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The Musician... see you among the stars

Chapter 33 - Sam Goody’s

Sam Goodys

Chapter 33 - Sam Goody’s

I received a surprise call from Mitchell Pabon who was now working in Los Angeles, California. He told me that he was living with his Latino girlfriend, Diane, who he was with at Kingsborough. We chatted for a little while and he invited me to LA. I told that I would love to see LA, but I didn’t think it was in the cards for now. He told me that I could stay with him and his girlfriend rent free. “It sounds great, I said, but I’m getting ready to finish school, and I didn’t know what I was going to be doing.” I told him that I would be in touch.

I had heard through the grapevine that Stanley, the black man who work in the bathroom at Trude Heller's, was now Vice President of Delite Records. I went to visit him and asked him for a job at the label. He told me that the label was very small, but that he had a friend at Polygram who would see me. I said, “Great.” Stanley had set-it-all-up for me and I went on the interview. I arrived at the giant building of Polygram records. I went to the 19th floor and walked out of the elevator into the large open room housing the secretary’s desk. I told her I wanted to meet with Danny Koch. She asked if he was expecting me. I told her that he was. She got on the phone and told me to wait. Danny came to meet me and shook my hand and told me to follow him. I thought that this was great. I finally got into a door. I followed Danny and he took me through this dark maze of offices. The lights were real low and that I never expected. Then we walked up this spiral staircase with the windows overlooking the city. It was incredible. I thought how wonderful it would be to work here. We then kept on walking through another maze of offices until we got to his corner office. Then Danny started talking to his young beautiful secretary with green eyes. I turn to look at this opened office that was about 100 feet away. I could see an old business lady sitting behind this desk with this young guy bopping and talking about a record that was playing. The lights were really low in her office. I will never forget that scene. Then Danny took me past his beautiful secretary and into his office. His corner office was very bright considering where he had taken me through. I immediately looked at the pictures on his wall. All the pictures were pictures of bondage. Women tied-up with apples in their mouth. It was really wild and Danny was very wild. I started laughing. Then we started talking. Danny asked me, "So you want to be an A&R man." I told him yes. I felt that all my talent stems around that. He told me that you needed to know someone who is an A&R man to get into that position. I didn’t think that was true but I didn’t say a word. I just went along with everything. He then told me that he didn’t have any connections in that area. He was in merchandising. I told him that I had a lot of experience in merchandising and sales. He told me that all his workers work out of the office and in the field. He said, “You wouldn’t want to be out in the field away from everything.” I nodded as if I didn’t know. It seemed that everything was getting nowhere, and I wonder why I was here to see him. He acted very negative and threw hurdles like crazy. Everything was a hurdle. I then told him about my experience working with artists and my career in music. I told him that in A&R I would fit right in and anything else would not be where I was suited for. He then threw another hurdle by saying that A&R guys got a tough job. They don’t last too long and the companies are always changing them. The hurdles were back to back and I started to get very annoyed. I said to him, “Then there is nothing you could do for me?” He then said that he could send me to the basement at the company employment office, (I made a disappointed facial expression,) where I could fill out an application. He saw my facial expression and suddenly he wrapped my interview-up. He told me that it was nice meeting me, (I realized that my facial expression had blew the whole interview. He must have thought that I was being fussy and he didn’t like that. I don’t know.) I quickly realized that I might get a job at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up. I tried desperately for the interview not to end. I said, “What about the employment office.” He said “That’s OK, Ask my secretary to show you the way out. Take care.” He then quickly shut his office door. The secretary was not there and I was standing alone, all by myself in Polygram Records. I started walking, following my nose and I was amazed at everything. Then I suddenly saw a girl and she pointed to the way out. I got in the elevator and went to the main floor and sat at the fountain outside. I said to my self, “What a waste. He was sending me to the employment office and my facial expression blew it. I can’t believe it. Everything was so negative that when he said that he could send me to the employment office, I thought that he was being negative again. That was why I made that expression. He picked-it-up the wrong way. God damn it.” O’ well. I guess it wasn’t in the cards. What a fucking nut this guy was.

I was getting ready to finish my last semester. I checked my credits and noticed the I was two Music History classes short of my Bachelors Degree. I went to the Director of the Music Department to find out what days the classes would be running during the summer. They told me that there were no Music History classes during the summer. I checked the classes in the fall, and the two classes were at the same time at different places. That means that I would have to attend college for one more year to make up the two classes. Fuck that! This created a big problem. If I stop going to BC, then Kingsborough will cancel my job, because I’m working at Kingsborough as long as I continue school. Secondly, I can’t afford to spend another year just for two classes. I didn’t know what to do. I became totally confused.

