Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (conclusion)

Erbach was probably disappointed that I had quit the Writers Guild-East office boy job before completing the task of coordinating the annual scripts award-judging process by Guild members. And after reading my letter of resignation which contained criticisms of the Writers Guild's liberal politics from a New Left perspective, he probably also felt that I unrealistically expected too much from both the Writers Guild-East and from my Writers Guild office boy job.

If all I wanted from the Writers Guild was a steady paycheck, good benefits,health care insurance and a chance in the future to eventually be in line for an administrative assistant position in the union office, the Guild could give me that. But if I expected the Guild to lead some kind of crusade against institutional racism, institutional sexism and U.S. militarism within the U.S. television network world, then I would never be satisfied with working at the Guild. And it was probably best for me to move on to some other job elsewhere, in which I wouldn't feel I was compromising my principles as much.

So Erbach did not bother to reply to my letter of resignation, but did save me the extra burden of having to revisit the Writers Guild union office one last time to pick up my remaining wages, by just arranging to have a check for the remaining wages that the Guild still owed me arrive in my Bronx apartment's mailbox a few days after he received my resignation letter.

Besides deciding in March 1971 that continuing to work as an office boy for the white liberal anti-communist Writers Guild-East while other anti-war Movement activists were now being hunted by the FBI and the war in Indochina was continuing to escalate was morally inconsistent with my revolutionary left anti-war political and moral beliefs, I also walked out on my 9 to 5 office boy job for other reasons. In March 1971 I felt that six months in a 9 to 5 wage slavery cage was a long enough time for any hip man in his early 20s to have to spend at a menial straight job before making his escape for awhile from the then morally, emotionally, politically and sexually dead and repressive 9 to 5 office world of U.S. society in the early 1970s.

I was still expecting, in March 1971, a revolutionary feminist-led Revolution to happen in the USA in the 1970s that would soon change the whole pattern of 9 to 5 life, create a more leisure-oriented society in the USA and abolish the sexist, racist and classist division of labor in the 9 to 5 work world. So I then felt it made no sense for me to worry much about things like where my survival money was going to come from, over the long-run, in the future, since, in the short-run, there would be a women's-led Revolution in the future.

In March 1971 I wanted to be absolutely free immediately. And I felt that young hip people who still kept their 9 to 5 jobs during this historical period were unwisely chaining themselves to their jobs and wasting their lives during their twenties. So my strongest desire in March 1971 was now to not be chained to any straight, 9 to 5 job. By the early 1990s, the U.S. power elite foundations like the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation had started to fund "civil society" NGOs in a big way so that young politically radical and culturally hip people who were just out of college and didn't want to chain themselves to 9 to 5 straight jobs could more easily often find some kind of "alternative job" at a "non-profit" NGO in order to obtain their economic survival and rent money. But in March 1971, if you were young, politically radical and culturally hip, it was extremely unlikely that you'd be able to find an "alternative job" at some foundation-subsidized non-profit organization in the USA, that would enable you to both avoid a 9 to 5 straight job and earn enough money to pay your rent.

In March 1971, I also felt that I wasn't meeting as many people around my own age to become emotionally involved with during the evenings and on weekends in the 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, straight work world as I had been able to meet when I was a student or when I was a summer camp counselor. And it seemed that the longer I remained trapped in the Writers Guild office playing the office boy role as my day job, the more socially and politically isolated I would get from the hippest young people of my own generation who one never met within the 9 to 5 television network world in the early 1970s.

After March 1971, on only two occasions did I bump into people I had met at the Writers Guild office. In the Fall of 1971, Shirley--the woman in her late 40s who had been a WAC during World War II and who had recommended I go see "Man of La Mancha"--noticed me as we were each walking on a Midtown Manhattan street. She was still working in the Guild union office. And after a brief chat, she suddenly put her arm around my waist and whispered, in a desperate way, "Let me give you my phone number and you can come to my apartment and I can show you a sexual thing or two," as I tried to walk away from her.

Since I still wasn't particularly attracted to Shirley because she seemed too culturally straight, not politically radical or artistic enough, didn't turn me on by her appearance and was over 20 years older than me, I falsely replied that I was then "already involved with someone." Yet I have to admit that a few times over the next few years, when I was feeling particularly lonely, I sometimes wondered whether I should have accepted Shirley's invitation. But, in retrospect, even if Shirley had turned out to be a sexual tigress in bed, she probably wasn't bohemian enough or philosophically and politically similar enough to me for an emotional relationship between us to have been able to overcome the over two decades of generational differences.

The only other person from my Writers Guild office boy days I subsequently bumped into was Pat--who, when drunk after Sylvia's 1970 Christmas Party, had surprised me by how much she turned me on when she began kissing me in the backseat of a car. Around two years after I quit my Writers Guild job, I bumped into Pat on East 42nd Street in Manhattan. I can't remember much of what we briefly chatted about. But I do remember that she still looked pretty much like she did when she was 38, still worked at the Writers Guild office and still was having difficulty surviving economically as a single-parent under capitalism on the salary the Guild was paying her.

I kissed her goodbye in an affectionate way. But we both seemed to realize that, given our age difference, it still made no logical sense for us, in the early 1970s, to try to develop some kind of a love relationship, despite certain philosoophical similarities. Between the time I quit my Writers Guild job and the time I bumped into Pat for the last time a few years later, I had also become less confident that a revolutionary feminist-led Revolution was going to happen quickly in the USA in the 1970s. And I also had probably become even more embittered with U.S. society than I had been at the Guild office in 1970 and early 1971. So I assumed that Pat would now find me a less interesting person than she had found me when I was a few years younger, newly arrived in the early 1970s 9 to 5 office world and just beginning to work in the Writers Guild office.

