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     Two wonderful things happened to me at the age of thirteen---I stopped peeing in my bed and I discovered my home town "New York City" via the Pelham Bay Local.
     What a gift!
     Where else can you be a page at the Roxy Theatre (I was shorter then) and an usher at the Radio City Music Hall (I got taller)? I saw The Great Caruso---for ten weeks!---and knew all Fred Astaire's routines in Royal Wedding---(I still know them!).
     A few blocks away, a rather splendid whorehouse hired me to be "The Kiss Boy" (to be explained later).
     And every week---on payday---my treat to myself: a "Hymie Special" at the Stage Delicatessen---a three-decker sandwich filled with all sorts of indigestible delicious delights. They were 85ยข at the time and 15 cemts for a celery soda (Cel-Ray tonic). Joy!!
     All these wonders and more---filling my tender years with sights, sounds, and smells never to be forgotten.
     Public school was just something I had to go through and I did. Eight years of frustration. Then came high school---and facing four more years like the eight I just went through---UNFAIR TO LIFE! And the only reason my folks gave for making me go was---that they didn't! It was to be the last time I did what I was told to do---by anyone---
     There I was---all the wonders of life awaiting me---just a few stops away on the Lexington Avenue Local.
     I would have waded through the mud of high school, if it weren't for the "Work Program" that saved me.
     Not to bore anyone with the goings-on of our school system(s)---high school taught me nothing---about life or living. The kind we face upon receiving that envelope, which looked like a Bar-Mitzvah invitation. They couldn't even roll them up with a blue ribbon (like in Donald O'Conner movies)---oh yes---I did learn something. How to read (actually how to fold) The New York Times. Which turned out to be a waste of time for most of us. Everybody in the Bronx read the Post and/or the Daily News---they still do.
     I must confess I do buy the Sunday Times now. To check the record sales at Sam Goody's and for kindling for my fireplace. (P.S. I forgot how to fold the paper.)
     Getting back to the Work Program: if your family was in need of extra support, a student could apply for a program that would let him out of school at 1PM. This was done by: no study periods, no lunch, and no Phys-Ed (gym class)!! Bless the Work Program!!
     It took me a year to get my mother to sign the papers: "What a disgrace!" My father---a "biggie" in the chicken business---and his son having to add support to the family income.
     Well, after running away from home at least three times---and cutting classes three times a week at least---my mother gave in and signed. Good thing, too. What a year of waiting that was.
     My first sex experience! I was raped in a supply closet by a substitute art teacher. He also told me that my work was disgusting, vulgar, and depraved!! But it must have turned him on. As for me, it turned me off and left me with a three-dimensional case of claustrophobia and a sexual hangup about doing it in art supply closets.
     And just to get out of Phys-Ed, I would give my life---actually, I did---a big part of it.
     Swimming classes sounded like fun to a city boy---they weren't!! We had an instructor: an ex-Army man with red hair, a red face, a beer belly, and one red ball (his right one) that stuck out of his moth-eaten bathing suit.
     We would line up for roll call---nude---anyone with a small one he called tiny-meat. "Alvin! Alvin Spitzer! ALVIN TINY-MEAT!!" "---Present." Poor Alvin.
     If you had an erection---and who didn't at that age---you would get tweaked by "Mr. One-Ball." Followed by a clever remark like "Save it for a wet dream." It seemed the tiny-meats were always "walking the plank," especially if you didn't know how to swim. One by one you had to kneel down at the end of the diving board with hands outstretched and "One-Ball" would tell you to look under the board---at which time he would kick you in the ass---and splash!
     God! The fear, the terror that those classes held. What a choice! Being tweaked or walking the plank. No question! Imagine sixty desperate boys furiously pulling at their dicks just before roll call.
     Lucky for me I had Polish ancestors; I never walked the plank---thanks Dad! Still, "One-Ball" must have fucked up many a tiny-meat.
     So---I was dismissed from school at 1PM every day!
     The St. Lawrence Avenue stop on the Pelham Bay Local at 1PM was a perfect place and time to start to do your homework---except for the few drunks sleeping it off, the cars were empty.
