So, as my work life is coming to an end, I started thinking back on the jobs I’ve had in my life. I’m sure largely because of my long tenure at WABC, it turns out I’ve only worked 7 real jobs in my life! My youngest son Kenny has had more jobs than that in his young acting career, and he’s only 29!
So, the first job I ever got paid for came about because of my folks, and what we did each summer from 1960 to 1965. As singers in NY’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus, they were off all summer, as the Met’s season ended after the spring tour and started up again in the fall. During the spring season of 1960, Dino Yannopoulos, the principal stage director at the Met, approached my folks about spending the summer in Cincinnati as members of the Cincinnati Summer Opera Chorus. The supporting cast was mostly made up of music teachers and students, and as the new Artistic Director of the Summer Opera, he liked the idea of having a couple of strong professional anchor folks, plus they’d be working with formerMet Chorus Master Fausto Cleva (who had originally hired both of my parents at the Met) who was the Musical Director. The interesting thing about the Cincinnati Sumer Opera in those days is that the performances were held at the open air Opera Pavilion at the Cincinnati Zoo! The classic stories are of the geese and ducks (and an occasional bear) singing along with Puccini or Verdi, but for a 10 year old kid, getting to roam the zoo doing rehearsals was a great way to spend a summer! So, how did this lead to my first paying job? Well, many operas need folks to fill in for the crowd scenes so that there were bodies beyond just the singers, to keep the stage looking full. Those folks are called Supernumeraries or Supers, non singing stage characters. As I was always hanging around, I was pressed into service, and even paid for the job! During the summers we were there, I was a Matador in Carmen, an Alter Boy in Tosca, a street urchin in Boheme, and the about to be murdered crown price in Macbeth (killed cleverly by my own father, thanks to Dino’s stage direction). For these performances I believe we were paid $5 a show, and that was my first paid job! That continued through the summer of 1965, so for those 6 years, my first job was as an opera super at the Cincinnati Zoo Summer Opera!
My second job came about the summer I graduated from high school, which was 1967. My uncle worked at Alexander’s Department Store in Rego Park, Queens, and hooked my friend Richard and myself up with jobs there. Richard worked in the Domestics Department on the second floor, and I was a stock boy in the Men’s Shoe Department on the first floor. I remember exactly 3 things from that summer….I learned my social security number, because we had to give it each week to get our pay checks, I remember eating liverwurst on pumpernickel, with lettuce, tomato and mustard almost every day in the employee cafeteria (something like 55 cents for the sandwich), and I remember that every time someone would ask me for a particular style shoe in a size, I’d go back into the storeroom, get the shoe, and then come out and realize I had no idea who asked for the shoe!!! My first and last experience in retail!
Towards the end of my first year in college, our neighbor who worked for the Standard Oil Company asked if I’d like to work in Manhattan for the summer. She said that they were in the process of summer hiring, and she’d be happy to get my name on the list. After my success in retail, I decided that perhaps office work might be more my forte, so I said yes. Well, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was assigned to the Mechanical Duplicating Department, which was basically the Standard Oil Print shop. We were located on not the first, but the second basement level of the then Esso Building on 51st Street, just down the street from where the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lives each December. The shop had these great huge print machines, paper cutters, and all other manner of interesting mechanical devices, but as summer workers, we were not allowed to go near them! It ended up that what we did all day, was collate reports, and stuff envelopes! It also turned out that the summer workers that were assigned to that department were a mixed bag of some of the strangest people I have ever worked with, and remember, I spent the last 44 years working in radio! Why, we even had one guy who must have partied all night, because all he’d do all day was sleep!
After that experience, I was looking for something different for the summer between my sophomore and junior year at college, and so I started going over to the college placement office and look at what offerings they had. I saw a posting about a summer arts camp on the North Shore of Long Island that was looking for counselors, and since I was a Music Major at Post, thought that might be a good mix. The Fidel School in Glen Cove, NY was run by Ivan and Roslyn Fidel…he a musician, she a dancer…and the school was held in the former Francis L. Hine estate on Desoris Lane. I called and was invited over for an interview with Mr. Fidel, and was hired that first summer as an Assistant Counselor. It was a crazy, warm, funny place, filled with an incredible array of folks, and became my work home from the summer of 1969 until I started at WHN Radio in April of 1972. During the time I was there, I worked lots of different jobs, from being Mr. Fidel’s assistant, to running day trips from the camp to Sagamore Hill, to plotting summer bus routes, to even answering the phone. One summer, while he was making a film on Long Island, Walter Matthau’s son Charlie went to Fidel. I backed into Mr. Matthau one day…literally, and he was a very big man!! I worked summers and during the school year, Friday afternoon, and all day Saturday at their winter weekend program. We worked at the original Glen Cove campus, and at their satellite Bayville campus, and it was the last non-radio job I had in my life! I worked at Fidel all through the rest of college, during the time I was at ATS taking First Class Prep course, and worked my last Saturday there 2 days before I started at WHN!
So, the first four jobs occupied 12 years of my life, the next three jobs, 44 years of my life. Shortly after I obtained by First Class FCC License in 1972, I started at WHN on April 17th, and worked there till the spring of 1976 when I was bought out (got a whole year’s salary…bought a 21 foot boat) by a new IBEW contract. I played with the new boat for a couple of months, and in August of 1976, started at WABC. In February, 1978, WABC loaned me to WOR 8 months, and then in October of 1978, it was back to WABC, where I have stayed, and will stay till January 29th!