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1980s

The Evolution of Office Work In the Past 40 Years - A First-Hand Account

Selectric with correcting tape

 

2019 was the 40-year anniversary of me beginning my first job out of college (Penn State), which was working in the media planning department at New York ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves.  This milestone had me thinking about the "primitive" work conditions I encountered in the spring of 1979 and the changes I've witnessed since then (most which didn't take place until the 1990s).  At this first job the big advance was the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter, which had a cartridge that enabled allowed the user to go back one space and erase a typo.  Here are some other big advances:

 

Caller ID

This advance, which was first introduced to our office in the early 1990s, is the one that I still marvel at the most.  Before caller ID we answered our desk phone without knowing who was calling (shudder!).  Since there was no voice mail, if I didn't answer the call it bounced over to my secretary who scribbled down a message on a pink "While You Were Out" tablet.

 

Caller id phone
 

Desktop Computers

They arrived shortly after Caller ID.  Before then we accessed research databases using a few computers that were kept in the research library.  And users had to use a sign-in sheet to reserve time.  About 15 years later (2010) laptops, for the most part, replaced desktop computers.  This portability allowed for working from home and taking them to meetings (but making it a challenge for a presenter to make eye contact).  

E-Mail

Replacing paper memos, e-mail emerged in the mid-90s but its availability for the first year or so was limited to staff who were in upper management positions.  Similarly, web access was initially restricted.  Then about ten years later e-mails could be accessed on employees' company-supplied Blackberries, then to personal smartphones.

Dress Codes

Not a technical breakthrough, but the loosening of dress codes coincided with the proliferation in technology.  Before then suits, or at least shirts and ties, were expected to be worn every day until Casual Fridays started in the mid-1980s.  As you can imagine dressing up every day could make working in the summer very uncomfortable (especially since the subways weren't air conditioned until the 1990s). 

Secretaries

These hard-working employees (whose title was changed to administrative assistant 25 years ago) carried out countless tasks that were largely menial, but crucial.  Today, alas, we perform tasks that they once did, making us a bit less productive as we spend time doing timesheets, making travel plans, filling out expense reports, scheduling meetings and reserving conference rooms.  However, one task that we now do that has actually made our lives simpler is doing our own typing and preparing reports and presentations.  This enables us to make revisions immediately and do things in exactly the way we picture them in our head.  Also, we can complete projects without negotiating time with others when we had to share secretaries.

 

Tess in working girl

 

Research Library

All of the audience and media/marketing research data we used came in the form of hardbound books and "pocket pieces", and there was a substantial library full of these books; they were constantly being updated (monthly and weekly).  Sources that were used extensively would end up having torn or missing pages, or the binders were put back on the wrong shelves or taken from the library and not returned.  40 years later there are no books published, or libraries, as everything is digitized and accessed from websites. And although missing pages is no longer an issue a new hassle is keeping track of personal passwords for each database.

 

Classic - library 1991
Here I am in Foote Cone & Belding's meda research library, circa 1998.

 

Arts & Crafts

We created flowcharts of advertising schedules by manually drawing arrows and writing in numbers.  And when the flowcharts were shown to clients they were often enlarged on huge white boards.

Evolution of Audio-Visual Equipment & Copiers

We progressed from overhead projectors with acetates to Powerpoint presentations, then to webexes that enable us to view presentations remotely.  Scanning documents replaced faxes, copiers replaced carbon paper - and copiers evolved to be able to collate, staple, produce color copies and copy on both sides.  And Excel replaced paper spreadsheets and pencils.

The Clean Air Act

Through the mid-90s smoking was permitted in offices and conference rooms.  Then it was allowed if those in a presentation or a private office agreed.  However, drinking liquor/beer at the office still occurs (at least at ad agencies).

 

Smoking in the office_shutterstock

Leisure Time at the Office

40 years ago no one would think of openly playing solitaire at their desk or doing shopping, but now lots of time seems to be spent playing around because if it's being done on a computer it looks like work (or listening to music through headphones or earbuds).

