That same summer I worked up my courage to audition for WQXR. From the magnificent, world- renowned, steel -encrusted tower on West 43rd Street known as The New York Times, that beacon of classical music radio radiated throughout New York and hundreds of other nearby towns and cities. How could I presume?

I had been too timid before to audition, only dreaming of such glory while at WFLN and WNCN, never believing that anyone there would take me seriously, especially while sitting at a make- shift control board in a dim and dreary hallway atop The Hotel Pierre.

But my easy acceptance back into the fold of the new WNCN, and getting on the air at WJRZ convinced me I could walk into such storied halls and look and sound as if I knew what I was doing.

QXR was owned and operated by the New York Times, a sturdy, profitable underpinning. The station’s program sponsorships and spot announcements also earned good money. Being on QXR was about as prestigious as you could get in classical music radio. Many of the nine full-time announcers had become enduring New York legends, most having been there for years and years. There was perky George Edwards (born George Steinhardt) the host of the morning show “Bright and Early,”  25 years older than I when I was added to the standby announcers list.

Peter Allen w nameThen there was elegant and distinguished Peter Allen (born Harold Levey),13 years my senior.

I thought that maybe I could get occasional fill-in work, just as at WNCN and WJRZ, except with such a large staff of WQXR announcers, it looked as if there’d be plenty of chances. After all, across the country there weren’t that many of us specialists in knowledgably announcing classical music, given the need for us to sound as if we knew what we were talking about and could breeze through foreign names and pronunciations with fluency and expertise.

The audition script looked like the same copy from eleven years before at WFLN.  It probably was the same. A snap.

Chief announcer Al Grobe (30 years older than I) told me that I sounded just right and he would put me on the standby list. That felt good! The list was posted on a wall in the announcers’ lounge, a small, comfortable, lamp- lit room with an easy chair and sofa, across the hall from two of the four on-air studios. Grobe also introduced me one of the announcers on duty, soft- spoken, elderly- looking Chester Santon (age 50.) Another was on the air.

Two announcers on duty at the same time! Grobe was a third. This was one of many things that made it clear that WQXR was a major operation.  In fact, its operation was bigger, more complex and thoroughly organized than any radio station I had ever seen or would ever see in the future.

It was also immediately clear that there would be plenty of chances to fill in with so many men* needed every day.

The standby list had eight names. I became number nine. It didn’t look all that hopeful, especially once I learned that Bob Lewis, whose name was at the top, unshakably was always called first.

But I did get called. And, after a few successful stints on the air, my name rapidly moved up the list and hovered near the top through March 1966. Later, my name went up and down the list for another five years. And, after returning from living in Europe, that same variable pattern repeated during 1976.

*There were no women announcers there or anywhere else until, the next year, 1966, when WNEW-FM featured four of them as a novelty in a pop music format.

When I started at WQXR, genial Mel Elliott, another announcer, said that Grobe must have liked my work but that the list always kept changing. Substitute announcers who were readily available when Grobe called them got higher placement than those who turned down work or weren’t available. In one way that made sense; Grobe wanted to use those people on whom he could rely at the last minute; he had other important things to do, reading many hourly WQXR newscasts on weekdays.

There was a special booth for the newscasts, a very small studio, along an H-shaped corridor within sight of the main control room where engineers ran every piece of equipment. They operated all the microphones, all the turntables and tape machines and controlled the volume as it went out on the air. A strict division of labor. WQXR was seriously unionized.

The news booth had one window facing the hall. Its walls were covered by the same kind of particle board I’d destroyed at the 47th Street WNCN, except that the board was thicker and punctured with tiny holes. Soundproofing.

A large clock loomed over the only desk. On the desk: a sturdy ribbon microphone, a headset and a simple, curved table lamp. A solitary, cushioned, armless metal chair sat under the only drawer in the desk with a small metal box attached to a leg. The box had a button, resembling one for an elevator. When the booth button was pushed, it activated a small gong. Whoever was reading the news started the newscast precisely on the hour sounding the gong over the open microphone.

A long tube came up from the floor. It was the end of the line in a pneumatic tube system. A small, sealed glass cylinder whooshed and popped into a small opening in the tube. In it were as many sheets of onion skin paper as it took for each story to be on a separate page to become a newscast.  Times staff on another floor  wrote the stories.

That was a cramped little room. Anyone looking over and rehearsing a newscast usually left the door open so as to get some air. Grobe and some other announcers even loosened their belts to breath better. Especially during the noon and six pm 15-minute broadcasts.

