18 Sept. 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Don't Buy Judy Bond Blouses

Perhaps you remember this slogan.  It refers to an old conflict in the days when labor unions were of greater significance.  This conflict was remarkable mostly for its tenure.  One could walk the streets of Manhattan for years and see shopping bags with this slogan.  In fact, I have the vague memory of asking my mom, with whom I was walking, "why aren't they 'blice'."  You just know this was even before I reached teen-age since at that degree of superannuation, one no longer walked with his mom, and could make it "blice" if he felt like it.

I have no idea what became of the Judy Bond controversy, but it was my introduction to unions.  I had another introduction to unions when I was required, as a homework assignment in high school, to prepare a paper on the Taft Hartley Act.  I remember little about the Act and even less about the paper, but I'm sure it was the soul of reason, and probably got at least a "C."  At no time during either of these episodes did it occur to me that I, personally, would actually some day become a union member.  And even if it had, the notion of "picketing" would have seemed about as foreign as Tanganyika, which is what Tanzania was before it started hanging out with Zanzibar. 

Fast forward a few years.  I had the opportunity to work for the best radio station on earth, WABC.  (It was indeed that.  I'm not exaggerating, although I make no such claim for its current incarnation.)  One prerequisite for joining the engineering staff, however, was becoming a member of the union.  Fortunately, I could do that by allowing them to deduct a preposterous "initiation fee" from my bi-weekly wages.  The deductions were duly made, and I got my union card.  I had a grand old time working for the station through some of the most spectacular years of NYC radio.  (I'm going to collect some reminiscences and some photos, but today is just a quickie.)

At WABC I found myself working with my idolsDan Ingram, Cousin Brucie, Bob Lewisalong with others whom I would come to admire.  I also found myself working, albeit minimally, with non-DJ personalities, such as the redoubtable Howard Cosell.  My job was largely menial - setting up microphones, running recorders, and the like, but that translated, as it often does, to "I knew Howard Cosell."  Howard wasn't particularly friendly.  He had no reason to be; I was an overpaid and supernumerary college kid and he was a Sportscaster.  But he wasn't deliberately rude, at least not to me.  On the occasions when I would work with him we would exchange nods at the very least, and I vaguely recall one "Good evening," although I could be flattering myself. 

I'm not a keen fan of sport and I didn't follow Howard's career after I left the station.  I do remember reading that he died some time ago.  Today I was forced to re-evaluate that theory!  A friend referred me to a remarkable document, and I decided to pass it along.  Can it be that Howard and Elvis had more in common than their fame and a similar number of limbs?  Decide for yourself!

My last memory of the Howard I "knew," rather than the orotund Howard of teevee and radio, was this:  I was on strike!  (The union decided that we needed higher wages and better working conditions.)  It was my turn to picket!  (I was wearing a placard declaring the injustice of my evil employer, and walking a racetrack pattern on the pavement outside the ABC studios.)  I was walking fairly rapidly; it was a chilly day.  Howard Cosell came walking down the block, right past the rather thin picket "line," it being maybe two other guys and me.  No nod from Howard.  No slowing down.  No sign of remorse or sympathy as he entered the studio to record his show, despite the fact that the tape machine would be started and stopped by an executive (or perhaps a secretary) rather than a qualified, unionized practitioner of the broadcast arts and sciences. 

All I could think about as he was walking past, irrelevantly and, indeed, idiotically, was "there goes a man who would wear a Judy Bond blouse."

Richard Factor