November 14, 2010
Everything in life is luck.
Other than taking a chance on a Mega Millions ticket once or twice a year, I don’t think of myself a gambler. I could be wrong. You tell me.
Bill and I were married in Reno. When we checked into the hotel we were given goodie bags of gambling chips so we could trust our luck, wager on fortune. We never used the chips; marriage was enough of a risk.
Las Vegas oddsmakers would have a field day with this: three of my former bosses died within 93 days this year—Ed Rapport, my manager at The Cleveland Play House, on August 6th; and two of my three supervisors at the Cuyahoga County Engineer’s Office, Ronald Stackhouse on October 23rd and Tony Ma on November 5th.
Looking at my employment history, so many people I’ve worked with are dead and so many places where I’ve worked no longer exist. Let’s review and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
We’ll begin at the beginning with Manners restaurant, where I, as a 17-year-old car hop, served folks their double-decker hamburgers with the special sauce and made pies with marginally fresh strawberries. I lasted 18 hours, took home eleven bucks and eighteen cents. The Big Boy chain is still around Cincinnati, but the restaurant in Parma is long, long, long gone.
So is Thomas T. K. Zung Architects, Inc., which had a classy office complete with Le Corbusier chairs and Platner tables on the eighth floor of the north tower of Cleveland’s old Arcade which has since been converted to a Hyatt Hotel. It was the Mad Men era and I was the one girl in the one girl office, not once, not twice, but three times. Tom kept taking me back, but now there’s no back to go to. He hooked up with geodesic dome reinventor Buckminster Fuller, changed the company name, and moved to Medina, solo.
Founded in 1852, Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio is rebuilding after suspending operations in June 2008. No plans to include the Music Department where I assisted the department chair, patrician romanticist Donald Keats, and four professors, including John Ronsheim (dead) who established a Black Music Program and invited avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor to perform. I was shocked that there was so much overt hostility, jealousy and bickering among composers, musicians, conductors and students over who’s discipline was the best and who was the best in that discipline. With such sturm und drang in my one girl office, it was refreshing when Eleanor Keats (dead) dropped in to chat about cooking and food.
The New Party, sometimes referred to as the Freedom and Peace Party but I have the letterhead so I know the real name, was located in an unused house that Antioch owned. This defunct political organization ran Dick Gregory for President in 1968 as a write-in candidate; he garnered 47,097 votes, nationwide. My boss, John “Mac” Sullivan, could be somewhere, maybe off the grid, as I can’t find him using any search engine. He could be dead. At least Dick Gregory is still alive.
The publishing company in Madison, Wisconsin where I was an editorial assistant, and Career Professionals, a headhunter firm just off Cleveland’s Public Square, both folded. Unlike Stern Advertising which has thrived for 40 years and at which there was so much misogyny and harassment, especially by old man Nelson (dead) who’d maneuver his hand down my blouse, that I quit after 93 days, Wattenmaker Advertising has been reduced to its founder, Jim, in his Chagrin Falls home. He appears to spend his time writing letters to editors.
Wattenmaker was the only company I worked for where an on-call psychologist presided over staff meetings to assure that we employees played nice with the president. Funny, as Jim was known for his volatile temper and for hurling pencils at people, particularly me, his executive assistant. And he aimed to hurt. A poster that Bill designed for one of the agency’s major clients, Bontrae, a “textured vegetable protein product,” hangs in our office; the soybean line is now called Bontex. (Bill’s manager, Terry Dwyer, is dead.)
At The May Company, it was difficult looking at my V.P. of Marketing supervisor, Harry, because he had Andy Rooney eyebrows that I so wanted to trim. But while there, I became friends with the memorable Aurelia Wacker (dead), the store’s Special Events Planner, and a thorough hoot who once lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming with no electricity or indoor plumbing. The May Company became Kaufmann’s which became Macy’s. The main store downtown closed.
When Ron Stackhouse (dead) hired me to be the Legislative Liaison at the Cuyahoga County Engineer, my office was attached to his so perhaps the physical proximity gave him the notion that he had rights that he didn’t have. He once told Ron Nagy (dead) that if he was in a close-door meeting with me, do not enter as we’d been doing it on his desk. So every time he coerced me to join him for afterwork cocktails at The Pewter Mug, I made sure Bill showed up. This ticked Ron off big time, which was my goal, so he stopped asking me.
