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A Day Which Will Live In Infamy

The phone rang at 2:30 in the morning; making it Monday already. He didn't want to answer it because Mondays were always busy and he needed to sleep. But it rang a long, long time.

"Michael (his boss) wants to speak to you." The caller was Jimmy, one of the floor managers at the club.

"Meet me at the club. Richard (their public relations guy) is gonna be there. See if you can bring your cousin."

The kid at the garage took a while to answer the phone. When he did, he explained that it'd take a good half hour to get his car out because all of the cars set to leave before 9:00 in the morning were parked in front of his. He decided to try his luck at getting a cab on the upper East Side at 2:45 in the morning. Meanwhile, he woke his cousin, Robert, and asked, no, pleaded with him to at the very least find out what'd happened. He knew Robert wasn't going to drive from Long Island to Manhattan in the wee hours of the morning.

This could only be good if the victim was famous.

Within 10 minutes Robert called back, gave him some names of the cops and the Sergeant who'd be working the case. Then, the worst; what nobody who operates a so-called "exclusive night spot" wants to hear. There was a shooting, one body, three injured, lots of blood and even more press.

It took a walk to 2nd Avenue to finally find a cab. He wanted to tell the driver to turn off the music that blared from the car's cheap loudspeaker, but he couldn't risk being any later than he was. The moment the cabbie rolled over the upside of the hill on 57th and 9th and began to descend, he (and the cabbie) could already see the sparkle of probably a half-dozen emergency vehicles and plenty of yellow crime scene tape.

The cabbie insisted on dropping him off at 57th and 11th; so he walked the half-block to the crime scene tape, asked for the Sergeant, and was let under the tape. How ironic, usually, the crowd-control system was red velvet rope, which was unhitched so as to allow entry of those who made the grade. Now, there was no V.I.P. list, the crowd control was yellow plastic tape, and the guy lifting it over the heads of those allowed in was a uniformed police officer.

Where's Steve Rubell When Ya Need Him?

As he waited patiently to be allowed in, Richard, the p/r guy, yelled at him in his signature squawky voice. He was used to Richard's annoying voice, saying things on the phone like "Oh, this is gonna be a publicity coup, my friend, just wait 'till I tell Joey Adams and the folks at Interview Magazine.

Tonight Richard's voice was anything but happy. "Get me in there!" he shrieked. A police officer was told the identity of the shrieking man in the fancy hat and camel-hair coat, and after a few questions were asked and answered, he, too, was let in under the yellow tape.

The first thing he did was go upstairs to the office. A few scared staff members were being questioned in the conference room, and his own office was occupied by his boss, a couple of detectives, and one or two uniforms. Harold had not, apparently, been reachable and he was as afraid as his boss was that somebody, perhaps a coat-check girl or bathroom attendant, had gleefully made a statement to the police, or worse, to the media waiting like wolves outside.

"What'd they get when you came in?" his boss was obviously shaken. "Oh, my cousin gave me a crime scene description. The body's at St. Lukes-Roosevelt. Where're the injured?"

His boss spat back at him, "I don't care about that! How many idiots with cameras are out there?"

"Channel 2 made it 'cause they're right down the street. I doubt that NBC or ABC're gonna send anyone this late in the game. The Post is there, so's the Daily News, but I think that's about it. Richard's downstairs. Now, the first thing we gotta do is get all of these cops some coffee. Pronto."

Coffee, tea or blood?

"You're kidding. Fuckin' coffee?!" his boss was nonplussed.

"I'm telling you, Robert said that the best thing you could do was keep 'em happy and warm. And break out a bottle of Paddy while we're at it, for the higher-ups. It's late and they're pissed off. We gotta talk to them; whether or not Harold's here.

It took a good half-hour to get the shivering waiter who'd witnessed everything to give his story up. Two hot-heads were after the same girl, and the one who lost out went out to his car and came in gunning for the guy who got her. Ricochet was responsible for the injury of a bouncer and, sadly, Marie from the coat check. Marie's brother was senior floor manager. She was a sweetheart, and he hoped she was okay. He asked one of the uniforms where she was taken. Again, St. Lukes-Roosevelt. He hoped she wasn't sitting in the E.R. when they rolled the stiff by. Needless to say, all of this information from the waiter was heard by not a single cop. He and Michael had squeezed the kid for it after hauling him into the upstairs bathroom. None of the uniforms even knew there was a bathroom up there, much less were they watching it.

Nobody wanted to do the coffee deed; they were all shuffling around, so he took the keys to Jimmy's car and went down 11th to an all-night diner and told them to give him 50 coffees with sugar and cream on the side. Could they deliver? Nope. Not at this hour. Every second seemed like a minute; every minute seemed like a whole afternoon.

