Around 1980 I
worked for was employed by a very upmarket company with offices and showrooms in London’s West End, and when I think back to that time it now seems like some sort of surreal interlude in my career.
I can’t really recall how I got the job. I suppose that I must have gone through an interview of sorts, but how I was selected remains a mystery to me, for to the management of that company I must have seemed like someone from another planet, with my “blow the bloody doors off” Michael Caine accent and my ‘bolshie’ attitude.
The big boss was an ‘arty-farty’ old bag of the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ variety; and her right-hand man was a hair flicking prat who was so vain that he only walked down streets where he could see his reflection in shop windows. They spent most of their time at ‘working lunches’, attending business seminars in such places as Aspen, or visiting trade fairs in the industrial heart of the Bahamas.
The ‘rank and file’ of the company were an assorted bunch, with a predominance of good looking young men (now I know how I got the job). How many of them got to go to Aspen or the Bahamas I never knew. The star of this show was the carefully dishevelled creep who would litter his desk with coffee cups and files and be shaving with his electric razor on the mornings when the boss arrived early. It was the nearest I ever came to seeing anyone actually doing any real work.
Attractive young women with ‘posh’ accents were much in evidence, fulfilling the roles of secretaries and personal assistants. It was one of those firms where even the P.A.’s assistant had her own assistant.
The offices were furnished with more ‘modern classics’ than New York’s ‘MOMA’, and the whole ambience was sort of ‘Bauhaus’ with just a touch of ‘Star Trek’.
Meetings were held all the time, and the first time I was summoned to one I thought that I had stumbled on a gathering of members of ‘Poseurs Anonymous’. They sat around for much of the day discussing such important matters as … What canapés to have at the next cocktail party ? … or … Where to hold the next product launch ? .. “Not bloody Milan again dear!” … and … Which designer should they use ? .. That stunning little Mongolian woman with the eye patch and gold teeth; or that nice gay ex-Nazi with the interesting scars and blue hair ?
Now to call these characters ‘laid-back’ was a bit of an understatement for most of them were more like horizontal for most of the time: and so in an effort to fit in I adopted a less business like and more ‘aesthetic’ style. In other words I grew a beard and started wearing a pink bow tie.
Although I was only with this company for a year or two, I learned a lot about ‘image’, ‘PR’ and all sorts of other ‘bullshit’. Much of which was of great value to me later in my career.
When the time came to re-enter the ‘real world’, I was lured away by ‘an offer that I could not refuse’. Yes, I went to work for a big Italian outfit. They also held meetings which I attended, but I never knew who the old guy in the sharp suit and dark glasses was, who sat at the head of the table … and …
…. I never asked !