I lied about my age to get my first job as candy girl at the Allyn movie theater in Hartford. My mother changed my birth certificate and at 14, I was already 5’8″, so I didn’t have any trouble convincing anyone I was 2 years older. I worked part time after school in the spring of 1966 and more hours through the summer until I was unceremoniously dismissed. I was never given a reason – just all of a sudden, my name was conspicuously absent from the schedule. When I asked about it, there was no answer and I puzzled over it for a long time.
After giving notice at my first post-college job at E.B. Marks Music as librarian, I accepted a new job as music editor at Belwin-Mills, only to find out that the job had been eliminated. I was kept on for a month, however, which enabled me to look for other work and qualify for unemployment insurance. I wasn’t exactly FIRED and it turned out to be one of the best things to happen in my beginning career, since I met songwriter Jack Perricone, copyist Arnold Arnstein, some men who wanted to produce an album with me and I got to work on some interesting projects before my departure for freelance life.
In July 1975 I was hired as a last minute replacement to play piano bar on the T.S.S. Fairwind, cruising the Caribbean for 11 weeks. I lasted five. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the job, but I had a bit of an attitude. I wanted to play and sing the songs that I wanted to do, not endless requests for “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”! I was notified right before our return to Ft. Lauderdale that my services were no longer required – and I puzzled over losing that gig for a couple years – until I figured out that I hadn’t really performed as expected – you can’t be lamenting how your man done you wrong when all the audience wants to hear is “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”!
Over the years I had a number of jobs that became so untenable, I was forced to quit – sometimes under scary circumstances; stuck in Altoona, PA with a drunken abusive boss, I lasted less than one night of a 2-week engagement, taking the 5 AM train back to New York, and had to borrow money from a friend to pay my bills. One of my heroes growing up refused to pay me union scale for copying work, got really ugly about it and I had to stop working for him, even though I’d always dreamed that he would produce my records, as he had for Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. Other clients made things so uncomfortable that I knew I had to leave or something bad would happen such that I wouldn’t be able to work at all.
But that’s not the same as being fired – it still feels crummy, like you’re being forced out – but it’s not the same as being kicked to the curb.
Most recently I was fired from another piano bar gig in Tucson – and not for not taking requests! I’ve wised up and I’m okay with playing whatever song the audience wants to hear, providing I know how it goes! But I had the temerity to ask for compensation equal to what other musicians were getting and… WHOOSH! Kiss that gig goodbye!
What I’ve learned from my sketchy job history is to stay flexible and remember that it’s not the end of the world if you lose a job. Something else will come along and you’ll survive.