Farewell to Face-to-Face Encounters

Finally, an increasing number of of meetings/presentations are now done via Skype or webexes.  Recently, the agency where I work announced that it was doing away with landlines; calls will now come thru our laptops or cell phones using a phone app found on Microsoft Teams.  Some frustrating drawbacks to these new forms of voice communications are technical glitches, audio issues, and persons asking questions/making comments from different locations talking over one another. 

 

When I began my career, "old-timers" would tell me about how work used to be done - adding machines, doing calculations by hand, working in the summer when air conditioning wasn't a given (offices had ceiling fans).  Today I find myself in that role, but I often remark to younger colleagues that relative to the ways business was conducted in the past, today's technological advances seem magical, making the responsibilities I have now seem almost fun rather than being tedious.

 

Changing times

 

 

 

 


Law & Order: The Misdemeanors

Nypd carSome of my high school classmates back in Pittsburgh can't quite fathom the thought of living in Manhattan, but I thrive on the fast pace, and the perceived danger is a bit overblown.  Sure, I've had some experiences with it but, thankfully, nothing serious.  Since moving to New York City in 1981 I've been a victim of a crime six times.  Five of the six occurred in the 1980s, and the last time was in 1998.  Two of my apartments have been burglarized, my wallet has been lifted at work twice and I've been mugged and the victim of a scam one time each.  (Truth be told, I've committed a number of "fashion crimes", but that's the subject for another post.)

 

 

April 1981 - At TriBeCa Apartment

This was my first apartment in NYC.  It was in a loft space on Lispenard St. in TriBeCa that I shared with a husband, wife, baby and a vicious cat (whose name was 'Mouse').  The break-in occurred one month after I moved in.  Although the door was locked, the prefabricated wall was knocked down to gain entrance.  The loft was in a building that I was later told the landlord was trying to get renters out of the apartment and turn into a commercial building.  My stereo was stolen along with four rolls of quarters that I hadn't had a chance to take to the bank.  I moved out two months later (as did my loft mates).

 

Lispenard street tribeca

 

July 1983 - At West 15th St. Apartment

Like the apartment in TriBeCa, this burglary also occurred one month after I moved into it.  The apartment was on the ground flood and had a garden with a door, but the burglars entered through the front door, using tin snips to cut into the door, then putting their hand through the incision and unlocking the door from the inside.  They stole a vacuum cleaner, our answering machine, some subway tokens and, inexplicably, ate a half grapefruit that was in the fridge, but what hurt most was their stealing of my boyfriend Rick's 35 MM camera,which had a roll of undeveloped film in it with pictures from Memorial Day weekend in Provincetown.

Later in the evening we got a call from the manager of the Lindy's restaurant across the street from Radio City Music Hall.  Someone had tried to charge their meal using my Mastercard, which had been taken out of the pocket of my bathrobe (they were thorough). 

 

Grapefruit  

May 1986 - At Jones St. Apartment

This was a scam rather than a burglary.  And it occurred at the front door of my apartment building in Greenwich Village.  A young man with a dog rang the doorbell and I answered.  He told me that he lived on my street and was walking his dog and discovered that he had locked himself out of his apartment.  Although his grandmother had a spare set of keys, she lived in Brooklyn and the young man didn't have money for cab fare.  I gave him $15 and asked if he wanted to leave his dog with me but he said he couldn't because it was abused as a puppy and didn't take well to strangers.  A few hours later it dawned on me that I'd likely been scammed and would never be repaid.

But to my surprise he returned, supposedly to repay the money I had loaned him.  However, he only had a $100 bill and needed change to pay the taxi, which for some reason, was parked a few blocks away.  This time I was onto him so I told him I'd break the $100 if the taxi came in front of my apartment building.  Of course, this didn't happen.  So, although I was still out $15 ($33 adjusted for inflation) I felt somewhat better knowing that my loss wasn't greater.

