Jobs, Jobs, Jobs - Part 1
Before I had a serious career of being a journalist followed many years later by becoming a musical theatre producer, I had a series of jobs in New York City, after I graduated from Columbia University and lived in a fifth-floor walkup in Greenwich Village.
Like many young women in Manhattan, just out of an Ivy League college in the early 6os, I had a lot of ridiculous jobs work episodes. I was obsessed with the New York scene, with living a glam life, however it came, and with getting to be a young gal about town. I didn’t care about making money or climbing the ladder of success. I didn’t think about my future. Mostly I thought about my brown leather boots and my long curly hair.
I don’t remember how I got any of these jobs. Some of them were silly and meaningless, like being a very part-time secretary, while in college, for the comedians Red Buttons and Alan King, who shared a funky office in the theatre district. I was an English lit student at Columbia. They were well-known celebs at the time, and I typed thank you notes for them on a black Royal typewriter, which was also funky. They paid me, as I recall, $50 a week. Maybe less. I didn’t care. My village apartment, which I shared with a good friend, cost $85 a month, so I was stable and secure.
My very first job out of college was as a secretary for Peter Munves, the head of classical music publicity at Columbia Records. Talk about glam! My desk was in a bullpen with a bunch of other girls, who became my lunch and gossip pals. We saw Mitch Miller and Johnny Mathis and ohmygood! Leonard Bernstein parading through the halls on their way to meetings. We were given 33LP records for doing a good task. I had a growing collection.
I stayed for about a year, until I was promoted to the Publicity Department, typing and taking shorthand for a woman named Deborah something, who had a reputation throughout the company of being a terrifying bitch. She certainly was that. So I left, relinquishing the potential ladder of success in favor of having a good time.
My next job was being an assistant for a music publicist named Connie De Nave. Her clients were the Everly Brothers, Bobby Rydell, and one of the biggest stars at the time, Chubby Checker, the inventor of the dance, The Twist. Connie also publicized the hotly renowned Peppermint Lounge, the Broadway home of The Twist. I spent at least 3 nights a week on duty at the Peppermint as it was identified – mostly dancing. Connie’s younger sister, Donna, also worked in the office and we spent many hours each day perfecting our Twist, to the records of Chubby Checker. That job lasted about 6 months.
Between regular jobs, I worked as a legal secretary, one of the strangest occupations I’ve ever had. I would be called in by law firms when they needed extra help or when a regular secretary was on vacation. I got these gigs through an employment agency to whom I lied, telling them I was experienced in this very specialized field. The firms’ demands entailed my understanding what a Writ of Habeas Corpus or a Petition to Expunge was and how to type one perfectly, so that it wouldn’t be thrown out in court. I would have to sneak around the office to phone one of my attorney buddies to find out what these strange documents were all about and how to type them correctly. I was paid what was a significant amount of for me at the time. But I was always scared of being exposed.
My next full-time job was in the publicity department of Restaurant Associates. RA as it was widely known, managed some of the most celebrated and priciest restaurants in the city, like the Four Seasons and the Forum. And several more. Their tag line was that they were “Innovators in Culinary, Hospitality, and Well-Being.” My only task was to take press folks out to lunch, five days a week, if possible, to pitch them stories. Not reviews – other employees were assigned that task.
It was hardly difficult to get press people to indulge in an over-the-top lunch at, say, the Four Seasons. I had to pitch these writers with the notions that there were gorgeous goings-on behind the scenes, in the kitchen, and that the restaurant of the day had lurid tales to tell. The food was always extraordinary. I got to know the menus intimately, and I gained twenty pounds over the eight months that I worked there.
Three years passed as I rambled through these absurd jobs. In my mid-twenties, I got serious about becoming a journalist and gave up being an overfed flack. I borrowed money from my rich brother, bought a new typewriter and sat down to write.
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