My Brilliant Career –The Beginnings

— an excerpt from my Steady Ender essays —

The summer after college graduation, I was faced with getting a job. I had turned down a high school teaching assignment in a New Jersey farm area. That NYC skyline called out to me ever since I could remember, and I had to go for it. “It” was the unknown.

My resume was verbal. If there was any opportunity at all, my approach was, “What are you looking for?”

I had done some summer stock, designed some sets, worked with my catering family, and had 4 years of Latin, which qualified me for some kind of medical work. There must be something there for me, and my spirit was ablaze with the possibilities.

I continued my trips into the city, walking the streets, frequently hiking up my stretched out panty hose. One day I decided to try my luck at CBS studios on 11th Avenue. I wandered to a studio door, and a security person asked if I needed help. “No”, I said, “just a job.”

“Why don’t you go to this company on 44th Street and tell them Leo sent you. They’re looking for a production assistant.”

Line drawing of movie set with crew members standing around conferring.

It was called Video Pictures, Inc. They made TV commercials. I was interviewed by the production manager, Bob Schneider. I have a feeling that my catering background impressed him most. Maybe it represented the perseverance needed for the job. It was a short walk from there to The Port Authority, and by the time I got back to Jersey, my dad told me that Bob had called to tell me I was hired.

I commuted to the City every day and my heart beat with excitement as the Warwick Stage rounded the bend toward the Lincoln Tunnel and I could see the magnificent skyline. I had arrived.

My initial tasks were filing bills and other such paperwork. Eventually I was able to deliver checks to the crew, and take dailies to Movielab, hoping I wouldn’t miss the last bus to New Jersey.

One day I got to spend most of the day on the set. There were a lot of cables and it was a tedious process to even get to the point of the director saying “action.”

This was way before the digital world. If it was a commercial for any kind of packaged goods, there was a process called “color correction” which assured that everything looked perfect for camera. There were special artists that did this by hand. The long waits for a shot to be ready was eased by the abundance of food. Bagels, Danish, you name it. And when I’m anxious, I eat. There was a bowl with beautifully appointed candy, and I was drawn to it like a magnet. M&M’s to be exact. I proceeded to devour them.

The cameraman continued to examine the tabletop setting with his light meter. Several gentlemen in suits took turns looking through the camera. “OK” he said. “Ready for the hero product.”

“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?” bellowed the Propmaster. He was looking at the almost empty bowl of M&Ms. I approached him cautiously and said, “I ate them.” I then smiled. It took a few people to hand pick the best M&Ms they could find from the bags of product. The refreshed product was then sprayed with something to make them shine.

I suppose it was my honesty that saved me from being fired that day. Plus, when I smiled, my teeth looked like multi-colored Chiclets from the food dye and it would have been especially disastrous not to tell the truth. It was a Friday, and after I took the film to the lab, I hurried to the Port Authority for my bus to Jersey. On Saturday morning I’d take the bus back into My City and spend my entire paycheck at The Record Hunter. The future looked bright, even though I couldn’t flash a pearly white smile for several days.


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