personal memoir:'Teen Events'|
and doing work you'd pay to get
and then you hear an actor being interviewed on the Tonight Show who'll say something
along the line, “I don't understand why they don't charge me for the privilege...”
of occupying his or her position in the entertainment world rather than paying
her/him millions of dollars for doing it.|
Such talk subverts the rest of us and leads many to covet the lives, if not their jobs, of people for whom even work is fun.
The recent death of Loretta Young (August 12 2000), my favorite actress for many years when such a label meant something to me, reminded me of the theme of her long-running Sunday night dramatic TV series: love your work and your whole life will be happier. In my teens, I took that advice to heart, plotting ways to “get a jump” in life by getting a start on a job I'd not only find tolerable (as my dad barely did coalmining), but internally rewarding and, preferably, externally as well (meaning that others would benefit, too). Though I started writing local newspaper columns strictly for the money, two years later I got an inspiration that changed my life and seemed to benefit a lot of other people as well, the teen column for the Nanty Glo Journal and, almost from its launch, the other two Sedloff Publications in Portage and Cresson-Gallitzin.
Though I knew from sixth grade that my writing impressed my teacher more than anything else I'd done (and I'd usually been near the top of my class), it wasn't until the column made me a local celebrity that I found my niche in “show biz,” doing something that, if I'd had to do so would have paid for the opportunity for. (And in a sense, I did pay for it. When I pointed out to the management in Portage—Gerald Newman and, in particular, Burt Aronoff—that using my column in three papers should qualify me for three times the going rate of seven cents per column inch for its use in one paper, they first fired me and then rehired me on condition that I'd accept one cent more per column inch for each of the other papers!)
I usually take my two grown sons, Mike and Kevin, and Kevin's girlfriend Maya (Mike being unattached at present) to Starbuck's for Saturday coffee, followed by brunch. Maya works at a match-making service, which led us recently to be discussing best ways to meet people. I joked that the best way is to conduct a survey: “What do you think is the best way to meet people?” I don't really think a phony survey is a great idea, but in my own experience a survey opened the doors of many friendships. It was “the teen ten,” a simple count of which current popular records were favored by the attendees of the local hop. Even bullies that I might have crossed the street to avoid previously seemed to like answering the question, and because I'd asked it, their esteem for me went from zilch to, well, at least a little higher.
|Left, the heading or nameplate that editor Rogalski came up with for the column. Right, the webmaster at 15, in a photo Rogalski insisted was better than school photo.|
It didn't hurt, for the five years that I wrote the column (which I wanted to call “Teenage World” and my editor/mentor Andy Rogalski dubbed “Teen Events”—I think because he had a metal-typogaphical representation of two teenagers with those words available for a “heading”) it didn't hurt that Rogalski seemed to have a never-admitted desire to make a “star” of me, probably to demonstrate how much power he might wield in that realm. It worked at least wherever the Sedloff weeklies circulated, and it culminated by his appointing me his successor as editor of the Journal when he suddenly left Nanty Glo for a similar but better-paying job in Windber in 1962, the end of my sophomore year at Johnstown College. He had made the Journal the most honored weekly paper in Pennsylvania during his tenure; he had put an inordinate effort into training me, so it was the greatest thrill of my life to be so chosen.
Those were war years, so choices were difficult and necessary, it seemed, out of time or readiness. Still I went from that job to another that I'd have never in my wildest dreams ever hoped having, managing editor of a worldwide-circulated Christian weekly that both provided opportunities to bring all my interests and skills, whatever they were, together while letting me live for four summers in a luxurious resort on the Jersey shore. It also got me entre to college teaching and I met my former wife through it. So my vocations continued being highly satisfying, if not always so pecuniarily rewarding.
After my success with “Teen Events,” I've always felt maybe my real calling is column writing for a highly visible publication—a daily newspaper, syndicate, or national magazine, like my teenage hero Walter Winchell, San Francisco legend Herb Caen, or one I got to play-act in a high school variety show, Ed Sullivan. I have written columns most of my life, including editorial and religion columns and movie reviews for the Times newspapers of San Jose for seven years, and I continue writing a business roundup column for a high tech journal circulated throughout the west coast after more than a decade. But none of those opportunities, though paying much better, have provided the recognition and downright “celebrity” that “Teen Events” did from 1957 to '62.
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© Jon Kennedy 2000, 2002