I tell people offhandedly that, yes, business people in the late ’60s really did have two-martini lunches. California offices had to get on the phones early, before their East Coast counterparts disappeared into a liquid lunch. Then, where I worked on Park Avenue and 46th, the rush to the elevators began at 4:51 so the senior officers could throng into Grand Central and catch their 5:05 to Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Senior execs were elevated to corner offices because of alumni connections, low golf handicaps and good manners. They were amiable, cooperative people—as long as you got to them early in the morning.
God knows, our CEO tried to extract ability and participation. His mantra was to find those brilliant ideas being squirreled away in desk drawers and apply them to the betterment of the company. He exhorted us regularly to “Reach into your drawers and pull out those ideas.” Instead, everyone pulled out at 4:51.
A different culture unfolded downtown, before the Lower East Side became the “East Village.” (I re-visited the area last fall where a street sign on Avenue C read Loisida.) Authenticity called for everyone to be yourself and do what feels right—which is what the characters in Cruising tried to do. Someone asked me in a skeptical tone whether the Cruising stories were based on “real people.” Back when the Aquarians came of Age in the ’60s, we were asking, “What’s real?” But, yes, I had a friend who walked naked across Manhattan (“Klein Comes Back Abashed”), another pal who’d only date heavy women (“Laura Lard Takes No Prisoners”), and my wife and young son participated in an art exhibit (“Sarah, My Donna and Child”). Embracing life became serious business, because we knew in those days that tomorrow never comes. As Janis Joplin so wisely remarked, “When tomorrow comes it's really today!”