Sunday, November 27, 2011

For Three-Word Wednesday and Sunday Scribblings

(Also submitted to ABC Wednesday and Magpie 93)
"T" is for "Tape" - Audio Tape
Try to picture this scene. I was young – this was years ago - and I was working at a New York radio station.

At that time, audio tape was very new; it had just come on the scene. For the broadcasting business, audio tape’s ability to reproduce music and speech in high fidelity was a fantastic breakthrough.
And now our radio station had received one of the very first audio tape recorders that was portable. The word “portable” wasn’t exactly accurate; you couldn’t carry the thing. It was huge. It was, in fact, a kind of blunderbuss. But it had wheels so you could lug it around.
(Today, of course, you can record with a device about the size of a pinhead.)

A press agent learned our station had this remarkable portable machine. He phoned one of his clients, famed movie star Ginger Rogers, who was then living at the Waldorf-Astoria, and told her she wouldn’t have to go to radio stations any more to do interviews. She could sit at her leisure at home, or at her hotel, and an interviewer would come and record her, and what she had to say would be on the air the next day in excellent high fidelity.
She thought it was a fine idea and was all for it. Previously she had phoned in interviews to radio stations from time to time but the voice quality of a phone line was very poor.
At the station, I had learned as much as I could about this new tape recorder. I could take it apart and put it together without a problem. So, callow youth though I was, I received this important assignment.

As you may imagine, this was about the biggest thing that happened to me during my time as a beginner in radio. Ginger Rogers! True, she wasn’t the world-famous star she had been a decade or so earlier -- the Fred and Ginger whose marvelous dancing brought joy to millions around the world -- but she was still a major celebrity; she commanded an imperial suite in the Waldorf. It was a fantastic assignment for a young guy.
I showed up, bright-tailed and bushy-eyed, right on time, lugging the huge recorder behind me. She greeted me in a friendly way, obviously pleased to be taking part in this marvelous new technological adventure.
(I knew how to behave with celebrities; I didn’t want her to think I was just part of a mob of fans. And I made sure I didn’t commit the faux pas of saying I had been interested in her career since I was a little kid.)
I was a bit surprised that she had chosen, of the various rooms of her suite, the smallest one for our interview. I guess it was because it was where she felt the most relaxed.
The room was full, chock-full, of literally hundreds of knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, gewgaws, curios – evidently just about everything in the form of an award or memento she had ever been given. The items ranged from the obviously expensive to junk that would have been jettisoned except that it was probably kept for sentimental reasons.

This small room was not only jammed full of stuff; there was only one place to sit – on something that used to be known as a settee. This small sofa, very much like the one in the prompt, was evidently also a memento of some kind. It was not new, not in good condition; perhaps the reason she kept it was that it had been part of her youth, a reminder of her home back in Missouri, where she was raised.
At any rate, it was a strange situation. I was sitting with her on this small couch, trying to rig up the equipment for the interview.

No one had told her that the recording machine for her interview was, as far as she could see, as big as a small house. Or that it took quite a while to assemble before it could operate.
So I began the process of setting it up. She sat next to me, still trying to smile pleasantly, though I sensed that she was beginning to wonder if this was such a great idea after all.
Perspiring a bit, I took the whole contraption apart, got out my eleven-inch reels, installed them, threaded the tape in the intricate manner of that time, unpacked the mike, attached it to its stand, found the power supply, made all the connections, did a test or two, etc., etc.
As I say, this went on for quite a while. The smile disappeared from her face.
Anyway, we finally got to the interview. I asked the questions and she answered. She covered the usual celebrity topics: she talked about her film career, her travels, her friends, how in Rome Alfredo had invented a special sauce for her, etc.
I then began the lengthy process of closing the infernal machine up for travel.
After I finished this, finally, I bade her adieu – she didn’t seem all that sorry to see me go – and I headed out the door.
As I mentioned, her room was absolutely stuffed with all these gewgaws and mementos. It was a place where no one should ever enter if you were lugging a large blunderbuss with you. As careful as I was, a portion of the huge tape recorder managed to bump against a couple of the items on display and knock them off.
Disaster. At least two, possibly three, of these bric-a-brac pieces broke into – to use a technical scientific term – smithereens.
I felt terrible. I had no way of knowing if I had busted something of monetary or of sentimental value, or both. I apologized profusely.
You could see she was angry but was trying to hold it in. She didn’t start yelling at me, though I’m sure she felt like it. I got out of the place as fast as I could.
Years later, to show my grandkids their granddad had hobnobbed with the stars in his youth, I told them about my adventure with Ginger Rogers. They were impressed.
“Who’s Ginger Rogers?” they asked.

60 comments:

Margaret said...

