May 22nd, 2011:

CUSTOMER SERVICE HOLLYWOOD STYLE

AT&T gave its service reps six weeks of extensive training—excellent customer service was a requirement. I think our customers may have sensed we were also sympathetic and willing to listen. Tiny Tim, the singing ukulele player who had been on “Laugh In” and on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in his falsetto voice, loved to call us. One day he reached me and kept repeating, “Hello, Mrs. Operator there…hello, Mrs. Operator there.” I gave my name and asked what I could help with several times, to no avail; he finally hung up and ended up calling someone else soon after. I felt he was probably lonely (it was before his marriage to Miss Vicki) and plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder. He would call with questions about phone service and ask for callbacks at specific times because he scheduled frequent showers and tooth brushings for himself.

Before comedian Marty Ingels married singer/actress Shirley Jones, he went through a depression and found solace by talking to Ruth, one of our reps, who would definitely qualify as a compassionate  “Jewish mother” type. He sometimes called several times a day. One night he took her to a Hollywood party where she met the indomitable film and Broadway actress Hermione Gingold, who had a distinctive low voice and was admired for her wonderful performance in “Gigi” with Leslie Caron. Ruth loved to fill us in on her adventures and conversations with Marty.

Phyllis, a financially secure woman working at AT&T for fun, shattered one of my illusions when she revealed that Bob Hope wasn’t as perfect as I’d believed. She had a friend who lived in a swanky apartment building in Hollywood, and Phyllis had seen Bob Hope in the building or in the elevator several times. Apparently, he kept a special lady there. To me it was like finding out there was no Santa Claus. In some respects I was so naïve in those days!

The office atmosphere was friendly and supportive, even though section supervisors listened into our calls and gave us critiques. Many of us, including supervisors, got together to socialize during lunch or after work. There was a great bar/restaurant called Room at the Top on Sunset and Vine with a Happy Hour that served so much food, dinner wasn’t necessary.  On Halloween, the whole office dressed up with each section picking a certain costume for the entire section of six women.  My section must have been inspired by The Flintstones, considering the photo below.

I'm the Cavewoman who's third from the left.

 

Hollywood was a motley collection of businesses in the ‘60s, from the famous to the infamous, much like today, but a great deal of it was rundown. The well-known corner of Hollywood and Vine was not glamorous, but it did feature the somewhat upscale Broadway Department Store. Sunset Boulevard had the Palladium ballroom, home to Lawrence Welk for a number of years, and the Aquarius Theater where the musical “Hair” played for two years in the late ‘60s.  Frederick’s, a store for sexy women’s attire including underwear (before Victoria’s Secret appeared on the scene) was on Hollywood Boulevard, along with the aging Pantages Theatre, which had once been a gold-trimmed and very swanky movie theater. The Pantages has since returned to its former glory and is continually used for the road companies of Broadway productions.

My AT&T adventures ended when I got pregnant. I had worked for about four years since getting married, and my husband and I thought it was the ideal time to start a family. After I stopped taking the “pill,” it didn’t take long for Nature to take its course.

When I had to throw up in the trashcan at work, I had my first inkling that daughter Heidi was on her way. She made her appearance about two months before the decade of the momentous 1960s was over.

 

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