PARDON ME, YOUR CLASS IS SHOWING:
by Emanuel Fried
An incident that morning deeply disheartened Fried. But it also reminded him that one of the biggest roadblocks to be dealt with in trying to create a new direction in the artsbringing into it union and working class lifeis the working class itself
He should not have needed this reminder. It is an old axiom among people in the factories that the workingman is his own worst enemy, and that if the working people would pull together their opponents would be almost automatically defeated. In his years as a union organizer and factory worker Fried had often heard this said by men and women he worked with.
But now that he is somewhat of a writer, trying to help create this new direction in the arts, mentally and emotionally deeply committed to the cause of the working people, he tends to look for opposition from only the other side of the fence, forgetting that they are only part of the problem.
The accidents of life had combined for Fried a long experience in the labor movement with a long experience as writer and actor in the professional theatre. When last year his play Brother Gorski, with a union man as its central character, was unmercifully attacked by most critics in New York it was the final straw in bringing him to the decision that he would finish off his current writing project as a novel.
For some years now his method of writing has been to gather his material together into a rough draft of a novelhis clayand then use that material to construct a play. About three years ago he had begun to gather material for a work about the relationship in our country between working people and the arts. It had been his experience that his aims as a theatre person, including his desire to have his plays about working people produced in the communitythe industrial Niagara Frontier in upstate New York centering around the city of Buffalocould not be separated from the role he had played there as a union organizer. He learned the hard way that the men he had faced across the bargaining table in literally thousands of negotiating sessions over the fifteenyear period he was representing factory people in the union were the same men who had the power to prevent his plays from being staged, blocking him in the theatre much more successfully than they had blocked him in his earlier efforts to organize their employees and to win economic gains in negotiations. Out of this whole complex of experience he drew the material for what he intended originally to be a play, tentatively titling it Big Ben Hood, the name of its central character.
While a union organizer Fried had for several years written a short story a week for The Union Leader, a publication of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). His short stories were brought to the attention of Angus Cameron, now a senior editor with the Knopf publishing firm. Cameron has been encouraging him for years, telling him his rate of improvement as a writer is par for the course. Keep writing, you'll get there. One suggestion Cameron made to Fried was that in choosing what he wants to write about he should select whatever it is he would write if it were the last thingthe last play or novelhe might write before he died. Don't save your important material for later.
Since Fried's boyhood days when he had written his first play at the age of fifteen, drawing on his experience as a bellhop at Ford Hotel (later The Richford) in Buffalo, a play dealing in the main with his youthful discovery that the prostitutes who worked the area were complex human beings like any other people, he had been trying to bring material about working people into the theatre. It had been only instinctive when he was a young man, but in the years that followed he became very conscious of what he was trying to do; and having been up there in front in this good fight for many years, feeling very lonely most of the time, but stubbornly sticking to his chosen path, he decided that thisthe many contradictions he had encountered in trying to bring union and working class life into the artswould be what he would try to gather together as that which he would write if it were the last thing he could write before he died.
He crammed the material into a rough first draft of a novel, embodying it as best he could within the flesh and blood, the aims and hopes, of a factory worker whom he modelled after a young friend, a drill press operator who was both a capable rank‑and‑file bold mouth in the union and a man fascinated by anything related to the arts, especially the theatre.
In our society can a workingman advance equally his aims in both areas, union and the arts, or will the two inevitably come into conflict, with one aim destroying the other?
That is what Fried intended to investigate in the play to be written from the rough draft of the novel, and he was not certain what answers he would come up withor if he would come up with anything so definite as to be called an answer. It was to be a work of exploration and discovery for himself.
Big Ben Hood was already completed in its first draft as a novel, Fried's intention being to then go on to reconstruct it into a play, when Brother Gorski ran into the stone wall erected by the New York drama critics against plays about labor. The reviewer for The Village Voice stood alone in giving the playwright credit for trying to do something worthwhile. The only wholly favorable review, giving full praise for a play about working people being entertaining at the same time as it deals with important areas of American life, was written by a student drama critic for his New Jersey college newspaper.
This experience with Brother Gorski was essentially a repeat of what had happened with his previous play Rose when it had also been presented off‑Broadway. Coming as it did on top of a series of bitter experiences connected with trying to raise money for the production of the play, it soured Fried on the idea of completing Big Ben Hood as a play. He went on to finish it off as a novel, writing and re‑writing, finally polishing it off in its fifth draft.
Some people in the publishing business were waiting to read the manuscript. Fried needed clean copies to send off to them. Since he is a terrible typist this presented a problem. He was teaching creative writing at State University College at Buffalo and had been using some of his work on Big Ben Hood to illustrate to his classes the problems encountered in shaping personal experience into a novel. He wondered if he could get a clean manuscript typed by the college's secretarial services.
This was the beginning of the little game that culminated unexpectedly in his disheartening experience, reminding Fried to remember that in exploring the difficulties to be overcome in bringing union and working class life into the arts he must not let his partisan feelings about working people blind him to the lousy role they sometimes play in this areathe opposition does not come entirely from those on the other side of the fence. After all, the first performance of Irish playwright Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin was broken up by working people who objected to the honest way he had put them up there on the stage. Like working people in our own countryprobably in every countrythey wanted to be shown as all good, leaving out that of which they were not proud. In this respect, of course, they probably do not differ from members of any class or group. But good art cannot distort life that way.
One of Manny Fried's older brothersall together there are seven brothers and two sisterswas a professor at the college long before Manny was appointed there. Dr. Martin B. Fried has the longest service of any professor in the English Department at the college. His career has been affected by Manny's radical political activities. A friendly newspaper reporter told Manny that because of him and his reputation as a radical he had orders from his editor never to mention brother Martin's name in any story he wrote about the college, despite Martin's reputation as an expert on Mark Twain.
This and Martin's generally disdainful attitude toward the working class material Manny chose to write about had caused friction between the two brothers, a guarded tension whenever they met and spoke to one another, especially since this overlaid a much earlier incident relating to the first play Manny had written, back when he was fifteen years old, the play about prostitutes.
Martin was at Harvard then, working for his Master's degree in English Literature, concentrating on the study of the plays of Shakespeare. Manny, respecting his brother tremendously for his academic accomplishments, especially in the study of drama, sent him his play.
In reply he received a curt note: "It's bad enough you're a pimp without telling it to the whole worldI've torn up your play."
Manny often reminded himself in later years that Martin had also been young back then. But the friction persisted for many years between the two brothers, with Martin dismissing two of his brother's plays, The Dodo Bird and Rosethen titled The Dead Handas "nothing but dialogue." Manny thought that this reflected Martin's resentment because his advancement within academic circles was being hampered by his younger brother's radical political activity and writing. But then Martin went to Sienna to teach at the college's branch in that Italian city. The municipal government in Sienna is communist. Literally, the officeholders elected are members put up for office by their Communist Party organization. Martin's experience with that Italian city for which he developed a deep affection, combined with the favorable reviews The Dodo Bird received when it was produced in Toronto and New York, contributed to a great change in the relationship between the two brothers.
During the McCarthy period in the Fifties, Manny had been forced out of his job in the union. Blacklisted during the fifteen years that followed, he earned a good living as an insurance broker. With the development of the change in the relationship between the two brothers, Martinknowing Manny's yearning for a life more closely associated with the artsencouraged him to apply to all the colleges and universities in the area for a job teaching playwriting. In the summer of 1972 a professor teaching creative writing at Buffalo State University College died. Manny was given a temporary one‑year appointment to fill the vacated post, teaching two courses in creative writing. In September, 1973, he was given a two‑year appointment to a full‑time position, as Assistant Professor of English, the first time he had been hired for a full‑time job by any employer since 1956finally off the blacklist.
Martin's sympathetic assistance brought the two brothers closer together. So Manny readily told Martin the problem he was having with Big Ben Hood. He needed a cleanly typed copy and it was very expensive to get it done by a professional typing service. Martin suggested he see a man he knew well in the vice‑president's office at the college. Mention my name, tell him you're my brotherhe used to be in charge of money for research and grants; he's a nice guy; he'll be anxious to help; he may know where you can get money from the college to cover the cost of typing your novel.
Could he read the novel before he tried to do anything about getting it typed? This is what Martin's friend in the vice‑president's office asked. A moment's hesitation and then Manny said yes. This would be the first person other than himself to read Big Ben Hood. The friend said he would read it over the weekend.
When they met again the friend did not say whether or not he had read the novel, and Manny was too fearful he might get an unfavorable reaction to question him. The friend did ask if he knew that there is a rule at the college barring the typing of novels and other manuscripts which do not specifically relate to research or scholarly work done in connection with the subject one is teaching. Fried countered that his job is to teach creative writing to students, including guidance of students in the writing of novels, and Big Ben Hood is his research, his scholarly work, the means he employs to dig out the information and experience needed to effectively teach his subject. Martin's friend seemed to welcome that. He said he could use it when he spoke to the vice‑president of the college from whom he had to get the okay for typing the manuscript.
Then he posed another question for Fried. Do you know that a young lady teaching social studies at the college recently made a film financed by the college and the film was successful and is making money, but the school owns the film and the money it earns belongs to the school with some kind of royalty arrangement being worked out with the young teacher?
Fried expressed his readiness to agree to the school owning publication rights to his novel, provided the college financed its publication and distribution and paid royalties to the author.
Armed with these answers Martin's friend said he would speak to the college vice‑president. When Fried returned, as directed, a few days later he was told that the vice‑president had said there was some question as to whether or not the rules permitted the typing of the novel and therefore it was not being officially okayed for typing, butcontinued Martin's friendsince work in secretarial services is slow during the Christmas and New Year's break at the college the man in charge there has agreed to have one of the secretaries type the manuscript. Fried was elated.
It was a few days before Christmas when he brought the script to the office of the secretarial services. The typist was a girl who appeared to be in her early twenties. She looked and dressed like a daughter of working class parents. Fried was glad. He thought that with her background she would enjoy typing this novel.
Because of the approaching holidays he brought her a two‑pound box of chocolates, to help counteract any resentment she might feel about having to do so much typing at a time when the work in her office is usually very light. That was the day before Christmas and she had already typed 148 out of a total of 367 pages. She was not in the office and he left the box of chocolates for her.
It was the day after Christmas when Fried went with his wife and younger daughter to Pittsburgh to visit his married older daughter, his son‑inlaw and his two grandchildren. They returned home in time to ring in the New Year. The morning of the day after New Year's Day he went to the college to find out how close the typist was to finishing the clean copy of the novel.
She was not at her desk. The older woman with whom he had left the box of chocolates for the young typist told him he would find her in the mailroom. He sought her out there. How's it going? Without a word she went back to her desk in the secretarial services office, with Fried tagging after her. Still silent, she took several large manila envelopes out of the drawer of a metal cabinet and handed them to him. This is your original manuscript and what I've done. He checked it. She had not typed beyond the same 148 pages which she had finished before Christmas. What's wrong? She told him that her boss said he would have to change the language if he wanted the novel typed in their office.
Fried was stunned.
He literally didn't know what to say. His shocked stare prompted her to tell him that if he wanted to talk to anyone about this he would have to see her boss.
Her boss is a stocky black man who looks like he is in his middle thirties. He is quite friendly, agrees with Fried that the language used by factory workers is rough, with much swearing, including fuck and shit, which the secretary refused to typewords commonly used by men when they are talking among themselves inside the factory. He agreed that this kind of language is appropriate in this kind of setting in the novel. Fried mentioned black playwright Ed Bullins and the language the characters speak in his plays. He mentioned three one‑act plays the students were doing in the college theatrefull of fuck and shit. The black boss of the white typist was most sympathetic. He told Fried he agreed with him in every way, but he had spoken to his superior in the vice‑president's office, the cooperative friend of brother Martin, and they were in agreement on their present course of action.
He told Fried that the young girl had come to him with the manuscript, saying that she would not type such language and that if she was ordered to do it she would go to her unionthe Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)and file a grievance. He agreed with Fried that the language is appropriate for the characters in the novel, and that similar language is used often today in novels and plays and movies, and that it would be false and would detract from the impact of the novel to eliminate the language in question. He agreed with Fried that undoubtedly about ninety percent of the swearing had already been cut out of the dialogue, comparing it with what really would have been said inside the factory. But he was adamant. And he assured Fried that he was passing on a decision that had been made by others above him, a decision with which he agreed. "We're not going to create a situation with the union over this and waste a lot of time arguing about it."
And that was it. Fried's novel in which someone on the other side of the fence blocks an effort to bring union and working class life into the arts would not be typed by the college's secretarial services because a working girl objected to typing the language used by the workingmen in the factorymen like those she probably has in her own family at home and among her neighbors where she lives and who freely use the very words which she objects to typing. Her bosses at the college are sure the union will back her up. Further, they fear it will open up the bigger issue which they wish to avoid: whether or not employees in the secretarial services (under rules issued from the Albany central office of the State University of New York) can be required to type the manuscript of any novel.