Eventually I broadcast from there and would find Grobe’s scripts in the wastebasket. He’d underlined almost every word, with one line, or two, or three, clearly to indicate degrees of emphasis for himself.

As for the closeness in that booth , in the middle of a newscast one evening, I struggled to speak while on the air, my voice cracking, devoid of its usual resonance. I could barely breath. 25 minutes earlier an elderly engineer had a heart attack while on duty and died in the control room. Police had wheeled out his grey-faced stiff body, laid out on a canvas stretcher. I hadn’t seen much death yet and that might have affected me. That’s what Peter thought.

The loss of voice worried me, knowing the fluidity of the on-call list. There were also constant rumors that executive v.p. /general manager Elliott Sanger was somewhere listening, ready to air his criticisms about even the smallest deviations from on-air perfection.

But I survived to breath again; my status as a relief announcer didn’t change after that evening. Perhaps death in the hallway got all the attention.

Another time, though, 23 years older staff announcer Bill Strauss warned me that my name was probably going to drop on the list. Tall, thin, dark-haired Strauss seemed quite severe, especially due to a permanent frown. Not that he had any influence on the list. He was trying to be helpful. I had deviated from the norm one afternoon on the air.  Reading a jolly, humorously-written commercial, the copy suggested a friendly laugh. So I laughed. Afterwards, back in the announcer’s lounge, when that part of my shift was over, Bill said. “Boy! Did you step over the line!”

“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.

“You laughed on the air. We don’t do that. Mr. Sanger doesn’t like it. ”

“Yeah,” I replied, “but the copy seemed to call for it.”

“Gee. I hope he didn’t hear it,” Bill added. “I’d hate to see you not among us as often. You usually do such a good job.”

I survived that too.

If he or one of the regular announcers had laughed, they might have been reprimanded but they wouldn’t have been fired for such a minor infraction. They had a strong AFTRA contract.  A number of those announcers were rare examples of longevity in our business. They knew how to protect their jobs. Moreover, the Times had a very strong labor structure.

The contractual shift was eight hours, longer than those at most other stations. There was an hour for lunch. And some mighty good food was available on the 11th floor in the Times cafeteria. Moreover, since we knew we’d have, say, half an hour during a concerto on the air with no other duties except to announce, we could also zip upstairs and grab a sandwich and coffee and bring them down to eat in the lounge. But not in the studios.

Also contractually required were 15 minutes of “preparation time”  when the shift started, so that the announcer could get his records, or look over the first commercials he’d have to read. George had a special contract; he got an hour preparation time, because, among other things, he had to wait until the station went on the air with his sign-on. His on-air duties ran from 5 am to 12 noon. Daily, after “Bright and Early,” he’d just be another staff announcer, reading spot announcements, or hosting other programs. And at the end of his final announcement of his day, he reached over to a lamp on his desk and audibly clicked it off. His talisman.

Among our spelled-out duties, we had to go down a hall to the music department and pick up the records whose music we’d announce. Music was programmed by Martin Bookspan or someone on his staff.  bookspan w namePeople in the department pulled the individual LPs from the shelves; announcers didn’t do that. The LPs were placed in slots for announcers to pick up and take to engineers in master control. Each program came with typed sheets on which were written the names of the selections and the performers, as well as the timing for each piece. Usually there was no written script; we were expected to announce the pieces simply, unembellished by commentary.

But, after I’d been around for a while, feeling comfortable and assured, I looked over the LPs and their liner notes and decided to say a few words about the backgrounds of the pieces,  based on what I’d read.  Nothing complicated, but something like I had been doing at WFLN and WNCN, ad-libbing a few concise, presumably interesting things about the music.

Another announcer, Bill Gordon, heard me talking on-air about the music. “Don’t do that,” he cautioned. “It’s not in our contract. If the management hears you, they’ll start expecting all of us to do that.”

The rules of how to communicate with the engineers in the control room were very precise. There were hand signals, the simplest way to communicate, given that the on-air studios were all separated by glass windows and hallways in a u-shape surrounding the control room.

The signals: pointing to the microphone for announcing, signaling to cut off the microphones with the famed simulation of cutting the throat, pointing directly at the engineer for him to play a record or a recorded commercial or to turn the broadcast over to another announcer in a different studio. The only equipment we were allowed to touch were the “cough buttons, ” called that because, if announcers needed to cough or sneeze while on the air, we could push a button next to the microphone and it would cut off the signal as long as it was held down.

