When I graduated from college, I moved out to NY to live with my then-boyfriend and to try to break into publishing. The job market was terrible, and I was getting increasingly desperate for work. My resume (such as it was) showed that I had done “PR” for various cultural groups and political organizations in college (i.e., I wrote music reviews for the campus radio station publication and made fliers for various left-wing student groups); through my employment agency, this eventually landed me an interview for an entry-level assistant with “an emerging political media organization,” in the words of the agency rep. They wouldn’t tell me specifically who the interview was with; I was merely told to wear my interview suit (oh god, my ugly early ’90s interview suit) and bring a few copies of my resume to a specific midtown Manhattan address.
I must stop here for a moment and explain that I had been on a lot of interviews in that awful suit by that time — editorial assistant gigs, museum office assistant gigs, marketing assistant gigs for various businesses — and I had botched every single interview in one way or another. I screwed up the typing test (which is pretty much the main requirement for an editorial assistant), or I’d show up late after having left my resume on the train, or I’d be asked why I wanted to be a marketing assistant in a small manufacturing firm specializing in heating coils and I’d answer honestly that, actually, I didn’t want to do any such thing; I was on my way to becoming a Famous Writer but that I needed a job in the meantime to pay off my student loans. I did not get any second interviews.
So I show up in my terrible suit at the address. And it’s the Ailes Production Co.
Roger Ailes, for those not in the know, is the President of the Fox News Channel and all around weirdo. Esquire thinks he hates America.
Now, I was enough of a dyed-in-the-wool lefty at the age of 22 to know who Roger Ailes was; I was the kind of girl who had a Lee Atwater dart board in her dorm room, for god’s sake. I grew up in a household where, when I was a small child, I was told that it was Nixon personally throwing garbage at the feet of the crying Indian.
I considered simply not going to the interview, but then I wouldn’t be sent out for any other interviews by my job agency. So I decided that I would go in and fuck up. You know, just be so obviously poorly suited (and not just because of my bad interview suit!) for the job. Fine. It would be over, I would maybe go poke around the Strand for awhile, then go home. So I squared my shoulders, took a breath, and walked in.
The interviewer loved me. I was, he said, “refreshing and irreverent” — indeed, I was “exactly what we’re looking for.” I couldn’t lose. I kept putting all my money on double-zero and I’ll be goddamned it didn’t keep coming up double-zero. Finally, he stood up. Please let it be over, I thought.
"I’d like you to meet someone," he said.
"Oh wow," I said.
I was rapidly led through a corridor that included larger-than-life-sized portraits of various Republican icons, including Nixon and Reagan; I suspected but was being hustled down the hall too quickly to confirm that these portraits included eyes that followed you as you walked past. And then I was brought into the inner sanctum of Roger Ailes.
He extended his hand. Automatically (and to my immediate sense of self-loathing), I shook it. What could I say? What should I say?
"I hear you want to work for me!" Roger Ailes (ROGER AILES!) boomed.
"Oh, I don’t know if you want me," I laughed nervously.
"Aren’t you charming," Roger Ailes (ROGER AILES!) said. "You may be just what we need around here."
Inside my head a voice hollered think girl, think! There must be some devastatingly clever way to mention Willie Horton! Some brilliant monologue about saving democracy from the oligarchs to deliver!
"Oh wow," I said.
Finally — I don’t recall exactly how — I managed to escape. I got to the street and burst into tears right in front of the homeless guy I passed on the way in.
"Bad interview?" he asked gently.
"Great interview," I sobbed.
I want to know if the suit had shoulder pads.
Yes. Yes, it totally did. And not only that: it was a double-breasted yellow-and-white pinstriped suit with shoulder pads. I looked like a tall, tragic jar of mayostard.
Then she clarified if she actually took the job:
After I stopped crying I talk it over with the homeless guy. (Seriously, he was cool.) He agrees that it was a conundrum: I desperately need the money (and my boyfriend had just been laid off from his job) but it would be the dirtiest of dirty money. “But I guess beggars can’t be choosers, right?” I say. Pause. He looks pointedly at me. “OHMANI’MSOSORRY!” I say. Then he smiles. “Actually, sometimes beggars can be choosers,” he says mysteriously (I realize I am making him sound like Ladies and Gentlemen, In the Role of the Wise Homeless Man: Morgan Freeman, but… it sort of was like that). “You can choose to do with what comes your way.”
"I know what you mean," I say.
I have no idea what he means. But I thank him anyway and head home. By the time I arrive back at our apartment (in beautiful Paramus, NJ, where we moved after his layoff) I have resolved NOT to take the job. I have choices. Principles! Solidarity forever! We shall not be moved!
My boyfriend is livid. “Of course you are taking the fucking job,” he says.
Buh… buh… PRINCIPLES! Solidarity forever! We stood on the picket lines protecting Planned Parenthood and demanding our college divest from South Africa together, right, honey? It’s where we fell IN LOOOOOOOVE.
"We. Need. The. Money. I. Do. Not. Care. About. Politics. Any. More."
Now I am livid. “Well, I do!” I say passionately, finally working up to that speech I meant to give to Roger Ailes. “I will always care! I will always be on the side of the worker, the downtrodden, the oppressed! You were laid off because of the injustices of capitalism! As Paul Weller says —” (and I should point out that my bf at the time was as massive a Weller fan as I was) (well, almost) “— ‘They take the profits, you take the blame!’ You know what that means! It means we are at the mercy of capitalism and it’s, like, totally unjust! I have made a vow to topple our racist-sexist-classist-homophobic power structure if it’s the last thing I do, and AS GOD IS MY WITNESS —”
"Then. Go. Topple. It. From. The. INSIDE."
Silence. My eyes widen. It is a total Lucy and Ricky moment. “Darling! That’s a wonderful idea!”
Yes! It’s a marvelous idea! I will sabotage the system from the inside! I will feed Roger Ailes bad information, and smuggle out good information, and insert subliminal Marxist messages into newsfeeds to trigger a revolution, and Fred and Ethel will do an old vaudeville number and Paul Weller will want to hang out with us the next time he’s in New York and IT WILL BE AWESOME.
I eagerly await the phone call for the second interview, spending days flitting from room to room listening to Billy Bragg and laughing maniacally at my genius plan. Count your days, capitalism! For yea, surely they are numbered.
THE CALL COMES. They love me! They want to see me for a second interview! If they make me an offer, I should be prepared to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement and to be prepared for stiff penalties (both civil and criminal) regarding the misuse of information! Also, I will need to pee in a cup for the drug test!
"I’m sorry," I say. "I can’t make it."