Disheartened, but forcefully reminded to remember that the problem involved with bringing union and working class life into the arts is complicated with contradictions, Fried took the manuscript of his novel downtown to a professional typing service in business to make a profit. There, with no objections raised concerning the language, but at a cost of eighty cents per page, a typist is turning out an accurate master copy from which Fried will have duplicates made at further cost.
This is being typed by Manny Fried on a portable typewriter set up on a desk in the middle of one of the departments of a factory owned by his youngest brother.
Gerry was, like Manny, an actor, and he has acted under Manny's direction. This started back before World War II in a working class oriented theatre which some people on the Left (associated with the New Theatre League headquartered in New York City) established in Buffalo in 1939. Gerry now owns and operates a modest factory in the small industrial city of Tonawanda, not far outside the city limits of Buffalo. This in the center of the Niagara Frontier where years earlier, as a paid organizer, Manny helped to bring a union to the employees in a number of large factories.
In the past year the number of Gerry's employees has risen to about a dozen people, including those in the office and the factory proper. There are a similar number working for another firm in the adjoining woodworking shop located in half of the front building, a one‑story structure with walls built of concrete blocks. This close neighbor supplies wood products on a sub‑contract basis to Gerry's enterprise.
In his factory Gerry manufactures displays and boxes for wholesale and retail people in the jewelry trade. When Manny was a union organizer Gerry had employed only three people and he had told them he did not care whether or not they joined a union. Even though there are more employees now, Manny guesses that the reason the union in that industry has not approached the people to join their organization is that it is too much trouble for them to bother with this small group. The present peak number of about a dozen employees will probably drop off in the slack months ahead. Also, the employees know Gerry is paying them more than the usual scale of wages in their low-paying industry and gives them a healthy extra cash bonus whenever he has a good year. ("I'd rather give it to them than give it to the government.")
Manny Fried is typing this right now at a desk in the center of the cement floor in one of the three large open areas in Gerry's squat factory fronted with its red brick facing. The three large areas are really three buildingsthe original building near the road in front, with the other two buildings added behind it when Gerry's need for space expanded. Manny's desk is in the rear building.
All three buildings are of the same concrete block construction and are joined by doors and wide passageways.
It is at this same desk, typing on this same portable typewriter, that Manny wrote his play Brother Gorski and then his novel Big Ben Hood, keeping at it several hours each day, five or six days a week. He writes here because he feels more at ease here than he feels off by himself in an office or in a room at home. Here there are people, their ages ranging from seventeen to seventy, working at their machines and benches not more than a few yards away, and since they are working steadilyseeming not to be listening to the radio with its talk and its music always there in the backgroundhe does the same, working at his typewriter. Most of the employees are women, but there always are a few young men starting their factory experience here before moving on to more skilled and higher‑paying jobs at the bigger factories nearby. Most of the men and women who work here live in the immediate vicinity, in the small industrial cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda which are known as the Twin Cities. Most of them have people in their own family who know Manny Fried from his work in this area as a union organizer. They have let him know they are aware of the organizing job he once did, and he thinks it is the warmth and respect and friendship and trust he feels from them inside these grey cement block walls that gives him the encouragement he needs to go on with his writing, despite the unfriendly reception his plays get from those trying to keep union and working class life out of the arts.
Most of the women have been working here for many years. Fried has talked to them often about what he is trying to do as a writer. On their bulletin board in this rear building forelady Jane, who says her mother once wrote short stories, tacks up news items, play programs, magazine articles and anything else containing mention of Fried's writing. This keeps the others posted and gives recognition to what he is doing, a subtle way of expressing support.
As he types now, the employees are all gathered together only a few yards away, sitting on chairs and benches, eating lunch, talking about personal things, ignoring Fried and thus accepting him. He knows they are in his corner. He can feel it when he walks in here and opens his portable typewriter on the battered old desk. It is in the way they greet him and talk to him. They inspire in him a conscious gratitude and in turn a feeling of responsibility to them which helps to shape his thinking.
But Fried has never talked to them about the problem of using swear words in his writing. He's been afraid of their reaction. That, he knows, is cowardice on his part, but he is afraid of the blow they might administer to his morale and his ability to keep on writing in accordance with his own sense of honesty. Yet he knows that shit is a word he hears some of these women use often, usually when they are frustrated or angered. He has never heard any of them say fuck, but he believes some of them must say this or its equivalent and much more out of his hearing. It has been his experience that young women at the college much more readily say shit and fuck in the presence of a man than do women at work in a factory. But when he had worked in the factory he himself and many of the men with him had generally peppered almost every phrase with fuck and shit and much more, but they were careful when their fuck could be overheard by the women working there.
He has noticed that the women here at Gerry's place are usually wary about how much they reveal when they talk about their personal lives, but there are always some exceptions, especially among the younger girls who work here for only a short time and then move on, as part of getting married or only to take a different job. However, through the grapevine and in short snatches of conversation he overhears without trying to listen, he does get an inkling of some very complicated emotional relationships in which these women are involved, relationships of the kind that often seem to come straight out of pulp magazine stories or TV soap operas.
Years earlier, still deeply affected by his own very straight background, Fried had been shocked by some of the complicated and unbelievably wild and mixed‑up relationships in which some of the working people he came to know in his union work were involved. He is not shocked any more by anything of that kind, not since he became aware that its counterpart exists in his own personal life.
Now Fried believes that whatever your wildest imagination can conceive as a possible relationship between men and women actually exists all around you, close to you. "Whether or not you see it you can be sure it's there," he told a close friend. "In your neighborhood, on your block where you live." "On your block?" echoed the friend. "In your house!" And Fried hesitated only a moment, and said, "Yes." He and his friend then theorized on the links between these new complications in personal and social life and the new complications in economic and political life, speculating on how these might be linked to the complicated and tortuous movement of the world from capitalism to socialism, as it once moved from feudalism to capitalism, and how that might be linked to the shift in the relationship between classesand why the artist has the obligation to bring these new complications into the arts to be explored there for new meanings and new values.
In this area, Fried believes, lies the foundation for his own continued dedication to the effort to bring union and working class life into the arts and his conviction that this, in addition to reinvigorating the arts, altering all life in the arts, will also alter all life outside the arts.
About a half a mile from where Manny Fried is sitting now at this typewriter in his brother Gerry's place, is the home factory of the Columbus McKinnon Chain Corporation which now has branches all over the world. At this plant, in 1944, after Manny for two years had distributed leaflets every week to workers at the plant gates and had gone to talk to hundreds of them in their homes, his union's organizing drive reversed two previous representation election defeats and produced a victory. Fried had no idea back then that the man who headed the corporation forces opposing the union would be the same man he would be told he had to approach, almost twenty‑five years later, for financial help to get his plays produced.
The plays he has written draw in part upon his experience in the years immediately following that union election victory, the years during which Fried and the men and women he worked with in the union went through some unusually tough battles with the same company. Almost every year they negotiated there on wage and contract matters they went right up to the edge of the cliff with a strike vote to back up their position; three timesor was it four?they had to jump off the cliff, shutting the plant down and setting up picket lines, going through long strikes.
The president of Columbus McKinnon Chain Corporation back thenand today still isFranz Stone. When Stone's name is mentioned by anyone to Fried, the writer's first recollection is always that time during one of the strikes when the union's Strike Committee, in its mimeographed daily bulletins, razzed Stone about wearing pink riding breeches to a fashionable foxhuntas reported in a local newspaper's society column. Fried wrote the daily bulletins for the Strike Committee.
The main office from which Stone operated in 1944 was located on the second floor in the factory's administration building, alongside Tonawanda Creek, about a half a mile down the road from Gerry's place. Today Stone's office is still about a half a mile from where Fried is now sitting at his typewriter and writing this, but it is in almost the opposite direction, over toward the Niagara River. Now it is located in a multi‑storied building of yellow brick, what was a few years ago the administration building of Sperry‑Rand Corporation, its local headquarters for the factory operations in several adjacent sprawling buildings constituting part of their Office Equipment Division.
Stone now sits where Jim Rand once ruled over his Remington Rand Corporation empire, before merger made it part of the Sperry‑Rand Corporation. In this same office building were given the orders that produced blood on the picket line, giving Fried and the union people in Rand plants in the Twin Cities a good taste of the union‑busting tactics Jim Rand had devised in earlier confrontations with the unions in his other factories downstate. These tactics became known in labor‑management circles as the Mohawk Valley Formula. They were touted across the country by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) as a good way to deal with troublesome unions. The formula consisted primarily of an intensive company campaign during a strike forcing the strike on the union if necessaryto redbait the union leaders and to make it good Americanism to go back to work without the union. As part of the formula, the company created a committee of prominent citizens in the local community to appeal to the workers to get rid of the allegedly communist leaders and then to physically lead all the good honest American workers across picket lines back to their jobs in the plant.
The formula also included strong assistance from police and sheriffsand, off the record, thugs brought in by professional protection agencies to serve as militant strikebreakers, physically breaking open a path through picket lines for the more reluctant and hesitant workers behind them. Then, after the good American workers went back to work without their union, the employer (Jim Rand) refused to recognize and deal any longer with the alleged communist union. ("You no longer speak for these employees; by their return to work they have repudiated you.")
Jim Rand, with some very clever footwork, including an undercover agent who had loudmouthed his way up into the presidency of the local, smashed the union in his Twin City factories. For several years, Fried was at the plant gates twice a week, giving out leaflets, in winter in darkness into the gray dawn, to workers going in to their jobs, fanning the flame of unionism to keep it alive until the handful of remaining union members were finally welded together with almost a thousand non‑members in a successful thirteen week slowdown that made labor history. Those who were there, the veterans of that drawnout battle, still boast today about how they fought Jim Rand to a standstill and won. The union was re‑established and the people won back the contract protections Jim Rand had taken away. Only a small part of this material has already been used in plays Fried has written one of them being the same play about which he was told to approach Stone for help in getting a production. The full story of what happened at Remington Rand is still to be told and Fried hopes to tell it someday in a play or in a novel, putting it together from the notes he is saving in several large cartons on which in black crayon is printed with crude big lettersREM RAND.
Back to Stone. in addition to his position as top man in the family‑owned chain and hoist manufacturing operation, he is chairman of the Buffalo Council on the Arts, funded primarily by the New York State Council on the Arts. At present Stone is setting up Arts Development Services Inc., as a non‑profit corporation of which he is president, to act as coordinatorand perhaps watchdog to keep unsettling influences out of the Artsin regard to all arts organizations on the Niagara Frontier.
The State Council on the Arts is headed by Buffalo millionaire banker Seymour Knox. According to newspaper reports Knox's money originally came from the Woolworth holdings left him by his father. The Albright‑Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo is his special baby. Knox appears to exert the prestige of the gallery to encourage or discourage what he favors or opposes in directions in painting, lavishing care and attention on abstraction, ridiculing realism. Stone appears to do the same in relation to both drama and dance in the local community.
Although it was Stone who made the final decisions relative to wage and contract negotiations during the dozen or so years Fried was union spokesman for employees at the Columbus McKinnon plants in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, never once did Stone actually sit in on bargaining sessions. During that period Fried never spoke to Stone, not even over the telephone. Several times, on the street or in public places, they passed each other. But they did not speak to one another. Once or twice, like two worthy opponents who respect each other's ability, they guardedly half‑nodded, indicating each knew who the other was, and without breaking step each continued on his way.
Fried was out of the union and already a playwright with an off‑Broadway production in New York (The Dodo Bird) under his belt when he finally did speak to Stone, on the telephone. The experience, both the phone conversation itself and what followed from it, was such that he promised himselfno matter what gain might be held out to influence him he would never in his entire life make himself speak to Stone again.
It is a resolve he has maintained even though at times he wonders about it, recalling the admonition Stone's senior attorney openly gave to the company's personnel man during negotiations with the union committee. The company spokesman had vehemently said, in regard to some union proposal, "We will never agree to that!" The attorneya wise and old and kindly gentleman who had been known as a rough bastard in his younger yearssmiled and drawled, "My advice is never to say never."
That was Lyman Bass, now dead, and several times he told the union committee that he would like so much to see Fried use his negotiating skill in the role of an attorney handling a trial in court that he himself would pay Fried's way through law school. (At the time Fried wondered if it was a not so subtle way to offer a bribe to get him out of the labor movement.)
While old Lyman Bass and young Fried got along well, the gap between Fried and Stone seemed then and seems now to be unbridgeable. Since his phone call to Stone about his play, Fried has run into Stone several times at a restaurant they both frequent. Once, as they approached one another in the main dining room, Stone hesitated, and Fried thought he looked as if he would replyif he was first spoken to. Fried stared blankly into Stone's face and walked on by.
Fried does not defend his conduct. He states the fact. It may be that after that phone call and its aftermath, recognizing that Stone has the power and Fried does not have it, only stiffens his determinationno matter what price he paysnot to yield to that power. And recognizing the ability of his mind to rationalize, he hopes he will hold to this resolve and resist temptation if Stone ever does offer to help further his career as a playwright. Hopefully, he will prefer to respect himself as a man in the loneliness of his own mind rather than be publicly honored as a playwright
To be fair, Fried must say that Stone is highly respected and was defended fairly recently by a man of his own social and economic class whom Fried knew well. When this man was told what had caused Fried to resolve not to speak to Stone, he stopped Fried and said he did not want to hear anything of that kind because Stone would never do that. And the abrupt interruption, the implication that he was lying, caused Fried to flame with indignation, increased his resolve to keep the wall between himself and Stone. He knew he had told the truth, but there was only his word to prove it.
