The first of a seven volume autobiography under the umbrella title, ON AND ON AND ON...
Price: $4.95 (eBook)
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
A chronological account of the first 26 years of my 86 years plus individual articles which combine diary notes with mini-memoir of memorable events in my life. In total there are some one million words covering my life and adventures living in over 30 cities and towns in three countries on two continents and careers on Madison Avenue, in music, in theater, radio, TV and film, land development songwriting, on and on and on.
My first experience with autobiography goes back to 1950 when, at age twenty-two, I toiled as an all-night disk jockey at a radio station in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario. The station, CKOY, owned by The Ottawa Citizen, the city’s leading newspaper, was managed by the legendary Jack Kent Cooke, a colorful, self-made millionaire who lived in Toronto where he ran his own station, CKEY, as well as New Liberty Magazine and several other businesses. His management of CKOY involved a monthly visit to Ottawa. He also made himself available for phone consultations during the rest of the month.
Years later I learned that Jack’s management fee had been $100,000 per annum –(941,000 in 2012 dollars) a nifty sum today, but veritably awesome in those early post-war years. It worked out to $8,333.33 per day – ($78,500 in 2012 dollars). To provide perspective, the base salary received by the “talent,” my fellow announcers, DJs and I, was $150 per month, $1,800 per year. With talent fees and commercial commissions some of us might have earned as much as $350 per month. Silly as this may sound Jack was probably worth what they paid him. He was brilliant, though a bit strange.
During these monthly visits, Jack would take over the office of Eddie Guest, our resident manager, and give “audiences” as the Pope might on a busy day at the Vatican.
I amaze myself, now over sixty years later, by recalling names such as Eddie Guest with whom I had little to do during my brief stay at the station, while I can’t recall what I had for breakfast today. When you reach your eighties, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Aging brain cells, like God, act in mysterious ways.
I bring all this up because of an incident during one of Jack Cooke’s visits. All our “on-air personalities” at the station had been asked to supply a brief autobiography which The Ottawa Citizen planned to run in their news or editorial columns to help promote the station. That was my first attempt at writing an autobiography. It struck me as silly at so young an age. I was a flippant kid who picked up comedy material and stored it in some corner of the cranium.
I recall starting the bio with “I was born at a very early age. The first time I opened my eyes, I found myself in bed with a woman.”
I can’t recall the rest of it but it was all tongue in cheek and flippant, nothing revealing any self-respect or seriousness. The management found it very amusing and they showed it to Cooke who came in for his monthly visit the following day.
My hours were midnight to nine a.m., at which time I would go home to attempt sleep. I managed that only on some days, consequently, my months in Ottawa remain a bit of a blur in memory because I wandered around feeling slightly out to lunch from lack of sleep. On that fateful day when my phone rang to summon me to meet Jack Kent Cooke, I had just managed to doze off. This meant quickly washing up, shaving and getting back to the station.
Cooke had a young, open, handsome face and a big smile. His voice had a metallic ring. I labeled that the “Detroit sound.” He enunciated each syllable clearly. There was absolutely nothing of the Canadian “muddled” quality about him. In 1950 much of Canada was still half a step removed from the barnyard. Rural roots were evident in the speech of many an executive. Those who chose to rise above this tended to adopt pseudo-British pronunciation but Jack leaned toward American speech.
“Hi, Andy,” he said in a loud voice as he stretched out a hand in greeting, “That was an amusing piece. It gave us a chuckle.”
I was bolstered by the compliment but concurrently thrown off by the hand shake. Bosses didn’t greet staffers with hand-shakes in those days. It might have made us forget our place. But Jack wasn’t into that.
“How would you like to become humor editor of New Liberty Magazine?” he asked as if offering a cigarette. I was taken back again. “Gee….” I stammered unable to find a thought, never mind finding words.
“Take your time, think about it and let me know later,” he said.
I began to feel dumb and lost. But Jack’s bouncy mind didn’t rest, “What about P.R.?” he asked, “How would you like to become P.R. Director of CKEY?”
Now I was really lost. I had never before heard the expression. I had no idea what P.R. stood for. I had learned English quickly after landing in Canada at age 12 but my vocabulary was doubtlessly limited by comparison to that of native Canadians.
“Speak up,” he said, “Don’t be shy.”
“Gee, thanks,” I managed, trying to sound as if I had an idea of what we were discussing, “But I don’t think so.”
“That’s fine,” Jack beamed. “I like a man who can make up his mind.” Then he added, “Think about the humor editor position, though.”
He pointed out that my work was well received but that I would probably never become a Lorne Greene who, ironically, had been my voice teacher at The Academy of Radio Arts. Jack felt that my writing talents had more potential.
At this point I found my footing and explained to him that what I really wanted was to develop an hour-length show for afternoons involving a variety of things. Jack shrugged and suggested that I get it done, put a demo pilot on disk and send it to him. Audio tape was still a few years away. Whatever we recorded went on 10 inch, 78 rpm “soft-cut” acetate disks or on 15” transcriptions that ran at 33-1/3 rpm carrying 30 minutes per side.
My ideas were more ambitious than my ability to put it all together. After several weeks of running into mental blocks, I threw in the towel and decided that it might be wiser to accept the humor editor position.
The following month when Cooke visited, I got an appointment with him and explained that I had given up on the afternoon show idea and was now ready to move to New Liberty Magazine.
Jack had risen from his chair and started to walk toward the door. He motioned for me to follow him and led me into a small washroom where he unzipped his fly and relieved himself while talking to me over his shoulder.
“Well, I’ll tell you about that job, Andy. You see, it’s taken. But worry not! I will call you on the very next opening.”
The shock of having an interview over Jack Kent Cooke ‘s shoulder while he peed, and the disappointment of learning that the job was gone, had left me in a daze. We were to meet again years later after he had sold out all his Canadian assets and moved to California where he tried to buy radio and TV stations through a brother of his who had American citizenship. You have to be a citizen to own broadcast properties in the U.S.
At that point, I was based in Boston as V.P. creative on Lestoil, then America’s biggest TV spot account. I had produced a commercial with Zsa Zsa Gabor; her manager and I became friends and he liked my ideas for the cosmetics world thus encouraged me to launch a cosmetics company in partnership with Zsa Zsa. Cooke was going to provide the financing. But then he became an American citizen overnight by an act of Congress and pursued his own investments which included radio stations, the Los Angeles News, New York’s legendary Chrysler Building, The Washington Redskins, the L.A. Lakers, the L.A. Kings and when the Los Angeles city fathers dragged their heels about building a proper venue, he built the Forum in Inglewood, CA.