(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "D" is for A Date With a Countess)
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)
11 months ago