On one of my job hunts in the late 1980s, ironically, I noticed that there was an ad in the New York Times for some kind of clerical position at the Writers Guild-East union office, which was now located on the West Side of Manhattan on one of the West 50s streets. So, both in need of a job and curious to see whether any of my old workmates were still working for the Guild over 16 years after I had left them and how the Guild's new office looked, I applied for the position.

The Guild's new West Side office was plusher than the one I had worked in between September 1970 and March 1971. But neither Miss Burkey, Paul Erbach, Joe, Sylvia, Eli, Shirley nor Pat now worked at the Writers Guild-East office anymore. And the young woman in her late 20s or early 30s who interviewed me for the position quickly decided--unlike Paul Erbach--that the Guild shouldn't hire me and that she should continue to interview other job applicants.

Yet I suspect I probably had a deeper understanding of the hidden history of the Writers Guild of America-East than the person she ultimately hired in the late 1980s because, after all, I had been the Writers Guild Office Boy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxvii)

It was while working for the Writers Guild-East and living in the Bronx in early November 1970 that I voted for the first time in a United States election. The voting booth for my electoral district was located in a public elementary school a few blocks from my slum apartment.

The way you cast your ballot in those days was to show your voter registration card, pull a big lever in the voting booth that closed a curtain behind you which protected your right to a secret ballot, rotate small pointers until small "X"s appeared next to the candidate or "yes" or "no" choices on bond issues you were voting for and then again pull the big lever in the voting booth in the opposite direction to simultaneously record your vote and open the voting booth curtain before you left the booth. As a protest against the U.S. corporate elite and corporate media-rigged nature of U.S. elections, I just cast a protest vote for a Socialist Workers Party [SWP] candidate, who was one of the few anti-war left or anti-capitalist left minor party alternative candidates that I was able to find on the ballot in New York City in November 1970. I would not bother to cast a protest vote in another U.S. mass media-rigged election again until Ralph Nader eventually ran as an anti-corporate protest candidate in 1996.

In November 1970, the 26th Amedment to the U.S. Constitution which lowered the voting age in the United States to 18 years of age had still not been proposed and ratified, so you didn't see many hip young anti-war college age people lined up to vote near the public school where I went to cast my protest vote. The vast majority of the people in my Bronx neighborhood who were bothering to vote in November 1970 seemed to just be politically and culturally straight white working-class or white middle-class people of either Italian-American or Russian-American Jewish background, who were all over 45 years of age.

Casting a protest vote in a booth after standing in a line surrounded by few hip-looking people, but by many older conventional-looking folks from my parents' generation, seemed like a poor substitute form of protest. Militant non-violent street protests and militant non-violent campus protests in concert with large numbers of other culturally and politically hip and hip-looking young people of your own generation seemed like a much more effective, more meaningful and more real way for politically powerless youth to make an immediate political impact on U.S. history than meekly pulling a lever for either a lesser-evilist mainstream party candidate or a minor party candidate who--without equal mass media access--had little chance of getting elected.

Ironically, by the 21st century, even the way U.S. elections were conducted and rigged in November 1970 seemed like a less rigged electoral process than they had now become. Instead of going into a voting booth, rotating small poitners and pulling a lever behind a curtain, voting now in the USA at many polling places consists of making marks by an open, un-curtained desk on paper ballots with magic marker-type pens, before the paper ballots are folded into an envelope and shoved into an uncurtained box. And if your local election board's computer print-out mistakenly fails to include your name on the list of registered voters it provides the election day temps at your polling place, then the cop there won't let you cast an official ballot--even if you provide him with an official notification from the election board which previously confirmed your eligibility to vote.

Despite the election of more anti-war Congressional candidates in the November 1970 election in which I voted for the first time, the Nixon Administration and its right-wing South Vietnamese military allies, predictably, again escalated their war in Indochina by invading Laos in February 1971.

There was some relatively small anti-war student protests against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos on some campuses and on the stretts of some U.S. cities. But within the U.S. television network mass media world in Manhattan, there was no visible individual or collective protest by any of the culturally straight, white liberal corporate media workers against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos. And although most Writers Guild-East members and union office staff workers were all individually anti-war by 1971, as an organization the liberal Writers Guild of America-East felt no moral responsibility to organizationally speak out against the Nixon Administration's 1971 invasion of Laos and latest escalation of the war in Indochina--despite the further increase in civilian casualties in Indochina that this latest escalation was likely to produce.

By mid-March 1971, the chatterbox receptionist who had started to work in the Writers Guild-East office in September 1970 at the same time I started to work there as its office boy--Maria--had thrown in the towel and suddenly quit her job. Since the union office was run in an undemocratic, hierarchical way, Maria found her job at the Writers guild to be boring and unchallenging. And Maria could not escape being in the office for a few hours each day by delivering and picking-up messages, office supplies and scripts for Guild members and other office staff employees as could I.

After Maria quit her job, I quickly decided that it was now a politically appropriate time for me to protest against: (1) the Writers Guild-East's failure to really use its collective bargaining power to attempt to end institutional racism, institutional sexism and the exclusion of anti-war, Black Liberation and women's liberation Movement voices in the U.S. television network world of the 1970s; (2) its failure to run the Guild's own union office in a democratic, non-herarchical way; and (3) its failure to speak out against the Nixon's Administration's February 1971 invasion of Laos, by also suddenly quitting my office boy position at the Writers Guild-East.

