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May 15, 1976 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-15

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,oturdoy, May 15, 1976


Page Five

An operator s 'unde world'

There is an image of a spare, prissy tele-
phone operator, that needs desperately to be
debunked. For one thing, more and more op-
erators are male. For another, life as an op-
eraor is not at all routine. Let me tell you
about it.
I never expected to be a telephone an-
swering service operator. It all started some-
what innocuously two years ago when I was
in need of a job - any job - and though I
knew nothing of the work, the ad in the Free
Press contained the magic words, "will train."
So I trooped in one beautiful summer s
day. They fitted me with a headset (an ab-
surd piece of equipment which fits over the
head or clips on the glasses) and a message
pad. I was trained and on my way.
RECENTLY LOOKING for a job in Ann Arbor,
I chanced upon a local answering ser-
vice where, proferring my application (nowK
with experience), I gained employment. But
as I sit once again with a headset clipped
over my ears, musing over the flicker of lights
on the switchboard, I can only look back withm
a sigh upon that first wacky place; and realize
how dull it is to answer for "respectable"
The first job was in a place in Southfield,
where from four large switchboards we an-

swered for crooks, deviants and quacks from
all over the Detroit area. Furthermore, the
operators seemed chosen to match the cus-
There was Emily, who was dating the
clients in numerical order; Lydia, who wrote
out message tickets for calls that never ex-
isted; there was Mary, who suddenly picked
up and moved to Maine; and finally Janice,
whose desperate love was quenched by a
As much as mine, this is their story.
are changed). She also owned a beauty
shop in the same building as the telephone
answering service, and was almost never
around. But it was rumored that Lydia had
only one esnndard that would-be clients had
to adhere to - they had to prove that
they were, at least in some small way, crook-
ed. We answered for Mafia fronts, gambling
joints, and, paradoxically, a private eye.
This all came home to me with a bang
one day as I was sitting at one switchboard,
when' an official of a Wayne County court
came in to serve one of the clients --- an
asphalt contractor -- with a court summons,
in order that a wronged customer of his might
recover her monetary losses. The answering
service was served with the writ because the
contractor had listed us as his legal address.
Which is perfectly legal of course, because
we take his messages. Except that this time
the contractor never showed up to collect them.
He had vanished - without even paying us
his bill - and at last account was some-
where in New Mexico.
Another of our accounts we knew simply
by the name of "4-B." The gentleman's oc-
cupation was cloaked in similar mystery. It
appeared that he was running an ad in the
Detroit News which advertised for a cocktail
waitress. We took messages from all the hope-
ful applicants, and thought nothing more of
See OPERATOR, Page 2

The 'Wallace Myth': Fading fast?

WALLACE by Marshall Frady (enlarged and up-
dated). New York: New American Library, 277 pp.
man. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 193 pp. $1.75.
THE WALLACE FACTOR by Philip Crass. New
York: Manor Books, Inc., 296 pp. $1.95.
Since the day George Corley Wallace emerged from
the sleepy farmsteads and political oblivion of south-
eastern Alabama and triumphantly crossed the thresh-
.hold of the governor's mansion in 1963, he has be-
come one of the most controversial figures the modern
South has yet produced. Labelled a 'populist dema-
gogue' and a 'hate-monger' by some, a 'God and coun-
try man' by others, Wallace has been diversely com-
pared to F.D.R., Hitler, and Huey Long (the fire-
breathing governor and senator who held Louisiana in
his grasp during the early thirties).
"Weighed dowa ia a wheelchair by his below-the-waist
paralysis and plagued by hearing loss and coastant pain,
Frady argues, the man is an empty and vague effigy
of himself before that final blast of violence.'"
It comes as no surprise that, at the outset of the
S6-year-old Alabamian's fourth bid in the presidential
sweepstakes, a number of writers have recently cough-
l up tleir variably valuable analyses of "the George
Wallace story."
Anyone who desires a searching, thoroughly in-
formed account of Wallace as a political and a per-
sonal phenomenon would be best advised to sift through
the rest and read the updated version of Marshall
Frady's book-entitled, simply, Wallace. When this
Work first appeared in 1968, it was hailed as the most
comprehensive and authoritative Wallace book.

FRADY, A free-lance journalist who has written for
many of the nation's most acclaimed publications,
followed Wallace through his gubernatorial and his
presidential campaigns. He is a Southerner; and the
flavor of the South, the emotions that fade north of
the Mason-Dixon line, weld together his darkling but
conscientiously straightforward perspective on a man
possessed at every waking moment by the fever of
"In fact," Frady writes, "what makes Wallace the
ultimate demagogue is that, behind his indefatigable
scrambling, his ferocious concentration, his inexhaust-
ible ambition, there seems to lurk a secret, desperate
suspicion that facing him, aside from and beyond his
political existence, is nothingness-an empty, terrible
white blank."
In the new chapter, which deals with Wallace's ac-
tivities since 1968, the author adds a post-assassina-
tion attempt twist to that statement.
"If it was already true before Maryland (where
the 1972 attempt took place) that Wallace had no
existence and no reality outside of his political lusts
and glees-the ultimate political creature-then he
has at last, in a way, completely atrophied into that
absorption," Frady suggests.
IT IS FRADY'S contention that Wallace, in his crip-
pled condition, has "simply dimmed"-that he has
lost the pugnacious fire which led him from boxing
bouts in his youth to his vehement segregationist
stands in the sixties and his populist appeal against
'big government' in the early seventies. Weighed down
in a wheelchair by his below-the-waist paralysis and
plagued by hearing loss and constant pain, Frady
argues, the man is "an empty and vague effigy of
himself before that final blast of violence . . . dressed
and tended and trundled about like a doll, produced
only for those carefully selected and programmed oc-
casions where he conjures forth imitations of his old

cocky, waggish, eye-glinting fury, but giving one the
impression now that when the crowd scatters and the
last lingering echoes ring away in a hush, he will be
wheeled off, slumped and blank, and stored to wait
for the next appearance."
The newest of Frady's fascinating details is his no-
tion that Wallace is, at times, feeling guilt pangs
about his past, which he sees as an accompaniment
to Wallace's last stand.
The one problem with the addendum to Wallace is
its tendency to look like exactly what it is-a hasty
summary (thirty pages) of one of the most intense
and tragic periods of George Wallace's life, published
and rushed into paperback just in time for the pri-
mary book-buying craze. Frady tends to generalize a
bit more in this section, and seems to have strayed
somewhat from the intimate knowledge of Wallace's
character he implies in the earlier text.
IF FRADY SHOWS a careful study and understanding
of the complex origins of Wallace's personality and
political behavior, another of the slew of Wallace
books is an obvious and self-admitted attempt to hit
the candidate in every possible way, to heave him out
of the American system once and for all. That book is
The George Wallace Myth, by reporter Michael Dor-
The format of Dorman's book is an 'expose' of many
commonplace sayings about Wallace-that his sfate
has been run honestly, that he is for law and order,
that he is no longer 'racist', etc.-followed by explana-
tions of the real facts, according to the author. Some
chapter titles serve as examples of his sensationalist
attempt: "The Political Cash Flows Like Wine";
George Fiddles While Crosses Burn"; "'A Gross Vein
of Meanness"'
See WALLACE, Page 2
Lois Josimovich is Co-editor of the Saturday Maga-

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