The Art Department at Kingsborough had hired this butch, dike, female photography teacher. She was a mutherfucker. She treated the students like shit and she was very bossy. I hated her. She and I didn’t get along too well. I pampered her, and she kind of liked me, but I hated her. Kingsborough is famous for their Handicapped Student Department. This teacher put so much pressure on the handicapped persons to quit her class. They eventually did. I felt this was horrible. She was very power hungry. Since I was in charge of the photography lab, I was responsible for keeping it stocked and cleaned. This dike teacher was leaving early and never shut the water or cleaned the chemicals out of the trays. This caused a very hazardous situation. In the day time, I had two people at different times faint. This was because the fumes of the chemicals built up over night and the next day they were overpowering even after I cleaned. I went to complain to the Chairman about her attitude toward handicapped students and about her leaving early. Instead, I got in trouble. This dike teacher apparently had connections. I think she was the lover of one of the girls who worked in the Art Department. With my job on the line, I had to change my attitude. It had appeared that no one in the whole college gave a fuck about the welfare of the students. I understood it all. The college was not built for the students, it was built for the teachers who were mostly Jewish. I watch it all, year after year, and I guess I had blocked it all out of my mind unconsciously. Now I understood. It was very clear. Now it seemed that everyone was against me. I felt everything crumbling at my feet. It wasn’t too long after that, that the Director of the Art Department told me that they were cutting my budget. They told me that they wanted me to stay on with half pay, but I refused.

I looked for another position on the campus. The Student Activities Department, Assistant Director had an opening for a Video Photographer. They offered me the position. I then quit my job with the Art Department and went to the Student Activities Department. The Director of the Student Activities complained about hiring me, and wanted her son instead. I then lost the position to her son. I was so pissed that I left the college for good. I wasn’t going to put-up with it any longer. The Kingsborough position was gone, and it was time for a new direction.

I did my final year at Brooklyn College and finally got my Bachelor degree. I had to miss graduation because my mother went into the hospital at the same time. She finally recovered. I needed a job, because I was low on money, which seems to be the story of my life. I hate when I have no direction. I guess that I'm going to be poor all my life. Nothing ever seems to be going my way. I'm 40 years old now, and I'm living five years longer than I wanted to live. I'm sick of life. I don't like the way the world is going. I wish that I was dead. I would like to go out west where I could find a quiet spot in an open field where I could see as far as I could look. Put a gun to my head and end it. I wish I could do that. I didn't want to live past thirty-five. Now I know why. It's fucked up when you're older. Thinks get tougher. How hard is it going to be to get a job at my age? I need to get and be in a more positive attitude, but I didn't want to teach anymore. I'm sick of the educational system, and with my musical degree, there is nothing other than teaching.

There was a big record store not too far away. Sam Goody. I read an article about him. The store is huge and located at a mall not too far from my house. Maybe I could check it out. I took the bus to the mall and I asked the manager where the main offices were. The manager told me that Sam Goody was now owned by a company called, Musicland, and they were located in New Jersey. He gave me the telephone number. I went back home a called the number, and they said that they would be interested in talking with me. They had set-up an interview. I asked them where they were located and they told me right on the other side of the Gothels bridge that separates Staten Island to New Jersey. I decided that I was now going to wear the new hairpiece that Louie got me. Except, I had one problem to overcome.

During my work days at Kingsborough. My insurance had expired. I had registered my car in New Jersey at Joey’s house so that I would have to pay very high insurance. New Jersey does not change the color of their plates nor do they add a sticker on the plates for the new year like New York. Instead they rely solely on their inspection stickers. Their inspection stickers have a big number from 1 to 12 which indicates the month expiration date. They also change the color of the inspection sticker every period (Year.) When my insurance expired I knew that all I needed was an inspection sticker. Since there are many cars with Jersey plates on them in New York, I drove around Brooklyn to find a car with a current New Jersey inspection sticker on it. Once I found a car, I took my camera and took a photo of the sticker. I went back to Kings borough and developed the B&W film. I blew up the negative in the enlarger to the correct size and made a print. It came out nice and sharp. Then I bought a magic marker that was close to the same color and colored it. It looked exact. I then Scotch Taped it to the windshield and I was rolling. The New York cops hardly ever bothered with Jersey cars so I was happening. I did the same thing for a couple of years and nothing ever happened. Then my drivers license had expired and I couldn’t renew it because of the excessive parking tickets that I had. I never drove in New Jersey. Now I was driving without any license, plates, or insurance and my interview is in New Jersey. My car is the only way to get there. I’m going to have to be very careful. Jersey cops are notorious for pulling you over for no reason.

