From the Archives: I hope to be back tomorrow with something fresh! Then again maybe I need to clear my head.
Sometime in the mid 1980’w ,y dad, Max, a CPA, calls me one day from his client/friend’s studio penthouse at One West 47th Street. His client’s a cartoonist and graphic artist who I have known since I was a chiMax sounds perplexed but proud: I’m going to be in an MTV commercial. That’s too cool, daddy. What are you? He interrupts before I can finish my question. So what’s MTV? It’s a TV station that only plays music videos. It has VJ’s instead of DJ’s. Get it? I have forgotten for a second that this is my father I’m talking to. He likes the world to fit his perceptions. If his perceptions don’t fit, he changes the facts around until they make sense to him. I know that he’s a brilliant accountant with the ability to quickly read, say a balance sheet, see the whole picture, and explain it.
He calls himself an accountant. My mother, Marion, calls him a CPA. Most of his personal clients call him my business adviser or my business manager.He’s in his 70’s and each time he thinks of retiring a new and more prestigious client drops his way. Yet I wonder how he can be so brilliant at his work, and still perceive ordinary life so wrongly. He also believes that Nixon and Reagan are the two best presidents ever. Except for some Russian emigres he hates conservatives. Trying to understand Sam is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with some pieces missing. It just can’t be done. Yet, Of course he didn’t get my explanation of MTV.
If my parents would get cable he could see for himself. But on principle they won’t. Don’t ask what principle. They’re a two person household with four TVs. He sighs. No, you’re wrong. There can’t be a station that only plays rock music. An hour a day, I can see. But no station can survive by playing videos. Why don’t you ask? He won’t. Admitting that he doesn’t know what MTV is would mean that he’s not in tune with pop culture. If Max doesn’t like the answer he can’t tell his client he’s wrong. Max only tells his clients they’re wrong on matters relating to business and politics.
I don’t want to get into a fight over this. What are you going to do? He told me that I was just going to hold a sign that says MTV and stand in for the real actor. But when the people from MTV saw it they wanted me. He sounds a little incredulous. I smile because I’m sure that his client planned this the whole time. Max doesn’t look or act shy, but he is. Sometimes he’s amazed at how his life turned out. He did the whole early 20th century, poorer than a Shul mouse Jewish boy bit.
Marion and I are the only two people to realize that he’s always on poverty alert. In his head he’s still a boy in East Harlem. Max’s a handsome man, I guess. He’s my father so it’s a little difficult to see him objectively. In 1969 he grew a mustache, and it’s remained black as his hair is graying so he kept the mustache. He has deep set eyes that are remarkably like mine though I was adopted, a small mouth like mine and large Slavic cheekbones that are also like mine. Only his nose is different; larger and with a bump.
I have heard all the jokes, and no he definitely didn’t sleep with my birth mother. My friends think that they’re so funny. Daddy’s going to be in an MTV commercial and he hasn’t even invited me to the taping. I gave up relationships with men in music a few years ago for attorneys with Doctorates in math or science. Now I seem to be going through a character actor and men who produce or are cameramen on TV stage. Once again Max tops me. Not that we’re in competition or anything. He doesn’t even know that I’m dating or who I’m dating. But I’m too happy for him to let this be anything but a passing thought.
Whens the shooting? Tomorrow. They told me what suit to wear, and to bring two shirts one in pink and one in blue. Know what the best part is? The hunky cameramen, I think. I have no idea. They’ re paying me. $250. I would have done it for free. Did you call mommy? She’s not home. I’m not home either. I’m a project manager for a litigation support company. It’s a stressful job, and I used to be always reachable by phone for family members until I stopped answering my own line. I talk if I have the time or it’s a real emergency.
The commercial turn out to be part of a series. Max’s client’s younger son plays the teenager or the expected viewer; Mrs. Havasi, the client’s mother-in-law plays the old lady and Max’s the successful middle-aged businessman. I know this because Max calls one day to tell me to look at The New York Times. There’s a fawning article about the series. (Canner does op-art and other cartoons for it.) Mrs. Havasi is younger than me. I can’t resist.
As a child I was taught to read The Times with a skeptical eye. Max’s a rabid newspaper reader who thinks that The Times distorts the truth. When he was progressive it was regressive; now it plays fast and furious with the facts.
â€œYou know to never believe anything you read in the Times. Except maybe the obits. Well, Pia, sometimes even they are right. The commercials are nominated for Clio’s. (They don’t win.) Somebody from the TV show PM Magazine interviews Max. It’s in every market but the New York metro area. Nobody we know anywhere knows how to program a VCR. I was horrid in it anyway. Why? They asked if anybody followed me around asking for an autograph. Nobody ever has so I said no. I feel for Max I really do, but I would have said just my daughters. They run down the street with blank checks for me to sign. Then I would have held up pictures of me and Cara. No I wouldn’t have been that tacky but It’s not that I’m in need of a job or a man, but just once I would like my father to introduce me to somebody who has a great job to offer or has a great job, is single, straight and looking.
He loves to give us money but he would never introduce us around, and he knows so many people. Is he ashamed of us or just shy as Marion claims? I don’t have a VCR so I lend my copy to my mother’s younger sister, my hippie Buddhist aunt Adele. If I have one adage in life, it’s never lending anything you want back to somebody who has slept at the Dali Lama’s feet. Being Max’s daughter entitles me to be quirky, and while not anti-New Age (I’m sure that Yanni has some good qualities) I’m too New York, too cynical, too fast, and too in love with my own life to need Marianne Williamson, the Dali Lama, Gary Null, and everyone in between to tell me how to live my life.
Obviously Max knows that. People are always telling him how much they love my fierce independence. Many people assumed that I was going to be a daddy’s girl. I fought it, and now our relationship is one of equals. I know how much he needs me, and I’m beginning to believe that I need him also. I meet rock stars like Iggy Pop; Max knows (and has kept me from meeting many times) Mick Jagger. True I have given up musicians but there’s a part of me that is and shall always be star struck. It’s Max’s fault, of course, he brought me up to expect the moon to fall into my hands if I want it badly enough.