So in mid-March 1971, I stopped taking the subway down to Manhattan from the Bronx in order to appear at the Writers Guild office at 9 a.m. between Monday and Friday and, instead, mailed a formal letter of resignation to the Guild's assistant executive director, Paul Erbach, in which I explained the political and moral reasons why I could not, in good conscience, continue to work as the Writers Guild's office boy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxvi)

The second interesting encounter I had in the first two months of 1971 was bumping into Sue on a subway train going uptown in Manhattan in late February 1971. Sue had been a womanfriend of a Citizenship Council bureaucrat and Columbia SDS sophomore caucus member during the 1967-1968 academic year when I last attended Columbia College and she was then a sophomore at Barnard College.

After recognizing Sue across the subway car, I sat down next to her, quickly learned that she was then studying to be a nurse at Columbia’s Medical School near W. 168th Street and exchanged phone numbers with her. Because Sue no longer was living with the Columbia SDS guy she had been living with during the 67-68 academic year, I telephoned her a week or two later. We then agreed that I'd meet her at her apartment in Washington Heights on March 8, 1971 and then go out for dinner together.

Bumping into Sue brought back memories of the pre-1969 Columbia-Barnard New Left scene that was already beginning to seem like ancient history, now that nearly a year had gone by since Ted’s death in the West Village Townhouse explosion at W. 11th Street. And the feeling generated by some of these memories sparked by bumping into Sue and from working for the Writers Guild within the U.S. television network world inspired me to write the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song around this time.

I never memorized the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song and, by the mid-1970s I had thrown out the lyric sheet for the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song. So I no longer can recall all the words. What I do remember of the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song, though, is that it did include the following lyrics:

“Saw Sue on a train
Got lost in the rain…
Seize their TV
Then speak freely…”


Ironically—given the “seize their TV, then speak freely” lyrics of the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song—when, carrying a bouquet of flowers, I arrived in Sue’s apartment near W. 168th St. on International Women’s Day in March 1971, we heard on the radio that a group of radical feminists had chosen that day to non-violently sit-in at the CBS corporate offices for awhile, to demand free speech rights for the Women’s Liberation Movement, prior to being arrested at the request of the white corporate male television network executives at CBS.

A few weeks before this March 8, 1971 protest by the radical feminists inside one of the television network offices, I had mailed a copy of the key to the Writers Guild union office (which I had been given when I was first hired by the Writers Guild) to the radical feminist Movement women who worked at the New York Newsreel office. Just in case they felt like a women’s takeover of the Writers Guild office one evening (using the key I mailed them to gain entry to the Writers Guild union office) might be a good, dramatic way to demand an immediate end to institutional sexism and institutional racism within the U.S. mass media world and at the U.S. television networks.

But when the group of radical feminists protested inside the CBS offices on March 8, 1971, no supportive women’s takeover of the Writers Guild union office, using the copy of the office key I had mailed to the Newsreel women, happened at the same time.

While we were listening to news of the radical feminists protest inside the CBS officers, Sue mentioned that late 1960s Irish civil rights movement activist Bernadette Devlin was going to be speaking at an International Women's Day event at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem later in the evening. So we agreed that after dinner we would then both go together to the Audubon Ballroom to hear Bernadette speak.

After a pleasant, but not too deep, chat over dinner at a local Dominican-Chinese restaurant, Sue and I then walked over to the Audubon ballroom to wait, with a few hundred other female and male supporters of women’s liberation and the early 1970s Movement in the United States, for Bernadette to arrive there and give her speech. But after a few hours of waiting, word arrived from Downtown Manhattan that a New York City newspaper columnist named Jimmy Breslin had apparently persuaded Bernadette to go see the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier world heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden, which was happening on that same night--instead of going up to the Audubon Ballroom to give a speech at the International Women’s Day event there.

So Sue and I, along with the other audience members who had been waiting in the Audubon Ballroom for Bernadette, left the hall and returned to her apartment.

Although I had been excited when Sue agreed to go out on a date with me, when we returned to her apartment I soon concluded that she wasn’t really open to getting involved romantically with me. A short while after we arrived at her apartment, she received a long-distance telephone call from her former boyfriend in college, who now was a pre-med student in the Boston area. Then, for the next 20 minutes, Sue stayed on the telephone talking to her old boyfriend, while I patiently waited in her living room.

Since she seemed more interested now in talking on the telephone to her pre-med old boyfriend than to the hippie-anarchist-musician-type with whom she had been hanging out with during the previous few hours, I realized that it made little sense to stay around much longer in Sue's apartment once she got off the telephone.So the next memory I have is listening to the end of the Ali-Frazier fight on the radio in Sue’s apartment and, after it was announced that Frazier had defeated Ali, saying goodbye to Sue.

Heading back to my Bronx slum apartment on the subway, I felt sad that Muhammad Ali had not been able to regain the heavyweight championship title that had been stripped from him because of his morally courageous opposition to the Viet Nam War and his resistance to the U.S. military draft, sad that Sue didn’t seem to want to become involved romantically with me, sad that I hadn’t been able to hear Bernadette Devlin speak in-person that night and sad that Newsreel women hadn’t used the key I had mailed them to take over the Writers Guild union office that night. But the news that at least a few militant radical feminists had attempted to mark International Women’s Day be protesting inside the CBS executive offices did provide me with some encouragement.

I didn’t bother asking Sue for another date. But a few months later, when Sue was looking for some pot, she did telephone me and ask me if I could possibly obtain some grass for her. I told her I’d see if I could get some pot or hashish for her. But when I went down to Staten Island, no one was home at John’s pad, where I usually had been able to buy some bags of grass or hashish in the past.

So I took the bus back to the Staten Island ferry and then, after the ferry arrived in Manhattan, took the subway up to the East Village and tried buying some hashish from a hustler on the street near St. Mark’s Place. But, predictably, the street hustler ended up beating me for $30 by selling me some “hashish” which turned out to be just some sticky gum substance that looked like hashish.

