Somebody asked me a funny question recently: “How many jobs have you been fired from versus how many have you quit?” And as I was thinking, what I recalled most was two jobs from which I was never officially fired – but lost because of phone messages I left for the boss. I figure that’s more of a unique circumstance.
The first came courtesy of THE BELMONTS, a shitty musical gig which I never liked in the first place. I initially met Warren (the counterfeit Belmont who ran the group’s business) through JOEY DEE, yet another moldy oldie I worked for who lived just down the street from Warren in (guess where) the Bronx. Joe was off and Warren needing a bass player, asked if he could borrow me for a night. Warren didn’t work as much as Joe…but he paid better. So sooner than later, I left Joe for the Belmonts. Now when I say “paid better” I’m talking $50 or $75 a job versus $100 (in 1985 dollars). Not exactly union scale – if you get my drift.
I should mention that this was just about the end of my gigging days, as after losing a hunk of money in the stock market, I’d discovered the financial rewards of driving a cab. For 12 hours of work, I would generally net $200 on a Saturday night and $150 during the week. Warren’s gigs involved my taking the train to Pelham Park…riding to God knows where for a one-nighter (once we drove to Bangor, Maine and another time we flew to Buffalo)…playing the gig…driving back…and sometimes taking the train back depending on whether we did the job south of Warren’s apartment or north. Whichever…most of the work was time-consuming considering how many hours it was from the moment I walked out my door to the moment I walked back in.
Moreover, Warren was an asshole I did not like. And all the Belmonts chain-smoked in the car endlessly. Stardom this was not. I think I got laid a grand total of once while working for Warren. And there were one or two other times I could have but faced with a 250 mile bus ride home the next day, I demured. To ice the cake, the music was boring and the band half-assed. Clearly, this was a gig I could live without.
So anyway…one day Warren called to book me for a Friday night. And then the next day he left a message that he’d made a mistake and it was for Saturday. I knew he was full of crap and didn’t want to admit he was juggling musicians and gigs to make himself more money while inconveniencing me – and that he was insulting my intelligence thinking I didn’t understand what he was doing. And this, I left on his phone answerer when he didn’t pick up. That was more than 30 years ago and I’ve not heard from Warren since. Goodbye Belmonts. Hello big money. Driving a cab!
Fast forward ten years or so and I’m working full time at Action mag and freelance writing for THE SCORE GROUP, a bunch of girly rags published out of Miami. Each job (which consisted of anything from covering the piercing craze to composing foot fetish fiction) pays between $300 and $500 for 3000 words. Not bad by girly rag standards. But the boss’s son to whom I report has a bad habit of shorting me on money. He’ll offer say $500 for the job but then send a check for $400. Or offer $400 and then forward $350. Nothing terrible but still, a little insulting.
This happens maybe half a dozen times over the course of as many months. So one day he calls to request a foot fetish piece in which I was to research and describe all the different kinds of shoes women wear to look sexy in different degrees and situations (pumps, high heals, stilettos, platforms, platform stilettos and on and on). This was a job for which I’d have to go to the library (just before the Internet would have enabled me to do all the research at home). I countered his offer by saying that I could supply photos of all the different kinds of shoes (now that I was taking numerous shots of hookers from all over the city) but that he needed to a) pay me the stipulated amount and b) cut off the heads of the girls as I knew they’d see the magazines given that often I’d find publications from the Score Group on the tables of the waiting rooms in their apartments! It was paramount that he not show their faces!
So I write the piece…send the pictures…and sure enough, a month later, the check and a copy of the mag arrives in my mailbox. First, I see that the check is actually for the right amount. Hooray! And then I look in the magazine to see that he did not crop the photos and the girls’ faces are showing! Immediately in a fit of anger, I picked up the phone and when connecting to the boss’s answering machine let him have it. And that was the last time I ever wrote for The Score Group.
In truth, I felt a little sorry about nuking my Score gig. People were seeing the stuff and it was giving me street cred. But as for Warren? That was a different story. I didn’t give two shits for him or his fake fucking gig. That dude could kiss my ass at the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway at high noon on a sunny Sunday. That’s about how I always felt about Warren. And I didn’t think that much more highly of Joey Dee either.
Well anyway…so ends the story of me getting myself fired without so much as a word from the boss. And all because I suffer fools lightly and do not hesitate to let them know in no uncertain terms whether it’s face to face or on a phone answerer when they aren’t around.
And now that I think about it, there was a third time I was terminated for leaving a funky phone message for an asshole (the owner of Cityvibe when it was franchised to a big whore house owner in New York). But that’s a story for another day. I’ll end with this final anecdote. When I told the IRS agents who came to my door that I’d actually been employed by the Village Voice for a whole week before quitting, one of the pair laughed and with a hint of admiration observed “You don’t strike me as the kind of guy who works a 9 to 5.” From the mouths of babes…and IRS agents!