In the army during the second world war, where he had ended up an infantry lieutenant after having entered the service as a private, Fried had come to know the breech existing between those officers who were West Pointers and those who, like himself, were not. He saw the parallel here. This friend of Stone, like a West Point graduate, a member of that private club in the armed forces, rallied immediately to the support of one of his own and did not even take a moment to consider the possibility that Stone might be in the wrong. He instinctively shut off Fried, rebuking him.
"Oh, Manny, that can't be true, Franz Stone would never do that!"
His face flaming, Fried wheeled around and walked away, leaving Francis Salt with his wife at their table. In his mind he marked Bud Salt down as another one of them and this was proof that their class loyalty overrules truth and logic and what's right and everything else, despite all the horseshit dished out by the nicest of them, like Bud, about principle. Before that Bud had always appeared to be fair and honest. But in this instance, where his class was involved, he came unquestioningly to Stone's defense, insultingly refusing to hear anything said against the man. Because Stone is one of them he is honest. Because Fried is not one of them he is dishonest.
What he had learned about Bud Salt came from people he knew in different walks of life and from what he read in the newspapers. Bud was reputed to be a member of a very wealthy family, prominent in what is called society in Buffalo. His family owned a major interest in the National Manufacturing Corporation where Fried was the union spokesman for many years. Several factory buildings and the home office of National (as it was called by the men and the one woman working on production there) were located directly across the road from Stone's main Columbus McKinnon plant in Tonawanda. Bud Salt started work there near the top and quickly moved up the rest of the way.
In the wage and contract talks which took place at National almost every year, Fried and Bud Salt spoke for the opposing sides. The union had a special problem in dealing with National. It was a relatively small operation with less than a hundred production employees. The manufactured products there were roofing materials and paints. It was a low wage industry, and the tactic devised by the union to deal with that problem was to leave National to last, establishing the wage increase pattern in negotiations with the larger employers in the area, then going in at National to get as much as possible of that wage pattern without forcing the company out of business. This tactic had brought National's employees the highest wage paid in the roofing materials and paint‑making industry.
So far as Fried could find out through the grapevine, Bud Salt worked at National primarily for the satisfaction he got out of his job. He was not a man with the monkey on his back, the kind that Fried and the union negotiating committees he worked with often ran into, ambitious men newly on the make, fighting their way up the ladder, willing to bloody those working under them in order to achieve their purpose. Nor was Bud in the position of some miserable flunky with a big absentee-owned corporate machine piled on top of him, demanding that he deliver more and more production with less and less labor cost.
Fried never knew Bud to lie in negotiations. Bud's word was his bond, as was Fried's. The two men developed a warm personal feeling for one another, and Bud went out of his way to say how sorry he was when, as an epilogue to the McCarthy period, Fried was redbaited out of his job with the union and blacklisted.
They ran into one another shortly after Fried's play, The Dodo Bird, was done off‑Broadway in New York with good reviews from the drama critics. Bud enthusiastically congratulated him. They were in the restaurant at that time owned by the family of Fried's wife.
The Park Lane restaurant had been sold and had burned down and it was two years after The Dodo Bird had ended its short New York run and Fried was on his way to the toilet in Oliver's, another one of the better restaurants in townwhen he again saw Bud Salt and his wife seated at a table.
The two men shook hands.
Bud asked him if he had written another play. Fried said he was trying to raise money to produce his latest, Rose. Bud asked what the play was about. Fried said it was about a woman he knew well, related to him, who had been politically involved and full of hope for the future back in the Thirties; deeply affected by the repression of the McCarthy period, she retreated into herself and had an emotional breakdown; her marriage came apart and for a while she flipped completely out of reality; and the play ends with her struggle to pull herself together again, participating in the civil rights movement.
Bud quickly blocked Fried from asking him for money by telling him that he had an unusual amount of expenses at the moment, mentioning something about a personal situation involving his married daughter. But Fried quickly assured him that he was not bringing up the subject to try to get any money out of him. Seemingly relieved, Bud made a suggestion.
"Why don't you get in touch with Franz Stone? He's chairman of the committee on the arts and he might be able to help you."
Then Fried told Bud Salt the experience he had already had with Stone, after Max Clarksonanother leading industrialist active in the arts in the communityhad suggested that he approach Stone about Rose and also about getting The Dodo Bird staged at The Studio Arena, the regional theatre where Stone was chairman of the board of trustees.
Max Clarkson is a Canadian citizen who has located in Buffalo. He and his brother head Graphic Controls, a family‑owned corporation manufacturing production control materials.
Having talked at length to the man, Fried thinks that Max considers himself somewhat of a swinger, a man who is at ease with people in all walks of life in the community, rich and poor and Left and Right, and a true patron of the arts. Max lives near the heart of the city of Buffalo, in a large mansion hidden among trees behind the more modest homes that front on the residential street. His is a very old house, beautifully renovated, in an area on the outlying edge of the fashionable bohemian section which Max is helping to revive.
These three local captains of industry and finance, Max Clarkson and Franz Stone and Seymour Knox, are members of almost every important committee in the community relating to the arts.
From his conversation with Clarkson, Fried evaluated him as seeing himself in the role of the progressive voice in the establishment, as opposed to the conservative voices of Stone and Knox, both of whomin the political arenajointly headed up the local committee to re‑elect Richard Nixon.
Frequently linked to these three on the arts committee is another nameCalvin Rand, a descendant of an old banking family in the community. Though Rand inherited his share of the family wealth, this did not prevent him from trying to do something worthwhile to justify his existence. He has a summer home at Niagara‑on‑the‑Lake in Canada and in that community he founded the highly successful Shaw Theatre Festival.
When Fried decided to try to raise money to produce his play Rose offBroadway in New York, he consciously resolved to set aside his qualms about approaching people on the other side of the fence. At the time Calvin Rand was heading up the Office of Cultural Affairs at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Fried had worked out a pre‑approach technique, sending out a series of off‑the‑record newsletters about his plays (Private Report by Manny Fried) to prospective investors.
After he had sent several such newsletters to Rand at his office on the university campus, Fried telephoned and asked for an appointment. The two men had never spoken to each other before. Rand thanked the caller, said he had heard much about him and would like very much to meet and talk to him.
They met in the office on the university campus. Fried brought along a suitcase containing over a dozen unproduced plays and unpublished novels. He opened the suitcase to give Rand a brief glance, the accumulated scripts intended to speak for themselves, declaring that here is a "pro" who without waiting for inspiration sits down regularly at his typewriter and turns out written works.
It seemed to Fried that Rand was younger than he by about ten or fifteen years, and his business suit had that excellent loose fit that is the mark of custom tailoring by a craftsman who sticks to long‑range conservative trends in styling. When they shook hands Rand called him Manny, and he said Calvin, but it was all on the surface. Neither man was ready to show much of himself to the other.
Rand revealed that he knew that Rose, when it was still titled The Dead Hand, had won the contest for the best new play written by a Western New York resident, also that although it had been sponsored by the local Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) the competition had been judged by the chairman of the drama department at Duke University in North Carolina.
For a moment Fried wondered if he should fill in Rand on the effort made by the FBI to block the award of the prize, a local production of the play. Would it help to tell him that the Jaycees executive board had met in secret session about that and voted not to go along with the FBI request? ("We held a contest and he won.") Did good conscience require that he tell Rand that the FBI men had then passed the word to him through one of his close associates in the insurance business, that what he was writing, especially Rose with its uncomplimentary remarks about the FBI, was the reason why he was being summoned for the second time to be questioned by the House Committee on Un‑American Activities?
But then Rand asked if he could read the play, and Fried decided to keep his mouth shut and let the play speak for itself.
It was about a week later that they met again in the same office on the university campus and Rand said he had read the play and he did not like it. He said it was too political and the material in it about radicals and working people and labor unions smacked of the bygone Thirties. It's out of step, Manny, with new directions developing in the theatre.
Then quickly, before his visitor could start toward the door, Rand added that he thought the play proved Fried could write well and therefore he should be encouraged. The playwright was silent. He resented what appeared to him to be a patronizing attitude, yet he felt a twinge of guilt, knowing he had only himself to blame for being there. He should not be asking for money for production of his play from someone who must fundamentally disagree with his views on economics and politics. He thanked Rand for reading the play and moved toward the door.
"How small an amount can anyone invest?" asked Rand.
Fried said he had established the units at $500 each and while several people had been permitted to take half‑units of $250 they had been people with very moderate incomes.
"Put me down for half a unit."
Later, speaking to his wife, the playwright said he wished he had told Rand to keep his money. But that was only after she told him that for a man like Rand to offer to put in only $250 was an insult and that he would degrade himself if he accepted it. That hurt, because he believed what she said was true. But he did not tell her so. She said she could not understand how he could lower himself that much to get his play produced. He said that when you are trying to raise money for a business venture you must go to people who can give you what you need, whether or not you like them or their politics. But he did not believe that, not then, and not now when he is still embarrassed by the shit‑eating way he kissed ass to raise some of the money to produce Rose and, later, Brother Gorski. He thinks that if he could do it over he would not do it. But he also thinks he may be saying this now only because those people have clearly let him know that they will not put up any more money for the kind of plays he is writing.
Before they parted Calvin suggested to Manny that he get in touch with Max Clarkson and junior Bill Marcy. While Manny had met Clarkson once before, he had not met young Marcy whose name he had also seen listed as a member of most of the important local committees on the arts. From what he read in the newspapers Marcy did not seem to have the kind of initiating and controlling role possessed by Stone, Knox, Clarkson and Rand.
Bill Marcy, Jr. was an investment counselor and was also the treasurer of the county Republican organization. He is also the son of the senior partner in the law firm with whose teams of legal talent Fried had tangled often, the law firm representing several manufacturing corporations for whose employees Fried had been the spokesman in wage and contract negotiations.
Young Bill Marcy immediately put the conversation on a Manny and Bill basis. Without asking for any involved explanation and without asking to read the play, he told Manny to put him down for one $500 unit for the Rose production. You're entitled to a chance, Manny. But two years later when he was approached again and asked to put money into Brother Gorski, he told the playwright that the subject matterthe central character of the play is a union leaderwas something belonging to the past, to the Thirties, and he did not wish to put money into the production of that kind of material.
It had been Calvin Rand who had put into words the intention of Marcy, Clarkson and himself when they agreed to put money into Rose. Fried and he were shaking hands in his office at the university, saying goodbye.
"I'm glad we've established this line of communication," said Rand. "Now let's keep it open."
And Fried readily agreed, thinking information would flow both ways, that they were interested in learning his views, to know what he is thinking, as much as he wanted to know what they are thinking.
He has always been in awe of the rich and socially powerful. He hates to admit that. But it is so. He has developed a simple antidote for that. Whenever he envies them and thinks of them as even generous sometimes with their code of noblesse obligesome of them seeming to truly accept the responsibility of the well-born for the welfare of the common peoplehe reminds himself of his own personal experiences with them where they have revealed that they are also inconsiderate, self‑centered, careless, vindictive bastards, overly impressed with their own importance, and where without regard to what is right or wrong they have shown absolutely no mercy when they thought their sources of power were really threatened. The awe he feels toward them could be the result of his youthful conditioning in a poor family and at times he may lean the other way to counterbalance his own grievous fault which invites them to be patronizing to himit may be this which has led him to exert himself several times, wishing tremendously to make sure the message gets to them, telling them categorically to go fuck themselves.
He was the source of his own embarrassment the first time he met Max Clarkson. It was at a party Clarkson and his wife gave in their richly decorated home for the cast of Ages of Man. Fried had a role in this Thornton Wilder play which was presented on the stage in the auditorium of the Albright‑Knox Gallery. The director of the play was Neal DuBrock. He was trying to use this production as the stepping stone toward securing the position of permanent artistic director of the Studio Theatre. This was the community theatre which, under DuBrock's supervision, later became The Studio Arena, the professional regional theater. Among the cast there was a rumor that Max Clarkson was backing DuBrock against the Old Guard who wished to keep the theatre an amateur plaything of the upper crust in the community. That was before Stone became chairman of its board of directors. Introduced to Max Clarkson at the party Fried apologized to him for not wearing a jacket and tie. "I didn't know we were to come here straight from the performance." Max laughed at him, and Manny wanted to kick himself in the ass for having entered the man's home, and then for not responding to that laugh by turning around and leaving. He was embarrassed that he had felt so ill at ease that he had to apologize about his dress.
fie had not spoken to Clarkson since that party, except for an exchange of hello several times in public places, where in reply to the other's greeting he said, "Hello, Max," refusing to say, "Hello, Mr. Clarkson," in reply to "Hello, Manny."
He phoned Clarkson at his home. "Hello, Max, this is Manny Fried. I was talking to Calvin Rand today and he suggested I get in touch with you."