So I had to telephone Sue and let her know I wouldn’t be able to help her out with her pot and hashish supply problem. And I only bumped into Sue one more time during the rest of the 20th century, at a late 1974 demonstration that was protesting white racism in Boston, where we briefly chatted.

Since Sue was then working as a nurse in the Boston area and I was, by then, just living in a cheap apartment in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, writing protest folk songs, and doing temp typing when I needed to come up with the money for the $100 per month rent, there didn’t seem much of a philosophical basis for attempting to keep in touch with Sue anymore in the future.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxv)

Outside of the 9 to 5 work world during the first two months of 1971, I can recall only two interesting encounters during the winter. The first interesting encounter was being visited one Saturday night by Michael (the only other guy in the neighborhood who ever hung out in the Village), a physically beautiful 16-year-old red-haired high school woman runaway from Baltimore and the hippie guy in his late teens with whom she had run away from Baltimore, before bumping into Michael—who told them that he knew of a pad in the Bronx where they could both crash for the night.

Michael still lived in the Bronx neighborhood with his mother, despite his hanging out in the Village. But his mother wasn’t the kind of mother who would allow Michael to invite hippies to crash there. So Michael really didn’t have his own place to serve as a crash pad that night and so he just brought the runaways to the door of my apartment.

Naturally, I agreed to let the teenage runaways from Baltimore stay for the night, since they seemed more hippie-love generation-types than just runaway teenage dopers who might be there to just rip you off. After sharing some joints with us, Michael soon left for his mother’s apartment to sleep there for the night, while I began to strum on my guitar, as the 16-year-old high school woman from Baltimore, her hippie teenage male companion and I began to all feel much more high.

The 16-year-old red-haired beauty seemed to have discovered that it felt good to embrace and kiss long-haired hippie young musicians like myself when she was stoned. So after she noticed I was strumming my guitar, she moved herself from the mattress where she was sitting with her hippie guy companion from Baltimore, sat down next to me on the floor, next to the mattress I was sitting on, took my guitar from my hands and began kissing and hugging me in a passionate, uninhibited way.

Feeling her firm young breasts pressed against me, her lips touching mine in an uninhibited stoned way and her long red hair in my hands as we embraced, quickly turned me on. But when she had finished making out with me for a few minutes and invited me to also sleep on the other mattress where she was going to sleep next to her hippie guy companion, I declined her invitation and indicated that I wasn’t into a threesome that night and would just sleep alone on another mattress on the floor.

After we all awoke late on Sunday morning, the two runaways went on their way to head back to the Village for the day and the beautiful red-haired 16-year-old runaway woman from Baltimore never returned to my apartment again. From the conversation I had with her in the morning, my impression was that she really had no job skills that would have enabled her to survive on the street on the Lower East Side or West Village in Manhattan for very long. And so I think I advised her and her hippie teenage traveling companion to take a bus back to Baltimore from the Port Authority that night, return to their parents and wait a few years before running away again. And I probably gave them a cash contribution for their return bus fare to Baltimore.

A folk love song, “When You Touched Me,” however, grew out of this encounter with the red-haired runaway, whose lyrics included the following:

From Baltimore
You kissed me on the floor
Your hair so red…
“Cause when you touched me
It felt so good
And when you kissed me
I wished it would never end.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxiv)

In early 1971, the outside accountant who handled the annual financial statement filing and annual financial auditing for the Writers Guild, a guy with glasses and in his early to late 40s named Mike, started to appear daily in the Writers Guild office. Mike was a male chauvinist who, in the early 1970s, still referred to women as “broads.” But he was still hip enough to have developed a way of living, doing independent freelance accounting for liberal non-profit clients like the Writers Guild, that enabled him to avoid having to spend his Monday to Friday days chained to a desk from 9 to 5 in a conventional accounting firm or accounting department corporate office, dressed up in a suit and tie.

But by the time I met Mike he was cynical about everything and too cynical about people to believe that they were capable of ever changing society. In addition, Mike was too old to have spent his college years among people who had smoked pot instead of just drinking beer and booze. So he didn’t feel any kind of identification with people who were involved in the Beat Generation subculture, the 1960s hippie subculture or the early 1970s anti-war counter-culture. But when Mike wished to take a long break from his financial auditing work at the Guild office, he would, occasionally, spend time having some long conversations with me about the state of the world in early 1971.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxiii)

In my spare time during the early months of 1971, I also continued to do more research about the Writers Guild’s hidden history and the early 1970s level of institutional racism and institutional sexism at CBS, NBC and ABC, in the same way I had done research in my spare time about Columbia University, both prior to the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt and until I left the Columbia SDS Steering Committee in late September 1968. Predictably, I discovered from an unpublicized Federal Communications Commission [FCC] report that in the early 1970s less than 3 percent of all CBS, NBC and ABC writers, producers and directors were African-American and less than 20 percent of CBS, NBC and ABC writers, producers and directors were women.

Besides sharing some of the statistical data which documented the level of institutional racism and institutional sexism at CBS, NBC and ABC in the early 1970s with the Newsreel alternative media group of then-revolutionary left anti-war filmmakers, I also passed on some photocopies of this statistical data to a frustrated African-American independent television program production company executive who lived in a high-rise apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This frustrated African-American independent media executive, who seemed to be in his 40s or early 50s in 1971, had complained in an early 1971 New York Times article about the level of institutional racism at CBS, NBC and ABC that still existed in the early 1970s.

