My first real job was in a recording studio on 8th Avenue and 44th Street, producing movie commercials for broadcast on the radio. I was the second engineer, which sounds a lot more impressive than it was. I set up microphones, recorded the talent, edited sound effects and music, layered the voice over the background sound. When the mix was done, we’d patch it through a tiny, tinny car radio speaker to hear what it would sound like on air, and adjust the mix and the equalization—the balance of bass and treble—until it sounded right.
When the company needed a production assistant, they hired one of my musician friends, a handsome Texan who went on to become so famous that years later, I learned about his death from an obituary on the front page of the New York Times. He’d played with everyone from Yoko Ono to Judy Collins, Bette Midler to the Talking Heads. But that was later. Back then, he needed a day job and we worked together in the studio, saw each other in the same West Village bars at night. It was a cash economy, before credit cards and ATMs, five and ten dollar bills passing from hand to hand.
One evening, as Don and I rode the elevator heading to the southbound 8th Avenue subway, I handed him the $5 I had borrowed the night before. He grinned and said, in his Texas drawl, “I may not be free, but I am extremely reasonable.”
And the elevator full of stone-faced New Yorkers laughed aloud.