Clarkson asked him to drop off a copy of Rose at his house. He also suggested bringing along a copy of The Dodo Bird which had already been received very well in New York. The next evening Fried brought over the scripts, and the two men had a very guarded chat. Clarkson suggested he phone about a week later, by which time he would have read both plays.
When Fried phoned, Clarkson said that he liked The Dodo Bird and did not like Rose. However, he also wanted to keep the line of communication with the playwright open. So he would also put $250 into the production of Rose. Here again, Fried had the impulse to refuse it. The other man asked if he had contacted Franz Stone yet. You can say that Max Clarkson suggested you call.
"And, Manny, I would also ask him about doing The Dodo Bird at The Studio Arena. He's chairman of the board there."
"I won't call him," said Fried, briefly explaining that he did not think that he would get a friendly reception because of his role in the strikes that shut down Stone's Columbus McKinnon plants.
"But you're out of the union nowcall him."
Ignoring the warning of one inner voice, another inner voice urged Fried not to live in the past. Forget the old battles. This is today. Extend the open hand. Take a chance and see what happens.
But the first inner voice reminded Fried that Franz Stone had moved over into the position of chairman of the board of directors at the Studio Theatre, forerunner of Studio Arena, only after Fried unexpectedly surfaced there in the role of Judge Brack in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Stone's quick move had seemed to be motivated by fear that Fried's successful resumption of his acting career might break down efforts to keep the blacklisted leftwinger isolated in the community.
Mel Benstock had phoned and asked Fried if he would read for the part of Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler. This was shortly after Fried had been forced out of the job of union organizer in 1956, an aftermath to the first of two appearances before the House Committee on Un‑American Activities. Rightwing forces in the community were still actively tarring him with the brush of having refused to answer any of the committee's questions ("It's none of your business what I believe or with whom I associate.") when Mel Benstock phoned. He said he wanted to get together a good cast because it was the first play he had been given a chance to direct at the Studio Theatre. (He did not know it would also be the last one.)
He and Mel had been professional actors during the same years in New York City when they were both much younger. But they did not meet each other until they were back home again in Buffalo, both having given up their professional acting careers. Mel had gone into the jewelry business, manufacturing rings. He bought displays and boxes from Manny's brother, Gerry, and he was friendly with another one of the seven Fried brothers, Maury, general manager of Star Ring Company, manufacturers of fine rings.
It was a time when Manny was getting much adverse publicity about his radical politics in the newspapers, and his two brothers told him that whenever they ran into Mel he always asked how Manny was making out and sent his regards.
Mel's wife and Manny's wife had been friends from early childhood, and the brother of Mel's wife and the brother of Manny's wife had been part of an inseparable trio formed in grammar school and continued through high school and college and beyond. (The third member of this trio was the son of the president of Markel Electric, the son also being vice‑president of this large local manufacturing corporation, where in one of his last major assignments as a union organizer Manny led a strike that dragged on for more than six months, with battles fought in the streets between strikers and police who were busting picket lines open to make a path for strikebreakers, the strike bringing Manny some of his worst front page publicityand a threat from his wife that it would be the end of their marriage if he caused old corporation president Joe Markel to have a repeat of an earlier heart attack. His notes and news clippings and strike bulletins and press releases until to eliminate distortion of his words he reduced all press releases to: "Please quote me accurately: 'Fuck you and fuck your newspaper!'" are collected in a large cardboard box and marked with big letters in black crayon: Markel Strike; and some day he hopes to put it all together into a very personal story, written from the inside, in the shape of a novel or playtelling how, and exploring why, Manny Fried was split in two by the strike, the symbol created about the man and then broken away from the man, the symbol and the man to go on, living separate lives, with a difficult problem created for some people on the other side of the fence who told Fried they wanted to smash the symbol, but, if possible, not the man whom they personally liked.)
The director of Hedda Gabler at the Studio Theatre knew he would be inviting criticism from some people when he invited Manny Fried to appear in a major role in the play. His wife confided that to Fried's wife. Apparently, Benstock wanted to make some kind of statement, and by casting the former union organizer as Judge Brack in the play he made it. But he paid a price for that statement.
Benstock has not directed another play at Studio Theatre since Hedda Gabler despite the excellent reviews the production received from the drama critics of both newspapers and despite sellout attendance during the scheduled run of several weeks. Quickly, before the play run ended, Franz Stone moved into the top position on the board of directors of Studio Theatre.
Stone is a powerful industrialist with a far‑flung scattering of factories all over the world; Benstock owns a little shop with a handful of employees. But Fried concluded later that if the economic positions of those two men had been reversed, each probably would have acted as the other had acted. True, Benstock stuck out his neck then to do Fried a great service, breaking down walls which had been set up against him in the community, but when shortly after that Fried, still blacklisted and making his living as an independent broker selling life insurance, asked Benstock if he could set up a program by which the ring‑makers in his factory could purchase insurance through a voluntary payroll deduction plan, Benstock said, "Manny, there's no union in my shop now, and all I need is to have you talk to my people and without you even mentioning union the next thing I know they'll catch it from you and all be in the union."
Knowing the role Stone had played in the Studio Theatre situation when Benstock did the Hedda Gabler production there, Fried thought it would be a waste of time to proceed in accordance with Clarkson's urging to telephone Franz Stone to ask for financial help to get his plays done. But he was still undecided. When he had expressed his reluctance Clarkson had laughingly pressed him. You have nothing to lose. But he did have something to losehis personal dignity, his respect for himself.
He feared he would be insultedby Stone's tone of voice, if nothing more direct than thatif he put himself into the position of asking a favor from someone to whom he had been such a direct opponent and to whom he was not ready to make any ideological concessions in his writing in return for financial help.
But he did telephone Stone. Clarkson's urging started him thinking about it, but it was a conversation he had with another prominent local businessman, Irving Levick, that tipped the scale.
Levick had been corporation president and a major stockholder at Sattler's, one of the biggest department stores in the city of Buffalo, located in the heart of a working class district where the majority of the residents were of Polish descentthe largest single ethnic group in the community. He lived in a gray stone mansion across from Delaware Park in the heart of the city, the equivalent of New York City's Central Park. It was on the same street on which Calvin Rand lived.
Sol Fried, Manny's father, told Manny he had known Levick well. "He was a hosiery salesman during the depression." Sol had been in his mid‑nineties (he died at ninety‑seven) when Manny mentioned Levick, saying he was going to see him about money for a production of his play. Sol had retired after operating his one‑man dry goods and notions store until he was well into his late eighties. (Hit on the head with a metal pipe for the second time, a bloodying blow delivered by frightened young thieves to whom he had readily given whatever money he had in the store, he was persuaded by his children to reluctantly retire.) Sol relished telling the story about Levick.
"I remember him when it was depression and he was new here, a hosiery salesman. He came to me and he said he was selling ladies hosiery and he didn't have even money what to eat that day. Would I please give him an order? My shelves were loaded. Who needed more stock? But a man is in trouble, you don't turn him away. I ordered a few dozen of this and a few dozen of that and I invited him to sit and have a bite with me. The man was so grateful he couldn't thank me too much. And he came back again, several times, and each time I gave him an order, a little something to help him out. Now he's a rich man and a big shot he may not want to talk about it, but I'm sure he still remembers."
Manny did not mention his father to Levick when they met, but he sensed an underlying friendliness which he attributed to the possibility that the businessman knew he was one of Sol Fried's seven sons and remembered that the old man had ordered hosiery from him. There was a warmth there, a feeling radiating from Levick that he really wanted to help, even though he said that temporarily he had no cash. ("I'm being very frank with you, Manny.")
He was no longer with Sattler's. He'd lost that. Now he owned and managed some properties. ("On paper I own them. But they're mortgaged to the banks. I'd love to help but I don't have any loose money. Maybe I can come up with some helpful ideas on this one and maybe on your next one I'll be in a position to do more than that." Later Fried read in the newspapers that Levick owned a tremendous tract of land on the edge of the city, zoned for industry, and he was involved in some kind of complicated deal aimed at getting the city to buy it for construction of a big central school, a middle school where there would be bussed in a relatively equal mix of black and white students; but a stalemate between the powerful forces favoring integration of pupils in the public schools and those opposing it prevented any decision.)
The playwright had been looking over the list of directors on the board at the Studio Theatre, trying to decide whether or not to approach several others in addition to the two he had already contacted, Clarkson and Rand, before taking a chance with Stone. That was when he saw the name of Levick and remembered having heard his father mention the man's name several times. He wondered if Levick would know him. Levick might have heard about him or read something about him in the newspaper. Most of those newspaper items had been negative, but some had been carefully positive. (Movie and drama critic Bob Sokolsky of the Buffalo Courier‑Express told him that whenever he made even a slightly favorable mention of Fried's plays it was like pressing a buttonhe immediately received a flurry of hate letters, calling him a commy and a fellow‑traveler, showering him with abuse.)
"Mr. Levick, this is Manny Fried." He had telephoned. "We've never met and I don't know if you know who I am "
"Of course, I know who you are, Manny." The voice, interrupting, was friendly, with a warmth that was as welcome as it was unexpected. "What can I do for you?"
"I don't know if you've heard that I'm writing some plays "
"Yes, of course I have."
"I don't want to impose on you if you're not interested, I don't want to bother you "
"I'm very interested in what you're doing, Mannyyour playwritingI'm very interested in that."
"Thank you"I've got a new play called Rose and I'm calling people who might be receptive to the idea of putting some money into it for a production in New York "
"Manny," the friendly voice interrupted, apologetically, "I appreciate your thinking of me and I am interested. But to be honest with you and not to waste your time, Manny, I must tell you right now I couldn't do a thingI simply don't have any cash."
Manny, protecting himself against any possible slight, hurriedly closed the door. "That's okaythank you, Mr. Levick nice talking to you "
"Wait, Manny, wait!"
Fried silently waited.
Levick continued with even greater warmth, turning on the charm to disarm the hypersensitive playwright, "Manny, I'm very interested in what you're doingyour playwritingand I'd like very much to help you with your production. Would you mind letting me read your pl ay? And give me a little time to think of something. I may be able to come up with a few ideas to help you get the money you need."
Levick's gray stone mansion with green lawn and thick shrubbery and clumps of trees all around it did not look like it housed someone who had no cash. It was Levick himself who came to the door and admitted Fried and led him into a high‑ceilinged frontroom. where abstract paintings filled the walls.
The house seemed big enough to need servants to take care of it. But Fried neither saw nor heard anything to indicate that the Levick's had any servants. He wondered how broke Levick was; did his wife have a cleaning woman come in once a week, as did Fried's wife? Who did the cooking?
The two men were alone only a few moments when a woman whom Fried assumed was Mrs. Levick came down the carpeted stairs and joined them. She was dressed quite formally, her dress down to her ankles. Her face seemed to have been freshly groomed for the occasion. Fried was surprisedhad she fixed herself up to meet him? Levick introduced his wife and she smiled, showing her teeth, and said something about it being a pleasure to meet a live playwright.
They talked a while and then Mrs. Levick asked if she could also read the play. (Why not?) He left Rose with them and Levick suggested he give them three or four days. Then phone, Manny.
Fried telephoned. Levick said both he and his wife had read the play and enjoyed it. "But, Manny, if you want to get the money you need to do your plays you have to be a little more careful with what you're writing. There is no other way. Whether you like it or not you have to cater to the Establishment "
"Fuck'm," said Fried, reacting quickly to stop at the very outset this bald effort to pressure him.
"You can't say that, Manny"
Levick, not the least bit disturbed, continued, "Not if you want a production of your plays."
"Manny, you can't say that "
"I've lived over fifty years now without kissing their ass, and if I don't ever get another play done it won't kill meI won't like it, but I'll survivefuck'm."
He arranged to come over at once to pick up his play. Again it was Levick himself who opened the front door. Instead of handing over the script of Rose which he held in his hand he invited the playwright to come in. Standing in the hallway, he urged him to attend a performance of an avante‑garde play that week-end at Domus, the state university's theatre which was being operated under the supervision of Calvin Rand. He seemed to be implying that Fried should see the kind of play the establishment would readily finance for him. Fried ignored the suggestion. He put out his hand, asking for the play. But Levick held on to the script. He said he would arrange for tickets to be sent to Fried so he could see the avante‑garde performance.
The playwright wondered why Levick was pressing him so hard, to a point of becoming embarrassingly obnoxious, refusing to let the matter drop in the face of his own obvious negative reaction. Had the man promised them he would work on him, to try to shift the direction of his writing? Had he already told them that he, speaking as one Jew to another, could succeed in what they had failed to do? Had he said this in reply to their asking him to play the role of the house Jew, thinking that the playwright would have to be more receptive to the influence they were trying to exert on him if it were transmitted through a fellow Jew?
That thought hardened him. He coldly brought the awkward scene to a close, telling Levick to send him the tickets and if he could make it he would go to the Saturday evening performance. Two days later a pair of tickets arrived in the mail. He immediately put them into another envelope and returned them to Levick with a short note. Sorry, can't make it, thank you.
