It was 1966 and I was a paperboy. Every day at the crack of dawn I’d get up, and I’d fold and rubber band seventy-four San Fernando Valley Green Sheet newspapers. I loaded the papers into two canvas bags that hung on the butterfly handlebars of my bike, a lime green Montgomery Ward version of the Schwinn Sting Ray complete with knobby tires, banana seat, and sissy bar. I then peddled like a mad man around my Tarzana neighborhood, throwing papers onto people’s lawns, driveways, and porches. Then I’d ride my bike to school.
Some mornings, in addition to folding and rubber banding seventy-four papers, I was required to add an advertising supplement to the mix. While stuffing flyers for Jake’s Jug, a neighborhood liquor store, it occurred to me that stuffing newspapers with a flyer advertising a certain boy magician would be a good idea. A perfect scheme, almost perfectly executed . . .
Using carbon paper, I made four smeary purple ink copies at a time, until I had seventy-four flyers with the following headline:
FAMOUS BOY MAGICIAN AVAILABLE FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS.
As luck would have it, I got a call.
“Yes Mrs. Lewis, this is Steve the famous boy magician.” “Darling, I’m having a Beauty on a Budget party. It’s like a Tupperware party, but I sell beauty products. It’s my first party and I really want to impress the ladies and I think magic tricks would be great. Sweetheart, how much do you charge?”
Which brought us to our spirited negotiation. For some reason her question had caught me by surprise, and after a momentary pause, with a minimum of confidence, I spit out two words, “Three dollars.”
“Honey, it’s a deal.” And just like that I was on the road to fame and fortune. The three giggly women and their hostess seemed amused
with my tricks and they gave me a sitting ovation. When I tried to leave, Mrs. Lewis took me aside and whispered, “Darling, wait until the party’s over. I’ll pay you from the cash I get selling my beauty products.”
So I’m waiting, the women are having a ball putting different lipsticks and mascara on each other, squirting each other with perfume and painting over the dark circles under their eyes. Then one said, “Oh girls, look at the time, gotta go.” And quick as that the party was over.
Suddenly I was alone with Mrs. Lewis. She thanked me and started to clean up. When I asked for my three dollars she looked me right in the eye and said, “Darling, the ladies didn’t buy anything, so I don’t have the cash to pay you.” Then she put her arm around my shoulder as she escorted me to the door.
“I think my work should be paid for. Don’t you?” “I am amazed! Truly amazed! Why, my dear child, Jesus never asked for money.”
“But it’s only three dollars.” “Look Honey, just take this rouge, if you want.” “What do I do with this?” “Oh Sugarpie, you are in showbiz now, you need professional makeup! Please also take this foundation and eyebrow pencil with my compliments.”
What a rip off ! And, the makeup gave me a rash.