Our private tours of New York City will take us past some of my old haunts: Theaters where I toiled as a movie projectionist, long before I found my calling as a guide.
Before I began NYSee, and earned my license to lead NYC tours, I had employments that did not come close to suiting my gregarious and inquisitive temperament.
In becoming a NYC tour guide I have finally found my calling. Before I found guiding I worked in the film production business, owned a photographic laboratory, videotaped weddings, repaired hot water heaters, even counted buttons in a button factory, but by far, the worst job I ever had, the avocation I was least suited for emotionally was working as a movie projectionist.
I’d just gotten back from a yearlong trip, I had traveled from Northern Europe all the way down to Morocco, where I spent a glorious three months, enjoying the sun, the Sahara desert and the wonderful hospitality of the Moroccan people. But now I was back in Gotham and I was broke and adrift. A buddy of mine, who was a projectionist, took me under his wing and offered to show me the ropes. After some perfunctory tutoring I took the licensing test and passed.
I soon officially became a member of Local 306 of the Motion Picture Machine operators union. I dreamt of hitting the sheet at The Ziegfeld, the Radio City Music Hall, theaters that we walk by often on our New York tours. I soon learned the reality of the union shape-up. The good jobs, the prestigious jobs went to guys with high seniority numbers. There were 1198 guys in the union. I was Mr. Eleven hundred and ninety eight. Mr. 1-1-9-8 would show up at the union hall every Thursday and bid on a gig, but my low standing was a direct route to some of the nastiest, dirtiest theaters in NYC. The Music Hall and the Ziegfeld might as well have been on Mars, I wasn’t going to being striking the arc in any of those places.
It was the stone age of cinema, before multiplexes, theaters sank or swam on one film, and many were hanging on by the eighth reel of their cinematic lives. They ran gay porn, straight porn, Blaxploitation movies, kung-foo’s, chop-socky’s the more violent the better. Anything to make a buck, it didn’t matter. The owners, struggling small businessman never spent a dime on equipment or projection booth amenities. Sometimes there were no toilets in the booth, you had to go down and use the funky public toilets. One hell hole I worked in Brooklyn had a booth door that opened onto a roof, on that door was a crudely magic markered warning that read, “do not piss on door, piss on roof.” My career had veered off track. When I tried to explain this to my father, he said, “Well, at least you’re still in show business.” Guiding New York tours was in the distant future.
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