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.