewitt isn’t Jen’s real last name. It was just picked at random, finger in a phone book kind of thing, before she set off to make her way in film, music, and later, the internet. Her actual surname is Coudal.
Years ago, before she was famous, her father Jim was a bigshot on the Chicago ad scene. A leftover from the old days of J. Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett. He’d struck out on his own, setting up a small shop to do marketing, branding, print ads, business cards. Traditional stuff, strictly print media.
Jim was fine with Jen pursuing acting. Didn’t love it —had harbored hopes of her taking over the shop when he retired— but hey, kids and dreams, what can you do. She’d go on a few auditions, realize how hard that life was, and come running back. He’d have her Quadra 650 warmed up and waiting for her. But she got a few commercials, that singing show, and suddenly she was a big star on Party of Five. It was clear she wouldn’t be coming back home soon, but still, he was happy for her. How could he not be? Who doesn’t want to see their kids succeed?
But then she started getting hooked in with a different crowd. She started spending more and more time up in San Francisco. Suddenly it was internet this and internet that. It was the new wave, it was going to change everything. She was a completely different person, almost like she was on drugs or something. Just on and on about how he needed to get more involved “on line,” whatever the hell. Telling him he needed to start learning about web design and browsers and 90 other things he’d never heard of. Telling him how to run his business. Every phone call ended in an argument, until finally they weren’t speaking anymore.
One day, months later, he got a computer disc in the mail, something called “AOL.” He threw it out. A week later he got another. And then another. He was livid. Was this some kind of joke? Jen was doing this? She couldn’t just leave it alone, she was going to keep sending these discs as some kind of message? To hell with her. But then he got another. And another. And another. And slowly he realized: Jen wasn’t sending these discs; everyone was getting them. But maybe they were a sign. Maybe, in some strange way, they were from her.
He got an account and started exploring the web. It hit him almost immediately: she’d been right. God damn it, she’d been right about everything. He found a tutorial online and started learning HTML. He read about FTP and jpgs and the web-safe color palette. He had so many questions, so many things he wanted to ask her. But the things they’d said to each other. They things he’d said to her. It was all so long ago. It was too late. There was nothing more to be done about it—he’d lost her. But he bought a URL and put a small website up at Coudal.com, with his email address and a little animated image of a guy digging a hole, so that everyone would know he wasn’t done working on the site yet.
One day he was at his desk, creating a banner ad when he thought to himself: This can’t be it. There has to be a better way. And just then he noticed he had an email. It was from Jen.
Cool web site, she’d written. I’m proud of you. PS You need to declare a bgcolor.
He replied immediately: SWEETIE, I’M SO SORY. YOU WERE RIGHT…. I’M TRYING TO GET MORE BUSINESS ONLINE BUT IT’S SLOW GOING AND THE ADVERTISING MODEL SEEMS ARCHAIC…. THERE’S GOT TO BE A LESS ANNOYING WAY TO ADVERSITE ONLINE??? LOVE YOU SO MUCH…. DAD
I’m developing something, she wrote. It’s called AdWords, I think you’re going to like it. I’ve also got an idea for how you can generate more page hits and start building some buzz for your company. I call it Photoshop Tennis.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND, he wrote. YOU CAN PLAY TENNIS??? ON THE INTERNET???? LOVE YOU!!!
He almost couldn’t read her reply, for the tears it caused. It’ll be huge. I’ll show you this weekend. I booked a flight home.
She was right. It was huge.