Written on Rumors
Yes, there is a J Peterman. A real J Peterman, not one played
by an actor in the re-runs of Seinfeld. I had breakfast with
him this morning. A friend of mine mentioned to a friend of
his that she thought we'd like each other. The friend of a
friend put us together and we met this morning at his hotel,
the Elysee on 54th, most famous as the hotel where Tennessee
I know this because a producer I met years ago in Hollywood
always stayed at the Elysee and always mentioned that he stayed
in the hotel where Tennessee Williams died. I have repressed
the producer's name. His legitimate claim to fame, if it was
true, was that he was the man who originated the television
movie. His other claim to fame is that he produced that awful
series, Faces of Death, which was a big home video hit in
the Far East. I can still see his face in the booth at the
Beverly Hilton when he proudly told me that which was when
I decided to do my best not to remember him.
Anyway, there, at the Elysee Hotel, I had breakfast with
the real J Peterman. John O'Hurley evokes John and expands
upon the real person, I suspect. The real John Peterman is
a quiet, quietly witty man who is re-building his business
after a rather spectacular bankruptcy. He will, I'm sure,
We talked about many things but the thing we both agreed
upon was that business was quiet. As in dead quiet. He's in
retail. I'm in television. Both of us are witnessing the same
thing. People are still being active but not much is really
happening. No one wants to make any kind of decision until
they know whether there is going to be a war or not. If you
want to do anything that requires a new decision, don't bother.
So lots of people are in their offices playing solitaire on
their computers, waiting. Or working very hard to get someone
to make a decision that they're not going to make. Or listening
to why a decision that was made is "on hold".
The reasons are numerous but, at bottom, they are all about
one thing: waiting for war.
The market in New York has been gyrating wildly with every
rumor that sweeps down Wall Street like the bells of Trinity
calling lower Manhattan to Morning Prayer. It went up on a
rumor that bin Laden had been captured and went down on a
rumor of an enemy submarine in New York harbor. [I am not
making this up. Look at Thursday's Wall Street Journal. (Do
the Iraqis even have a submarine?)]
New York feels
deeply threatened. And with good cause.
There isn't a local news show that doesn't start the day
with a good healthy dose of disaster preparedness.
Nostradamus is making another appearance on the front covers
of the cheesier tabloids.
New York's Mylar supply has been erratic since last week
when a local news show touted blankets made of Mylar as a
necessity for your personal disaster kit. There followed a
run on Mylar blankets in the city. A college professor friend
of mine was very, very proud he gotten the last of the supply
at a 6th Avenue Army-Navy Surplus Store.
For goodness sake, I had to send away to California for ours.
So, while no business decisions are made, and when we're
not playing solitaire, the city is out quietly stocking up
we don't quite know what
but we're stocking up. Walking
through Gristedes I see us all slipping an extra can or two
of baked beans into our baskets. A little now
No one will notice we're building up the disaster
kit. God knows we don't want the neighbors to know how deeply
spooked we are.
Planning has shrunk from quarterly planning to daily planning.
The market soared today because there was a delay until next
week on a UN vote. Rumors are driving our financial realities
in a way I have never seen before. We are living an almost
surreal life, moving through a world where every one is going
through the motions while all the time looking over their
shoulders, waiting for the other shoe to drop.