day after I graduated from college, I started a new, exciting grown-up type job.
I call it a grown-up job, because it was the first job I had that paid me a weekly
salary and didn't involve a hat. I had just finished four years at Northwestern
University, grappling with "The Cherry Orchard," and "Julius Caesar"
and - the quarter I really excelled in - "Star Spangled Girl." A few
weeks earlier, a friend of mine who had graduated the year before and who had
been in my acting class approached me to see if I wanted to work for him. He was
making good money, was having a blast, and thought I'd be perfect for this job.
The kicker was that it would incorporate many acting exercises we had learned
in the last four years, emphasizing group dynamics and such, and, well, I should
meet his bosses. Imagine my surprise to learn that there was a well-paying job
out there, where the interview would include the executives falling back with
their eyes shut trusting that I would catch them and/or spine work.
well, the name says it. Thad shook hands firmly, grinned exuberantly
and constantly, and had the Rhett Butler mustache/one-eyebrow-up-one-eyebrow-down
combination with the quarter-moon eye squint - and it was always "real good
to see [me]." He was exactly a Good Guy. The high school football star who
knew there was "more" to life than throwing a perfect spiral - he was
an econ major who took acting class, for crying out loud. ("Econ," by
the way. When was the last time you said "Econ"?) He was the car salesman
who watched PBS and made sure everyone knew it. "I even pledged my support.
Look at my bumper sticker!"
worked for what was, in the mid-eighties, the most happening, hippest, partying-est
nightclub chain in Chicago, where only the sexiest could get past the velvet rope
to revel in the most magnificent music and most spectacular light show in the
city: The Snuggery. "The Snuggery?" Yes. The Snuggery.
I was never really a nightclub guy. I liked dive bars with old jukeboxes that
scratchily played Sinatra and "Dock of the Bay." Evidently, as a 20
year old, I lived the exact life of a 59-year old divorcee. But Thad wanted to
make The Snuggery something different than the average nightclub, and that's why
he hired me "against type." His goal was to make The Snuggery an artistically-inspired,
beautifully-realized, loftily-essenced, fuck den. Thad believed that if the employees
all worked together, less as a "team," but more as a "troupe,"
that that wonderful intangible magic that is associated with theater and the theater-going
experience would similarly disseminate through the club and into the hearts and
souls of the incredibly coked-up crowd.
interview took place in an office that can only be described as "early holy-shit-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into."
The walls were actually padded, with huge room-hugging floor to ceiling cushions
that were covered in designer burlap with bold brown and orange stripes cutting
across them. Lots of ski chalet/recording studio wood paneling covered the rest
of the huge room. It just reeked of illicit, icky, 80's-type behavior, none of
which I'd ever had access to in the ridiculously white cul-de-sac I grew up selling
lemonade and playing lawn darts and suppressing my true self in. This room was
uncomfortably cool and evil. And in the corner - I'm not kidding - a hot tub.
Thad thought this was the ultimate sign of having "made it." I thought
this was an office you'd associate with bad guys on "Baretta"... whose
interior designer was heavily influenced by Rhoda's apartment.
don't remember much of the interview besides meeting one of the managers and thinking
he was creepily slimy and really really thin. Like runner thin. Of course, now
that I look back on it, I don't think he was much of a runner. Looking back, I
think his veins would have collapsed if he dialed a number that included the extra
three digits of a different area code. But back then I thought: Hm. Svelte.
somehow won them over with a quality that I still have, that, back then, was called
"boyish charm" and now is called "cloying" and "sad."
Next week I would become a college graduate and was to start my training in my
new position as
Dynamics Manager for the Morton Grove Snuggery. What a horrible
collection of proper nouns.
Dynamics Manager was basically in charge of "fun." My job, every night,
was to throw the most exciting party in town. But in order to throw this astounding
party, I had to wrangle many elements. First and foremost, I had to take a ragtag
group of waitresses and bartenders and doormen and unite them as a team - no,
a troupe - and through their excitement and commitment, every one who came through
those doors would be certain to have, unequivocally, The Best Night Of Their Lives.
We were the folks who would make people's dreams come true, fulfill their wishes,
make this night so special that they find it worthy of drinking until they puke
in a urinal and then get back to the bar in time for the sixth round of Goldschlagers.
Because that would then be The Best Night Of Their Lives. And how does this disparate
group of strangers bond together as a united force, committed to providing meaning
to the wonderful people of this northwest suburb of Chicago? Well, naturally,
following Saturday, Thad had assembled all the new employees, including
me, because it was a requirement that anyone who worked at The Snuggery
had to go through what he called Snug Training. (Oh, you'll see
the word "Snug" used as an adjective a lot in the next
few minutes.) For two unpaid hours, Thad made everybody, bouncers
and bar backs alike, pretend they were, say, an animal. Yes, that's
right, Tony, you're a bear! A big grizzly bear! What do you sound
like? How do you walk? What do you think of Cynthia over there,
what were you again, Cynthia? Right, a woodchuck.
What do think of Cynthia the Woodchuck, Tony the Bear? Well, it
was all just horribly embarrassing to see what people will go through
just to get a job. Now that I've worked in television for fifteen
years, this, of course, is routine for me to witness. But back then
it was shocking.
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