Now Fried decided he had to do what would probably be the most unpleasant thing he had done or would do in trying to raise money for a production of his play. He told himself he had to do it so that when the question was asked later (by people he respected, people who still had certain illusions which his years as a union organizer had punctured for him) he could say that he had asked for help from the man who sat at the head of the regional council which was ostensibly set up to assist and encourage the development of the arts in the community, that he had not been rigid, that he had not let his differences with Stone on labor‑management matters lead him to a preconceived, possibly incorrect, conclusion that prevented him from asking for help.
He expected to be turned down. But how embarrassing would Franz Stone make the turndown? He dreaded the insultingly clever parry he expected to get, especially the patronizingly pleasant manner in which he expected it to be delivered, with such enviable quiet and assured confidence. He would have preferred direct and open opposition and confrontation to himself and what he is writing. We will not help you because we are on the other side of the fence and we are doing our best to stop you from getting what you are writing before any audience. He knew he would not get that.
He tried to relax the tensed muscles in his fingers and arms and shoulders as he dialed the phone, preparing to ask for Mr. Franz Stone at his Columbus McKinnon Chain Corporation main office in Tonawandaa half mile down the road from where he sits in front of the portable typewriter resting on the scratched desktop in his brother Gerry's jewelry display manufacturing plant. (Small piles of the factory's incomplete work orders, unfinished jewelry display items, fill almost half the top of the desk, forming a semicircled barrier around him.)
His experience as a union organizer led Fried to assume that every word he spoke into the telephone's mouthpiece would by way of the grapevine get out into the shop, reaching the Columbus McKinnon people he had once represented in grievance and wage and contract talks with the company. He was deeply concerned that whatever he said on his own initiativeor was led to say in reply to initiatives from whoever came onto the other end of the lineshould in no way detract from or weaken the reputation for integrity he believed he had established in the minds of the men and women working on the benches and machines and assembly lines in the shop. This is crucial. He wants to believe that this is more important to him than getting his plays produced.
What is at stake, he recognizes, is his respect for himself. Fried takes pride, possibly too great pride, in his knowledge that as a union representative he has resisted every effort to buy him off, by money or favors or honors, or to get him to deal under the table, or even to get him to negotiate alone with an employer. Even though it had often been inconvenient, and in some situations somewhat ridiculous, he had always stubbornly insisted upon observing the rule taught him early in his union organizing career by dedicated rank‑and‑file oldtimers. "Manny, never meet alone with anybody from the company. Never talk to any of them alonein person or even over the telephoneexcept possibly only to set an appointment. Always insist that someone from the rankand‑file be there with you. No matter what it is, a grievance or a strike situation or a wage dispute or contract negotiations, always bring in a witness from the shop, Manny. Otherwise, the company or someone out in the shop, either on his own or prompted by the company to undermine your position, will distort what you said and accuse you of having sold out!"
But now, he remind himself, he is calling about getting his play done, not about a shop problem. And he is not a union representative, he is a playwright. However, he knows that his plays draw upon his experience as a union organizer, some of the material coming directly from specific experience with people in this very shop into which he is now about to telephone. And he is concerned that when the grapevine carries information about his call out into the shop the people out there will be reassured by what they hear that he is not selling out in any way in what now as a playwright he is writing about themthat it will be thoroughly evident that he is still with them as strongly as when he was their union organizer, though in a different way.
Thinking about this before he reaches and dials the telephone number, Fried questions his importance. It is egotistical, he chides himself, to still worry about keeping the symbol untarnished. But egotistical or not, he is going to proceed on the basis that he still is something of a symbol to the people working out there in the factory, and that he has the same moral obligation here that he has always believed he has had, ever since during the Markel Electric strike the newspaper reporter told him that he had to be destroyed because he had become the symbol representing the successful continuation of the strike and that to break the strike the symbol had to be destroyed. To the reporter he had replied, "Don't blame me for that. You people did it yourself, by attacking me personally, trying to wipe me out." The reporter had agreed with him and he must have reported it back to his editor. In the weeks that immediately followed, with the strike continuing, there was a slackening off in the personal attack against Fried in the pages of The Buffalo Evening News. But that experience had so deeply instilled in Fried the idea of being a symbol that from then on whenever he had to make a key decision he could not help reminding himself that he had a responsibility to the working people in the areato preserve the integrity of the symbol they also had helped to create by their resistance to the attacks that had been made against him. It had been this sense of responsibility, coupled to his confidence in the support existing somewhere out there, a confidence based upon his past experience with the working people he had been with in the union, that helped to sustain him and to give him the courage to tell off the House Un‑American Activities Committee when they held hearings in Buffalo in 1964. It was the second time they had subpoenaed him to appear before them, and mindful of the need to preserve the purity of the symbol he told them even more strongly this second time that it is none of their business what his political beliefs are and with whom he associates and therefore he will not answer a single one of their questions, a defiant challenge briefly reported in the back pages of The Buffalo Evening News. Friends told Fried that clippings of the brief news item sprouted on bulletin boards in several factories, including Columbus McKinnon. A local union official at the chain planttogether he and Fried had once fought side by side in many battles with that companyphoned the next day to tell him, "They were shouting in there all across the shop that they knew Manny would tell off those dirty sonsofbitches."
The playwright felt good about that. He had kept the symbol intact.
In his insurance business office at home Fried proceeded to make the call to Stone, but his resolve to do so was colored by a determined message to himself not to let greed to get his play produced and to secure recognition as a playwright lure him into saying anything to Stone that could be used to tear down that image which, egotistical or not, he still believed was an important and constructive symbol to maintain.
"Mr. Stone, please. Manny Fried calling."
The switchboard operator asked him to repeat his name and after a moment of waiting another female voice identified herself as Mr. Stone's secretary and asked if she could help him. He gave her the information. She repeated his name and his message that Mr. Clarkson had told him to call. Then she excused herself. There was a long wait and then she was back.
"Mr. Fried Mr. Stone is busy in a meeting right now. Could you tell me what it is you're calling about? I'll see that the information gets to Mr. Stone as soon as he comes out of the meeting."
He kept it short and cool. "Mr. Clarkson said that since Mr. Stone is chairman of the regional subcommittee on the arts I should call him."
The secretary waited for more, until she was forced to ask "Can you tell me what it is you want, Mr. Fried? I'll make sure the information gets to Mr. Stone."
"It's about some plays I've written," he said, deliberately keeping it short.
"Yes?" prompted the secretary when she realized he did not intend to say more. He repeated that he was calling about some plays he'd written. She fumbled. "What is it you want me to tell Mr. Stone about your plays?"
He abandoned the false politeness. "I'd rather wait and tell him myself, thank you."
A long pause. "Mr. Fried, can you give me your phone number? I'll give this information to Mr. Stone and I'm sure he'll get back to you."
He gave the secretary his phone number, but in his mind Fried told himself that this was the end of ithe did not intend to call Stone again. He instructed himself not to be disappointed. It's foolish to expect Stone to return his call. But he could not keep from hoping.
Two days went by with no call from Stone. His contacts to likely prospects who might invest in the production of Rose were overlapping one another, with what was said by one prospect prompting him to contact other prospects while he was still expected to meet again with the earlier prospect. Clarkson had urged him to call Stone, and Levick had urged upon him the necessity to cater to the establishment, and he had already spoken to Stone's secretarywhen he returned to Clarkson's house to pick up the script of Rose.
Clarkson urged him to phone Stone again. He said he did not think Stone was consciously refusing to return Fried's call. He's a busy man, Manny, and I know how a call like that can easily get lost in the pile of messages that accumulate every day. Fried agonized for several days about the advisability of making another call, the embarrassing position he might be placed in if Stone was really trying to avoid him, what the people out in the shop there might think when they heard via the grapevine that he had phoned again after Stone had already refused to phone him in return.
He had been asked by Clarkson to let him know what Stone said when he phoned the second time. He called Clarkson and told him he had decided not to call Stone again, telling him the reason was that he did not want to appear to be too anxious, that this might give the impression that he was willing to make concessions in his writing in return for help to get his play produced. Fried recognized that he was calling Clarkson now only to be urged again, so he could say later that he made the second call to Stone only after being urged repeatedly by Clarkson to do so. The man on the other end of the line was laughing and Fried was embarrassed, thinking Clarkson was astute enough to read what he was thinking. As expected, Clarkson did urge him to call Stone againand Fried said he would think about it.
He was again put through to Stone's secretary "Mr. Fried, didn't you hear from Mr. Stone?" He told her he might have stepped out of his office when Mr. Stone called. She said Mr. Stone was in a meeting and she would tell him Mr. Fried called again about his plays. She said she already had his telephone number and she was sure Mr. Stone would get back to him.
Fried's wife told him he was naive to believe it possible that Stone had merely forgotten or had been too busy to return the first call. She said she could not understand why he had called Stone again. You're asking to be insulted. But Fried had worked out an explanation making it right to keep chasing, a tactic he could justify to himself and to the people out there in Stone's factory.
"I'm not letting him off the hook," he told his wife. "Not this easy. I'm going to call him every day until I force him himself to say no directly to meso he can't say later that I didn't get help from the committee on the arts because of my own fault, because I did not persist in trying to reach him when he was busy."
His wife said that if she were in his position she would forget Stone and not leave herself open to be humiliated and she could not understand his willingness to invite insult this way from people whom he said he did not respect. He repeated his rationalization about not leaving himself open to be faulted later for not having sufficiently exerted himself to try to reach Stone and she again forcefully rejected it. You're asking to be stepped on! He told her that if it were an insurance business deal he was trying to consummate she would not question his calling again and again to someone he might dislike and/or who might insult him. You would say that's business. They argued on, both becoming more and more incensed, cutting each other up until they were both so angry they stopped talking and did not talk to one another the rest of the day and slept in separate rooms that night.
For three consecutive days Fried phoned once each morning and once each afternoon, each time telling Stone's secretary that he would phone back since he was stepping out of his office and might not be there when Mr. Stone tried to return his call.
After the afternoon call on the second day he told himself that by this time the grapevine must have surely picked up the information from either someone around the switchboard or from one of the secretaries up in the front office and the word is being passed around back in the shop that Manny Fried is calling Stone on the telephone and the old man is ducking him. Fried's former union friends out there in the shop probably are shooting off their mouths right now, enjoying it, needling, saying Stone is afraid to talk to Manny, and the grapevine is carrying that back to Stone.
On the afternoon of the third day he phoned the Columbus McKinnon switchboard and gave his name and asked to speak to Mr. Stone. Stone's secretary came on the line. Her honeyed voice seemed to be more poisonously cordial than usual. Then he waited. Not more than a few moments. But he already sensed what was to come and he alerted himself for the knifepoint gloved with friendliness.
"Hello, Manny "
It was the first time Stone had ever spoken to Fried despite all the years they had been locked in each other's strong embrace as they warred with one another over workers' grievances and wage and contract items. Fried wondered if Stone was stirred by the same frightening sense of anticipation and self‑hate stirring in himself beneath the calm he clamped down on his outer surface. He wanted to say: Hello, Franzto match and challenge the Manny that Franz Stone had used in addressing him.
"Hello, Mr. Stone," he heard his dry mouth say, the first time he had ever spoken directly to Stone, and he marked one‑up for his opponent and then added the possible one‑up for himself, that Stone had come to the phone.
"Yes, Manny?" said Stone, and he stopped right there.
A short, awkward pause, and Fried, fearful of a space of silence but determined not to show awe to his opponent, flippantly apologized for phoning, saying that Max Clarkson had urgently advised that he call, as if otherwise he would not have telephoned. In his strong resolve to hang onto his pride and dignity he stiffly acted a role, clinging to the impossible thread that Stone by some miracle might be prompted to help him with his plays, at the same time as he anxiously checked each word he said. How would it sound if it were being recorded now and were played back later over the loudspeaker system to be heard by every man and woman out there in that shop? Not that he expected it to happen that way. Nor was it any of their business out there what he did to get the help he needed. After all, if they were in his situation, few, if any, of them out there would be any more pure than he is. But he still wanted to make sure that not only the words he spoke but also his tone of voice could be defended in some non‑existent courta court nowhere except in his own conscienceas not containing the slightest intimation that in return for a favor from Stone he might be willing to surrender any part of his independence of thought and his devotion to the cause of the people working out there in the factory.
"Max Clarkson insisted that since you're chairman of the local council on the arts and also chairman of the board of trustees at Studio Arena, I really should be sure to call you about the possibility of some help for a New York production of my new play Roseand also about the possibility that there might be a chance to get my play The Dodo Bird done at the Studio Arena."
Later, when he had the time to go over what Stone said and to evaluate it, Fried admired and was angered by the skill with which his worthy opponent deftly guided him through the revolving door back out onto the street, emptyhanded, but still clinging to a frazzled string of hope.
"The Dodo Bird? That was done in New York, wasn't it, Manny?"
"Yes, and it got good reviews. Even the Wall Street Journal critic liked it, said it was not an ideological thing but a good play about human beings who happen to work in a factory."
He thought but did not say aloud that on the other hand the communist Daily World had praised the play for its ideological content; and the weekly Workers World, speaking for the small national splinter‑party of that same name (Workers World) which had developed from a split off the Socialist Workers Party in Buffalo, New York, had also praised the play for the same reason.
