I’m sitting here in my big, comfortable, black leather pappa chair in my living room…looking at my reflection in the full length mirror across the room. Usually when I’m looking in the mirror it’s just a glance while I’m shaving, or combing my hair. I used to look in the mirror while I was tying my tie…but I very seldom do that any more. Thankfully, suits and ties are mostly in my past now. I look so much better these days dressed casually in my Pierre Cardan gold Lame loin cloth, with the matching Land’s End purple ostrich feather. My Lady Wonder Wench says the glitter on the eye lids is a little…”up-town,” so I only wear that to meetings with clients.
If you stare into a full length mirror long enough it starts working like a crystal ball that’s running backwards. They’ll make you stand up straighter and suck your belly in. And that starts the projector going on a movie of memories.
Most of my memory movies have happy endings. One of them starts out with a shot of Dick the college kid Summer standing in the lobby of the RCA building in New York, greeting visitors to the NBC radio and tv studios. Marble floor. 8 hours. But the college kid can take it with a constant smile. The sound track goes something like this:
“Good afternoon Mr. Steve Allen. Good evening Mr. Chet Huntley.” And of course the occasional, “Sorry sir, you need an NBC pass to use that elevator.” That last comment was about the extent of “Security” at NBC in those days.
Run fast forward a few years, and zoom in on the face in my full length mirror…but young, and excited, and trying to look nonchalant…walking into that same lobby, and the college kid at the velvet rope smiles and says “Good evening Mr. Dick Summer.” Music comes in right about there…chasing the chill that still runs up my spine when I think about it.
Eventually…while I was on the air at WNBC in New York, the college kid at the velvet rope in the lobby was joined by members of the crack NBC Security System at night. They were not exactly Navy Seal type guards. Mostly they were guys from Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island working for some extra bucks to pay the rent, or send a kid to college. Nice, hard working, New York kind of guys…usually kind of tired after their day jobs…but not the kind of highly trained, motivated killers you would want on ready alert to defend with their lives whoever was upstairs working the overnight hours on radio or tv. It sometimes seemed like their main function was to stop my Lady Wonder Wench, or any other family members or friends from coming up to the second floor radio studio without permission from the guy on the air.
Security was far from air tight however. One morning at around 4:30 AM, I had the feeling someone was watching. I looked up, and sure enough there was a guy standing outside the studio glass where the tours go during the day, and he was watching Vic Lombardo my engineer and me do the show. Actually we were eating lunch during a tape playback of a previous night’s show…which is what usually happened most nights from 4 to 5 AM. But I’m pretty sure we looked like were working. Between 4 and 5 AM, there’s very little difference between how guys look when they’re working and when they’re eating lunch anyway.
I didn’t think that was too strange, because the Tom Snyder show offices were just down the hall, and I figured it was just some staff guy working late. But a few minutes later, he walked slowly into the studio, seriously disrupting my enjoyment of my ham and Swiss on rye, and Vic’s cold coffee and Playboy magazine.
Instantly my finely honed NBC Page training kicked in, and I said, “Sorry sir, but you can’t come in here without an NBC pass.” Vic, not having the benefit of that same sophisticated training, was more New York blunt. I think he said something like, “Yeah… wadda you want?”
The guy’s eyes got wide, and he started to shake, and he said “Please don’t tell the doctors I’m here.” We didn’t inform the doctors, but Vic took him by one arm, and I took him by the other, and we put him back on the elevator, hit “lobby” and went back to the studio and locked the door so we could finish lunch.
Some people however, never had any trouble getting past Security. They were a group of young women I came to call the “Mid-Town-Manhattan-Ladies.” As those of you who are familiar with Manhattan know, the NBC studios are right in the middle of just about everything…right across from Radio City Music Hall, and only a block or so away from the best clubs in town. Some of the young ladies who worked at those clubs, often sought refuge and perhaps some other human solace in other “open all night” venues…like the NBC studios.
As I said, the Security guys weren’t ex Navy Seals. They were tired New York guys who figured that there’s nothing like a middle of the night visit from one of these scantily clad maidens to wake up the guys upstairs on the over night shift. And they were right. (There is a need to be careful of graphic descriptions here due to the Lady Wonder Wench Factor among other considerations.) But suffice it to say that it was not unusual for a lady in a rain coat, a smile, and little else to slip past Security, and find her way up to the studio. I was delighted.
I’ll never forget the first time one showed up. Very pretty. Slim. Long dark hair. Soft gravelly voice. Probably 22. She walked over to where I was sitting, smiled, and reached down to give me a kiss on the cheek as she told me how wonderful my show is. In the process, one of her several charms became stunningly obvious as it slipped out from under her only half buttoned rain coat. Now here’s where it gets weird. Hormones came blasting into my brain at exactly the same time as a picture of my Lady Wonder Wench popped up. I don’t need to describe the hormones, but the picture of Lady Wonder Wench deserves a description. She wasn’t angry…just hurt…like I’d never seen her hurt. It was just an instant picture, but absolutely cancelled out the hormones, and they immediately stopped sending signals to the hands to which they were attached.
It was a sharp slap on the side of the head. And from then on, incredibly… I started treating the Mid-Town-Manhattan-Ladies more politely than passionately. Now I like ladies. Especially lustful half clad ladies in the middle of the night. And it wasn’t a matter of “being faithful” or being afraid of getting caught…or afraid of sinning, or any of that stuff. It was just a simple, straightforward shot to the gut that I have never forgotten. I don’t ever want to see Lady Wonder Wench hurt like that. Not ever. Never thought it would happen to me.
It’s like one of those old black and white movies with people like Lauren Becall, and Ingrid Bergman, and Cary Grant I guess. It’s a story that’s been told over and over again…the story of the ladies who come and go in the lives of guys who work in the night.
There’s a story about one of those ladies in the current podcast. It’s from the Night Connections 2 personal audio cd. It’s called, “The Piano Man.” When a buddy of mine heard “The Piano Man”, he said…girls don’t wear nylons anymore. Well. This girl did. And then she didn’t. And slipping them off generated enough electricity to light that piano player’s fuse pretty good. If you like the “Piano Man story, you can just keep the podcast. Or if you want a fresh copy, just go back to www.dicksummer.com and download it from the Night Connections 2 icon on the opening page.
But on the outside chance that one of those “Midtown-Manhattan-Ladies might be reading this…no I am not gay. Yes you are absolutely stunning. And I was fascinated and delighted to see you…almost all of you for that matter…And no, I’ll never forget you. But it was just the wrong time and the wrong place in my life for anything more than simply…remembering you. Because ever since I met her, my life has just been all full of my Lady Wonder Wench…and the guy looking back at me in the mirror has a very contented smile on his face.