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Home > The Other Side of Midnight(15)

The Other Side of Midnight(15)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

“No, sir.”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Can you walk?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you know how to turn on a flashlight?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you can usher. Your salary is fourteen-forty a week. You’ll work six days. Your hours are from four-twenty to midnight.”

“That’s fine.” It meant that I was free to have the whole morning and part of the afternoon to spend at the Brill Building, where the headquarters of the music business was.

“Go into the staff changing room, and see if you can find a uniform that fits you.”

“Yes, sir.”

I tried on an usher’s uniform and the manager looked at me and said, “That’s fine. Be sure to keep an eye on the balcony.”

“The balcony?”

“You’ll see. You’ll start tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.” And tomorrow I will begin my career as a songwriter.

The storied Brill Building was the holy of holies in the music business. Located at 1619 Broadway, at Forty-ninth Street, it was the center of Tin Pan Alley, where every important music publisher in the world was headquartered.

As I entered the building and wandered through the corridors, I heard the strains of “A Fine Romance” . . . “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” . . . “Pennies from Heaven” . . . The names on the doors made my heart pound: Jerome Remick . . . Robbins Music Corporation . . . M. Witmark & Sons . . . Shapiro Bernstein & Company . . . and TB Harms—all the giants of the music industry. This was the fountainhead of musical talent. Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern . . . They all had started here.

I walked into the TB Harms office and nodded to the man behind the desk. “Good morning. I’m Sidney Schech— Sheldon.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I wrote ‘My Silent Self.’ You people were interested in publishing it.”

A look of recognition came over his face. “Oh, yes, we were.”

Were? “Aren’t you still?”

“Well, it’s been on the air too much. Horace Heidt has been playing it a lot. Do you have anything new?”

I nodded. “Yes, I do. I can come back with some songs tomorrow morning, Mr. . . . ?”

“Tasker.”

At four-twenty that afternoon, I was in my usher’s uniform, escorting people down the aisle, to their seats. The manager had been right. This was a job that anyone could do. The only thing that kept it from being boring was the movies that were playing. When things were slow, I could sit at the back of the theater and watch them.

The first double bill I saw there was A Day at the Races with the Marx Brothers and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The coming attractions were A Star Is Born, with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and Dodsworth with Walter Huston.

At midnight, when my shift was over, I went back to my hotel. The room no longer looked small and dreary. I knew it was going to turn into a palace. In the morning, I would take my songs to TB Harms and the only question was which ones they would publish first—“The Ghost of My Love” . . . “I Will if I Want To” . . . “A Handful of Stars” . . . “When Love Has Gone” . . .

At eight-thirty the following morning, I was standing in front of the TB Harms Company, waiting for the doors to open. At nine o’clock, Mr. Tasker arrived.

He saw the large envelope in my hand. “I see you brought some songs.”

I grinned. “Yes, sir.”

We walked into his office. I handed the envelope to him and started to sit down.

He stopped me. “You don’t have to wait,” he said. “I’ll look these over when I get a chance. Why don’t you come back tomorrow?”

I gave him my best professional songwriter’s nod. “Right.” I would have to wait another twenty-four hours for my future to begin.

At four-twenty, I was back in my uniform at the RKO Jefferson. The manager had been right about the balcony. There was a lot of giggling going on up there. A young man and woman were seated in the last row. And as I started toward them, he moved away from her and she hastily pulled down her short dress. I walked away and did not go upstairs again. To hell with the manager. Let them have their fun.

The following morning I was at the Harms office at eight o’clock, in case Mr. Tasker came in early. He arrived at nine and opened the door.

“Good morning, Sheldon.”

I tried to judge from his tone whether he had liked my songs. Was it just a casual “good morning” or did I detect a note of excitement in his voice?

We stepped inside the office.

“Did you have a chance to listen to my songs, Mr. Tasker?”

He nodded. “They’re very nice.”

My face lit up. I waited to hear what else he was going to say. He was silent.

“Which one did you like best?” I prodded.

“Unfortunately they’re not what we’re looking for just now.”

That was the most depressing sentence I had ever heard in my life.

“But surely some of them—” I began.

He reached behind his desk, took out my envelope and handed it to me. “I’ll always be glad to listen when you’ve got something new.”

And that was the end of the interview. But it’s not an end, I thought. It’s just the beginning.

I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon going around to the offices of the other publishers in the building.

“Have you ever had a song published?”

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