Sunday, August 5, 2012

Berowne's 129

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "D" is for A Date With a Countess)
The picture above reminds me that back in 1884 the wildly different 1% and 99% sections of the population existed, just like today.
The 1 percent had most of the money and the 99 percent wanted it.
Or some of it.
Or any of it.
Now, I’ve always proudly been – well, maybe not so proudly – one of the 99 percenters. Yet it may surprise you that as a youth Berowne, an impecunious party, had a date with a countess.
Let me tell you the story.
We’re going back to a time, soon after World War II ended, when I was working in a small radio station in New York.
I’m sure you understand that at that time there was almost no television. Oh, technically TV existed, but few people had sets. Most of the folks throughout the land had never even seen television.
In the NYC area, there were several programs available for the few who possessed TVs; the shows were usually short and very inexpensive to produce, mainly because no one had any money for television production.
At the time, I had nothing to do with TV; I was doing a morning radio show, also inexpensive to produce – me playing old 78s of Perry Como and Nat King Cole, etc.
My show had a huge audience; there must have been 8 or 10 folks listening on any given day.
One of them, though I didn’t know it at the time, was a European gentleman who was quite impressed with American broadcasting. I learned later that he listened to my program almost every morning. He seemed to have come to believe that I was someone of importance in that field.
He was mistaken.
This gentleman read that a French countess had come to visit America, staying at the Waldorf-Astoria. I don’t mention her name because of privacy and because her actual moniker ran on for a couple of lines.
Anyway, this chap spoke with her and learned that she had seen one of the few American TV shows then in existence and had been very impressed. It was a brief interview-type program featuring Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, who chatted with various celebrities and political figures of the day.
The countess had a brilliant idea. She should have a similar TV program in America; she spoke English reasonably well and she knew quite a lot of upper-crust type folks on this side of the pond. “Meet the Countess,” it would be called, or something similar.
The fellow who listened to my show told her that he knew a man who was very important in the American broadcasting industry and who was wise about such things; he could set up such a TV show for her.
Guess who that was?
At the time, I was not only not influential in television, I didn’t even own a TV. I had watched television sets primarily by standing on the sidewalk and looking at those in store front windows.
This man got me on the phone and told me about the countess and how great she’d be with her own TV show; if I produced it I’d probably make a small fortune.
Nobody was making a small fortune in television at that time, not even those who knew something about it – which didn’t include me.
However, I was very drawn to the idea. Imagine. Me as a young TV producer, someone of importance, not someone who played old 78 discs of Perry Como for a living.
The countess called and invited me to visit her at the Waldorf. I wrote earlier that I had a date with her; it was actually afternoon tea. I was not uneasy; I had read my P G Wodehouse and I knew how to conduct myself with the titled classes.
I told her that to get her idea for a show approved she should submit a sample reel to the appropriate people. She told me she was glad to have someone who was an expert in such matters working with her on her project. Go ahead, she said, and set it up.
I called about frantically, seeking information. I was told that a brief professionally-produced sound film as an audition – there was no such thing as video tape at that time – would cost such and such an amount.
It was more than she had expected to pay. She asked, how much would it cost without sound?
That’s when I began to realize that the whole thing was crumbling and my dream of becoming a big-time TV producer was going up in smoke. The very idea that we might submit a sample reel for a TV interview program that would be silent and consist of just her sitting there smiling and pretending to talk with someone was something that even I could see didn’t have much of a chance of success.
Ultimately the countess bade me farewell and I left the dream world of television and went back to the hard, cold reality of spinning old Perry Como records on radio.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

48 comments:

Heaven said...

I like going back in time in your stories ~ Too bad your dream quickly faded away, but what a memorable meeting with her ~

Jinksy said...

The price of fame, what? LOL

Stafford Ray said...

So she would not put the money in. It figures. Another example of the wealthy expecting us to enslave ourselves to make them wealthier! Maybe you should have allowed her to seduce you. They spend fortunes on toy boys, or so I read in New Idea!

Leslie: said...

I, too, had tea with a Countess - in Italy in 2006. However, there were so many others in attendance I had no opportunity to speak with her privately. At least you have that to remember! I have a photo, though, myself hovering in the background like a poor lost relation. lol

Berowne said...

Stafford: "They spend fortunes on toy boys, or so I read."
I hadn't thought of being a toy boy, or boy toy or whatever, and I'm afraid it's a bit late now. :-)

Berowne said...

Heaven: "I like going back in time in your stories."
Glad to hear it. I like going back in time too.

naturgesetz said...

You may have been in the 99%, but reading Wodehouse and meeting a countess indicate that you were probably above the 50% line.

Berowne said...

naturgesetz: "Reading Wodehouse and meeting a countess indicate that you were probably above the 50% line."
But not financially. :-)

DCW said...

Tilting glasses with titled classes, how fortunate.

Your post reminded me of my brief foray in radio about 50 years ago when our budget mandated stapling egg cartons to the wall for soundproofing. Our ancient microphone didn't have a cough button which made for an interesting broadcast the day I interviewed a guest who became stricken with the hiccups.

kaykuala said...

Interesting anecdote, Berowne! To meet the wish list of the rich and famous invariably may cost us money. Lucky thing you were one step ahead!

Hank

R. Burnett Baker said...

What a wonderful experience! But seems the countess need not balk about money. I mean, she was a countess. Unless she was one of Henry Higgins' students....! :)

Brian Miller said...

ha what an intriguing bit of your history sir...i laughed at her come back idea of a reel without sound...a pretty cool meeting i am sure...

