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  • “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” Catherine Aird

    He was the worst man I ever knew and I worked for him: a card-carrying, certified ogre. I’m not talking about a hothead or a control freak or a backstabber. I’m talking dripping fangs, flaming breath and the distinct stench of sulphur.

    He claimed to have royal Greek blood coursing through his veins. We didn't believe him but we called his black Cadillac the Trojan Hearse. Let’s just say the worst investment I can think of was buying him a mood ring; a black opal was all you’d need.

    You doubt me? Some back story: He was the executive producer of a 13-part series for public television on pediatric medicine. I was hired on an eight-month contract to write and produce the shows. I knew of his reputation, but figured that being a short-timer would insulate me from irreparable psychic damage. I began to suspect that I might have been mistaken when the first three editors I contacted about working on the series, laughed hysterically when I told them who was in charge. Then they hung up, all three of them as did the next four.

    I eventually assembled a crew. Two of them didn’t speak English, so they were mostly immune from his corrosive sarcasm. Our associate producer had just arrived in town and the editor who agreed to come aboard was so stoned that he spent much of the day giggling into his Cup-O-Soup. You do not want to know how sausage is made, a law is passed or how a television series comes together.

    He usually had lunch with his wife every day, and they always went to the same restaurant, which we knew to avoid. One day his wife was out with the flu. He hated to eat alone, so he crashed the going-away party of a woman he’d fired days before. Then, as a topper, he fired my associate producer an hour or so later when she suggested that his actions had been insensitive. I typically spent two afternoons a week in the studio parking lot talking a member of the crew out of quitting.

    I had dinner with the ogre only once. He talked candidly, telling me he knew what a terrible boss he was and enumerating with precise accuracy his faults. He knew his limitations, but he added with a wicked grin that he had absolutely no intention of shedding them.

    The day my contract was up, I got into my car and played Otis Redding at full volume. I felt like I’d exhaled a metric ton of toxic second-hand smoke. I’m still friendly with most of the crew. We often reminisce about our Babylonian captivity, but not without, from force of habit, glancing back over our shoulders.

    I can see him still, his broad back hunched over the keyboard, tapping out his daily dose of venom. His body is twisted and crippled with arthritis. He thinks it’s because of the Florida humidity.
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