We were all gathered in the temple of justice, room 201 of the headquarters of the Manhattan branch of the American Federation of Musicians. The hearing got under way. Both sides laid out their cases. The issue turned on whether my friends were playing as work-for-hire musicians, or were being given a golden opportunity, through Mercury's generosity, to have their work heard by the public. If Mercury could be shown to have intentionally stiffed union musicians, well, things could get serious.
I was the only witness to be called. Nobody from the company told me to lie, which I figured was pretty honorable of them. And luckily for the musicians, I didn't even think about lying, and they had kept their dues current. So the beans were spilled, the good guys won, the capitalists at Mercury got spanked. And soon after, so did I.
So yeah, nobody told me to lie; they didn't think they would have to tell me. Apparently they took it for granted that I would figure it out for myself, Do The Right Thing, and lie. And now there was a compact, torpedo-shaped tie-and-jacket guy waiting outside the hearing room, apparently eager to discuss what had just happened, and what the hell was wrong with me.
He looked mad. When somebody like that is mad at you, and the anger fills the space between him and you, he doesn’t have to spell it out. Actually he probably couldn’t have spelled it out, at least not accurately.
You can also tell when a guy is kind of considering whether to restrain himself, or just let the anger take over.
I thought maybe he was Mr Green, founder of Mercury Records and my ultimate uber boss. We had never met so I wasn't sure. He definitely knew who I was. He must have been in the hearing room when the righteous and the good had triumphed. I was pretty scared, especially when his fist seemed to hover around in the air next to him, trying to decide whether to launch or not, as he began to speak.
We were colleagues, possibly, since I had worked for Mr Green for almost two years, if he was Mr Green. I assumed that is why the maybe Mr Green felt free to address me informally: "Hey. Son of a bitch."
Then: "I heard you were a smart guy, but now I don't think so. What was that about in there?" Nodding toward the hearing room. Luckily I had a clever reply all ready.
“Uh,” I said, not cringing hardly at all.
The fist achieved liftoff, but instead of punching, it just kind of shoved me into the wall, hard. "You will never work in New York again."
I waited politely for him to exit, and a mere 10 or 20 minutes later felt stabilized enough to put one foot in front of the other and head for the train to Bergen Street Station in Brooklyn, where I had actually bought an old Brownstone for $100,000. Which is now considered an incredible bargain price for any one single object anywhere in the greater NY area.
And this was a real 4-story house, my first venture into real estate. And luck in real estate would become a handy bridge between future disasters.
'Mr Green' had said, "You will never work in New York again." How cliché. How moronic. And how true, for a while. By the next day the word had gone out.