Current Occupation: Writer, Editor, Event Producer
Former Occupation: For seventeen years, Jim worked to maintain peace and love between celebrities, hosts, viewers and the production crew at electronic retailer QVC. Through the years, he held various positions such as Director of Live Production, Managing Producer, and Line Producer.
Contact Information: Jim's short stories have been published in Molotov Cocktail, Turk's Head Review, Metazen, and Think Journal. His first collection, "Elephant: Short Stories and Flash Fiction" was published in 2011. He is also the founder of the West Chester Story Slam, a monthly and sometimes rowdy storytelling event held in downtown West Chester, PA. His newest collection, published May 2014, is Shoplandia. You will find this short within that collection.
What We Knew
We saw what happened when the camera was off air and we heard what people said when their microphones were brought down, and we had grown cynical. From the window of the United Shopping Network’s control room, we peered out over the studio, observing the scene like federal agents without a warrant.
Below we saw the rows of order entry operators on headsets sitting in their modular cubicles. When products were selling and America was buying, the operators sat forward and intently pecked at their keyboards. When business was slow, they leaned back and conversed with their neighbors, knitted sweaters and baby blankets, read through dog eared copies of People and Us magazines.
The view from our perch included a massive rotating stage, which each hour spun – from a living room set to a kitchen set, or maybe from the garage set to the patio – during our top of the hour break. At the foot of the stage sat command central, the line producer’s desk. When a host and producer believed they were in a private conversation, we would be listening in. The producers might leave their headset buttons on, or we’d put the host’s mic in cue and eavesdrop. There is no privacy in a broadcast studio.
We knew the personal habits of the show hosts. We knew the timing of Karen’s menstrual cycle and when Henry was hungover. Among the producers and backstage staff, we knew who were loyal friends and who talked behind their co-workers’ backs. We had opinions on who was competent, who was a team player, who was a slacker or couldn’t be trusted. We knew who received free product samples from vendors and who palmed items from the warehouse.
When one of the broadcast cameras was in our preview monitor, we watched Tanya wipe lipstick off her teeth with a paper towel. We watched as Frankie walked to the side of the set, threw up his hand in the scissor position to signify “cut my mic,” and then squatted and passed gas. When show host Calabrese groped the young model on the set, we were voyeurs through the lens.
We could have stepped in to save Curtis but we didn’t. Through the window and the preview monitors we had seen Calabrese’s bulbous fingers sliding over models, order entry operators, female producers and production assistants. On the day Curtis greased Item V4863 – Starling 18 X 21 Binoculars, and Calabrese lowered the product and revealed his raccoon eyes on live national television, the incident created a minor sensation. Several directors dubbed the video to their own personal reels, saving the moment for posterity. We watched it over and over and it was consistently entertaining.
At the bar a few nights later, the binocular incident became a topic of conversation. Curtis had had a good run but he had been caught. We understood. Life is not fair. Some of us thought if we couldn’t save Curtis, maybe we should avenge Curtis. Others thought Karma would even the field eventually. The space between us swelled with an awareness that we could have done something, but we didn’t. We said amongst ourselves, “someone should do something about this,” and then we sipped our beers quietly as if in mourning.
After a few moments of silence, Clancy suddenly remembered a bit of news. “I heard a rumor we’re going to launch a whole new campaign next week. There’s going to be new promotional spots and a station I.D.”
Our ears perked up. This was exciting news.
“It’s supposedly an attempt to change our image,” Clancy explained.