 

Conartist 

 

October 1988 - NW Ayer

On Halloween my wallet was taken from my suit jacket that was hanging behind the door in my office at ad agency NW Ayer.  I had $200 in cash in it and ten credit cards (back then I had cards for department stores in addition to Visa).  A few days later a colleague found the wallet jammed behind the toilet paper dispenser in a stall in the men's room.  It was this incident that got me to start using an ATM card rather than take out money I'd need for the next few weeks.

 

Stolen wallet cash

 

December 1989 - Number 1 Subway

This is the only time I was physically robbed.  After a doctor's appointment down in the West Village at lunchtime I went back to my office on W. 50th St. and took the Uptown Number 1 train.  When I got into the car there were three teenagers sitting opposite me.  One addressed me as Inspector Gadget because I was wearing a black trench coat.  Shortly after the doors closed they came over and surrounded me, the ringleader sitting next to me on my right.  He said I looked like I could easily spare my cash and if I didn't give it up I'd have to contend with the fellow standing to my left who had his hand in his coat pocket, suggesting there might be a weapon.  Fortunately, I only had eight dollars on me.  And I was very happy they didn't take my wallet.  After they ran out at the W.23rd St. stop an elderly man sitting across from me chided me for giving them my money as they also tried to get some from him but he refused.  When I got off at my stop I told the token clark (in the pre-MTA card era) and he called the police. 

A month later later I was asked to come to to the Transit Police station in the Port Authority building on 42nd St. to look at photos ("mug shots").  When I told the officer that the perpetrator was white he came back with a rather thin book.  When I expressed surprise he told me with a bit of a weary chuckle that all of the other binders on the shelves contained mug shots of blacks and Hispanics.  I pointed to one guy but after he was contacted he claimed that at the time of the mugging he was attending a parole hearing with his father.  Frankly, I was partly relieved because I wasn't certain the fellow I pointed out was actually the perpetrator.

 

Subway entrance

 

March 1998 - Foote, Cone & Belding

Once again my wallet was lifted from the inner pocket of my suit jacket was hanging behind the door of my office (back in the era before "open architecture" work spaces).  This time I only had $27 in the wallet and one credit card.  Then a week later I got a call at home from a customer service person at Omnipoint Communications in eastern Pennsylvania who wanted to verify that I was ordering cellular phone service.  When I told her I wasn't she then confided that she had someone on hold who was attempting this purchase using my credit card.  She became suspicious because the person sounded like a "negro" (her word) and she thought it was strange that he'd have my last name.

 

Customer service  

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Remembering All of the Office Views in My Career

Worldwide plaza nyc
Worldwide Plaza
3ParkAvenue.NYC
3 Park Avenue

Over the course of my career I've worked at nine different addresses, all in Midtown Manhattan, from 34th St., north to 58th Street, and from Third Ave., west to Eighth Ave. - an area covering all of 1.25 square miles.  In the past ten years office floor plans with private offices have largely been eliminated in favor of "open architecture" layouts, with workers sitting side-by-side and facing each other (not unlike garment workers in Bangladesh, but instead of sewing machines we have laptops!).  Of course, it's been an adjustment for those of us who worked in the private office era, but not as difficult a transition as I feared.  And I have great memories of those offices, some of which afforded spectacular views.  What follows is a list of those varied views - think of it as my office resume.

 

 

800 3rd Ave. (between E. 49th and 50th Streets)

My first office situation, which I shared with a co-worker, was on the 39th floor and looked south down Third Avenue.  (1980-1981)

 

800ThirdAve.ScaliMcCabeSloves
Here I am at 23, a junior media planner at ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves, and I had an office with a great view.

 

285 Madison Ave. (between 40th and 41st Streets)

Although taking a job at Young & Rubicam was a good career move, it was quite a step down from my previous job in terms of office and view.  My office, a converted supply room, looked north onto E. 41st St. so there was little in the way of light.  285 Madison was an old building with windows that could be opened.  (A few years before I moved to Y&R an account executive had jumped to his death.)  Later I moved to an office on the other side of the building and my view looked south onto 40th St.  I had light but not much of a view.  (1981-1987)

 

1345 Ave. of the Americas (between E. 54th/55th Streets)

My office at ad agency NWAyer was on the 39th floor and looked south onto the roof of the Hilton across the street on 54th St.  (1987-1989)

 

Burlington.building.movingday

 

BurlingtonBuilding.view
The view from the side of the floor looking north was far superior than mine, but I could stroll over to see it.