During this same period, Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff (who would later become somewhat of an anti-abortion rights neo-conservative) was apparently attempting to form some kind of anti-war group with people who worked in the mainstream media, to try to organize collectively against the mass media censorship of the early 1970s. And one day I even received a telephone call at the Writers Guild office from some woman journalist who worked for one of the mass media conglomerates, who suggested that Hentoff might be interested in looking into some of the mass media statistical data I had been gathering. But nothing much in the way of early 1970s mass media reform seemed to develop from Hentoff’s early 1970s initiative.

Sol Yurick, who had been active in the late 1960s in attempting to build a Movement for a Democratic Society [MDS] radical democratic left anti-war group within the New York City publishing industry among anti-war book and magazine publishing firm workers, also was involved in some attempt to democratically reform the U.S. mass media industry in the early 1970s. So after work at the Writers’ Guild one day, I met the full-bearded Yurick, who then seemed to be in his 40s, in a restaurant for about an hour. After we discussed what was most morally obnoxious about the mass media television networks’ set-up and programming in early 1971, I then gave him both a photocopy of my statistical data on institutional racism and institutional sexism in the mass media and a copy of a homemade basement tape I had made of my latest protest folk songs.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxii)

About the only significant difference in opinion that emerged between Norris and me during our afternoon chat in her apartment in early 1971 was that she thought New York City’s Channel 13 non-commercial educational television station had a chance of providing a real political and cultural alternative to the early 1970s cultural wasteland, political censorship and patriarchal capitalist commercial propaganda of the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks in the 1970s. I, on the other hand, expressed strong doubts that the patriarchal U.S. corporate elite would ever allow hip left anti-war radicals like me, who then authentically reflected New Left counter-cultural values, to ever be given equal access to New York City’s Channel 13 public television station in more than a token way.

In retrospect, I think my estimation of how non-commercial public television stations in the U.S.A. , like New York City’s Channel 13, would eventually become the victims of “creeping commercialism” and become corporatized media institutions, that pretty much excluded most grassroots counter-cultural left-wing activists like me, during the rest of the 20th century and early 21st-century proved to be a more accurate prediction than Norris’s prediction of what kind of difference establishing non-commercial public television stations in the U.S. would actually make.

Not surprisingly—given both how much I then despised the corporate media television network world of ABC, CBS and NBC, and given how much of my daily 9-to-5 slavery time was then being spent delivering scripts in and out of various network TV and radio offices—in early 1971 I also actually ended up writing a protest folk song titled “Paley, Sarnoff and Goldenson.” The “Paley, Sarnoff and Goldenson” folk song protested against their corporate television networks’ complicity with the crimes of U.S. imperialism in the early 1970s, in a way similar to how my 1967 “Bloody Minds” protest folk song had protested against Columbia University’s complicity with the Pentagon’s Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] weapons research think-tank in the 1960s, during the early Viet Nam Era of U.S. history.

I no longer recall the exact lyrics to the “Paley, Sarnoff and Goldenson” protest folk song, since I never memorized it; and, after I recorded it on some homemade cassette “basement tape” in 1971, I pretty much forgot about the song and didn’t bother saving the page of lyrics. But my general recollection is that the “Paley, Sarnoff and Goldenson” protest folk song combined a denunciation of then-CBS board chairman/owner and then-Columbia University Trustee William Paley, then-RCA/NBC board chairman Robert Sarnoff and then-ABC board chairman Leonard Goldenson for their abuse of U.S. mass media power with a prediction that the people of the United States would eventually liberate CBS, NBC and ABC by non-violently occupying their television network studios—until the grassroots counter-cultural voices of the New Left anti-war, Black liberation and women’s liberation Movement were given daily full free speech rights on the CBS, NBC and ABC television networks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxi))

Norris proved to be the most interesting Writers Guild member I spoke with in early 1971. She seemed to be in her late 40s or early 50s and lived alone with her early teen-age daughter in a middle-class Upper West-Side Manhattan residential hotel on West 72nd Street, east of Broadway, on the north side of the street. Her residential hotel apartment was cluttered with a lot of books and it looked like Norris and her daughter could have used a larger apartment for all the stuff they had accumulated, had they been able to afford the Manhattan rent for a larger apartment.

As an alternative to being crowded in with her teenage daughter in her Manhattan apartment, Norris probably could have afforded a much larger apartment in Brooklyn. But she seemed to be the type of writer who felt that to have to live in Brooklyn in the early 1970s (unless you could afford to live in Brooklyn Heights), instead of residing in Manhattan, meant having to live in a cultural wasteland that would isolate her too much from the recreational and work world of her mass media colleagues and her literary friends, who mostly lived in Manhattan.

Norris was both more intellectual and more interested in talking about literary and mass media culture, current events and social justice issues, women’s liberation movement-related issues and the early 1970s hippie anti-war counter-culture than the other Writers Guild Members I met. Like Pat of the Writers Guild office staff, Norris seemed to be the type of woman who still usually just wore a dress or a skirt and not pants, and still always used lipstick and make-up in the early 1970s. But being at least 10 years older than Pat and probably seen as less physically appealing to the men of her own generation than was Pat, Norris seemed to have a deeper appreciation of the anti-war social critique of patriarchal capitalist society that the radical feminists of the early 1970s were raising—and which I was then reflecting—than did Pat.

Norris and I chatted with each other in her apartment for a few hours before I finally had to head back to the Guild office before it closed at 5 o’clock. What seemed to intrigue her most about our conversation was the emotionally open way I was able to talk with her about my personal feelings, my negative feelings about the 9-to-5 world, and my idealistic views of how counter-culture, new age values--which would use technology to free people from 9-to-5 slavery--would also both enable everyone to be writers and artists equally and substitute artistic values for lowest-common denominator commercial appeal values, in determining which television scripts get produced on U.S. television.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xx)

While delivering and picking up Writers Guild Script Awards contest scripts from Writers Guild members’ apartments and offices during the time when I was coordinating the script award judgment process, the longest conversation I had was with Marianna Norris, one of the writers whose script about Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway’s life in Paris eventually received an award for the category in which it had been entered.

