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.