 

Worldwide Plaza (W. 50th St./Eighth Ave.) 

NWAyer relocated from urbane Avenue of the Americas to this brand new 50-story skyscraper on the "frontier".  This would be the furthest west of any of my work addresses.  At the time the new neighborhood was a bit sketchy but my office on the 34th floor, which looked west over the Hudson River, afforded views of spectacular sunsets (and on hazy days the view of New Jersey was obscured).  In the brutal winter of 1994 I had a great view of the ice-covered Hudson.  In the last six months I worked there I moved into a spacious corner office on the building's southwest corner, but I often had to draw the shades because of the blinding afternoon sun.  (1989-1995)

 

Ice.covered.hudsonriver
The Hudson froze over during the frigid January of 1994.

 

RobFrydlewicz.CornerOffice.NWAyer
Those were the days ...

 

GM Building (Fifth Ave. between 58th & 59th Streets)/

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington & Third Avenues) 

My first office at Foote, Cone & Belding was on the 18th floor and looked north onto 59th St.  If I looked at an angle from my window I could see Central Park.  Then a few months after I started we relocated to the old Mobil Building at 150 E. 42nd St. (across the street from the Chrysler Building).  There I had three different offices, none with views that were noteworthy.  (1995-2002)

 

GM Building.RobFrydlewicz
Left the corner office behind for a sizable increase in salary - a fair trade-off.

 

3 Park Ave (34th St./Park Ave.)

This vied with Worldwide Plaza for the best views.  There were no towering buildings obstructing the view in any direction (the Empire State Building loomed three blocks west, enhancing the view).  My corner office on the 36th floor (for those keeping score, this was my second corner office) looked southeast so I got plenty of light all day.  Fifteen months before I started at Carat the 9-11 attacks occurred and co-workers told me of the chilling view they had of the towers.  I was working here on the day of the 2003 power blackout and had to walk down 36 flights of steps - without the aid of emergency lighting, which didn't work. (2003-2006)

 

Carat.3ParkAvenue
The glare from the sun obscures the view through the window shades.  (If only there were smartphones back then I'd have a whole album of the views!)

 

622 Third Ave. (between E. 40th and 41st St.)

26 years later I was back on Third Avenue, but eight blocks further south. This is the only office I had that looked east.  I usually had the blinds drawn because of the morning sun, but in the late afternoon the sky could have a nice light pink and blue glow created as the sun was setting (especially in the winter months).  The work environment at Universal McCann was the most toxic of any I'd experienced and my only respite was gazing out the windows.  (2007-2008)

 

1540 Broadway (corner of W. 46th St.)

Working part-time for Viacom, this was the first time I worked in an office with open architecture, but I still had a spectacular view.  Our building overlooked Times Square and my work space was situated in the southwest corner of the 23rd floor, offering me a view of the large electronic billboard on the building where the ball dropped on New Year's Eve.  And the building's cafeteria had a great view overlooking the area around the TKTS booth.  This was also the first office where I owned a smartphone so I was always snapping photos of the view.  (2012-2014)

 

TimesSquare.NewYearsEve.Afternoon

 TimesSquareOfficeView

 

TimeSquareVista.Spring2014.RobFrydlewicz

 TimesSquare.Christmas2013

 

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington/Third Ave.)

This is my second time working in this building, but 13 years apart, and working for a different company (actually, it's Carat, the company I worked for at 3 Park Ave.) and with a different layout.  I'm situated on the 12th floor, once again with open architecture.  My department is situated on the southwest corner and the view looks down Lexington Ave.  There are also windows that look east so there is light throughout the day.  (2014 - present)

 

150E42ndSt.view
View from the 12th floor, looking up at the buildings on the corner of Lexington Ave. and E. 41st St.