Having spent some of my spare time in the Writers Guild office in early 1971 reading each script that was entered in the contest by Guild members, I had the feeling that Norris’s script about Gertrude Stein and Hemingway was going to win an award that year, since, from an artistic point of view, it was much better written, intellectually deeper, more interesting and more socially significant than the other scripts that had been entered in the same contest category. Norris’s script seemed more like the teleplays of the 1950s that were written during the “Golden Age of Television” than the other scripts, which resembled post-1960 Hollywood MCA or Warner Brothers syndicated television film scripts that reflected less literary craftsmanship and intellectual depth than did Norris’s script.

So when I delivered some scripts that had been entered in a category which was different than the category in which Norris’s script had been entered to Norris’s apartment for Norris to evaluate, I was curious to see how the writer of such a great script about Gertrude Stein and Hemingway would turn out to be when you met her in person.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xix)

In early 1971, the only woman Writers Guild member who worked at the networks that I delivered contest scripts to judge who wore pants and dressed like a liberated woman was Marlene Sanders. In early 1971, Marlene Sanders was a writer in the ABC television news department at the ABC studios on West 66th Street and, when I delivered the contest scripts to her office there, she looked like a slightly older Newsreel/Movement white woman, although she wore more make-up and lipstick than most white Movement women at that time.

Sanders seemed to be in her late 30s or early 40s in early 1971 and looked like she would be considered attractive by most men of that time—unless they had been conditioned to reject women who wore pants to the office in early 1971, instead of dresses or skirts which enabled them to show off their legs. But Sanders also seemed to be under a lot of stress and pressure when I delivered the contest scripts to her. Although she was polite to me, you got the sense that Sanders felt somewhat alienated from having to work within such a male chauvinist-dominated institution as ABC’s television network was under Leonard Goldenson’s control during the early 1970s.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xviii)

The other person I met from Columbia in Midtown Manhattan in early 1971 while on the street delivering scripts for the Writers Guild-East Script awards contest was a tall, good-looking former African-American Columbia student named Frank. Although Frank was an African-American, prior to April 1968 at Columbia he seemed to have absolutely no interest in Black Liberation Movement politics, New Left SDS politics or U.S. anti-war movement politics.

In the two years before April 1968, Frank worked at the front desk in the lobby of Carmen Hall each weekday evening and he always wore a tweed suit and dressed like a white prep school student. In addition, whenever any Columbia SDS activist would be handing out leaflets in Carmen Hall, putting leaflets under dorm room doors or posting SDS leaflets on floor bulletin boards in Carmen Hall, Frank would often ridicule the SDS activist in a friendly, but supercilious, preppie way. And before April 1968, if you attempted to discuss issues like IDA, the war, or Columbia University complicity with the Pentagon with Frank, he would just seem to scoff at you in a condescending way, as if any Columbia student who was interested in those kinds of issues must be just some kind of weirdo.

But after observing the first police invasion of Columbia’s campus on April 30, 1968 and apparently observing how the New York City cops brutalized people indiscriminately in Carmen Hall where Frank worked at the dormitory front desk, Frank suddenly began identifying himself as a political radical. And between May 1968 and September 1968, Frank no longer dressed in a tweed, preppie way and devoted nearly all his spare time assisting National Lawyers Guild lawyers with all the legal work and legal details that had to be attended to in representing the 700-plus people arrested at Columbia, whose criminal trespass cases were now being processed daily at the Centre Street Courthouse in Manhattan. And being down in court so often around the Columbia Student Revolt preliminary hearings during the summer of 1968 seemed to further radicalize Frank.

But by the time I bumped into Frank on the Midtown Manhattan street in early 1971, Frank—although still identifying himself as a political radical—no longer was into any kind of left legal activism on a day-to-day level and had lost faith in the possibility of there being a Revolution in the USA in the 1970s.

When I explained to Frank my then-current, early 1971 social change theory, which predicted that a revolutionary feminist-led women’s liberation movement, supported by their male left lovers and male left political allies would soon make the Revolution in the 1970s by first taking over the U.S. mass media studios, Frank was skeptical.

“Most women workers in the 9-to-5 office world that I meet are still mindless and politically unconscious. Most women office workers in the 9-to-5 world will never follow any women’s lib leadership that calls for a Revolution now in the United States,” said Frank.

In retrospect, Frank underestimated the degree to which large numbers of women office workers would eventually become more politically conscious, increasingly college-educated and intellectual, less anti-feminist and less traditionalist during the 1970s and 1980s. But, in retrospect, Frank also did prove to be more accurate than was I in estimating how likely it was that a revolutionary feminist-led women’s liberation movement, supported by male left lovers and male left political allies, would be able to create a matriarchal socialist society in the United States before the 21st century.

And after bumping into Frank on the street in Midtown Manhattan in early 1971, I never heard what happened to him. Presumably, he just ended up spending much of his life as some lawyer for some corporate law firm in Manhattan or elsewhere, trying to earn as much money as he could, in order to personally escape, as much as possible, from being born African-American in an institutionally racist white capitalist and imperialist U.S. society.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xvii)

While out of the office taking my time delivering and picking up the contest scripts in early 1971, I only bumped into somebody I had known at either Columbia, Barnard, Richmond College, Queens College or Lehman College in Midtown Manhattan on two occasions. After 1979, I can’t recall bumping into anybody I had known in college in Midtown Manhattan until I bumped into my Furnald Hall roommate during my sophomore year at Columbia, Tom, after work one evening in June 1981.