When he arrived with the coffee a couple of uniforms helped him bring it in. It was good that he went. They'd listen to him 'cause ostensibly he cared. He was already sipping his own coffee and talking with the Sergeant when Michael came downstairs. He took the lead, asking the Sergeant to show them both the details, and confirming that they'd taken all the photos and samples. He got a good look at what was all over the floor and the walls, turned around, and vomited into a standing ashtray.

The Arrival of Clarence Darrow

"You ain't like your cousin, huh?" The sergeant was saying this for the ears of the uniforms around. It was a peculiar way of thanking him for the coffee.

"I, er, am very tired and frankly could use a drink." This was the 'okay' signal to the Sergeant that he was gonna make sure that a grimy, grisly, cold evening was about to get slightly less unpleasant. Simultaneously, much to his surprise, Harold the attorney showed up. Hung over, but looking dapper as usual.

They all took seats and he took drink orders. As he poured, Harold took the time to come over and tell him, "You don't tell them a fucking thing until I tell you it's okay. Gimme some vodka and orange juice."

This is why he hated Harold. If it was once it was a million times that Harold told him to keep his mouth shut. Not in a tone appropriate for what he meant to the organization; no. Harold spoke to him like he spoke to everyone except the guys with the checkbook; like a janitor.

He walked away and noticed two uniforms with rheumy eyes focused on the bottle of vodka like a hunter's sight on distant prey. He lowered the bottle onto the under-bar, poured lots of it into two soda glasses and filled them with cola. The two members of New York's Finest couldn't have been happier

"So far as we know, a person or persons without permission to be on the premises discharged a firearm which was secreted upon their person. None of our employees were nearby nor present at the time the firearm was discharged."

Amazement was a woefully inadequate way to describe what Michael and he thought of the the sole and official statement of the establishment Harold gave to the police.  This thing was open and shut; there were obviously witnesses; the busboy trembling with fear upstairs being one (who, by the way, spilled most of the beans to a detective while Harold was downstairs being arrogant). And Ricky the bouncer and Marie the coat-check girl must've  seen something. Only an idiot would think otherwise. This was Harold's modus operande. He liked to act as if he were above the law, and then when finally confronted (and typically having irritated many people who could potentially be of help) he'd let the facts slither out, bit by bit. Sadly, this situation of serious import was no exception. Thus spake Harold. That was it. The part about not having permission to be on the premises could potentially be dashed to bits should the police catch the shooter and find a ticket stub on his person. It was beyond insane.

He wasn't surprised when the Sergeant slammed down his drink, and told all the uniforms to go home. By now, the sun was shining just barely red and swollen in the New York sky's swirling sentence, punctuated by smokestacks and skyscrapers. He went home, too. Michael kindly dropped him off. They knew that in a few hours another business day would start, and the events of the night before would emerge as if they were a living thing. Neither one of them could guess what type of animal it would be. In this business, sometimes the most hideous monster becomes an obedient pet dog. Such dogs could be told to perform tricks; not on the sidewalk but in the halls of jurisprudence. Occasionally, the hideous monster remains such, and must be caged and beaten with the sticks of public relations, lies and half-truths told under oath, sometimes for years, until the monster finally dies, not without leaving behind a trail of blood and well-picked bones.

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 4

Damage control is a reactive measure of dealing a particular issue or problem, when said issue or problem is, or is appearing to be, unavoidable. The idea is that if a disaster is about to happen, the best you can do is to reduce the fall-out, by limiting the impact of the problem.

The phrase 'damage control' is used in many different fields, including the war on drugs ("we can't stop it, but we can try to help people who have fallen prey to drugs"), natural disasters ("we can't stop the tornado, but we can evacuate people"), accidents ("I couldn't stop from crashing my car, but the airbag and seat belt prevented me from death") and in public relations ("The British prince didn't really mean that you'll go all slitty-eyed if you stay in Japan for too long" - ref Prince Philip).

Damage control is often seen as an absolutely last resort, as it isn't as much a solution to a problem as a (partial) solution to the symptoms of a problem.

Damage control (also sometimes known as fallout management, damage reduction, or damage management) is only as good as its preparations: Good emergency procedures and emergency planning are paramount to a successful damage control exercise. To go back to our car accident example: If your car doesn't have an air-bag, trying to fit one as you realise you are going to crash is not going to do any good.

Damage control is also the title of a role on a battleship in action - whenever a ship gets hit by shells, bombs or torpedos, the damage control team try to take action to prevent the ship from sinking.

Due to damage control in the form of spin by spin doctors in the field of public relations, "damage control" has - perhaps unfairly - taken on a negative connotation.

Despite being a thankless task, governments are expected to have plans in place to reduce damage in case of, say, a terrorist attack. There is a whole industry which deals with disaster recovery, including planning, modeling of disaster scenarios, etc.

Failure to prepare for such disasters (think hurricane Katrina, the malfunctioning levees, and the paltry response of the US government in the aftermath of the disaster) can cause significant lack-of-faith issues in a current administration.


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