Saturday, October 30, 2010


What do I know? I've got a lot of opinions, but can you trust what I say? What are my credentials?

Age 11, on Saturdays, I sold blouses at a woman's shop. At 12, I cashiered at a men's store. I was Typist-File-Clerk at Hearst Publications, mostly alphabetizing card files -- my typing was hunt & peck, 60 words per minute with errors. Later, I became advertising director for Dance Magazine. I was good at my job. They wanted to give me a raise, and asked for a copy of my college degree. (I had to quit -- I was fifteen, claiming to be a twenty-one-year-old graduate.)

I worked for Forest Neighborhood Settlement House, teaching dance for $2 an hour. That job paid for my own dance lessons. In the summer, at a nearby park, I supervised playground activities. Every afternoon, when I arrived, dozens of kids raced to greet me. I wasn't good at sports, but very good when it came to "pretend" games and putting on playlets. Alas, I had to resign when my boss gave me a form to fill out from the N.Y. Board of Education.

My next job was helping a potter every morning -- kneading clay, cleaning the wheel and the kiln. With my earnings, I paid for ballet and modern dance classes. I finally got a work-scholarship at the famous Humphrey-Weidman Studio Theater. I took all the morning classes. Afternoons and evenings, I mopped floors, scrubbed toilets, ran the lighting equipment for people who rented the place -- Herbert Bergoff, actor/teacher/director/husband of actress, Uta Hagen; and Jean Erdman, a Martha Graham dancer who'd been a girlfriend (lover probably) of Mark Ryder, who later became my dance partner and first husband.

We'd met at a summer resort where I was paid a grand total of $125, as costume helper and apprentice dancer. That fall, I got my first and only professional job, performing with the Weidman company on a four-week tour. Back in NYC, while stuffing envelopes with Weidman's brochures, I copied his card file. It was a list of colleges where Weidman had performed on previous tours.

I put together a brochure, and booked a tour for myself and Mark --he was a "name," Graham's leading dancer (and lover probably). We called ourselves the Dance Drama Duo.

We got a first "booking," a $250 fee for performing an evening of choreography. Then, we choreographed the program to perform. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The booking definitely got us going.

We got married. We were earning a living that supported us in the un-fancy style to which I have never become un-accustomed.

Living unfancily involved other skills. We rented a loft in an old factory, plastered, painted, sanded floors for our own dance studio; taught classes and rented our studio to other dancers for 99 cents per hour. I learned to use automatic typewriters, booked Dance Drama Duo, then our company tours -- made women and men's costumes, learned to drive, a car, and later a truck with a trailer.

And, I learned to choreograph, record-tape-splice music and do the bookkeeping. The most difficult skill was learning to be a boss, director, and get the dancers, stage managers, designers, chauffeurs, agents, PR people I later hired, to do more, do it better.

And now I write.

In 5 novels and 7 plays, I created background, family trees, and credentials for more than a 100 characters, with careers in teaching, movies, fund-raising, acting, lawyering, doctoring, running newspapers, restaurants, real estate, house-building and renovations.

And now, every day, I tackle a different subject, and write essays for my blog. Sometimes, I know right away all I need to know. Often I do a lot of research.

Hey, you are probably wondering -- does Em really have the credentials? She's got a lot of opinions about political issues, war and peace, isolationism, job-hunting, making it, writing, acting, dancing, art, education, medical stuff, exercise. And cooking, marriage, lovers, divorce, sex. (I'm working on a post about sex for next week.)

Gee, I think I've got more than enough life experience, and jobs, and technologies -- all the credentials -- perfect credentials for being an opinionated commentator.


Carola said...

Wow! You certainly have the credentials: both in work and in life experience.

Linda Phillips said...

I totally agree with Carola! You are and always have been (apparently) a fiercely independent, free spirit who knows what she wants and simply goes after it! Brava, brava, brava!

Post a Comment

Got a comment? Em will get back to you.