The first person I knew from college that I bumped into on the street in Midtown Manhattan in early 1971, Steve, had been heavily into the WKCR radio station at Columbia and, by 1968, was also getting into filmmaking. I had first met Steve when we were both Columbia College freshmen during Freshman Week in September 1965 because he was in front of me on the long line of Columbia College freshmen in Columbia’s Kent Hall Registrar’s Office, who were all waiting their turn to officially register for their Fall 1965 courses.

Steve was a tall, good-looking and very friendly guy who had attended a Manhattan private school before enrolling at Columbia; and he seemed more sophisticated and more intellectual than most of the other Columbia freshman who had previously attended private schools or prep schools, instead of public high schools.

Talking with Steve on the long freshman class registration line ended up making the one hour wait to register seem to go by much faster. But during the next 3 years at Columbia, I did not talk much with Steve before April 1968. He was into WKCR and helping to set concerts up for people like Eric Anderson in Wollman Auditorium on one weekend afternoon, while I had been more into working in the Citizenship Council and building Columbia SDS on campus.

But during the month after the April 30, 1968 police invasion of Columbia’s campus, Steve had decided that I might be a good person to portray the typical Columbia College Citizenship Council idealistic student volunteer in a new recruiting film that Steve was making for Citizenship Council. So for a few days, Steve and I renewed our acquaintance somewhat at the same time he directed me and filmed me “working as a volunteer” with a local eight-year-old African-American grade school student from the neighborhood. Although Steve’s footage of me was never used since Cit Council felt it projected too much of an out-dated “white paternalistic” image for a post-April 1968 recruiting film, it was interesting to see, somewhat, how Steve had changed or not changed as a person between the Fall of 1965 and May of 1968.

While I felt Steve had become slightly more cynical, more careerist and less intellectual between the time I met him in 1965 and May 1968, he still seemed as friendly, good-natured, and non-snobbish as ever. I also then assumed that after graduating from Columbia he would probably end up as some kind of AM or FM radio rock music DJ in Manhattan like Scott Muni or Pete Fornecelli, since Steve had a radio professional-sounding cultured voice when he spoke to you either in-person or through a radio microphone or stage microphone.

But when I bumped into Steve on the Midtown Manhattan street in early 1971, nearly three years after I had last spoken to him in May 1968, Steve seemed dissatisfied with the job slot that had been assigned to him in one of the network radio or television divisions in Midtown Manhattan. Instead of letting Steve produce or host a rock music show for young people over one of their FM stations, Steve had been dumped by the radio or television network executives in some kind of dead-end, dull job which involved helping to arrange for the airing or broadcasting of “community” or “public service” announcements over a local commercial radio or television station. Although the mass media network job Steve had obtained after college in the early 1970s apparently paid a lot more per week in salary than the $100 per week that I was getting for being the Writers Guild office boy, it seemed pretty obvious—after I spoke with Steve on the street—that no matter how much of a salary they paid Steve, the mass media job he had in early 1971 was not one that Steve would ever feel like keeping for much longer.

After bumping into Steve in early 1971, I never saw him again. But a few years later I noticed he had gotten into rock journalism and was writing literate rock music reviews for 1970s magazines like Crawdaddy. So I mailed Steve a homemade “basement tape” of some of my early 1970s protest folk songs that I had recorded on my cheap cassette tape recorder, since I thought he might be interested in listening to some of the lyrics--including the lyrics to a protest folk song about a 1970s protest action against ITT following the CIA-backed September, 1973 military coup which overthrew the democratically-elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.

But by the time I next spoke with Steve over the telephone once in the mid-1980s, he seemed to have been forced by economic necessity to leave the world of rock journalism and radio broadcasting for the post-1980s world of computers and techie-computer journalism and techie-computer magazine publishing. Yet although Steve now seemed more into business and more entrepreneurial by the mid-1980s than he had been in the 1960s and early 1970s, he still seemed like a very friendly, good-natured guy in the mid-1980s; and he seemed much happier with his work life in the mid-1980s than he had been when he worked for the mass media network in early 1971 at his dead-end, unglamorous, dull, media job there.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xvi)

The work assignment at the Writers Guild-East office that I most remember from January and February 1971 involved receiving in the mail, delivering and picking up script manuscripts that had been entered in the Writers Guild’s annual television scriptwriting awards contest. Awards for the best scripts written during the year were given in different categories: an award for the best fictional teleplay script, an award for the best public affairs documentary script, etc..

A Guild member who wished to enter his script in the Writers Guild-East Awards contest would mail a copy of the script to the Guild union office. I would then assign a number to the script and make a photocopy of the entered script that did not indicate the name of the Writers Guild writer who had written the script.

Once a script’s author was no longer indicated and a number had been assigned to it, I would then put the copy of the script in a manila envelope, along with an anonymous evaluation sheet. Then I would hand-deliver the manila envelope to the Manhattan office or Manhattan apartment of one of the Writers Guild writers who had volunteered to be one of the Guild judges for the particular category for which the script had been entered.

After the script had been read by one Guild member-judge, it would either be sent back to the Guild office by messenger or I would return to the Guild judge-member’s office or apartment and pick-up the evaluated manuscript and evaluation sheet. Then I would deliver the manuscript to another Guild member who was on the judging panel for that entered script’s category.