Grobe scheduled which announcers would host standard broadcasts and newscasts. There were some which were not considered standard, of course, such as “Bright and Early” with George or “Cocktail Time” hosted by Duncan Pirnie, 10 years older than I.   Duncan Pirnie

In a rolling baritone he playfully said just a few sly words during the only QXR program resembling pop music. Duncan, by the way, was physically the largest on the staff at a time when obesity was less common than it is now. And, coincidentally, his father Donald had been a successful concert baritone whom my aunt Marion had sometimes accompanied. Later he became part of the faculty at Sanford Prep when I had been a student there. (see above material about my boyhood.)

We had one unusual assignment, Technically it was voluntary. Of course, I participated. Each day one of us would record a few personally-chosen articles from the Times for The Lighthouse Association for The Blind. The tapes would be played back at double speed for Lighthouse-served blind people, given their heightened acuity.

The recordings we made on our own time, whenever we were not assigned regular announcing duties. We did that on a small tape recorder in the studio just outside the announcer’s lounge. Given union rules, this process could not involve staff engineers. The tapes went directly to The Lighthouse.

The pay was really good, especially if I got talent fees, standard in some of the best contracts at the biggest stations. The fees were extra money when assigned to sponsored programs. We had to fill out daily forms for the fees and submit them with our record of how many hours we had been on the air each week.

I got a substantial  fee for one evening’s hosting of a live performance by the WQXR piano duo of Jascha Zayde and Leonid Hambro. Marty had written the script; I was not required to ad-lib anything. But there was a live audience in the WQXR auditorium and I became incredibly nervous with the responsibility. This was THE NEW YORK TIMES. Live musicians depending on my cues and my words which had to be delivered in the exact time allotted. No reading the script too fast. No reading it too slow. Certainly I’d appeared as an actor many times before in front of live audiences but in this case I wasn’t playing a character. I was appearing as Gordon Spencer.  Alone with a microphone in a studio, no one looking at me, that was easy. This was different.

I survived that too.

Of course, to be in front of a live audience, I wore a suit, a good shirt, tie etc. But that was not much different from how most QXR announcers dressed when on duty but in the studios. Peter Allen often had on a suit. Grobe wore dress shirts and ties. Mel wore sport shirts, good pants and shows.  Duncan seemed the least well-dressed in a casual shirt and comfortable rather than well-creased trousers.

Normally one announcer would host the music program and another would be on hand to read live spot commercials during the broadcast.

One late afternoon in early November 1965 I was in the middle of reading a commercial on the air just prior to Chester Santon’s 5:30 newscast when the light went out in the studio. I stopped reading. In Master Control the lights went out. And in all the studios.  And in the halls.

We were curious what was happening and if other parts of the floor and those of The Times were also dark. Chester and the engineer asked me if I could outside the studio and look, while they waited in case we went back on the air soon.

I took an engineer’s flashlight and found the outside halls totally dark. The elevators were not running. And, looking out the windows, the QXR studio having none to outside, I could see that all the nearby buildings also were totally dark.

I went back to the studios and told everyone. Then we turned on a small portable radio to check to see if other stations were likewise affected, first tuning to WINS (“All News All the Time”). By that time it already had a report about a major blackout all along the Eastern Seaboard, although no one knew yet who or why it happened. Several of us couldn’t help thinking of some kind of science fiction scenario. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-great-northeast-blackout

My shift ended at 6pm. So, with the station still off the air, I went home. Taking a jammed bus all the way down to City Hall, the subways not running. Then I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to likewise unlit Brooklyn Heights.

Sometimes I also worked late evenings before the station signed off for the night. Since Grobe was not present to supervise and make sure everything ran properly, someone had the responsibility, being called a “night manager” or a “weekend manager.”  Most often it was one of us standbys from the list. We were not considered management of course, since, if necessary, we could fill on the air during an emergency. We had to do such things as set up recording news features for later broadcast. We didn’t run the equipment. But we acted as producers making sure that the reporter was comfortable, had everything he needed (right, “he”). We signaled the engineer. We checked to make sure no re-take was needed. And we filed the script for future reference.

That’s how I got to talk to Clive Barnes who was then The Times major theatre critic.