 

Winter.view.midtown.2015
The sun doesn't need to be shining for there to be interesting views. This photo was shot during the never-ending winter of 2015.

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The Death of Fred Astaire (June 22, 1987)

Fred.astaire.leaping Fred.astaire.closeupFred Astaire's death stands out in my mind because it coincided with a career milestone.  After spending nearly six years at ad agency Young & Rubicam I left to take a job as media research manager at NWAyer (at the time, the oldest agency in the country).  My first day on the job, June 22, 1987, was the day Astaire died, at the age of 88.  I heard word of his death after returning from a welcome lunch.  Another memory of that afternoon is that a guest staying at the Warwick Hotel, which was across the street from the office, had jumped to his death.

 

Years later, this suicide came up in conversation with a boss of mine at another ad agency, and she told me that the same thing happened on her first day at a new job.  We determined that it was the same suicide since her first day was the same as mine - and with a company in the same office building - the Burlington Building on 6th Ave. between 54th and 55th Streets.   

 

Astaire.hepburnGetting back to Astaire - He didn't get his start in Hollywood until he was in his mid-30s.  Between 1933 and 1957 he appeared in 30 movie musicals with his dance partners including Ginger Rogers (in 10 pictures), Eleanor Powell and Rita Hayworth, among others.  And although he was a remarkably sleek and athletic dancer his sex appeal alluded me (unlike that of Gene Kelly).  I cringed while watching two classic films from 1957 where the 58-year-old Astaire was romantically paired with much younger actresses - 28-year-old Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and 35-year old Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mount St. Helens Blows Its Top (May 18-23, 1980)

Of all the natural disasters that wrack our planet, a volcanic eruption seems the most exotic, something I expect in the Andes or Pacific islands (or Pompeii) - but not in the U.S.  But on the morning of May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens, a largely inactive volcano straddling the border of Oregon and Washington, erupted.  And although it was a frightening occurrence for those living in the Pacific Northwest, I don't think many of us living in the East appreciated how serious the eruption was.  One photo etched in my memory showed a young boy who had been asphyxiated lying face-up in the back of a pickup truck covered in ash.  In total, more than 60 people died from the eruption.   

 

Timemag_mt_saint_helens

 

Provincetown_postcardMy memory of the disaster is linked to my first visit to Provincetown, a largely gay resort at the tip of Cape Cod.  It was Memorial Day weekend and I drove there with my boyfriend Gordon.  We left from Poughkeepsie (he lived there and I took the train up from New York after work) and drove there on Friday night.  This holiday trip was memorable because it was the first time I tried marijuana - and it wasn't a pleasant experience. 

 

Pepperidgefarm_logoRather than smoke it Gordon put the pot in a Pepperidge Farm chocolate sandwich cookie (which I don't think they make anymore).  I became paranoid, which wasn't a nice feeling, especially in unfamiliar surroundings, and I remember thinking that two female friends of Gordon's were witches.  (Alas, because of how I reacted I never became a regular user.)  The trip back on Monday afternoon was stressful because of heavy traffic on the only road off the Cape.  Throughout the weekend the news reported on the effects of the eruption of the volcano.   

 

 

 


President Reagan Survives Assassination Attempt by John Hinckley (March 30, 1981)

President_reagan_shot It was a gray, showery Monday afternoon and I was in a meeting in a conference room at my office, ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves, where I was a media planner on the Volvo auto account.  This was my first job out of college and I was coming up on my 2-year anniversary.  The last person to enter the room before the meeting started reported that President Reagan had been shot, but she had no further details. 

 

President_reagan_recovering I don't recall anyone acting overly concerned - I suppose we were a room full of Democrats.  And I wasn't alarmed over this news, perhaps because it seemed too shocking to comprehend something as bad as this happening so early in his presidency - and I thought back to the two attempts made on Gerald Ford's life which he survived (but no bullets hit him).  Also, I was still in disbelief that Reagan had been elected president, so I rationalized that if he didn't pull through Vice President George Bush would be more suitable.  But Reagan lived - the first president to survive after being struck by a bullet.