Nervously, I drove to the interview with my new hairpiece over the Gothels Bridge. I seen a cop car on the other side of the road and I started to get more nervous, but I got to the interview. I met this man and we talked for about an hour. It was a good interview and he liked my experience. He wanted to know what store I had in mind and I told him the one in Brooklyn near my house. He asked me to call him in a month. He said that there were no openings at that store, but he was going to try and get me in. When I left the interview, I thought about what I was going to do for a month. I had to borrow $20.00 from my mother for gas. I had made it back to Brooklyn and bought a current Village Voice.

I looked through the Voice in the ad section. I noticed an ad for a guitarist wanted for a Las Vegas band. The interview was at the agents office in Atlantic City. “Wow,” I said, “That would be great. Working with a band in Las Vegas.” A Las Vegas band makes a lot of money, and is very professional. That is something I would like to try and get into. If it doesn’t work out, I can always take the Sam Goody job. Therefore, I decided to give it a chance, and drive my car to Atlantic City. I went to Long Island to borrow my nephew’s guitar and then I went to Joey’s house in Bayonne, New Jersey to borrow his amp. Then I headed to Atlantic City. I arrived at the agent’s office and he asked me to set-up my amp and play for him. I whipped it out and he immediately loved my playing. He asked me if I was ready to join the band who was now playing in Corpus Cristi, Texas. I asked the agent, “I thought they were in Las Vegas?” The agent replied that they were on the road now and would be returning to Las Vegas in a month. The agent then showed me a picture of the group. It was a big group with two beautiful females and they all looked very professional. The groups name was, Damien Ebney and Sparkle. They were mostly black, with two sexy white girls. I could hardly pronounce the guy's name of the group. I asked the agent how much would I be making. The agent told me that while I was on the road I would be making $350.00 a week plus expenses. I would be making a lot more when the band returned to Vegas. I said fine. The agent then called the leader of the group, Damien Ebney on the phone. He told him that he had a guitarist. The agent got off the phone and asked me if I could leave tomorrow. I told him yes. I asked him who is going to pay for my flight. The agent told me to pay for the flight, and Damien will reimburse you once you arrive. I thought that was kind of odd, but I said OK. I returned home to Brooklyn with no hassles from the cops and I asked my mother if I could borrow two hundred dollars. With a little hassle she lent me the money and I immediately flew to Texas.

When I arrived, Damien was waiting for me with one of the female singers. Everyone was really nice right off the bat. I tested the situation by asking Damien for the money for the plane flight. He asked “Who told you that I would pay the flight.” The agent, “I replied. He then thought for a moment and said OK. He then eventually paid me. We drove to the club and we all had something to eat. The club was beautiful. Then I met all the members of the band, and they also were very nice. They then escorted me to the living quarters. We talked for a while and then it was ready to perform. They told me to just hang-out and watch the band. They said that since I didn’t know the songs I could just watch them. I watched the first set and during the second set I took my guitar on stage and joined in. They were minus a guitarist. It appeared that the guitarist had quit. I started playing with them and they were really surprised. As long as I could see the bass players neck of his bass, I could follow them. I’m a pro and I have no problem improvising even if I don’t know the songs. I performed with the group the entire evening without a problem. The next night, the club had a guest appearance of a popular group, “The Impressions.” I was a backup guitarist for them back in the 70’s. They were surprised to see me. Here we were, The Impressions and I, together again after 20 years. The group was finishing at the club in Texas and we were all going to New Mexico to perform in a club there. As soon as we finished Saturday night we immediately packed-up and loaded the instruments into a U-haul and headed to New Mexico.