Clive Barnes w nameWe would chat briefly after he’d finished recording. I told him about my theatre background. He listened politely, neither bored nor fascinated. As I’m sure he’d done many times with many other people. He has a rather squeaky voice and stuttered a lot and, given that, and a gap in his front teeth, he reminded me a Peter Sellers character. Not that I ever told him. The on-duty engineer edited out the stutters.

Certainly I was pleased to get so much work at QXR and my experience there confirmed my thorough professionalism. I was proud of being on WQXR, the top of my profession, but being there was not a source of enjoyment.  It didn’t compare with what I was doing at WNCN whenever I was called; I got to choose some of the music and to talk about it; everything was more relaxed. Yes, the pay was less; it wasn’t even an AFTRA station yet. I’ve always gravitated to broadcasting which I could thoroughly enjoy, where I could contribute something personal, but never very practical regarding income.

I would return to QXR from time to time thereafter but not be there as often as during those first nine months. I was dropped down, way down on the list after I turned down work too often. I was busier elsewhere. At first, that meant joining the staff of ABC.

In The Heights

Vene and I were seeing less of each other with my hopping around at both stations, often in the evenings, but we were delighted by my increased earnings. Meanwhile she’d been getting more interested in performing again. When we’d first met, she’d been acting in plays at Temple, appearing in a couple with me as well as at Atlantic City’s Center Little Theatre in Out of the Frying Pan.

In late 1965 she started getting a few roles in The Heights Players, a community theatre whose productions were staged a few blocks from where we lived. That also expanded our social life;   we became friends with regular performers there including an openly gay couple Randy Kim and Chuck Bright. Randy later went on to a major career in movies and on Broadway as Randall Duk Kim. Randy Kim w name 2

He, Chuck and Anne Occhiogrosso founded one of the US’s great summer theatres, American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Where I often went while living in Milwaukee

Tiny Randy had an amazingly deep voice and was a master of make-up. He, Chuck and Vene all starred in Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland at the Heights Players.

And I performed in fund-raising variety shows there as The World’s Oldest Living Beat Poet, reading simple-minded comic verse I’d written. Plus some of my comedy sketches were acted by Heights Players regulars.

One was about a guy turned on by a woman in a bar because she had a copy of Masters and Johnson’s just-published Human Sexual Response. He figured she’d be an easy conquest given that book; he brings that up with a sly grin. She responds by quoting him some of the book’s gross, analytical descriptions of bodily functions. So much so that he has to leave for the men’s room to throw up.

Speaking of bodily functions, through The Heights Players, I connected with Lester Bergman who published medical books. And he hired me to narrate a couple of films about procedures during operations.

By early 1966 Vene wanted to quit her job as assistant to Cosmopolitan Magazine fiction editor Bill Guy. She really liked him and also admired new editor in chief Helen Gurley Brown, but wanted to try an actual acting career. Considering how much money I’d been making from announcing on two stations, it seem only fair that I should support her shot at fame; she had been the major source of income when I was an infrequently employed actor.

Why not? She might succeed where I hadn’t. She bubbled with personality, was cute and, being quite short, still seemed girlish, although she was my age.

She joined a children’s theatre group whose regular cast included Bill Finn and Danny Goldman.  Danny Goldman w name

Tall, rangy Bill went on to write musicals as William Finn with his first success about ten years later: In Trousers. Later he’d become lauded and awarded for his Falsetto trilogy, A New Brain and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Danny became a film actor, specializing in voices, including that of Brainy Smurf and also became a Hollywood casting director of television commercials.  Vene also got roles in summer stock in Rochester, New Hampshire.

I join ABC

Early in 1966 WNCN Program Director Ed Shaughnessy told me that he was moving on to become program director at WABC-FM;  they were broadcasting some classical music. I asked if there might be a way I could join him.

He said that he had no authority to hire me but that, in March, ABC would audition people as relief announcers and certainly I could apply. It would mean a chance to be heard on all of ABC’s New York operations, the TV and radio networks plus the local stations. The minimal six month gig was to cover regular staff vacations. And, if anything full-time opened, Ed believed  the relief guys (right, men only) would most likely be considered.

Six months of big money sounded like a great idea. And how much higher could an announcer go than being on the ABC staff?

There was a massive line-up of superbly-dressed, deep-voiced candidates at the audition. Suits. Ties. Polished shoes.. They’d come from Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis for this major opportunity. I felt overshadowed, as if I was still a kid and they were the big time, even though I was 33.