 

 

 

The biggest impact for me was that the Academy Awards were delayed one day out ofr respect fo the former actor.  (Up until 1999 the Oscars were handed out on a Monday night.) 

 

Dan_rather Reagan's shooting would be Dan Rather's first big news event since replacing Walter Cronkite as anchorman of the CBS Evening News three weeks earlier.  And at the end of the week my life became upended when my loft space in Tribeca was burglarized.  By coincidence, my friend Marina's apartment on the Upper East Side had been burglarized almost one year to the date of my burglary.  (Back then it seemed your first burglary was a right of passage when you lived in Manhattan.) 

 

I've written six other blog posts about U.S. presidents:

The Sudden Death of FDR

President Kennedy Assassinated

Nixon Resigns the Presidency

Carter Elected Over Ford

Gore vs. Bush: Too Close to Call

Barack Obama Elected President


Revered Anchorman Walter Cronkite Retires from "CBS Evening News" (March 6, 1981)

Walter_cronkite

 

March 6, 1981 was a Friday and the streets of Manhattan were a sloppy mess following a snowstorm the day before that dumped nearly nine inches of wet snow (the biggest snowfall of a relatively snowless winter).  But the day's big story was the evening broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite's last as its revered anchorman. I caught the last five minutes of this newscast after getting in from work (ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves).

 

Cronkite's retirement sticks with me largely because his final week on the air coincided with a big life event for me.  After living in Bayonne, New Jersey for two years I had moved into Manhattan earlier in the week.  Truth be told, it was an impulsive decision made after my brother got married at the beginning of February.  We both lived in Bayonne, so when he moved to another town I figured it was a good time to move into the "big city".  I put an ad in the Village Voice and ended up in a peculiar living situation with a family in their TriBeCa loft at 60 Lispenard St., a dreary alley-like street out of a Dickens novel, just south of Canal St.  It was me and the Sears family: artist-husband David, his Harvard educated stay-at-home wife Linda (a real chatterbox), their curly red-haired baby Jonah ... and a vicious white cat named Mouse.  

 

Lispenard-Street-between-Church-Street-540x746

 

I lived there for just three months when the landlord pressured us to move because he wanted to convert the building to commercial-use only. (He was probably the one behind our loft being burglarized a month after I moved in.)  Happily, I found a much better situation up in the West Village in a 2-bedroom apartment with another family of sorts - Gary and Jason and their doberman, Sabrina.  The Sears family moved as well, but Mouse was left behind after he jumped across the air shaft and sat on the windowsill of the neighboring building - and that's where he stayed. 

Lispenard_st_sign

After retiring Cronkite kept a low-keyed presence in the news arena but narrated the occasional documentary and served as a pundit regarding his views on the changing news media. (He memorably had a number of unflattering things to say about his replacement, Dan Rather, in a CNN interview and an article in The New Yorker, shortly before Rather's retirement in 2005).  Naturally, he penned a best-selling book, A Reporter's Life, in which he revisited some of the key historical moments that he was a part of as a reporter.  Cronkite lived to be 92 and died in the summer of 2009.

 

Walter_cronkite2

 

And that's the way it was ... on March 6, 1981.

 


The Untimely Death of Andy Warhol (February 22, 1987)

Andywarhol Warhol soup cansFebruary 22, 1987 was an unusually social Sunday for me.  I spent the early part of the afternoon at a brunch in the West Village at the apartment of my friend Marc, a fellow I dated briefly the previous year.  (We met when he walked up behind me at Uncle Charlie's bar and snapped the back of my suspenders).  After brunch a group of us went to a mid-afternoon tea dance at a club in Chelsea called Tracks.  From there I taxied down to SoHo to attend a 5th anniversary celebration for GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) held at the Puck Building.  That was followed by dinner at Taste of Tokyo and then a brief visit to the club Palladium on 14th St.

