Monday, February 01, 2016

Jobs from Hell, Part I

My first job in Los Angeles was with a small public relations firm in Beverly Hills, whose major clients were two land development projects. The boss was, as best I can recall (I seem to have tried to blot out a lot of memories of him), apparently gained whatever success he had by strict adherence to one rule of business: his clients could do no wrong; his employees could do no right. All credit was his, all the work and any blame fell to his employees.

Paydays were Friday, and though the work day was supposed to end at 5 p.m., checks were almost never out before 5:45 on Friday evening. He had, perhaps not surprisingly, a rather high employee turnover rate.

Of the two land development projects, one was the then-new Lake Havasu City in Arizona, the other near Tehachapi, California about a hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles. I was more involved in the latter than the former, though I did have the distinct pleasure of being roped into an occasional foray into the Arizona wilderness.

Every weekend, a Lockheed Constellation airliner would be chartered to fly prospective property buyers from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu City, as part of an absolutely free, “no obligation” package offered to those interested in getting in on the ground floor of this amazing new Eden. Actually, Lake Havasu City was at the time largely undeveloped desert, its only attraction being the much-touted London Bridge, which had been hauled stone by stone from England to span a largely man-made river. But it looked nice in the brochures. The few model homes available for inspection had front lawns comprised not of grass but of green-painted pebbles. But again, in a photograph, who could tell?

I never was quite sure what I was supposed to be doing there, other than to make sure nothing got too far out of hand.

The plane would leave at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and was scheduled to return at 8 p.m. that same evening. “Scheduled” was the operative word. The minute the plane landed, the prospective home/land owners were descended upon by a horde of salespeople hired for their specific ability to never take “no” for an answer. If 8 p.m. approached, and there was a prospective customer who had not yet signed on the dotted line, the plane would not leave the runway until they had. It was rare to return to L.A. much before midnight.

But it was the Tehachapi development I look back on with curled toes. The development was called “Golden Hills” only because, as the sun was going down over the parched, dried grass of the undulating, deadly-dull landscape, the brown could be considered, by someone with a vivid imagination, as having a golden glow which lasted maybe five minutes before it was just brown again.

The developers had created a small, two or three acre man-made pond in the midst of the development, and had surrounded it with lush foliage which must have cost a fortune to maintain.

Our assignment was to produce an informational sales brochure, the cover of which was to feature a handsome couple on horseback in front of the pond which, shot from a low angle, looked far, far larger than it actually was.
In preparation for the brochure, the boss demanded we find out everything we possibly could about the Tehachapi area and its history. After days of intensive research, we presented a thick stack of materials to him for his approval. He flipped through our several days’ work in fifteen seconds, looked at us scornfully and said: “I don’t see the average rainfall figures for 1947.” I beg your pardon?

Since we worked on salary, to be sure the boss got his money’s worth, he would inevitably come up with some way to have us work Saturday, primarily riding shotgun on the Havasu City flights. But at one point, in preparation for some ground-breaking ceremony or other, I was assigned to escort actress Pat Priest, who played the niece on the popular The Munsters TV show, to Tehachapi by private plane. It was the one and only pleasant experience I can remember of my entire term of employment with the redoubtable Laurence Laurie & Associates.

As they say....To Be Continued.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, "Short Circuits," available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

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