Mary “Mickey” Diage, a longtime advertising director at Capitol Records, where she worked for 40 years from 1963 to 2003, died on May 21 from pulmonary fibrosis. She was 82.
Diage was among the first women to have a “seat at the table” at a major label, according to an announcement of her death. During her time at Capitol, she worked with everyone from the the Beatles to Radiohead. She began her four-decade run at the company just as EMI and Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein convinced Capitol to release “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the U.S. in December 1963. Her first job consisted of stuffing and mailing press kits for the band.
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Former Capitol vice president of advertising and marketing Bill Burks remembered Mickey as “a trailblazer at a time when women were woefully underrepresented among the ranks of music business executives. She was a woman of unimpeachable integrity and rigorous honesty, as intelligent as she was witty.”
Mickey’s marketing, advertising and merchandising skills came into play on several successful Capitol artist campaigns including for Ricky Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole (and later his daughter Natalie), Glen Campbell, Grand Funk Railroad, the Raspberries, Cocteau Twins, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Ashford & Simpson, Tina Turner, Heart, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Crowded House, Steve Miller and Radiohead.
Diage was key in convincing management to streamline advertising systems, creating and organizing the label’s first in-house ad agency – known as the “Ninth Floor” – which resulted in a first-year cost savings of over $5 million. Mick Kleber, former Capitol vice president of video production, recalled, “I loved her fearless frankness. She earned broad respect by demonstrating and demanding professional responsibility and relentlessly closing the supervision loop.”
A lifelong L.A. native, Mickey was born on July 7, 1937, growing up in a progressive Irish Catholic household and attended Immaculate Heart College, continuing her studies at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Los Angeles City College and UCLA.
Upon graduation, Mickey found work with the Broadway department store in Hollywood. From there she moved on to work as a page at NBC, followed by stints with ad agencies Carson Roberts and DDB, before eventually landing at Capitol.
Proud of her heritage, Mickey established a St. Patrick’s Day tradition at Capitol that entailed wearing green and imbibing Irish Coffee in her office.
A private service for Mickey Diage was held on May 29 at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, where she was laid to rest with her late sister Ann. A memorial gathering in celebration of Mickey’s legacy will be held at a later date. Donations in Mickey’s memory may be made to Doctors without Borders and her alma mater Immaculate Heart High School.