(The Workers World review was written by editor Vincent Copeland, the closest friend of Fried's other younger brother Joelthe brother who had recently retired from the post officeback when Vince and Joel were in their late teens and early twenties and were both members of the Socialist Labor Party. Fried has his notes for the play or novel he may write some day about Vince, including how he was maneuvred by the FBI into abandoning his position of leadership among steelworkers at the tremendous Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel plant shortly after he had led them out on a highly successful wildcat strike, and how he was conned by undercover government agents planted around him into going off to New York to found a new and ineffectual splinter political party dedicated to promoting the working class revolution through a vanguard of radical college students and broke off effective contact with the thousands of working men and women in the Lackawanna steel plant who were looking to him for leadership.)
Stone asked lightly about The Dodo Bird. "What is it you want to do with it, Manny?"
Fried carefully put one foot forward. "Well, even from only a selfish point of viewforget the playwright and what he hopes to get out of itdoing a play like this will help the Studio Arena to bring into their theatre a new audience of people who have never been there before."
"We're always interested in that, Manny."
"And I understand that they get money there from the state on the presumption that they're helping to develop local playwrights " It was a subtle dig intended to make it harder for Stone to abruptly close the door.
"Manny," said Stone easily, after only a slight hesitation, "do you know Neal DuBrock?"
"Yes." Fried's pride led him to say more and when he had said it he thought he had said too much. "I acted for Neal in the Wilder play at the Art Gallery. Before that at the Jewish Center I played the southern cracker father for him in Albee's Death of Bessie Smith."
"Have you spoken to Neal about The Dodo Bird?"
There was a dangerous moment here and Fried proceeded cautiously to get through it. "I spoke to him some time ago about it. But not since it was done in New York."
"You know he's our artistic director now at Studio Arena "
A careful reply. "I know "
"He makes all decisions on artistic matters. We on the board don't interfere with that. What I suggest, Manny, is that you take your play to Neal to read "
"He's read it already. Some time ago. Back before it was done in New York and gained some recognition." Fried decided to make a bold thrust. "I think Neal was afraid then that the board would object to his doing the play because of my political background."
The pause that followed while Fried waited for the response to his thrust seemed ominous. Then Stone spoke and his voice seemed to combine amusement and resentment as he brought the conversation to a close.
"Well, Manny, let's do it this way. You take the play to Neal and let him look at it again."
Fried thought nothing would come out of that, although he hoped something would.
"Max Clarkson insisted that I should call you," he said, his pride making him tell Stone again that in calling him he was merely going through the motions others said were required of him.
"I'm glad you called, Manny," said Stone. So far as he was concerned the conversation was over. "Take the play to Neal and let's see what he does."
"Shall I say you suggested I bring the play to him?" interjected Fried, this having occurred to him as an afterthought.
Stone hesitated only a fraction of a moment before flatly replying, to end the conversation, "I don't see why not."
And Fried with dismay realized that they had not talked about Rose. He bitterly admired the clever way he had been outmaneuvred. Sensing that it was useless now to ask, he still asked. "What about my other playthe new oneRoseMax Clarkson thought you might help me get money for that from the Buffalo Council on the Arts."
"One play at a time, Manny," said Stone with finality.
That nailed the lid down and Fried knew he was through the revolving door and back out on the street again. But he briefly went through the rest of the motions, thanking Stone before they said goodbye.
Now what would be the best way to approach Neal DuBrock again? He cautioned himself. Remember that it is only another case of going through the motions to prevent anyone from telling you later that if you had only done what Stone suggested you would have been given help to get your plays produced. But he could not make himself let go of the frazzled string. Maybe something might happen this time with DuBrock. Maybe from where Stone sat it might appear that the establishment could gain something worthwhile in the long pull by doing The Dodo Bird now at the Studio Arena.
Trying to keep up his hope, Fried told himself that the establishment does not wish a complete and irrevocable rupture. At the most unexpected moments they may reach out a friendly arm to embrace the shoulder of an opponent, as if to sayspeaking out of the completeness of their securitythat there is always room for any opinion within the broad complex at the head of which they stand. He told himself that this is their way of protecting their position up there. Embrace the opposition. Don't let it harden up by keeping it separate and apart from you. Maybe this might be one of those unexpected moments, when they had shifted their approach to him.
Before talking to DuBrock about The Dodo Bird, Fried set up a lunch appointment with Bob Jarnot, the local administrator for the AFL‑CIO pilot project on the arts. He wanted to get Jarnot to help him build a box from which DuBrock would find it hard to escape.
Two years earlier, shortly after Jarnot's appointment, any chance for help from there would not have been possible. But at this point the pilot project was a miserable flop and Jarnot had to do something startlingly successful to save the good job for himself.
Bob Jarnot had been a Buffalo high school teacher who taught English. On leave of absence from his teaching job he still was a member of labor priest Healy's Association of Catholic Trade Unions (ACTU) caucus in the Teachers Union. That AFL‑CIO local union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) had tried to take the bargaining rights away from the Buffalo Teachers Federation affiliated with the National Education Association. But the various units of AFT and NEA had moved toward merger on a state‑wide level to form the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) as part of the bigger movement toward merger of the two organizations on a national level. The changing relationship between AFT and NEA, combined with his belief that Jarnot personally wanted to be successful enough with the pilot project to make a permanent job there for himself, led Fried to believe there was a good chance now that he could get the administrator's cooperation to corner DuBrock.
Fried was familiar with the history of the AFL‑CIO pilot project on the arts. Right from the start, when he read the first press release about it, he had thought that help to get his plays about labor produced might develop from the program and after that he reviewed and assessed everything he read or heard about the pilot projects with his own personal ambitions as a playwright in mind. He had read the initial press release in the New York City and Buffalo newspapers. In it the AFL‑CIO central body's office in Washington, D.C. announced through their community service division that they were launching a national program on the arts with pilot projects in New York City, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Buffalo, New York, and that a paid full‑time administrator in charge of the project was to be selected by the AFL‑CIO central labor council in each of these four cities to serve for a three year test period. Fried's play, The Dodo Bird, was about foundry workers and it had been produced off-Broadway at the Martinique Theatre late in 1967. With the good reviews it had received from the New York critics, especially the outstanding praise from Dan Sullivan, second string critic for The New York Times, the most important newspaper of them all in the minds of theatre people, the play seemed to be ideally suited for labor's pilot projects on the arts.
(Shortly after critic Dan Sullivan wrote his highly laudatory review of The Dodo Bird he was moved three thousand miles across the country in a transfer from the drama post on the New York Times to a similar position on the Los Angeles Times, and Fried could not help but wonder some years later if the basis for this move in any way paralleled the unexpected transfer of Arnold Dupree, drama critic for Buffalo's black weekly newspaper, The Challenger, after the appearance in that paper of Dupree's long article in praise of the local production of Fried's prize‑winning play, The Dead Hand. This was the play which was later revised and re‑titled Rose, the very play for whose off‑Broadway production in New York City the playwright wished to raise thirty thousand dollars. Dupree's article, giving general praise to all Fried's plays which had been already stagedspecifically mentioning the off‑Broadway production of The Dodo Bird and college productions of two other plays, Mark of Success and The Peddler, and relating them to his favorable review of the local production of The Dead Handwas captioned: "Who's Afraid of Manny Fried?" The caption summarized the overall concept used by the critic to tie together the different parts of his article. Writing the drama reviews for the black newspaper was a non‑paying avocation, not a paying vocation, for Dupree. To earn his living he had a federal job in the Buffalo office of Internal Revenue Service. Within a few days after Fried telephoned Dupree and thanked him for what he had written in "Who's Afraid of Manny Fried?" and the critic had expressed an interest in meeting with Fried to get material for another article about the playwright's place in the community and what the playwright had written and what the playwright planned to write, Dupree was unexpectedly called in by his boss at the Buffalo office of Internal Revenue Service and told that he was to report to work immediately at the Rochester office, a permanent transfer. No one replaced Dupree as drama critic on The Challenger in Buffalo. Interestingly enough, there was a Rochester section in The Challenger, but Fried was not in Rochester, and one added interesting item to be noted is that Dupree did not go on to write for the Rochester section in The Challenger. In New York City it was Mel Gussow who took Dan Sullivan's place as second string critic for the New York Times, and it was Gussow who later wrote such a vicious political attack upon Rose and its author when that play opened finally in late 1970 at the off‑Broadway Provincetown Theatre the playwright's friend, Angus Cameron, a vice-president and senior editor of the prestigious Knopf publishing house in New York, who knew Fried's writing and had been urging him to turn to writing a novel, wrote him to the effect that Gussow's review of Rose was so clearly unrelated to the actual play production that it eloquently declared in a deep emotional sense there was something terribly wrong with the critic rather than the play or the playwright. One can only speculate what kind of review Dan Sullivan, after reacting so favorably to The Dodo Bird, might have given to the off‑Broadway production of Rose. What Sullivan eloquently praised in The Dodo Bird, that the playwright's writing has "the smell of life" rather than smelling "like other plays," seemed to have been the very thing that caused Gussow to attack the playwright with such an unexplained fury. Even Gussow was bothered when he later read in print what he had written. He apologized to the play's public relations woman, telling her he had had a very annoying day before he went to see Rose and had let that affect his review of the play. But he did not publicly recant. Fried still wonders whether or not someone spoke to Gussow and warned him that the playwright had left‑wing political leanings and therefore should be treated roughly to discourage him from continuing to write plays for the theatre just as someone must have spoken to someone in that vein, citing the threat of dire consequences, in order to bring about the Internal Revenue Service's transfer action to break up at its inception the developing relationship in Buffalo between the labor playwright and black drama critic.)
The Dodo Bird production in New York impressed Milt Lyons who was in charge of the Actors Equity Association Committee to Extend the Professional Theatre. In addition to writing a formal communication about it to almost a hundred professional regional theatres (including Buffalo's Studio Arena) to call to their attention that staging The Dodo Bird in their theatres would bring in the new audiences they desperately needed, a communication to which not one regional theatre responded favorably, Lyons also suggested directly to Fried that he get in touch with Jack Golodner in the Washington office of the AFL‑CIO. Lyons said Golodner was in charge of setting up the machinery for the labor program on the arts. He said he had already spoken to Golodner, and the AFL‑CIO official was interested in‑getting in touch with Fried about the possibility of using The Dodo Bird in their pilot projects program.
Fried phoned Golodner's office in Washington and was given a New York City hotel telephone number where he could reach the man. Golodner came to the phone. He said he was glad Fried had called. Yes, he was interested in The Dodo Bird. He had heard many good things about the play. He thought it would be an ideal vehicle to help get the AFL‑CIO pilot project arts program off the ground. And he was glad to hear that Fried's home was in Buffalo, one of the four pilot project cities. He would be there soon with his assistant, Harlow Dean, and he would get in touch with Fried. He was enthusiastic about the idea of doing The Dodo Bird in the author's home town, the same city where Fried had once been a union organizer, the same city from which Fried had drawn the working class material embodied in the play.
Listening to Golodner's enthusiastic response, Fried wondered whether or not he owed a warning of some kind to the man which might seriously dampen that enthusiasm. Staging The Dodo Bird in Buffalo was not going to be as simple an operation as the other man envisioned it. Should he tell Golodner that Fried had been forced out of his job in the labor movement in Buffalo? Should he tell him about labor priest Healy who had successfully insisted upon Fried's ouster as the price for ceasing his attack upon the officers of the AFL‑CIO Machinists Union? Healy had decisive influence inside the AFL‑CIO Council in Buffalo, and it would be up to that council (Golodner had just told him) to recommend the administrator for the arts pilot project there. While it would be the labor council who would provide the administrator, Golodner explained, the Buffalo Council on the Arts through whom the money was being funnelled by the State Council on the Arts would provide the money to pay the salary of the administrator for the three‑year trial period. Fried knew that Franz Stone chaired the Buffalo Council on the Arts. Listening to Golodner, he wondered again whether or not to tell the man about labor priest Healy's role in demanding that Fried be ousted from his union organizer post because of his radical political views, because Healy was also a member of the Buffalo Council on the Arts along with Stone and Clarkson and Rand. Fried thought Healy was there on that local council to give the corporation spokesmen on that body a conduit through which to mobilize ground troops on the other side of the fence in support of their decisions, a support it was unlikely they could have gained by directly asking for it themselves from working people who would have tended instinctively to oppose their suggestions. Not sure whether or not to tell Golodner about this, Fried remained silent, and laterwhen what he had feared would happen did happenhe bitterly criticized himself, charging that his silence had been dishonest and he deserved what had happened even though not remaining silent probably would not have changed the results.