Coordinating, recording, delivering and picking up the manuscripts for the Writers Guild-East’s script awards contest in early 1971 proved to be more interesting than the work I had been doing at the Writers Guild office between September 1970 and the end of December 1970. Besides giving me a chance to have some interesting conversations with a few of the television writers at either their network television offices or in their Upper West Side, Upper East Side or West Village apartments when I delivered and picked-up the contest scripts, it also gave me a legitimate excuse to stretch out the time I could stay out of the office and hang out on the street even longer than I was able to do during my previous 4 months as the Writers Guild office boy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1970 (xvi)

Rosemary was about my age, used less plastic-looking make-up and lipstick than Pat, and looked more like the kind of women college students and young Movement women in their 20s that I was usually most physically attracted to at that time than did the 38-year-old Pat. So after Rosemary kissed me at the Christmas party in the Writers Guild office, I, initially, felt her kiss would be the most memorable one I received from that 9 to-5 work scene in December 1970.

But when I surprised Sylvia by traveling all the way from the Bronx by subway down to Brooklyn to attend a late Saturday afternoon-evening Christmas party she was having at her apartment for both her friends and those Writers Guild office workmates who wished to attend, I was, in turn, surprised.

After speaking briefly to an older, late fortyish African-American male friend of Sylvia at her apartment party—who advised me that the secret of having a good time at dull parties where you might not know anybody else or have anything in common with the other guests was to “just blend in”—I had a few drinks and pretty much just waited until I could find some way to make my escape from Sylvia’s party in a graceful way.

Pat was the only other Writers Guild office worker, besides Sylvia and me, at the party. But she was busy spending most of her time at the party drinking heavily and flirting with a macho older straight Latino man in his early 40s, who seemed heavily on the make and seemed to be pushing Pat to spend the night with him after the party.

This macho, culturally straight older guy who was trying to pick up Pat, however, had a car. So when the now drunk Pat was ready to leave, he generously offered to drive Pat, a younger African-American male cousin of Sylvia in his mid-twenties, and me back into Manhattan; and he offered to drop me and Sylvia’s younger cousin off at a Manhattan subway station, before driving the drunken Pat back to her apartment on the Upper East Side.

So, after the older macho guy, Pat, Sylvia’s cousin and I left Sylvia’s party together, I somehow found myself sitting next to the now very drunk Pat in the back seat of the older macho guy’s car, while he was in the front seat driving and now conversing with Sylvia’s younger cousin, who was sitting in the front passenger seat next to him. And by the time the car, after being driven down Flatbush Avenue , had reached one of the bridges going into Manhattan, I was surprised to feel Pat, not only leaning against me in the back seat, but suddenly start to wrap her arms around me, press her large breasts against me and passionately give me a long erotic kiss with her lips.

Before Pat approached me in such a sexually arousing way in the back seat when she was drunk, I hadn’t really ever considered the possibility that Pat might be interested in having an out-of-office love affair with me, since she was approaching 40 and I was just in my early 20s. In the early 1970s, it still was considered unusual for a hip man in his early 20s to think of getting involved sexually with a woman in her late 30s, whose son was a teenager and who used make-up and lipstick-- instead of just having love affairs with the sexually emancipated hip women in their 20s of his own generation, who didn’t use make-up and lipstick, didn’t have children and were still resisting being permanently trapped at some 9-to-5 straight world job.

But while Pat’s lips were touching mine and she began pressing her breasts against me, I suddenly realized that Pat was as able to quickly turn me on sexually as much as were the younger women of my own generation.

Yet because of our age difference, I still felt reluctant in the back seat to get involved in a love affair with Pat. So I gently pushed her away, while whispering: “You must really be drunk, Pat.”

Pat then pointed to the older, culturally and politically straight, unhip, macho man in the front seat who was driving and, in a soft drunken voice, whispered back to me: “You’re so different than a man like that. You’re a new kind of man. That’s why I love you.”

I was touched a little by what the lonely Pat said while she was drunk. But again I just whispered: “I guess we all had too much to drink at Sylvia’s.”

Not long afterwards, the car reached a Downtown Manhattan subway stop on the other side of the bridge it had driven over from Brooklyn, and Sylvia’s younger cousin and I were dropped off and each got out of the car. The older macho man in his 40s then drove his car uptown toward the Upper East Side to drop off Pat, who was now half-asleep in the back seat, at her Upper East Side apartment.

By the following Monday, however, most of Sylvia’s Saturday night Christmas party was already forgotten. But in the Writers Guild office on Monday morning the now sober Pat whispered to me: “Hope you didn’t mind me getting so drunk the other night.”

“No. I didn’t mind,” I replied.

In retrospect, I probably should have asked Pat if she wanted to go out on a date with me, when we were both sober, some evening after work or on the next Saturday night. But because Pat had a teenage son and because of our age difference, I still felt ambivalent about attempting to get involved romantically with Pat at that time.

Because an older woman like Pat was probably more sexually experienced in early 1971 than were most of the women of around my own age at that time that I was likely to be involved with, it’s possible that we both would have found a love affair between us at that time sexually exciting, if I hadn’t closed myself off emotionally to that possibility. But, in retrospect, I’m still not sure that the excitement of making love to each other in the early 1970s would have been enough to overcome whatever relationship difficulties the difference in age and generational/cultural values might have created between us, if we had attempted to date each other or hang out with each other in a public way over a long period of time--given the way many people USA at that time tended to put down older women who became sexually involved with men who were over 15 years younger and the younger men who became involved with such older women.

So as 1970 turned into 1971 on January 1, 1971, I was not involved romantically with anyone either at the Writers Guild Office or anyone outside of my office-boy work scene. And, politically, I was pretty much waiting for revolutionary feminist Movement women to rapidly make the Revolution in the United States by non-violently occupying the U.S. mass media conglomerate’s television network studios in Manhattan in April of 1971--in the same way that anti-war students at Columbia had non-violently occupied Columbia’s campus buildings in April of 1968.