 

I didn't get home until late and when I sat down to watch the 11:00 news I was shocked to learn of Andy Warhol's death.  He died from complications after having simple gallbladder surgery.  He was just 58.  (Somewhat overlooked was the death on the same day of talk show host David Susskind.)  A contributing factor to his death was the fact that he put off the surgery for so long, which took a toll on his overall health (he was deathly afraid of hospitals.)

 

Andy warhol death - newspaper headline

 

I felt somewhat of a connection to Warhol because, like me, he grew up in Pittsburgh and was of Slovakian parentage (my maternal grandmother was born in Slovakia).  Seven years after his death, while I was in Pittsburgh to attend my father's funeral, I visited the newly opened Warhol Museum with my brother, his fiance and my two young nephews.  It was ironic that the museum (at the time the only one in the US devoted to one artist) was here because Warhol apparently was ashamed of his Pittsburgh roots.  And in present-day Pittsburgh, a number of Warhol's silk screen creations can be found in one of the concourses at the city's airport.

 

Warhol museum
Entrance to the Warhol Museum

 

Warhol at pittsburgh airport
Works of Warhol at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport

 

(Many books are available about Warhol's life and his body of work.  One in particular that got a lot of press when it was published in the early '90's was The Andy Warhol Diaries.)

 

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Space Shuttle Challenger Explodes As Millions Watch (January 28, 1986)

Challenger_explodes The morning of Jan. 28, 1986, a Tuesday, was a cold one in New York, following a surprise 1.5" snowfall overnight.  I was back at work (ad agency Young & Rubicam) after having been out sick on Monday and the previous Friday.  Shortly before noon my secretary, Voula, came clomping into my office to deliver the day's mail and blurted out that the space shuttle had exploded.  Then she made a snide comment about the teacher, Christa McCauliffe, who was on board, let out a little cackle, and walked out.  I left my office and walked over to the office of a broadcast buyer to watch the unending replay of the shuttle's disintegration against the clear blue Florida sky.  What was chilling was the crowd reaction at the launch site because at first they didn't understand what they had just witnessed but as the realization came over them their excited gasps of wonder turned to sobs of distress.  

 

 

 

Crrazy_eddie This date also sticks in mind because after coming home from work I went to electronics store Crazy Eddie near my apartment in Greenwich Village and bought my first color TV - a 14" Sharp.  I paid $329 for it, at the time the largest single purchase I'd ever made.  I was really looking forward to watching that evening's episode of Moonlighting in color.

 

 

 

(The book Truth, Lies & O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster provides a detailed account of what led to the shuttle's tragic demise.)  

 

 


Air Florida Flight 90 Crashes Into Potomac River During Snowstorm (January 13, 1982)

Plane.crash.in.potomac.1982 Airflorida.logoJanuary 1982 was particularly cold and snowy in the Eastern half of the US.  On Jan. 13 a snowstorm paralyzed the Southeast and then moved into the mid-Atlantic states.  The storm proved deadly for passengers on board a Ft. Lauderdale-bound Air Florida jet flying out of Washington, DC in the middle of the afternoon.  Not properly de-iced, Flight 90 was unable to gain sufficient altitude and crashed into the Potomac River after taking off from National Airport, its tail wing clipping a nearby bridge just a few miles from the White House

 

Dramatic TV footage showed rescuers desperately trying to reach some passengers in the icy waters.  Unfortunately, unlike US Air Flight 1549's "Miracle on the Hudson" 27 years later, very few passengers survived since this was a crash and not a water landing.  Only five passengers survived - 78 others (and four motorists on the bridge) were killed. 

 

 

  
Airflorida Although my office (ad agency Young & Rubicam) had closed early because of the snow (which began during lunchtime in New York) I was still in my office when I heard the radio bulletin reporting on the crash late that afternoon.  Because I briefly worked on the Eastern Airlines account at Y&R I knew the repercussions a plane crash had for media planners working on any airline account.  All media outlets carrying airline advertising had to be contacted to make sure all ads were pulled.  (Although most outlets knew to do this without being contacted, the calls still had be made).  However, this time no one at Y&R had to scramble because the agency had lost the Eastern account four months earlier (after 17 years).