Annals of My Working Life: Barry

Early in my computer stuff career I worked for a small dotcom outfit that did work for entertainment companies. There were four principals who ran the place, each of which deserves his own article. Today I’m going to talk about Barry (not his real name).

Barry was a smallish, delicately built man with a careful tan. He wore Entertainment Executive Casual clothing of the 90s: those priest collar shirts, khakis, expensive loafers. He had been an exec at a big movie studio and this was his first independent company.

In most ways he was a stereotypical New York entertainment Jew transplanted to L.A., and like most smart people who are stereotypes he played it up. The result was a near-perfect reenactment of Woody Allen in Annie Hall most of the time. When I first started working there he took me out to lunch, and over a Reuben and home fries I got to hear a 90 minute oration on tap water. The tap water in New York was good, but then he came here, and he put a glass of tap water next to his bed and in the morning he saw all the disgusting sediment, and he only drank bottled water now. Yes, 90 minutes.

Barry was halting, diffident, nebbishy in conversation. He salted his sentences with “uh you know” and “if you see what I mean” and “okay, so, okay, so” and pulled his hands up to his face pointed down, like a chipmunk. He’d then rub them together rapidly, changing animals to become a grape-washing raccoon. His eyes darted around the room and he frequently turned away from people while speaking to them, or looked fixedly at some object while he talked.

He loved privilege and perks, and was careful to make sure that he got them all. When any swag or free tickets arrived in the office he was sure to be there to spirit them away. If one of the underlings managed to score something Barry would appear at the desk: “Uh, yeah, hello. So. Yeah, the items, that came from Paramount. Yes. Those are, um. I’ll need to, yes, thanks, take them.”

When something was on deadline (which was always), Barry would succumb to terrible anxieties. Often he would end up behind some hapless employee’s desk, mincing back and forth between two blind spots. “Hi, yes. Not wanting to um bother you! Just, I am trying to. If you could. Um, how is the timing looking for this. The agent, is, you know, waiting. Okay. Okay yes.” He could stand there, slightly too close, and wait for someone to complete a writing or graphics task for a good solid hour. If he felt especially worked up he might actually come up and poke someone unexpectedly, which caused at least one employee to snap and scream “BARRY DO NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN GODDAMNIT”.

Barry was an aficionado of humor. The Simpsons were in their prime and we all had sound clips, which since he didn’t know how to do sound he envied. I remember him making me play the Harry Shearer Springfield Police Department Rescu-Fone thing over and over and over while he rocked back and forth giggling at my desk.

Barry was single and in great need of a date. And we had many beautiful women come through the office, some of whom were actors and others just pretty people in the business. One time in particular I was doing a kind of online interview thing with an unknown but steaming hot actress. She and I were BSing and horsing around joking with her agent person before we did this event, and Barry was back in the executive office. He kept leaning way, way over to get around his monitor so he could look at her breasts through his office window. Just as she left he rushed up and shook her hand and gave her his card. He then came over to my desk and talked to me about her “rack” for about 15 minutes while making chipmunk hands.

He had great confidence in his own comic skills and loved to do little impressions. One of his favorites was a disheartening racist Ching Chong Chinaman accent act which would make everyone in the room stare silently at nothing and the record player skip and all the cowboys turn around and look, every time he did it. At the time we were having trouble getting enough business from our clients and Barry was the man assigned to go lunch with people and get us gigs. At one Santa Monica soirée with moguls, he did the full Charlie Chan routine over drinks. The president of [redacted], an important movie studio, was his big target that night. Unfortunately the guy was married to a Japanese-American woman and took Extreme Offense. We lost the big account.

Barry made millions when the company was sold. He’d promised equity stakes for underpaid early employees but he lied. I hear he’s married now, and running some other internet thing. I bet his hands are still really, really sweaty.