The audition material included a newscast, commercials and a classical music script. Exactly what I’d been doing at WQXR.

While waiting to record my shot at fortune, a six foot two, supremely well-dressed, perfectly groomed guy next said to one of his peers. “Shit! ” he said, waving a page of the audition,  “What the hell is this?”

The other resonated back “Some kind of classical music stuff. How the fuck are we supposed to know that?”

They warmed the cockles of my soul.

I got in.

April 1966 I joined the staff.

Oddly, though, I rarely announced on WABC-FM. Within a couple of months its format changed and classical music was minimized. Instead I did what all the staff announcers did, live booth station breaks and five-second on-air promos on the two TV networks and WABC-TV, and live newscasts and commercials on the radio network and on WABC-AM.

Relief announcers’ assignments seemed random; we filled in slots normally covered by regular staff who’s been re-assigned wherever there were talent fees. Their contract required minimum fees every week and ABC had to guarantee the minimum. So, if the announcer didn’t get enough fees from regular assignments, ABC had to make up the difference, hence the re-alignments to minimize what ABC had to make up. Audiences wouldn’t know the difference anyway, most of us sounded like each other, anonymous, mellifluous, resonant, manly voices.

So were did I most turn up? The classical music expert? Usually over nights at one of the highest- rated pop music radio stations in town, even in the U.S. WABC-NEW YORK! as I often punched up the call letters. An acting assignment. Moreover, once an hour, I had to read, live, 60 second commercials for a new sponsor, Dennison Clothes on Route 22, Union N.J. The copy always began with “The president of Dennison Clothes says…” and included the phrase “Where money talks, nobody walks.”

The copy was fundamental selling, so I decided to punch it up, have fun, almost a parody, the way Jerry Carroll would do some years later on the ubiquitous Crazy Eddie spots. I started each commercial with a serious intonation, sounding as if I was going to announce something portentous and newsworthy, Cronkite-like: “Ladies and Gentlemen The President of …(but then not “The United States” ) and spin off into absurdity without altering the copy.  The first time I did it, Charlie Greer and the other guys on duty howled with laughter. Charlie Greer Eventually Charlie would introduce me as “The voice of Dennison Clothes.”

Primarily my major job was to read newscasts written by Webb Kelley. When we first met, he told me that, at one time, he’d been writing for the TV network but that they wanted someone who could also look good on camera and that he was too old. I often felt that he was frustrated and unhappy, diminished to five minute scripts overnight. Sometimes he even sounded as if he’d been drinking. And sometimes he just took AP wire copy and stapled it to my scripts. He called me “Beatley,”  a  reference, no doubt, to my beard, still uncommon, and the resemblance to the by -then outdated and bypassed beatniks, superseded by hippies. Old news.   

Most often I was the news and commercials reader when Charlie Greer was the d.j. in a powerful signal radiating across more than 38 states. He was in his sixth year at the station and kept telling me, off the air, and everyone else within earshot, engineers, visitors, anyone who’d listen, that he’d been there longer than any of the other guys and it made him nervous as hell; he expected to be fired any day. He, like every other d.j. at WABC NEW YORK, had six-month contracts, fabulous money but under conditions designed to make sure they delivered the goods. Longevity depended on the ratings.

As for the music, everyone had a playlist; they could only choose something from it. All of that week’s selections were on cartridges played by the engineers, sitting  across from the d.j.s  separated by a console. The d.j’s announced the songs with non-stop enthusiasm, as if they loved hearing the same things over and over, and they came up with a little chatter and read a few commercials which required their personalities, talent-fee compensated.

Program Director Rick Sklar decided which music to broadcast, and each week held a meeting with the d.j.s where they could give him input. Evidently the weekly playlist was very short. According to Sklar in his book Rocking America, the records on the list were determined by studying sales at about 550 record stores. Then, at each meeting, the list was revised. Songs which hadn’t moved up in sales were dropped. Songs at the top of the list were broadcast more regularly than the others, about once at 70 or 80 minute intervals. Some of this info and more can be found at Allan M. Sniffen’s Musicradio WABC Website http://www.musicradio77.com

Among the hits I heard repeatedly: Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,”  “Wild Things” by The Troggs, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, Simon and Garfunkel in “I Am a Rock,” “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas and Papas.

Sometimes too I’d be assigned to read news while Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy or Chuck Leonard were on the air. chuck leonard 2 w name  Chuck always looked nervous and had a habit of vigorously yanking off his headphones once the music was playing.