During our ride to New Mexico I had the opportunity to find out a lot of information about the band. I had learned that the agent lied to me. They had never played in Las Vegas, but they had hoped to. This I didn’t like. The band didn’t seem very organized as I had hoped. However, I was going to stick with them for now. When we got to the next club in New Mexico I found out that the food was not included. We had to pay for the food ourselves. This was supposed to be a band with all expenses paid so the agent told me. We had a two week engagement at this club and then it was off to Demoine, Iowa. The two weeks of performance in New Mexico woke me up to the realities of this band. Some of the band members were getting high on stage. The musical director of the band, the keyboard player, was teaching us songs with the wrong chords. I also didn’t like sleeping in motels anymore, and I don’t like being on the road anymore also. I thought that this was a very stable Las Vegas band, and they only played in Las Vegas. This was not what I wanted and I couldn’t take it anymore. I was too old for this road stuff. I had experienced enough of it with The Van-Dells. The problem was that I didn’t have very much money to go back home. The food bills were deleting my salary. However, we were getting close to New York by going to perform in Iowa. Once we arrived in Iowa, I called the guy at Musicland to see if he had a job for me. I called him and he told me that he had good news. I got an assistant managers position for you at the Sam Goody’s near your home. I thought that was great and asked him for how much money. He told me that he could start me at $18,000.00 a year plus benefits. He told me that I would have my own store in six months with much more money, probably around $25,000.00. I took it. He wanted me to start in two weeks. I told him OK.

I then told Damien that I was quitting the band, and gave him my two weeks notice. Damien loved me and wondered why I was leaving. I told him that the guys are getting high on stage and therefore, are missing notes. The musical director of the band has got his chords all wrong, and I don’t like playing on the road anymore. I also told him that his agent insisted and advertised you as a Vegas group and its obvious your group is not. Damien recognized my talent and begged me to stay. He told me that if I stuck with him I would eventually be the new musical director and run things the way I saw it. I told him that my mind was made-up. I was leaving. The next day, Damien had learned from the agent that his next gig, which was a month long was canceled. That meant that after this gig in Iowa they would be traveling back to Damien's home in Philadelphia. This was good news for me. We had then finished the gig and after a few days we traveled to Philadelphia. They dropped me off at the airport and for the last time Damien begged me to stay with the group. I got on the plane and flew to Newark Airport where I got a taxi to Joey’s house in Bayonne, New Jersey. I stayed at his house until he came home from work. Then Joey drove me back to my home in Brooklyn.

I called Musicland and they told me to report to the manager of the Brooklyn store located at Kings Plaza, a shopping mall. I was glad to be away from that band. It was an awful experience. I started work at Sam Goody’s and everyone treated me fine. When I filled out my tax forms, I checked exempt. I was broke and I needed the money. Fuck these taxes and the IRS who ripped me off for $500.00. After a few months, I noticed that there was a lot of theft going on from the employees. I eventually caught three employees stealing. Their jobs were terminated. Everyone congratulated me for catching the employees steeling, but the district manager was very upset probably because I had caught so many people stealing under his command. The district manager then put security officers against me. He was trying to set me up. I don’t steal anymore. I’m against it totally. After stealing at Maudies in Boulder, I swore to never take part in that again. However, The district manager failed in his attempt to set me up so he turned the employees against me. Things began to get uncomfortable that I put in for a transfer. After a while, I transfered to the Green Acres shopping mall in Long Island just about 30 minutes from my house. It was a smaller store and a lot more mellow. I enjoyed it much better. After a month, I caught and terminated another worker stealing. The head of security for Musicland and I became good friends. He no long was on my back and things seemed to be all right. I worked through Christmas and I put in for my first week vacation. I got it during the first week in January. I decided to go to Colorado and visit my old friends including Jim. It was also an opportunity to try and see if I could transfer to Musicland in Colorado. I couldn’t wait to leave. During the Christmas holiday I instituted the workers to maintain the cash registers instead of doing stock work. This lead to an increase in sales for the year during the season. I was directly responsible for that increase. The first week in January had arrived and I took my first paid vacation.

I arrived in Colorado and Jim picked me up at the airport. He was now living in Denver. He and Kitty had broke-up a long time ago. I haven’t been in Colorado for ten years. Jim was very glad to see me and arranged for my friend Brian and Dick to meet us in Boulder. We drove to Boulder and I almost couldn’t recognize the place, because it grew so big. Lots of cars and traffic jams. There were many bicyclists everywhere, all dressed in their multicolor riding gear. It was horrible. Jim had warned me that it wasn’t the same place anymore. He was right. We met Brian and Dick at our old hangout, Tom's Tavern. We sat in one of the same old booths and I ordered my old favorite, French Dip. I had noticed that the shuffle board table was gone now. It was great to see Dick and his new wife, and Brian. We talked about old times and everyone mentioned that my ex-wife Kitty was still in town working as a waitress in a restaurant. After dinner, Dick and his wife left and Jim, Brian and I went to Brian’s house in the mountains. Brian lived above Jamestown. Brian made me drive his car up to his house which was fantastic. I had to gear my mind for the ride of mountain driving again. I had to remember all the turns, and I did it flawlessly. It was great that Brian let me drive. I had the most wonderful time driving up to Brian’s house. Brian has what I call a mansion in the mountains. It is a multi-million dollar property. Brian is very rich. Jim and I envy Brian. He is the one person we know with a lot of money that knows how to live. Brian is real laid back and doesn’t get nervous or worried about anything. He is a pleasure to be around. Jim and I have a few friends that are rich, but they do not know how to live with their wealth. They are always worried about money and pinching pennies. They also always say that they’re broke. If they’re broke, I wonder what you would call Jim and I.