(Healy is now a referee for the Public Employment Review BoardPERBin New York State, and he is also an instructor in the Industrial and Labor Relations division of Cornell University's Extension Service, which is listed in the Buffalo telephone directory as: Cornell University New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He is teaching a course on handling of grievances, presented by that Extension Service on the campus of State University College at Buffalo, where Fried is presently teaching creative writing in the English Department. Several months ago, the Buffalo office of the Industrial and Labor Relations School of Cornell University requested of State University College at Buffalo that someone be named to a joint committee of the two institutions to set up a writing course for their labor students. The dean of the Humanities Division at the State University College referred the request to the chairman of the English Department and he appointed Fried, telling him that with his labor and writing background he was the most logical man in the department for that job. Fried's name was passed back up the line, and it may be assumed it reached the Industrial and Labor Relations School people in their Buffalo office. That office is jointly headed by two peopleone with a labor background and the other with a business background. Jeanette Watkins is the one there who has the labor background. She and her late husband had worked most of their adult life for the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. Before Fried received the full‑time appointment to teach creative writing in the English Department at the State University College, he went to see Ms. Watkins whom he had known for many years in the labor movement and even before that, back into their teens when he and her brother had belonged to the same high school fraternity. Fried suggested to Watkins that the Cornell Extension Service in Buffalo set up a writing class for labor people which he might teach. He had already been consulted by the Cornell University Extension Service faculty at the Labor College in New York City, a division of Empire State College of the State University of New Yorkinvited by them to come to New York City to outline for them, out of the experience he was gaining from what he was already doing independently with some union people, how they in the Labor College might set up such a course successfully. He had told them about the writing class of factory people he had put together, digging out potential writers one by one, pulling them together into a group which had developed into 593 Writers Workshop sponsored by Local 593, United Steelworkers of America, AFL‑CIO, meeting in their union hall across from the tremendous Anaconda America Brass factory where their members worked. Watkins, seeming to be impressed by the fact that Fried had been consulted by the New York City people, said she would like to establish that kind of writing class as one of the courses to be sponsored by the Cornell Extension Service in Buffalo. But she feared there might be objections raised by her counterpart who represented business. Said Watkins bluntly, he might object to having such a course taught if Fried was to be the teacher. But she would work on it. Not hearing from Watkins for some time, Fried phoned her to find out what was happening. Nothing was happening. Fried waited again for some weeks and again telephoned Watkins and she told him the subject still interested her but no decision had been reached and would not be reached soonthe wheels grind slowlyso don't call me, Manny, I'll call you. Fried had been told by the chairman of the English Department at Buffalo State University College that the Cornell people were anxious to get the labor writing class going immediately to be able to enroll students for the next semester. Months have passed since Fried's name was sent in, naming him to represent Buffalo State University College on the joint committee to work out the mechanics to set up the course, but he has not been notified of any meetings of that committee and now it is too late to set up any such course for the coming fall semester. And in that coming semester there will be the decision to be made on whether or not Fried will be reappointed to the creative writing post at Buffalo State University College. Fried, with both deep apprehension and a gruesome feeling of dispassionate amusement, finds himself frequently speculating about the talks which may be taking place on this question somewhereto reappoint or not to reappoint? Fried wonders whether or not somewhere there are some people who are saying that since this is the case Fried should not bemust not bereappointed to the creative writing post at Buffalo State, and if they are saying these things Fried wonders who are they who are saying them, and do they includehello again!that same Stone and that same Healy?)
The local AFL‑CIO labor council was headed by a James Kane, president, when Golodner and Dean came to Buffalo to talk about the selection of an administrator to head the arts program's pilot project in that city. Kane is now judge in County Court and no longer holds down any official post in the labor movement. The entrance of Kane into the leading spot in the Buffalo labor movement seemed to Fried to smack more than a little of sliding into it by way of the back door. The story he was told is that Kane was a full‑time student at the Law School at the University of Buffalo, working temporarily as an employee at the post office when labor priest Healy's caucus in the AFL‑CIO Labor Council, needing a candidate to fill the chair of the president which had become vacant, picked Kane for the position; and as a postal worker Kane was admitted into membership and named a delegate to the central labor body by the postal workers' union, a local union where Healy had tremendous influence.
(This local union has been given much publicity about its Sunday morning Catholic communion breakfasts. At one of these communion breakfasts a priest by the name of Clancywho had earlier in that same week walked over to Fried at a community conference and with a big smile stuck out his hand and introduced himselfraised this very same hand high over his head during his address to the group of postal workers gathered at the breakfast and with a voice shivering with horror intoned hollowly, "This – is the hand that shook the hand of the most dangerous man in all Western New York!" and then he went on to call for an economic boycott of the plush restaurant owned by the family of Fried's wife on the grounds that some of the income from that business must be filtering through Fried's wife to become part of the means of supporting a dangerous communist in the style to which he had become accustomed. But, to the credit of the Catholic community in Buffalo, some lay leaders in the diocese made such an outcry behind the scenes about this tactless sledgehammering that priest Clancy was hurriedly transferred to Syracuseafter Fried's brother‑in‑law had already caved in and, in reply to a direct request delivered to him in person by Clancy, had barred his sister and her husband from ever entering the family's restaurant and in a highly emotional confrontation scene compelled her to sell off her shares in the business.)
Arrived in Buffalo, and prior to meeting with Kane, Golodner was reached by phone at his hotel. He told Fried he would be in touch with him later in the day as soon as he and his assistant, Harlow Dean, emerged from the scheduled meeting with Jim Kane. Then he would give Fried the name of the man Kane recommended as the administrator for the arts project and he would let Fried know how to get in touch with that man so the playwright and the administrator could meet and start planning right away toward a production of The Dodo Bird, possibly getting the local Studio Arena people to do the play in their theatre.
Very late that afternoon, not having heard from Golodner, Fried tried phoning him at the hotel. He was there. Fried asked what had happened. How did it go?
"Manny," asked Golodner, "what do you know about a priest by the name of Father Healy?"
Anticipating the worst, Fried briefly told some of what he knew about Healy's relationship with Kane and he again asked what had happened at the meeting. Golodner told him that when he and Harlow Dean arrived to keep their appointment with Jim Kane they were surprised to find a priest there. Jim Kane introduced them to Father Healy. The priest came directly to the point and flatly told them, "This arts program is too important to be under the control of anyone but the church. I'll pick the man to serve as administrator and Jim will let you know who it is."
Since the priest seemed to be speaking with full approval of Jim Kanesaid Golodnerhe did not see how anything could be gained by questioning the procedure. But to Fried he kept repeating how shocked he was. And Fried was amused, thinking how naive Golodner was. Fried's own experience as a union organizer had long ago revealed to him that this kind of influence exercised from the outside is a normal fact of life in the American labor movement and he believes this is in part the explanation for much that puzzles many people about why unions do this and don't do that.
Golodner told Fried that when the name of the administrator was reported in the newspaper he should contact whoever was named to fill the job. "Tell him I suggested that doing your play would be a good project for this area."
When the name of Bob Jarnot was reported in the Buffalo newspapers as the AFL‑CIO selection to serve as administrator of their pilot project in Buffalo, Fried telephoned the labor council's office and reached the new appointee. He expected nothing to come of this, since he assumed that Healy would block any move toward doing a play by Fried. However, he thought the situation required that he go through the motions.
For over two years he kept pushing Jarnot who was always friendly. He found the former high school teacher to be a very likeable person. He seemed to be in his mid‑thirties. During their first meeting, eating lunch together on invitation of Jarnot who said he had an expense account and picked up the check, the new administrator readily stated that he had everything to learn about his new job.
(The naming of Jarnot as administrator for the AFL‑CIO arts project in Buffalo reminded Fried of a similar situation which had occurred back during the redbaiting hysteria of the McCarthy period when many liberals were in full retreat before the heavy onslaught from right‑wingers. The full‑time executive secretary of the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter, at that time a harsh redbaiter in her own right and someone whom Fried under heavy redbaiting attack from her paranoidally suspected of being an undercover contact of the FBI, reported to a nominating meeting with straightfaced sincerity that the nominee recommended by the outgoing officers to run unopposed for the presidency of the Niagara Frontier ACLU Chapter was her idea of the ideal choice for that leadership position. She explained, "He is a man about whom no one can find anything to criticize, because he has never done anything relating to the purpose for which this organization exists." If this statement boggles the mind a little, register the fact that recently this same Niagara Frontier ACLU Chapter executive secretary, after that organization had been reduced to relative impotence compared with its earlier militant broad involvement in the community, moved over to a new job as personal secretary to the black publisher of The Challenger, the same weekly newspaper for which Arnold Dupree had written his article headed, "Who's Afraid of Manny Fried?" This black publisher, Arthur Eve, is an assemblyman in the state legislature and is a key spokesman for the Buffalo black community. Question: How did this white middle‑class suburban lady who originally came out of the League of Women Voters find her way into this secretary job for this black politician and publisher and what the hell is she doing there? Fried has his customary paranoidal speculations which, obviously, need no detailing.)
As the end of the three‑year trial period for the AFL‑CIO pilot project on the arts approached it was apparent that it was a miserable flop. Conservative columnist Bob Curran, writing in the Buffalo Evening News, expressed his disappointment in an item that scored the union leaders for failing to bring controversial material about labor into the arts. He complained that the AFL‑CIO people had been content to sponsor the same old material with which most people interested in the arts were already dissatisfied. Curran wrote that he had been looking for something new and exciting about a different chunk of life to be introduced but the AFL‑CIO pilot project had failed to produce it. Working people in the area, union members and their families, were not disappointed, because so far as their involvement was concerned the project had never even existed.
It was Fried's belief that the fault was not that of administrator Jarnot except insofar as he had let others like Healy direct him into making his position merely that of a ticket seller, trying to lure working people to see performances and exhibits of material which embodied nothing relating strongly to their lives, making no effort to develop that approach to the arts which would bring into theatre and the other arts the emotional experience of those working people.
But now that the end of the trial period for the labor arts project loomed ahead and now that it seemed certain that the administrator job of Jarnot would not be further funded by the Buffalo Arts Counciand now that Stone had told Fried to speak to Neal DuBrock, artistic director of the Studio Arena, about a production of The Dodo BirdFried decided the time was right to get Jarnot's help. He thought Jarnot might be willing to quietly circumvent Healy's opposition, if by doing so there was any chance to save the labor arts administrator job for himself as a full‑time salaried position.
Fried met with Jarnot and told him what Stone had said about taking The Dodo Bird to DuBrock at the Studio Arena. He expressed some skepticism about Stone's intentions, but added that if they could only figure out some way to get DuBrock to stage The Dodo Bird the successful reaction of labor people in the area might provide the basis for making Jarnot's administrator position a permanent salaried one. Fried underlined that he himself was interested only as a playwright who wanted to get his plays done, that he never would compete with Jarnot for the administrator's job, and in every way he could he would support Jarnot for that position and for its continuance on a permanent basis.
It was a frank talk. Fried put all his cards face up on the table. He even mentioned Healy's opposition to the playwright and his plays. He did it quickly, without asking for comment, making the point by inference that Healy did not want a strong labor arts program for fear he could not maintain his present influence over it. Jarnot did not contradict him.
The arts program administrator's ready agreement to Fried's suggestion that they go together to talk to DuBrock was encouraging. To prevent the artistic director from stalling on setting an appointment, they went unannounced to see him at the theatre. Fried had first phoned a friend in the box office and confirmed that the artistic director was in his office and appeared to be settled down to be there all that afternoon.
Fried knocked on the opened door, stuck his head in the office and told the artistic director that he and Jarnot would like to talk to him for a few minutes. Parenthetically, he mentioned that Stone had told him to see DuBrock. The playwright had a copy of The Dodo Bird in his hand. DuBrock said he was very busy and could spare only a few minutes. Fried said that was all they needed.
The session was brief. DuBrock said The Studio Arena could not risk the financial loss it might sustain in doing a play written by an unknown local writer. Fried countered by bringing out copies of the excellent reviews the play had gleaned from the New York critics when it had been done Off‑Broadway. DuBrock earnestly insisted he'd like very much to do the play, but Fried's name was not known enough to draw in the audience needed to supplement theatre subscriptions, that at least half the seats during the regularly scheduled run of the play must be filled from off the street by theatregoers who are not subscribers and he did not think the usual middle‑class audience would come to see a labor play nor did he think union people who were not accustomed to going to the theatre would suddenly rush to come and see a play because it's about workers.
To this Fried replied that he was not ready to make this kind of negative judgment without first talking to the union people specifically in relation to support for a production of The Dodo Bird at The Studio Arena. Jarnot seconded that. Then Fried inquired about and secured detailed data on the number of seats in The Studio Arena's houseabout five hundred; the number of performances usually given there each weekeight; the number of weeks in the usual runfive. Escorting his visitors through the plush theatre lobby to the street, DuBrock again expressed his regret at not being able to take a chance on staging The Dodo Bird at The Studio Arena.
"Manny, I know you're a good writer, and there's nothing I'd rather do than help you get recognized as the fine playwright you are."
"Thanks, Neal. We'll be in touch."
Without knowing the specific reason the artistic director would give them, Fried and Jarnot had expected DuBrock to object to doing the play and they had already talked about how that resistance might be countered and outmaneuvred. The former union organizer had already put together a list of labor leaders in Western New York, men he knew on a very personal basis well enough to telephone them and honestly lay out the situation and ask for help and most likely get it.
