Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"What Really Does It"

The signature song in the Broadway musical Carnival is “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round.”

A song in the movie version of “Cabaret” asserts that “Money Makes The World Go ‘Round.” 

I believe that, primarily, it is neither love nor money that makes the world go ‘round.  What I am convinced makes the world go around is…


Without an unshakable adherence to nonsense, the world as we know it would grind to an impracticable halt.

What follows is a trivial example from my personal experience, which I offer as a model of the way a resolution is achieved in a previously stalemated negotiation.  Repeating myself – for both emphasis and redundancy – my belief is that…

The significant processes of life – and I mean all of them – cannot possibly proceed without the indispensible lubricant of nonsense.

Check this out, and tell me if you agree.

I am working on a TV show in Canada called Everything Goes.  The objective of the project is to produce a successful, syndicated talk-variety show out of Toronto, mirroring the success of The Mike Douglas Show, which was situated in Cleveland.

I was hired as a participant in the show’s writing staff, specializing in guest introductions that ended inevitably with “Will you welcome please…”  Until we got bored.  Then we would switch it around to “Will you please welcome…”  We were nothing if not cliché driven.

Since it was known that I had performed self-written material on the radio, I was asked if I was interested in adapting that material for television and perform it regularly on Everything Goes.  And I told them I was.

All that remained was the negotiation.

How much would they pay me to appear on Everything Goes?

Being the astute negotiator I am normally not, before sitting down with the producer, I approached a current regular performer on the show, comedian Don Cullen, and I asked him, in a polite and respectful manner, how much per appearance they were paying him.

“Two-hundred-and-fifty dollars,” he replied.

I had now determined my “price.”  If comedian Don Cullen was getting two-hundred-and-fifty dollars per appearance, then I wanted two-hundred-and-fifty dollars per appearance as well.

And with that, I went in to the negotiation.

The producer’s name was Norman, a faux-jovial hardliner who had been recruited to run Everything Goes.  After the requisite, ice-breaking small talk, Norman casually inquired,

“So how much do you want?”

“I want two hundred and fifty dollars a show”, I announced.

“I am sorry,” replied Norman, “but we only pay “scale.’”

Paying “scale” means paying “Union Minimum”, which in this case I knew was a hundred and sixty-seven dollars.  Unfazed, I reiterated my demand.

“I would really like two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.”

To which producer Norman replied,

“I cannot break precedent.  The show only pays ‘scale.’”

Which I knew from talking to comedian Don Cullen was not true.

I do not know how many times we went around and around, with 0me saying, “I want two-hundred-and-fifty dollars”, the producer replying “We only pay “scale.’”  But it was a lot.

The situation was getting silly, and increasingly tense.  I felt helpless and overmatched.  Not only because “helpless and overmatched” is my “Default Position” on everything – which it is – but also, the “Balance of Power” having been “set in stone” during the Shakespearean era –

“I want eleven pounds for writing Hamlet­.

“We only pay ‘scale’."

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“When you look at your paycheck, you will."  

There was no doubt in my mind that I was definitely going to lose.

Gripped by desperation and impending defeat, what fluttered to mind was a proposal that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  I said – and I am admitting this is entirely illogical – I said to him,

“Norman.  Find a “scale” that is two-hundred-and-fifty dollars, and pay it to me.”

To which the producer replied,

“You got it.”

And I received my two-hundred-and-fifty dollars.

AKA – but only in this specific negotiation –


In retrospect, it seemed I just had to call what I wanted to be paid “scale” and I’d get it.  This arrangement was demonstrably “win-win.”  I got the salary I was asking for, and the producer held the line on refusing to pay “above scale.”

Total nonsense.

But it successfully concluded the negotiation.

Okay.  So.  What’s more important – that we live in a world that makes sense?  Or that conflicts are resolved based on agreements grounded in Silly Putty?

You tell me.  I am scratching my head.

As I did also when I walked happily out of the producer’s office.

“Irrelevant piffle!” you exclaim?

An current paralleling example – the “reverse” version of the foregoing.

The Supreme Court is adjudicating an “Affirmative Action” situation, whose application has been found to be constitutionally acceptable. 

Unless you call it a “quota.”

And then it isn’t.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I think it's possible that what makes the world go round is the ability to let other people save face. Which you have just demonstrated.

- I would apologize for lack of commenting recently if I weren't so glad the reason was that I was in Alaska.