!! Is this true? If so, she was a class act. I can't imagine the stars of today being polite and patient like this. Sounds to me like they need to watch some old b&w movies. My kids and I do that every holiday.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

They were raised in a different era. According to her peers, Ginger Rogers was quite the hoyden in her youth, but that was by their standards, not ours.

Berowne said...

Margaret: "!! Is this true?"
It's true. It happened.

Friko said...

I don't suppose that was all they didn't know. Can any kid today imagine that sort of contraption?

Suko said...

Very intriguing--that it is true makes it even more so.

izzy said...

Great ! Oh my having all that explaining to do-

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

Very enjoyable read.

Isabel Doyle said...

At least they didn't ask if she was a recipe ...
great tale Berowne

Enchanted Oak said...

I had a similar experience some years later, when I was a neophyte magazine writer assigned to interview a folk-music icon in the Hollywood Hills. I took my brand-new cassette tape recorder and wasted half an hour of the icon's time getting it to record properly. Then my Q & A revealed my total ignorance of the master's work. It was a painful experience for both of us. I was never again assigned to cover a music-industry personality, to my great relief.

Doctor FTSE said...

Ginger Rogers? Isn't that the one who dances backwards?
Lovely tale, Berowne, and magnificently told.

Berowne said...

To Doc FTSE, my thanks for a wonderful comment.

Margaret said...

...dances backwards. Ha ha. That will stay with me all day! Really, thanks for sharing this. I have watched untold numbers of old movies and when I was young I adored Ginger and ... what's his name? ha!

Berowne said...

Margaret: "...dances backwards. Ha ha. That will stay with me all day!"
Yes, that was a joke from years ago. "What was so great about Fred Astaire? Ginger Rogers did all that he did, and she did it backwards and in high heels."

Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

A memorable story with a predictable twist at the end.

Helen said...

Your memories of Ms. Ginger are thoroughly enchanting ~ just like her. And I DO remember!

Trellissimo said...

Some tales don't have a happy ending... :)

Berowne said...

Helen: "Your memories of Ms. Ginger are thoroughly enchanting."
As is your comment -- thanks.

Laurie Kolp said...

That's funny... I can see it now.

I once surprised my kids by the mention of Mary Poppins.

Brian Miller said...

she was on giligans island right? smiles.

Other Mary said...

Um..remind me...was she married to Mr. Rogers? lol, hope I wasn't too savage with your reflections! That's actually a very interesting one.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Your ending line was hilarious.

I loved your story. Now this was an interesting take on the prompt. Thank you for sharing your experience, albeit a fragile one.

iamthat-shawna.blogspot.com

Berowne said...

Other Mary: "Um..remind me...was she married to Mr. Rogers?"
They were both from the same neighborhood. :-)

Ginny Brannan said...

A wonderful narrative--can picture this young man doing his best to make a great impression on this amazing movie star. And how lucky to meet her and have this tale to tell. Wonderful!

Lyn said...

What a swell story...that's what Ginger would say, right? And in high heels, too...

kaykuala said...

What a great story Berowne! My, that is a piece of history that lingers on in your memory and it did now to me. I look forward to such anecdotes and you have a flair to come up with such gems. Thanks for sharing!

Hank

Tumblewords: said...

There's nothing like a kid to flatten the ego balloon! Great story!

ds said...

Great story! She was some lady, Ms. Rogers (seriously, Alfredo sauce was invented for her??). Nothing like a new generation to take the starch out of its elders!

Anonymous said...

memories like old settees are a comfort to the soul.
"What's a soul grandpa?"

Ginger Rogers!! Wow that is cool.
rel
http://pciyrtpy.blogspot.com/

Olive Tree said...

hahahaha...loved that ending. I can't help myself to enjoy these little witty remarks here and there. Not sure the truthful of those remarks, but who cares because I enjoyed them. I used those kind of witty remarks often when I write essays. I mean, Alfredo created a new sauce for her? Loved that part :) This is a very good writing. Light, intriguing, and again, the use of light humor here and there. Thank you for stopping by to mine too.

Karen said...

Great story well told! Those stars had a mystique that is lost in this era.

Lydia said...

Well, I'm impressed! It was indeed a marvelous assignment for a young reporter, and now lives on as a marvelous story. I do so love the way you write about your experiences. I always leave entertained and having learned something. Thank you!

indiwriter said...

Wow.. How do you manage to spin one good yarn after another? :) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.. lovely dancers. Guess it is a generation thing.

Roger Owen Green said...

Well, I'M impressed. But I'm old.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Like Roger, I'M impressed! But then I'm giving away myself...actually, I don't know if she was alive in my time or not. But I do remember my parents being impressed by her. You had quite an adventure that day and some day your grandchildren will realize it was worth remembering and will be impressed by old granddad.

