Saturday, April 29, 2017

Customer Service With Courtesy And Know-How

It's been a while since I read the late journalist Nat Hentoff's Boston Boy, a memoir of his youth, but I remember a section of the book regarding a Boston candy store where he worked. The store management required all employees to master from cover to cover the store's rule book before they could be promoted from,say, a stock person to a counter person.

I wonder sometimes how many stores today are as meticulous as that Boston candy store was about training their employees in dealing with customers (especially the difficult ones) as well as the merchandise.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Detachable Book Mark

I found a discarded copy of the April 2017 issue of the Reader's Digest. On the front cover was a detachable book mark (courtesy of Geico, the insurance company, with an ad for the company on the reverse side). The book mark listed selected stories in the issue and their page location, like "13 Things Pharmacists Won't Tell You," on page 124. I don't know if the Reader's Digest does this every month. If not, they should. It's an excellent idea because it offers a reader an alternative to dogearring a page. Other magazines of similar size should adopt this idea.

Note: Today is Earth Day and Record Store Day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Naked Apartment Cleaning

While recently perusing an issue of the New York Blade News from the year 2000, an ad in the classified section of the now-defunct gay weekly newspaper caught my eye: "NAKED APARTMENT CLEANING." The ad went on to say, "Satisfy your voyeurism & my exhibitionism." The message was followed by a pager number.

Cleaning a stranger's apartment fully clothed is risky enough. Cleaning an apartment while nude is riskier. If the cleaner is in a room far from his clothes and other items, he would be in a very vulnerable position. What if he--I'm assuming it was a he--had to make a quick exit from the apartment in the face of danger, and had nothing on but his birthday suit?

In a team of three or four other people, he would have a better chance of avoiding trouble. I just hope that the person who placed that ad nearly 17 years ago is alive and well and earning a living doing something less risky.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Letter To A Book Editor

The following letter, dated July 13, 2015, was sent to Jennifer Brehl, an editor at HarperCollins. She replaced Charlotte Abbott, the editor who acquired Fighting Words for Avon Books in 1997. Fighting Words is an anthology of essays by black gay men that I edited. It was published in 1999. At the time of the acquisition,  Avon Books was owned by the Hearst Corporation. It was later sold to HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Jennifer Brehl, Editor
HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

Dear Jennifer:

On January 9, 2015, you left me a voice mail message in which you stated that the outline I submitted for a book about the gay and lesbian aspect of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s was turned down. The reasons given were that the sales for Fighting Words "were not as robust as we'd like to see" and that the outline was "not right for William Morrow [a HarperCollins imprint] at this time.We're not doing as much of that type of nonfiction paperback original."

I want to point out that despite Fighting Words's lack of "robust sales," it has been cited in the endnotes of other books. In fact, the late author E. Lynn Harris included Donald K. Jackson's essay, "The Letter," in the anthology he edited called Freedom in This Village.

Also, the Copyright Clearance Center has sent me requests from professors at such places as Dartmouth for permission to make copies of essays from the book for distribution and use in their classrooms.

Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) not too long ago had an exhibition at the Schomburg Center in Harlem to commemorate the 20th or 25th anniversary of the organization. I was very pleased to see a copy of Fighting Words in a display case featuring other books with a GMAD connection. A few GMAD members, among them Robert E. Penn and Kevin McGruder, were contributors to my anthology.

So you see, even though Fighting Words was not a big seller, it has made an impact in other ways.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Note: I neglected to mention in the letter that Fighting Words was one of the nominees for the 1999 Lambda Literary Award in the Anthologies/Nonfiction category.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Is There A Trump Sitcom In Our Future?

Entertainment Weekly's April 7/14, 2017 Double Issue is devoted to "Hollywood's Greatest Untold Stories," from the 1970s to the early 2000s. (A great idea!)

One of the stories is about the 1990 British sitcom Heil Honey, I'm Home! that was canceled after one episode. It became "the most controversial TV show ever" because it depicted Adolf Hitler and his wife living next door to a Jewish couple named the Goldensteins.

Geoff Atkinson, its creator, told EW that "I've never felt embarrassed by it, because I know the motives were good. If we were trying to make fun of the Holocaust, we'd deserve [the hate].I never felt we were trying to belittle that at all. But to not get it right, that was frustrating. It was fun, but it came at a price, and I wish I could do it again."

Atkinson also told the magazine this: "As we speak, somebody's probably writing a Trump sitcom. I would love to write a Trump sitcom." And I would love to see a Trump sitcom on TV. Maybe with Alec Baldwin as Trump. It would help us all get through the next four years. No doubt Trump would tweet up a storm complaining about it.