A new job I almost never had
A relatively tall man, Stan was not bulky, yet he was very strong from ten years working with sheet metal, three years part time in while still in high school, then seven more after he graduated high school in 1961. He spoke about those days a lot, about how hard he had to work, how much hated his boss, and how this motivated him and kept him working to get his degree – seven years part time. Between the back breaking work and his studies, he grew old and serious long before any of us would at his age.
“I had other job offers when I got out of college,” he told me later during one of the many over the work table conversations we would have during those early years at that warehouse. “But I decided to take less money and get in on what looked to be a growing business.”
After nearly six years working for Donald, Stanley was clearly having his doubts about his choice and appeared to see no light at the end of this long tunnel.
Donald for all of his manipulation did not appear to be moving ahead as quickly as Stanley had presumed, indeed, as time would prove, Stanley would not be on the escalator when it reached the top, he would be just another cog in Donald’s money-making machine.
Stan had grave reservations at hiring me at first, when my old boss petitioned Donald to give me a job.
The Drawing Board had decided to close its New Jersey warehouse and my boss there, Craig Carlson, was determined to find me a new job before we locked the doors.
After a year and half working there, I had finally turned into a good worker, and Carlson felt obligated in making certain I landed on my feet, even it was clear he would not.
Cosmetics Plus was actually the second job he found for me.
Carlson had arranged for me to become the manager of a electronics warehouse that primarily dealt in calculators – it was a job with a future I was unable to see since the company eventually got in on the booming personal computer trade a decade later.
But I knew I didn’t have the skills yet to manage anything. I could barely mange my life, and so I turned him down.
Then Carlson went to Donald and pleaded my case, and Donald agreed to hire me since he was about to see a boon in his business and he had just lost his driver – I believe it was Bruce, Donald’s younger brother, a man I would encounter later from time to time, who was as unskilled as Donald was skilled.
The job scared me, too, but for a different reason.
I could handle the work in the warehouse well enough. One glimpse at the interior told me that its operations weren’t much different from the order picking I had done with the card company.
What scared me was the driving.
The job required me to travel to various parts of New Jersey and New York, picking up and dropping off merchandise to be redistributed to other venues in the deep south and west.
While I had a driver’s license, I had little driving experience, having driven very little over the preceding years, and I had very little confidence in my ability to navigate the back roads of Jersey and the narrow, overly crowded streets of New York.
Stanley assured me that he could direct me to where I needed to go, since until only recently, he had done much of the driving, partly because Donald’s younger brother Bruce was too much of a flake to be trusted, and other drivers tried had not worked out. Stan knew the routes as well as anyone, partly because some of them used the same routes he took coming and going to work from his home in Kearny.
God knows I needed the job – and dreaded having to start from scratch in some new place with people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.
But Stanley knew a little too much about me and the antics we had pulled in the other place.
I had come to trust Stand and though Cosmetic Plus’ owner, Donald Gottheimer scared me a little, I thought I might still manage to make the whole thing work. Most of the job, I thought, was simply picking and packing orders just as I had done for a year and a half with the card company.
So by mid-May, 1974 – a few weeks before the actual closing of the card company, I agreed that I would start to work with Stan the first Monday in June.
All the antics we had engaged in at The Drawing Board might have faded from memory if my best friend and former work mate had not dragged me onto an adventure in Connecticut and I had to call in to my old boss to say I would not be back for a few days, at which point Stanley started to recall the nutty things he’d witnessed us doing previously.
It was an incident that nearly lost me the job even before I technically got it.
But there were other harbingers of doom.
One of these I described in a journal dated Jan. 22, 1986.
“Two days before I was scheduled to start my new job at Cosmetics Plus, I decided to stay up all night and record some records onto cassette tapes, taking a trip up to the White Castle on the corner of Route 23 and Bloomfield Avenue where I met Danny – one of the old gang that used to come to the rooming house to get high. He said he was very tired and needed a place to sleep. I offered to let him crash in my room, and a short time later, he showed up, fell to sleep, and when I woke up the next morning, he was dead.”
Six weeks after I got the job with Stanley and Donald, Clairol sued, claiming that Donald and his brother were reselling professional beauty supplies to a retail market, and the company wanted them to stop.
I would soon learn that the company did a lot more than that.