A Cereal About Pop Culture and Other Things
The move from being an intern at IBM to the world of New
York night life happened purely by accident. The young man was recruited over
time by a bar owner who was planning the opening of a gigantic new night spot.
His first day, he showed up in a suit, white shirt and tie (the tie chosen
carefully to be hip but not overly flamboyant). After a quick trip to the office
supply store, he returned, thinking he'd be set in a gloomy cubicle somewhere.
His job was to participate in the administration of the new club, as well as a
number of other restaurants and bars operated by the same corporation.
"Mom, I've now got a window office in Manhattan. All that school paid
He was astonished when he was shown to an office with built-in cabinets,
wall-to-wall carpeting and brand-new furniture. A microcomputer sat on a
built-in counter, awaiting his ministrations. The telephone (provided by The
Bell System, long before it was broken up by the government) featured four lines
and an intercom. The window looked out upon the garage where CBS employees
parked their cars. He was nonplussed.
A staff of over thirty persons was to be hired. Job openings were duly posted
in the newspapers for positions ranging from dishwasher to lighting technician.
He had no experience whatsoever in human resources, so therefore spent his
nights poring over books and articles about subjects like writing employee
manuals and equal-opportunity employment compliance. The job applications
were finally set in type and printed carefully, including the logo of the
company - a strategy aimed at making the company seem larger than it actually
was. He was to review the completed applications, and set the promising ones
aside for review by a General Manager.
His secretary, Maria, was a pleasant enough woman.
As calls came in responding to the ads in the paper, she duly forwarded them to
him, and when he was busy offered callers the option of calling back or leaving
The first hint of trouble was the first pile of pink message slips that were
deposited on his desk by Maria. First names were scribbled along with phone
numbers. Absent from these messages were the job applied for, last names, time
of call, date, etc. A lunch with Maria was arranged, and he gave her lessons in
message-taking. The next day, he remarkably received no messages. Maria was
queried about the sudden dearth of messages, when there had been literally
dozens the day before.
"I can't talk on the phone and write down all that shit at the same time, so
I just tell them to call back."
The phone on his desk began blinking like a Christmas tree with flashing
lights. Important calls from officials with whom he'd have to go over building
compliance were mixed in with calls from "Tony in the Bronx, I'd like to be a
busboy. Do you guys let the staff do coke?"
He thanked his lucky stars that cocktails were served promptly at one o'clock
in the afternoon by George, the resident lush, who basically sat around reading
the newspaper and magazines like "Vanity Fair." He never did find out what
George's job description was.
The day arrived when the busboys, porters, waiters and valet parkers were all
to be interviewed at once. One by one, he worked through the line of young men
and women. The line was long enough to run down a 70-foot hallway, down the
stairs, and wind its way around the lobby (where the workers putting in the
Italian slate floor were quite perturbed that their handiwork was being scuffed
before the sealer was put on).
There was not a tie worn by a single soul in the sinuous queue, much less a
jacket. Few of the four-page application forms were filled out properly. Most
contained merely a name, address (many "care of"), and social security number.
Previous experience was written in by name, absent any contact name nor
By two o'clock in the afternoon each day, Maria had taken her second hit of
heroin, and fell asleep at her desk, occasionally snoring loudly. He felt any
control he had left over the situation falling through his fingers like dry sand
lifted up at the beach.
"Sir," he addressed the tall young man in front of him, "may I call you by
your first name?"
"Yeah, call me Bart. I'm Bart, the dancing waiter." The man's voice was
exactly like Harvey Fierstein's distinctive gravelly yet somehow
"You've not included on your application whether or not you've served in the
"Eh, you know, the Army, the Navy..."
"Aw, I ain't been in the Navy, but I can tell you I've been in a
couple of sailors, darling. Hahahahahaha!" Bart laughed a peculiar laugh, a noise similar to a
And so began his life in New York nightlife.
By the way, (a) Bart got hired, and ended up working there for nearly ten
years; (b) Maria was fired in a cost-cutting measure after five years (they attached an answering machine to the young man's office extension phone); (c) George, it turns out, was a retired Vaudeville and night club performer, who taught the young man more about show-biz than anyone else in his life.
Chapter Two Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5