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Jobs & Careers > An Old Friend and Days of Yore

An Old Friend and Days of Yore

My friend, Julie, who managed to retire from the public school system before being driven to become a serial murderer of teen-age boys, came down from Brooklyn for four days. We hung out and talked ourselves to pieces. She is a wonderful friend. We are the same size, and similar from a distance. Sometimes if she takes my bike out, people think it’s me. And we laughed a lot. She came without her husband,so was able to stay with us. When her husband is along, they have to stay in a motel because he is allergic to cats.The only thing I had to do was to remove the down comforter from the spare bedroom because Julie is allergic to down. Her visit brought back a lot of memories.

We met when we both worked as editorial assistants at Harper & Row before it became Harper-Collins. She left to pursue her teaching vocation. I left when my boss died and her replacement was a genuine dyed-in-the-wool asshole. Harvey asked me what I had done in the job and I told him that, in addition, to the scut work, I had written brief descriptions and flap copy, and read manuscripts. Well, he said, I do all that. I understood then that what he needed was a gofer. He was startled to realize I wasn’t going to stay. It turned out he only wanted me around until he could get a handle on company procedures, how we put the books through production, etc. He needed to know how everything worked. I was supposed to teach him. It was required that any position open in the company had to be posted so that employees could have a chance to apply before the job was offered out of the company. My friends told me that the description he posted was so grandiose, one would have had to be a Rhodes scholar to get hired. And thus he was able to offer the job to the young man who had been his assistant at his previous company, his very special friend. And they walked off into the sunset. The plan, apparently, was that when I was drained of my expertise, he would make me miserable and I would quit in disgust, thus paving the way for his friend.

But I had an offer. My late boss, Virginia, had introduced me to the president of Times Books, the New York Times hard-cover subsidiary. It was being re-invented from being Quadrangle Books, a tech house, and turned into a trade house (books for the general public). I became Tom’s assistant although I had been warned he was a tyrant. So for four years I endured the personality of someone who liked to inflict emotional pain. Tom was brilliant, but brutal in his relations to staff. I was hired away by Buck, executive editor of the NYT News Service and president of the Syndication arm. We’d had inter-company business and he liked the way I handled things, and he had also noticed that I deflected Tom’s mischief during negotiations whenever I could. Tom once sat next to Roone Arledge, then head of ABC, at a dinner and deliberately insulted his wife to prove they would still do business because Arledge needed him more.

I tendered the mandatory letter of resignation to Emily, the toxic controller, and I inked in at the bottom, “pardon champagne spots.” In the days before I left, the editor in chief passed my desk and was heard to remark, “why is that woman smiling?” So off I went to the Syndicate with a $3,000 raise and a new boss who was not a narcissist. It was a great time.

xx, Teal

posted on May 3, 2017 10:46 AM ()


Great stuff!
comment by hobbie on May 4, 2017 5:50 AM ()
It's gratifying to hear that you prospered after leaving the position with the new jerk boss. I was sort of hoping that you'd have left before teaching him the job. Today is bringing out the worst in me..
comment by drmaus on May 3, 2017 12:59 PM ()
He took me out for coffee while he explained what the job wasn't. You should have seen the look on his face when I thanked him for the interview without committing to work for him. I was in my 40s at the time and he probably thought I was stuck taking anything I could get.
reply by tealstar on May 4, 2017 6:23 AM ()

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