Dan sounded intelligent and clever. While reading a commercial for a furniture store selling ottomans he ad-libbed, “Hey! Remember their empire?”  Or once, the copy being for a steak house whose meals “stick to your ribs…”  he added “…bypassing your stomach.”    danIngram2 w name

TV booth announcing was new to me. Sometimes I’d be on the networks, sometimes on WABC-TV. Those studios were on West 66th Street just east of Broadway, while WABC-AM was a block and half south of there in an office building at 1926 Broadway.

The booths were small rooms, each with a TV monitor, headphones, a microphone, a table with a lamp, a program log, whatever copy was to be read, and a plain chair. Utilitarian. Many booths were below street level, seeming dark and truly subterranean. Perhaps they were there so ABC could keep on broadcasting during an atomic attack.

Once, when going on duty, I encountered Milton Cross in one of the booths.

I had come to relieve him. When he spoke to me, I was shocked, recognizing that Metropolitan Opera broadcast voice, sadly, in that dreary, underground cell. It seemed like such a diminishment for him.  miltoncross w name 2  I hadn’t known that he was on the staff. He told me that he had left a few magazines in case I wanted to read them. It was the only time we saw each other. In fact, we relief announcers also rarely crossed paths. We didn’t team up the way QXR announcers did.

TV production directors were somewhere else in the building; I never learned where and never saw them. They directed booth announcers, communicating through headsets. Arriving to announce, we had to call on a house phone and check in with our directors, not being visible, confirming that we were in the right place at the right time and that our names matched those on the logs.

Then the director made sure he could be heard through the headphones and have his engineer, wherever that man was, check our microphone, having us read the copy to be heard on the air. E.g. “Stay tuned for ‘F Troop’ coming up next on ABC.”

That’s a characteristic five second promo. It had to be delivered within five seconds because a computer somewhere would then switch to the network or to the station and the next event. Announcers could get into serious trouble if the computer cut them off. Consequently, even some of the regular staff read the copy as fast as possible, a kind of urgency. None of those announcements were pre-recorded, nor the station breaks either. Everything was live.  I subsequently learned,a few years later, that ABC finally got smart and recorded a lot of the breaks, meaning, no doubt, less work for announcers whose ranks, I believe, were diminished by buy-outs.

“Standby for the station break, Gordon. Coming up in five seconds. Four. Three. Two. One. ANNOUNCE!”  Yes, that order often sounded as if ours lives depended on it. You can imagine how an announcer would intensely, anxiously, do his five second thing.

WABC-TV signed off overnight then, following a late movie. Once, on the late night shift, I looked at my few pages of copy and found that the last thing before reading the sign-off announcement was a prayer by Reverend David Burns of Calvary Protestant Church in Baldwin, Long Island. Having watched late night TV in the past, I’d seen film clips of ministers reading short prayers. I assumed that all I had to do was introduce Father Burns, although I had a copy of the prayer.

My mike open, I read the introduction and waited for the film. “ANNOUNCE!”  the director yelled. I paused. Was I supposed to read the prayer myself? I couldn’t ask. My mike was live. “ANNOUNCE” he yelled again. It was a wonder that his voice didn’t leak through my microphone.

I hadn’t read over the prayer, of course, So I read it cold, nervous a hell. Heaven knows what it said. But, by God, I never stumbled, never lost my way.

I followed it immediately with the sign-off script, which I had rehearsed.

Once we were off the air, the director called me on the phone. Uh-oh. He was going to chew me out for one and a half seconds of dead air. Nope. Instead he said “Wow! That was a great reading of the prayer. You sounded like you believed every word. Hey, have a good night, huh?”  He hung up.

And I walked out into the night’s cool and shiny streets, gleaming from the lights on Broadway.

Soon I’d be pounding the pavements again, looking for work. When the vacation season was over I was not one of the two relief guys ABC got hired full-time. I was disappointed, sure. But I couldn’t help wondering how long it would take me to be thoroughly bored in such a nearly anonymous job.

Yet, in those six months, I felt proud that I’d made it at ABC. Yeah, ABC: six months; WQXR, nine months. Intense, colorful blips.

My two year stint at WOND still held the record for the longest job. And that, as well as my 20 months at the first version of NCN, were the only jobs I had really enjoyed. As far as ABC went,  I was proud of my skill and felt significant, even though my name and presumed personality usually were only public at night.

 

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