After a two-week punitive stint in the typing pool for spurning his advances, he moved me to another department, under Anthony Ma, a clueless nebbish who was indicted this year in the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal. The stress is reported to have gotten to him, as he had a stroke and passed this month.
Republican Stackhouse won his position in an election against Democrat Albert Porter, who had been the County Engineer for 29 years until his shenanigans forced voters to wake up and throw him out. Beating Porter 71% to 29% convinced Ron that he had a mandate instead of being the alternative to an official who was guilty of theft in office. Consequently, he didn’t learn a thing from his predecessor. New employees, myself included, were tailed for weeks by maintenance workers checking on our private lives. Employees were pressured to “donate” to a campaign fund. Although married, Ron was seen making out with a young blonde at a Cavs game.
I do not remember Ron Stackhouse fondly, even though my last position under him was Public Information Officer, which still looks good on my resumé.
The Cleveland Play House, which has held court at East 85th and Euclid Avenue since 1927, is moving to new digs at Playhouse Square. The marketing department was a warren of rooms on the third floor of the original building (no elevator!) when I worked there in the early ‘80s, first as publicist hired by Ed Rapport (dead), later as director of marketing and communications promoted by artistic director Richard Oberlin (dead). After The Cleveland Press went out of business, Tony Mastroianni (dead) joined the department. Every day, at least twice a day, he’d punch a door in frustration; he was a reporter, not a public relations hack. As PR had been my job, I resented his grousing and would remind him that his paycheck was much greater than mine.
After the successful opening of the Bolton Theatre with The Tempest, I got the ax, despite surpassing goals and winning an award for the play’s poster which my successor accepted although she did let me touch it. Still, I truly enjoyed my 3 years there. I met “world renowned architect” Philip Johnson (dead), who was so sweet. And the notorious "First Lady of Television News" Dorothy Fuldheim (dead). Ginger Rogers (dead) was just the lady you’d expect her to be and had glorious gams. The beautiful Susan Strasberg, daughter of Actors’ Studio founder Lee Strasberg, was a darling lamb who wanted to buy the black suit I was wearing. She died of breast cancer in 1999. Two Play House actresses—Evie McElroy and Providence Hollander—died within days of each other this past September.
With its horrific fiscal mismanagement and inflated egos, Cleveland Ballet was a chaotic, stressful environment so my tenure there was brief. The company moved to California, becoming Cleveland San Jose Ballet and then, still under megalomaniac chieftain Andrew R. Bales, was turned into Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley. I don’t know where Andy is now, but if he’s still his ol’ self, he’ll resurface.
The two Booth American-owned radio stations which I marketed and promoted evaporated. Lite Rock 106 and a half was switched to Mix106 and sold. WRMR 850 AM was also sold, became WCLV 1420 AM, and is now a station in Denver. Booth acquired 3WE, revamped as WTAM. It’s on the air, but is a property of Clear Channel. Our building at One Radio Lane also belongs to another broadcast owner and houses different stations; the second, spiffier, penthouse office in the Warehouse District is home to Scene Magazine. At least my manager Skippy is still alive and in the business.
Celebs of every pay grade frequently wandered the stations’ corridors: Gloria Steinem (skinny) was the one I wanted a photo with. Two decades earlier, I had called her with an invitation to a New Party meeting in D.C. Her response was “how did you get my number?” followed by a hang up. This time she graciously accommodated me.
No longer in its award-winning headquarters built in the ‘80s in Middleburg Heights by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Advanstar continues to have a location in Northeast Ohio, but is not the powerhouse that it was when I was there. Of course, the Consumer Show Group that I was part of went belly up after about a year. Everyone I worked with is still kicking (I think) but for other companies.
What is the ratio of probability that so much demise could occur during one person’s career?
Since hanging up our own Bomba, O’Neil & Co. shingle, I’ve had much better luck. Since 1994, clients have come and gone, but at least they are still breathing.