     It's changed now---a lot. I took that ride recently; now the train is mostly filled with Wash & Wear Bronx ladies going back to Bloomingdale?s to return clothes they had worn the night before (an old trick taught by my mother to all the mothers' clubs in the East Bronx). She even did it with my sister's wedding dress!! (Sorry, Mom, but it's true!)
     So---homework was done by the time I reached 51st Street. A real art, I must say. The secret---my writing board---a piece of foam rubber 11 x 14 x 2 (inches). Perfect---took the bumps, rolls, and lurches!! I kept it for a really long time; then it dried up and fell apart.
     My shift at the Radio City Music Hall, at this time, was 3PM to 10PM on weekdays, and on Fridays and Saturdays I worked till closing (between midnight and 1AM). I loved that place; I think I would think of moving out of the city if they ever tore it down.
     I'm so proud of it---in recent years it deserves more than Julie Andrews and talking Volkswagons. But I can even put up with them, as long as I can still see the Christmas and Easter pageants, hear the big organ, and look at the rain curtain (my favorite stage effect). In 1951 there was a "look" that the Music Hall staff had. There were daily inspections of: personal neatness, clean white gloves, black shiny shoes, and pressed uniforms. I treated it like "me in a West Point-type movie." I was really into it---also, I believe I was one of the few Jewish boys to be hired. There were lots of Bruce Whites, Richard Smiths, Robert Thomases, and Allan McHughs, but only one Irwin Ostrinsky! I think I was hired because the uniform fit me---the ad did read "Boys/young men 5' 5" or under."
      I came to the Music Hall with experience---I had been a weekend page in the Roxy Theatre for two years. The move was prompted by many things: mostly by the MGM musicals in favor of 20th Century Fox espionage. How can one resist---Jane Powell over Richard Conte.
     A page boy---sounds impressive---all I did was stand like a statue in the middle of this huge gold and marble rotunda and look pretty in my cute uniform. But I loved every minute of it.
     Those beautiful weekends at the Roxy.
     My Music Hall years were spent as a page, an usher, and an elevator boy.
     The best shift was closing. It sounds like a drag but it wasn't. It was choice. Each usher would have to go through all the rows in his section and put up the seats.
     The things I used to find! Treasures!! Like change purses---without identification (easier on the conscience). You never turned in a thing---except single things like gloves, mittens---and shoes! Umbrellas were the commonest find, but were the hardest to conceal. We would slip them down our pants---one in each leg, if necessary. What a sight!
     Some of the odd things I found were: a cat and four kittens in a Loft's Candy shopping bag, a German war helmet (WWII, I think), and a huge photo album of a wedding of a couple of midgets!!! (That I turned in!)
     There were the odd patrons that would show up regularly. A panty freak---in one given night we would find at least two dozen panties in an assortment of colors with "dirty things" written on them. Never did find out if it was a man or a woman doing their thing.
     A funny black lady dressed all in white---with roller skates on! (Her day was Monday.) The sweet little man who would run up on the stage during the organ interval and sing "O Sole Mio." (About every three months.) And the countless arrays of mashers and shopping-bag ladies. One lady would sit dead center in the orchestra and eat onions. (Twice a year during Xmas and Easter.) We got to know all of them, and, like ritual, we would escort them out---but we never figured how they got in!
     My most fun and challenging job was checking the men's and ladies' rooms in the Grand Lounge after closing, to see that no one was still in them. How many times I found men and women sleeping in the toilets. And the sight of the diverse combinations of feet under the doors. (Ever "do it" in the toilet of the Radio City Music Hall?)
     That done, I would run down the row of 22 urinals, pressing the flushers to see if I could have them all running at the same time. My average was about two out of ten times. Not bad. And what a great sound!
     Another goodie is in the ladies' room. There's a row of twelve make-up tables with seats attached. MGM should have gotten a number out of that for Ann Miller or Vera-Ellen. I did.
