Woke Up Women
By George Alexander
Seems that Dick Boeth, a writer in art, books and other back of the book sections of Newsweek, had arranged for a 20-something coed he'd met somewhere to come to Manhattan, on his dime, for a weekend on the town. In addition to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and other NYC landmarks, he also planned to provide her with extensive tours of the bedroom in his apartment. The young woman, as the saying has it, was nothing loath.
On the Friday night this tale occurred, Boeth had finished whatever tasks he'd been assigned that week. And so there he was on the 11th floor of 444 [Madison Ave, the then-headquarters of Newsweek], waiting for the elevator, intent on getting out to LaGuardia Airport to meet the young woman and laissez le bon temps roller, when senior editor Bill Emerson caught sight of him.
"Dick! I'm so glad I spotted you!"
"Why?" said Dick, whose experiences at both Newsweek and Time had taught him to be suspicious of any senior editor's effusive greeting, especially on a Friday night.
Second Hand: Emerson, a tall, burly and voluble Southerner, explained that another writer had fallen ill and gone home before he'd finished his section. "I would take it as a great favor,
Dick," Emerson said, "if you would finish his section for me."You're an excellent writer. I'm sure you can read his files, see where the piece is going and finish it in no time."
Dick tried to squirm out of it by leveling with the editor: "Bill, I've got a really hot number arriving at LaGuardia in an hour and I have to be there to meet her."
Emerson, however, was not to be denied; he told Dick he'd pay for the young woman's taxi fare from the airport to a restaurant on the East Side, where Dick could meet her -- after he'd finished writing the section. Dick caved, went to the ailing writer's desk, leafed through all the files that had come in from the bureaus and the researchers and knocked out a quick story. “Done!,” he told Emerson, and once again headed for the elevators.
Case of the Blues: "Oh, no, Dick," Emerson protested. "You can't go until I see, and edit, the 'blues'.” (Blues were blue-inked mimeographed copies of writers manuscripts circulated to editors to edit before being sent to the printer).
Unfortunately for Dick, there was a very large amount of copy flowing through the magazine's editing system that evening and his 'blues' didn't reach Emerson's desk until much later.
One thing led to another so that Dick was still there at 444 well after midnight, waiting for the final edit so that he could leave. Was he agitated about the hours he was losing from his date? Take a wild guess.
Limo Service: Emerson had had the young woman picked up at the airport, delivered to a posh restaurant, and had paid the bill. When the restaurant closed, Emerson had coaxed Dick into yielding his apartment keys and had the young woman driven to Dick's apartment, in the Newsweek limo, and safely placed inside.
Finally, somewhere around 2 a.m., when Emerson asked Dick to write a caption for the one picture in the story, Dick exploded. "Godamnit, Bill," he yelled, "you've kept me here all night when I could have been, and should have been, at home in bed with a dynamite babe! To hell with the cutline; I'm leaving now, going home and making up for lost time!"
Emerson studied Dick for a moment before responding. "Dick," he said at last, "I would imagine that at this hour your lady friend is already sound asleep. So let me pass along this small bit of wisdom: there are two things in this world that aren't worth a damn -- wet stove wood and a woman woke up in the middle of the night."
Dick thought carefully about that advice. He went back to the office where he'd spent almost all that evening, rolled a sheet of paper into the typewriter -- and wrote the cutline.
George Alexander worked for Newsweek as a Houston bureau reporter and then science writer in New York from 1968 to 1972.