The next day, Brian had some friends come by and we all played my favorite card game, Hearts. We had some drinks and enjoyed the mountain environment at Brian’s. Then Jim and I returned to Denver. I had then called the District Director of Musicland. I made an appointment to meet with him. Jim and I got dressed up in suits. We met with the District Director and he was not such a nice guy. I told him that I wanted to transfer to Colorado, but I don’t think he trusted people from New York. He kept on asking how was the theft at the New York stores. I then asked if he would take a picture and he was very reluctant. He finally posed with me for a picture, but he wouldn't shake my hand for the photo. Jim and I then left. Jim and I both thought that the man was certainly uptight for some reason.

I then hung-out with Jim in Denver for the remainder of my vacation. One day, Jim told me, “Hey, I forgot all about it. Remember Dave.” I said, “Dave who?” He replied, “Dave, the guy you use to hang out with in Boulder.” Then I remembered, it’s been ten years. Jim said that he was going to give him a call. Jim got on the phone and dialed. He then asked for Dave. When Dave answered the telephone Jim said, “Hey, I got a surprise for you…. A flash from the past.” Then Jim handed the phone to me and I said, “Hey Dave. Dave replied, “Who is this?” I said, “Remember when we saw the four flying saucers in front of my house?” Dave replied in a nasty unfriendly bad tone of voice, “I don’t wanna talk about it.” I became very surprised about his response. I was sure that he would say, Hey Chuck, How the hell are you doing. Without any reply, I gave the phone back to Jim. Jim talked with Dave for a moment and then hung up. I told Jim that I couldn’t believe that he is still freaked out about it after all these years. Jim was laughing and replied, “Damn right, you freaked him out. The visual of the flying saucers freaked him out.”

With the vaction time spent, I flew home to Brooklyn and returned to work. When I arrived at work, I had noticed many of the workers were no longer around. I had found out that they all were fired for theft. About three weeks later, the company opened a new store. The one that I was supposed to manage, and surprisingly, no one offered it to me. I caught up with the District Director and asked him why. He told me that he thought that I wasn’t ready yet. He told me that I needed to study the store manuals more closely. Then I had heard through the grapevine, that he gave the new store to a female friend of his. I immediately was pissed. They had offered me my own store within six months. I decided not to do any work, any longer. I was going to come in the morning and study the three large manuals all day long until they either fired me, or give me a store.

I received, at my home, a tax form in the mail. I thought that I better fill-it-out so that I wouldn’t get in trouble with the IRS. The balance of the tax form, when I filled it out, showed that I owed the IRS $2,000.00. I then mailed it in, even though I couldn’t pay it. At least I mailed it in. That was the right thing to do I unknowingly thought. After all, they don’t put people in jail for their inability to pay. They only put you in jail for evading the taxes.

I had my six months in to apply for unemployment if they fired me. I didn’t like the politics of this situation. People were turned against me for catching thieves. They wanted me to work longer hours than the initial agreement. They wanted me to take a half hour for lunch instead of an hour. They complained after I followed all their directions, and took a five-minute coffee break. I want my own store as they promised. If no store, then fire me. That’s the way I felt. After a month, I was finally fired by the District Director. He apparently caught a number of people stealing during my vacation, and they told him that I was stealing also. It was a bunch of bullshit, but I was happy to be out of there. I was proud of the work I did for Musicland. I exceeded the capabilities of every worker or manager at the company. I guess it made everyone jealous. So now it's time to apply for unemployment. They could have stopped my unemployment by telling them that I stole from the store, but they couldn’t, because it wasn’t true. I received the unemployment, and the unemployment office gave me, $350.00 a week. Right on. I decided that with this money, I was going to go into the recording studio to do a few songs. It is about time that I start recording again. After all, music is the only thing that makes me happy.

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