Walking away from the theatre, the two men did not say much except that it was now time to take the next step, for Fried to get on the phone and call his union friends. Specifically, he would ask them if they thought they could get one or more of their local unions in the area to book the whole house or part of the house for one or more performances of The Dodo Bird, a play about union people.
It took Fried only a few days to make a good sampling. There would be no problem. It would not be easy in that it would be a grinding job of organizing to contact people and pin them down. But there was no doubt about it. He could do it, alone if necessary, much more easily if Jarnot made an honest effort to pull his weight. He telephoned the administrator. Jarnot seemed honestly pleased by Fried's report, said he could add to that once there was a definite commitment to do the play. He suggested that the playwright phone DuBrock and confront him with the guarantee and see how he reacted.
Fried telephoned DuBrock. "Neal, we've contacted a lot of the union guys I know and there's no problem. Your regular run is eight performances a week for five weeksright?"
"Okay. Before you even go into rehearsal with The Dodo Bird we're certain we can sell out your entire house for the entire run. The same thing that was done with The Death of Bessie Smith." He could not resist adding, "What you've never been able to do here at The Studio Arena."
A long silence, and then DuBrock replied, "Okay, Manny. I'll pass that information on to the board. They're meeting next week and we'll see what they say."
It had come to Fried as an inspired thought to remind DuBrock that he had helped do this same thing with The Death of Bessie Smith when that and another Albee play, The American Dream, were done at The Jewish Center. Since he was performing in the Bessie Smith play and it was known that he had been a union organizer he had been asked for help to organize the audience. Lynn Kramer, the PR woman, was new to the city. She and her husband were neighbors of Fried and his wife, and through mutual acquaintances and also through their children they had come to know one another and to become good friends. Fried guided Lynn Kramer in setting up a series of independent sponsoring committees each of whose members were drawn from different segments of the communitycity government, county government, colleges, social groups, ethnic groups, unions, black organizations, religious organizations, clubs, business associations, etc.and each sponsoring committee was led into carrying on its own independent campaign aimed at selling out all available seats in advance of opening. All together they did it easily. The total number of individual sponsors alone was so great that they, together with their spouses and friends, made up a tremendous bulk of the required audience. It was a complete sellout for the entire run, with all seats sold for all performances of the Albee plays before the first performance was even presented.
DuBrock had reason to believe the same kind of organizing job could be done with The Dodo Bird, since it had been in much less favorable circumstances when Fried had done it before. Back then with the Albee plays Fried had stayed out of sight in his work on the audience organization. Because the former union organizer had been redbaited so much during the McCarthy period it was tacitly understood by all concerned with trying to build audience that DuBrock, thinking Fried's name might hurt the sale of tickets, did not wish him to be publicly identified as a key person in the organizational work. Then Fried did not feel he was in a strong enough position to disagree with that tactic; so he accepted it, especially since he did appreciate the fact that DuBrock was taking a chance on drawing unfavorable reaction from the editors of both local newspapers even by quietly injecting the blacklisted former union organizer into an important acting role in one of the plays. DuBrock did get good recognition in both newspapers for the unusually successful advance sale of tickets for the Albee plays, as well as for his artistic direction, and that demonstration of organizational expertise had been a factor of some importance (Fried had been told) in getting DuBrock the job of artistic director at The Studio Arena. Though it was left unsaid between them he believed that DuBrock felt some sense of obligation toward him for all the unpaid work he had done to help get those audiences for the Albee plays. Now he was asking for payment of the favor he hoped DuBrock thought he owed him.
He had been told when the Studio Arena board would be meeting, and the morning after the meeting he phoned and asked what had happened and DuBrock told him.
"I'm sorry, Manny. I hate to say this, but I know you want me to be honest with you. I can't do your play."
Although he had expected this the reality of it actually happening choked Fried's throat. But he would not let himself show that he had been hurt. He forced his voice to be bright and flippant.
"Did you tell the board we could sell out their house for the entire run before we even begin rehearsals?"
"Some of them were skeptical."
"Did you tell them ?"
DuBrock interrupted. "I told them I was sure you could do it."
"I still can't do your play, Manny. I'm sorry."
"What is it?"
"We can't do a playany playof yours. Not in our theatre, Manny."
"What's the excuse now?" Fried asked with a forced laugh.
"Manny ." DuBrock stopped, as if he did not want to say it, then after a pause he went on. "Several of our board members said they will resign if we ever do a play of yours here."
He stopped and there was time for the full import of his message to sink in. The local establishment had closed the door and locked it tight. Although Fried had often said he preferred it this way rather than compromise his writing, the fact of it was scary. He had a quick thought about making a public fight on it, but it passed as quickly as it came to him. He did not have the heart for a fight right then. He felt utterly defeated. Wiped out.
Apparently the silence on the other end touched DuBrock and he said with the concern evident in his voice, "Believe me, Manny, I'd like very much to do a play for you if I could. You know that, don't you?"
It took a great deal of effort for Fried to reply.
"I know, Neal."
He could not say anything more and the silence became heavy.
"I'm sorry, Manny."
"That's okay'bye, Neal."
"I'm sorry, Manny."
"The hell with it."
"Keep in touch, Manny. Let me know what's happening with your plays. You know I'm interested."
He did not keep in touch. That was the last time he spoke to DuBrock.
His feelings about Stone hardened into a tough bitterness. He thought the corporation president, confident in the knowledge of his power to block production by The Studio Arena of any Fried play, had deliberately deceived him, played a game with him, laughed at him. The playwright assumed it to be logicalhard logicthat Stone as chairman of the theatre's board had not used his weight to counter any objection to doing his play; in fact, he might have quietly prompted the others to voice their objections. Because if it had been otherwise, if Stone had made any kind of effort, no matter how small, to influence the board toward approving production of Fried's play, DuBrock would have certainly mentioned it.
It was hard work but Fried raised the rest of the thirty thousand dollars he needed to finance the off‑Broadway production of Rose. Although establishment men Clarkson and Rand and Marcy had put in their small amounts of money only to keep the lines of communication open, he used their names as levers to pull money in from some small businessmen and professional people, with some of them putting in a few hundred dollars clearly to make amends for dirty redbaiting tricks they had used on Fried during his career as a union organizer. His mother and sisters and brothers did so out of love for him.
At a meeting where the investors had been called together by Fried to hear his report on developing plans for the production of Rose, Clarkson and Rand teamed up to show what they meant when they said they were putting in two hundred and fifty dollars each to keep the lines of communication with Fried open. They remained silent while he delivered his formal report. Then when the meeting was adjourned to make way for refreshments and informal talk they cornered Fried alone and took turns hammering at him, scoffing at his efforts to write about working people, telling him that writing about labor was something outmoded, a thing of the past, a Thirties thing, that the theatre of the future, the theatre of the Seventies, was best exemplified by the musical Hair, about middle‑class youth who offer their free way of life on sex and love and drugs as their revolutionary doctrine for solving the political and economic problems of the time. Fried scoffed at their suggestion, told them that these were safe middle‑class copouts whose so‑called revolt was the kind of useless gesture the establishment encourages because it does not threaten their power; the theatre of the Seventieshe told themwill have to get back to the clash between class values, if it is to have any real vitality, and that means bringing working class and labor values onto the stage to confront the disintegrating middle and upper class values, bringing politics and economics into the theatre, but in human terms, embodied in specific personal relations between people, as it is. And they laughed at him, and ridiculed him, and told him he was all wrong, that he was talking about propaganda, not art, and that is why people are not interested in putting money into production of your plays, etc., etc. He seethed as they ignored his efforts to parry their thrusts and would not allow him to get away from them, keeping after him, with each cut more deeply injuring his confidence in himself as a writer. And the idea took hold on him, that this, what they were doing, their insistent verbal effort to push him in the direction they wanted to make him go as a writer, must have been something they had decided upon before they approached him, and he exploded angrily at them when they repeated for the umpteenth time that writing about labor was outmoded and the theatre of the future was down the path opened by Hair.
"Horseshit!" he shouted at them‑ "That's horseshit, and you know it! Horseshit!''
His vehemence stunned them. The shocked look on their faces told him that he had slammed the door shut on them. He turned and walked away, leaving them still redfaced and silent, insulted by the violence of his outburst, two precisely dressed representatives of the powerful establishment to whom he had never dared to speak directly before with such levelling contempt.
Two years later, trying to raise money for the off‑Broadway production of his newest play, Brother Gorski, he contacted all those who had put money into the production of Rose, distastefully grinding it out, contacting one prospect after another, admonishing himself that he must conduct himself like a businessman in order to get the money he needed; like an insurance man he must approach all good prospects, especially those who have purchased his product from him before; he must put aside all personal feelings: like and dislike must not be permitted to interfere with strict business sense.
Members of his family and a few good personal friends, including several small businessmen and a dentist and a lawyer, came through with a few hundred dollars each, but when he phoned Clarkson and Rand and Marcy they abruptly turned him down, cutting him off, telling him with brief coldness that they did not like what he was writing. (What is Brother Gorski about? Is it another labor play? He told them that the central character in Brother Gorski is a local union president, and the material is drawn from his experience with a good friend in the labor movement; the play is an attempt in very human terms to write about union and working class life from the inside. Clarkson and Rand and Marcy used similar words to dismiss what he had written: "Labor? Nobody's interested.")
One member of the establishment did stick with him on Brother Gorski. This was a young man who had inherited wealth and who had expressed his support in private conversations with Fried, saying that the material the playwright was trying to bring into the theatre should be brought in. He pledged several thousand dollars to the Brother Gorski production after Fried told him that Clarkson and Rand and Marcy had backed off, as if to make up for their defection. His friendliness might have been whetted by the fact that he had, through marriage, some quasi‑family relationship to Fried, having married the step‑sister of a sister‑in‑law of the playwright, and this had brought them together at several family functions, giving them opportunities to talk informally about the possibilities for keeping open an honest line of communication between someone who believes in labor unions and socialism and someone who has a firm place in the capitalist establishment. Their conversations had led Fried to believe that there are people in the capitalist establishment, probably very much in the minority, with whom it is possible to talk on an honest and open and equal basis, having them really listen to you, not only you listening to them, not having to surrender yourself and your dignity. But then he went into production with Brother Gorski, having raised some of the remaining money needed for the production by going to many local unions in Buffalo and New York City to secure from them advance purchase of large blocks of tickets for the forthcoming performances of the play. The money pledged by his wealthy young establishment friend did not come in, although he phoned and wrote, asking for it many times. The weeks were rushing by, and one of Fried's production associates in New York who had put several thousand dollars of her own into the production to help fill the final gap openly questioned his judgment, if not his honesty, in having told her that the rest of the money needed for the production had already been firmly pledged. The young friend had moved to Washington, the nation's capital. Upon urging from his impatient production associate, Fried wrote his friend the kind of a letter which was intended to force a final yes or no. ("Week after week I've written and phoned you, telling you how much we need to have the money for the production and you tell me you are sending it, but it has not arrived. I really would like to know if we are going to get the money or if we are playing some kind of game. If it is a game I can tell you it is a very painful one for me." It might not have been the most tactful way of phrasing it but that was the way it came out, in response to the frustration created by all the unfulfilled promises that the check was on the way.) In reply Fried received an angry letter, reeking with words of contempt for "those who ask for money and then write snotty letters." In the same letter he was told that the check was being sent from the young man's business office. The check arrived. Smarting with a sense of having been humiliatingly raped and then paid off to make him quietly accept the rape, Pried wanted to send the check back immediately. But the play was already well into rehearsal, the theatre was contracted for with a non‑returnable deposit of six weeks rent, a lot of other people's money had been used to pay for rehearsal time of the actors and the director, to buy sets and electrical equipment, to finance publicity, to buy tickets for the box office, etcetera. All this would be lost. How could he explain it to the other investors if he were to return this check and cancel the production? He swallowed his vomit and marked the amount of the check down in his mind, a loan he must repay with interest when he can afford to do so.
But that deep humiliation coming from a quarter from which he did not expect it, on top of his experiences with Stone and Clarkson and Rand and Marcy, finished off any remaining inclination Fried could generate in himself to search for good guys among the establishment. Even the best of them, he concluded, could not possibly understand how it was where he sat, how he felt having to go hat in hand to ask them for money to produce his play, something he bled his guts to write as honestly as he possibly could write it.
That was it! Never again!
He would have to find another way to finance production of his plays or resign himself to not getting his plays produced. Perhaps stop writing plays. Maybe he could do an end run around their wall with a novel.
Now Fried has written Big Ben Hood, the novel for which he must find a publisher. And he has already had intimations that their wall extends into the publishing field.
And if their wall cannot be breeched there ?
© 1974, 2003 Emanuel Fried. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: Fried, Emanuel. Pardon Me, Your Class Is Showing (Essays and Related Material Concerning Class Structure and the Arts). PhD dissertation. Dept. of English, SUNY/Buffalo, September 1974. iv, 201 pp. Chapter 1: "Pardon Me, Your Class Is Showing," pp. 1-90.
Pardon Me, Your Class Is Showing (title pages, contents, abstract)
Preface: A Letter to Dr. Leslie A. Fiedler, July 17, 1974
The Emanuel Fried Center
Fried for permission to produce Manny Frieds plays
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