Leslie
abcw team

Francisca said...

Hah! That's like being oh-so proud (read: ego-boosted) to wear a popular (perhaps expensive) brand of watch/shirt/bag/whatever, only to have am ignoramus like me say, "oh, what's that?" Value is all in the lens we wear, isn't it? Well, I DO know who Ginger Rogers is and I'm sure that was more than a bit of a memorable experience for you. Good story!

photowannabe said...

Well, I AM impressed and I do know my Grandkids would say the same as yours...who's that?
I know I say the same to them about some of their favorite actors and singers.
Sometimes I really feel I live under a rock!

spectralumbrella。◕ ‿ ◕。 said...

I am quite impressed, too. Thanks for giving us quite the informational post!

MaryA said...

You have delightful memories to share. I am glad that you share them with us, as well as with your grandchildren. Thank you.

Lena said...

lol....Kids and their Huh? Who?'s....! My son is sitting an honours degree in Audio Technology at uni and you should have seen his face when I produced some old vinyl LP's from the attic! He was staggered. It's micro all right these days, but I felt more at ease with those 11-inchers to fool around with!

Berowne said...

Roger O G: "Well, I'M impressed. But I'm old."
Bienvenue au club. :-)

Rinkly Rimes said...

They squash us so easily, don't they! When I tell my children that I used to envy Elizabeth Taylor they say' Who?' I love your account.

Nicholas V. said...

I really do enjoy the results of different inspired takes of the same Magpie picture. Many of the entries are quite amazing and this is one of them!

Altonian said...

When I was 25, my much older sister once told me she had had a crush on the actor Stuart Rome; when I asked Who? She actually hit me!

Anonymous said...

Dear Berowne: You know Berowne? Well I do! And now I am so impressed with this true story I need to ask for your autograph before I keel over! The realism of your story is really shining through, you cannot hide the truth nor tell a lie; this is a true story! I really am shocked to death! I have only heard "blunderbuss" one other time and "geegaws" so I know this story is true. Also no exclaimation marks gave it away. Pros remain calm at all times! Chiccoreal

HyperCRYPTICal said...

What a wonderful interesting read! "Geegaws" is a new one of me and I had to google - so, not only did I enjoy reading your post - my vocabulary is richer too!

Anna :o]

Chris said...

Great story and experience with Ginger Rogers. Show them the old tapes I am sure your grandkids will appreciate a fine dancer.

Martha said...

My kids have watched enough old movies that they would know (and be impressed). My daughter was especially fond of movies with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Sheilagh Lee said...

Terrible the ignorance of some youth.great story though my daughter is a news broadcaster and she is now taking television journalism after finishing her journalism degree and radio journalism broadcasting.They lug their own huge camera and film edit and then post the finished product for the television broadcast.I wonder if when she's old the kids will laugh at her equipment being so huge?

Aswin Jose said...

I'm truly impressed! You can forgive the ignorance in some special cases :)I am sure that your grand kids loved the story.

Berowne said...

If anyone ever wonders why we do this, all you have to do is look at these wonderful responses. My sincere thanks to Aswin J, Sheilagh L, Martha, Chris, HyperCRYPTICal, Martha, Chiccoreal, Altonian, Nicholas V, Rinkly R. and quite a few others.

katherinevonkrim said...

A wonderful post. It reminds me when I'd sit & listen to my great-grandmother's adventures as a kid.
Ginger Rogers seems like she was a classy lady. I know who she is but only because of my grandmother. She was a fan of hers.

Mary said...

What a wonderful 'three word Wednesday' tale you shared. What an experience you had to 'hob nob' with Ginger Rogers! I remember those old tape recorders too. When I was in teacher education, I had to learn how to SPLICE those tapes!! I enjoyed your work this morning!

Elizabeth said...

Oh dear Berowne, how gingerly you must have backed out of that room. But, at least she didn't make a song and dance about the situation. x

Suzy said...

What an awesome story. Thanks for sharing.

zongrik said...

nice story

Victoria said...

I like this both for the story and the story telling. it is a treat to have found your blog. Thanks for commenting on mine.

Elizabeth said...

I've just posted a little something for you on my blog, Berowne. x

jaerose said...

Made me smile..like a tap dance of interest..also brought back memories of making mix tapes on those old tape-to-tape gizmos..Jae

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "I've just posted a little something for you on my blog, Berowne."
That little something is about the best shout-out I could imagine. Christmas came a bit early for me this year with that post, Elizabeth; thanks.

Berowne said...

Suzy: "What an awesome story."
Speaking of awesome, what a collection of comments from jaerose, Victoria, zongrik, Mary and katherinevonkrim, among a page or two of others -- my sincere thanks.

 
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