Susan said...

"But I had read my P G Wodehouse; I knew how to conduct myself with the titled classes."

Cracked me up! What a good writer you are, with a fine storytelling tone and suspense and all. I hope this is true, but it's okay if its fiction.

Berowne said...

DCW: "Tilting glasses with titled classes."
Cleverrr. :-)

Roger Owen Green said...

I NEVER GET CONFUSED with a TV producer, dammit.

Tigerbrite said...

Gosh I remember Perry Como, wasn't he the one who looked like he was about to fall asleep when he was singing ?

Lyn said...

My grandmother must have been a fan of yours, she was in love with Perry Como. And eventually watched his show on TV..see what influence you had?? Anyway, hilarious piece!

Tess Kincaid said...

You have the most interesting life stories Mr. B...fascinating...

Berowne said...

Tigerbrite: "Perry Como, wasn't he the one who looked like he was about to fall asleep when he was singing?"
Either that or the listener fell asleep. :-)

Berowne said...

Tess K: "You have the most interesting life stories Mr. B...fascinating."
It's because you put up the most interesting prompts, Tess - thanks.

PammyMcB said...

A reminder that the 99% continue to be the 99% by passing the buck. Wonderful story. I guess some things never change.

Little Nell said...

I did enjoy this story, even though I half guessed where it was leading. Thank goodness for P.G.Wodehouse I say, what!

EG CameraGirl said...

That was so much fun to read! Thank you! ;)

Berowne said...

Little N: "...even though I half guessed where it was leading."
Actually, the butler did it.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I really enjoy your anecdotes and I am particularly impressed by the way anything and everything has a link with your past! If only we all could call upon such a rich tapestry!

Kay L. Davies said...

Oh, this is wonderful, Berowne, and hilarious. A silent movie on the radio, perhaps? It's wonderful, though, that your radio listener considered you an expert in the broadcasting industry.
K

Tito Eric said...

I remember in the 70s when WOR was the most popular AM radio station in NYC. Nowadays, it's satellite radio.

Cheers ... visiting from ABC Wednesday!

Tito Eric
http://turningboholano.blogspot.com/2012/08/letting-god-be-god.html

Tito Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susie Clevenger said...

Fame...so fleeting. At least you met a Countess or tea that is. Love the story. It is nice to be an audience to such a wonderful memory.

Helen said...

... do you think Stafford meant 'boy toys?' I just knew you would have a good story for us with this image!

PhenoMenon, ABCW Team said...

Count not the "Countesses" but the moments that make life exciting. This definitely must be one of them ;) (I am not of that era to be advising but I cannot resist not writing such things :)

PhenoMenon, ABCW

Sue J said...

This was very interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

Berowne said...

Kay L D: "Oh, this is wonderful, Berowne, and hilarious."
A fine comment; thanx so much.

Ramesh Sood said...

This made me wonder about those times.. thanks.. this is good write...

I am here..

http://rameshsood.blogspot.in/2012/08/uneasy-bond-cracks.html

Sheilagh Lee said...

sounds like she may have been an impoverished countess pretending that she still had money or just cheap.Great story.

joanne said...

such a cool story....wish my dad was around to hear it - right up his alley, his love for that era

Lmkazmierczak said...

Well told. You and happenstance sure crossed paths a lot♫♪

Lilibeth said...

Drew me right along to the finish. So why didn't you do a radio interview...better a voice than a silent picture?

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, somehow this reminded me of the Joe Franklin show - he'd have all sorts of up-and-coming (but mostly down-and-going) performers, and he loved what he was doing. I would have gotten up early to listen to you because you have great taste in music! Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/08/06/monday-twofer-three-sites-abc-real-toads-and-3ww/

Berowne said...

E G CameraGirl: "That was so much fun to read!"
Thanks a lot, E G.

Discordant Notes said...

Nothing really changes after all then, as Larry Norman once famously crooned..

RMP said...

I can't imagine meeting let alone working with a countess. You should have tried to sell her on radio...maybe build your way up to tv.

truly enjoyed.

When Words Escape said...

Thank you, Berowne, for your visit to my 3WW. This, I believe, is my first visit here. I was captivated by your story telling...it wasn't until I read "crumbling" that I remembered it was for 3WW. :) You held my attention from the very beginning!

~Paula

Ellecee said...

Love your stories - this one included. I can imagine the anticipation and also the let down. But what fun the memories are!!

Kutamun said...

So back then you couldnt quite give her sound, and she slipped away , if only youd had the internet ? . The ambitions of youth , . I find it intriguing, this idea of standing on a sidewalk, or a footpath as we call them in Australia, staring at a t.v, the first stirrings of the society of the spectacle. Who could have guessed back then the beast it would become, and i still get the uneasy feelimg we havent seen anything yet . I enjoy your wise stories, Berowne, that provide us with a link to the past , through eyes that are still very much in tune with the present and future, it seems.

Belva Rae Staples said...

I love your stories! You have lived an interesting life. Thanks for sharing pieces of it with us!

Berowne said...

My sincere thanks, Belva Rae.

Lynette Killam said...

A wonderful journey through time...I love giving the imagination time to play...

 
Blog designed by Blogger Boutique using Christy Skagg's "A Little Bit of That" kit.