It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part C

It was Thursday, October 20, 1988. It was my second full day in New York – and the busiest day by far.

My cousins gave me the keys and a self-addressed envelope. They were going out to a “cottage” on Lawn Gisland; I’d have the loft in the Village to myself. I’d mail the keys to them on my way out on Sunday. I thanked them profusely; they headed out by 8AM.

I had my work cut out for me.

My first stop was a shabby office building up in the Thirties. I was going to meet a guy to talk about being a producer/host for an all-weekend, all-talk network – the first attempt I’d heard to exploit the repeal of the “Fairness Doctrine”. The concept: hire talk talent from around the country to do three-hour shows on the weekend; beam the shows via satellite to New York, and thence back out to other stations that wanted quality, major-market talk talent for their weekend lineups. The guy talked a great game; Morton Downey, Tom Leykis, and a slew of other major market names were “interested”.

The job: serve as the network’s producer. This involved working a forty-hour week – on Saturday and Sunday. The work day would involve being in at 6AM Saturday to 2AM Sunday morning, and then again from 6AM Sunday through 2AM Monday morning, with four hours off in between.  Two twenty-hour shifts – a forty-hour week in two days, followed by a five-day weekend.  Or more likely four, if we assume Monday was for recuperating.

To set the hook in my cheek? I’d get a show, from 6-9AM both mornings.

Hell yeah.  I was interested.

I left after two hours. The guy sounded interested. We agreed to talk again in about a month, when the financing picture was a little clearer.

I grabbed a slice of pizza, and went to my next interview. It was at a radio station on Seventh Avenue, just south of Central Park. The program director was a Hispanic gentleman in his late twenties to mid thirties. We chatted for an hour or so. The job…

…well, the job was the perfect metaphor, in retrospect, for the Dinkins years. It would have involved being on the air from midnight until 5AM, every weeknight. “But don’t worry”, said the PD, “you won’t have to do much prep. All anyone wants to talk about is race”. The way he described it, the job would sound a lot like the classic “bigotry” scene from Do The Right Thing, listening to whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans, Russians, Dominicans, Koreans and every other ethnic group bitch about each other all night. “You can try to talk about other things”, he added sardonically. “Sometimes it catches on, but usually, all anyone wants to talk about is race”.

It sounded perfect.

He was interested. We agreed to talk again in a couple of weeks.

I spent some time wandering around the southern reaches of Central Park, on an unseasonably warm day, soaking up New York.

I wandered down Seventh, mildly shocked to see Carnegie Hall – THE Carnegie Hall, I thought, as if there might be another one around somewhere – to my left.  It was late afternoon, and I just kept walking, block after block after long, colorful, filthy, fascinating block, in my interview suit and my new, pinchy interview shoes, wide-eyed and gulping it all in.  And, I might add, fairly sure I wasn’t lost, and that I had a fair idea of where I was…

…until I realized I’d wandered into the top of Times Square, in all of its tawdry, tacky pre-Giuliani splendor. 

I grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (pondering after I ordered how one could order “onions” on a dog and get a thin, runny slop of tomato broth with a wan assortment of floaties that may have been dried onions that had soaked in whatever the juice was) and wandered around the place, gawking and gaping like a complete tourist and not really caring a bit; I’d imagine people thought I was high.  I had a big day coming the next day – but I was in no hurry to get back to the loft.

I can do this, I thought.

Finally, I hopped the train and rode down to Union Square.  The stairs smelled like urine.  A guy was busking at the top of the stairs, really badly.  I acted like a New Yorker (!) and ignored him completely as I walked up the stairs and over to Broadway to get “home”. 

I grabbed a couple of slices of pizza and went upstairs to the loft.  My cousins were long gone; I had the place to myself.  I was footsore and tired…

…and I couldn’t sleep at all.  I grabbed a beer and a plate for the slices, and sat on the leather couch in my cousin’s front room, looking out at the skyline in the Village, at the apartment building across the street, with lights shining through windows and people having dinner at half-seen tables, and people and cars going past below, and a constant “thrum” of cars and horns and stuff contantly humming in the background.

Something’s gonna break.  I can feel it.

2 thoughts on “It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part C

  1. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part CXXVI

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