     The inside goings-on at that Music Hall were something else. I made more money, then, per hour, than I do now. (All dishonestly, I'm sorry to say---blame it on youth.) Anyway---
     Most of the ushers had a deal with the ticket takers (doormen). The doormen would palm tickets (I'll explain: a patron gives the doorman a ticket---he tears the ticket in half but doesn't give the patron back a stub. He now has two stubs. Another patron gives him a ticket---he palms the whole ticket and gives back one of the stubs. This would go on for hours or at least until the prices changed and the tickets changed color. The doormen would get the whole ticket to us, then on our lunch hour or break [20 minutes] we would go outside [in street clothes] and sell the tickets to the people waiting on line [at that time there were long lines] for a buck a ticket).
     This practice was not limited to the Music Hall; the Roxy was doing it too. My problem was I was too young to be trusted. Ha! Little did they know I was cleaning up by relieving the Wishing Well Fountain, in the main lobby, of all the quarters every weekend! (I didn't even bother with the pennies, nickels, and dimes.)
     Two years of hundreds of umbrellas, change purses, and flushing toilets.
     One Saturday night I was working the closing shift (naturally), running the elevators. I had relieved George Maharis for his break. (Yes, before he was "skyrocketed" to fame, he, too, worked at the Music Hall.)
     Two ladies got on at the First Mezzanine (reserved seats) They asked me where the tall, handsome "one" was. I assumed they meant George. (I am short and cute.) I explained, and they gave me a card to give to him and said that he was wasting his time here. If he wanted to make money and have fun, get in touch.
     George never got the card.
     That night, after closing, loaded down with all the loot from the evening---two umbrellas, a half-eaten pound box of Whitman's Sampler candy, and a blue-and-orange varsity scarf---I found myself at a very respectable brownstone a few doors from the famous 21 Club on West 52nd Street. The brownstone's gone now---I think a Chase Manhattan Bank took its space. On the printed card was a hand-written, "Peppi, see what you can do for this divine boy. Pamela and Iris."
     Peppi (who looked like Cesar Romero) took one look at me and said, "Divine boy?! What's with those broads---well, I guess we can use you in the Kiss Room. I think the suit will fit---can you start now?' "Yes." I was given a uniform not unlike the one I just took off at the Music Hall: instead of black and red, this was red and black---plus a little red pillbox hat. I looked like something between the "Call for Philip Morris" guy and an organ grinder's monkey.
     The Kiss Room turned out to be a small dark room on the basement level (actually the street level of the brownstone). Small round red-leather booths lined the walls---plus a bar and a postage-stamp dance floor. The music was from a trio of young ladies (who also doubled as waitresses---the bartender was also a lady. Matter of fact, except for Peppi the whole place was run by ladies.)
     My job was to go from table to table asking the girls if they would like to "kiss my card"---the cards were black-and-white calling cards. The girls would give me their lipstick imprint, initial it, and her male escort would show me where---on the ceiling or wall---he wanted me to glue the card. The entire room was filled with lips. There was a constant flow of couples going upstairs and coming downstairs. My hours at that time were midnight to 3 or 4 in the A.M. Later on I gave up my closing shift at the Music Hall---and all those umbrellas---
     I worked in the Kiss Room from 10PM to 3AM. The tips and pay were great, and all the girls were beautiful. Many of the male customers were men I recognized from the newspapers---and that was pretty thrilling, too.
     Upstairs was off-limits to me during working hours. Peppi said seeing a kid up there was a big turnoff.
     My first summer on the job I was working full-time at the Music Hall, and I would run over and have lunch and sometimes dinner with the girls---except for special days the place didn't open until 8PM. In back of the Kiss Room was a big dining kitchen. Upstairs (there were four floors) were two huge living rooms---which looked to me like a French palace---all pink, white, and gold. Complete with a white baby grand piano with cherubs painted on it. And three floors of small guest rooms.
     I loved that place---I loved the girls. Even the early-morning ride home on the Pelham Bay Local was part of the treat.
     That treat only lasted about two years. One night, leaving the Music Hall on my way to the Kiss Room, there was a letter for me at the employees' entrance. It read, "Hey kid, sorry but we've moved to Las Vegas. Happy Birthday, Merry Xmas, and Happy New Year. Peppi and the gang." Also in the envelope were five hundred-dollar bills all covered with kisses.