In 1976, I had left my position as advertising director at the increasingly dysfunctional Armadillo World Headquarters, confused and exhausted. When Jeff Nightbyrd of The Austin Sun asked me if I would use some of my record company contacts to sell advertising for that paper, I took him up on it, more or less as a lark. Bad mistake.
For the next five years, advertising sales seemed the only job I could get, other than as a clerk in a head shop. I also developed a deep and abiding relationship with the salesman’s friend, cocaine. At 40, while doing a bad job at the L.A. Weekly, I had an epiphany. Don’t sell advertising anymore! I quit my job, hung around Los Angeles for awhile, then packed everything into my red Subaru and headed back to Austin. Where I was offered another job in advertising, this time at the fledgling Chronicle. They thought I was a pro. What the hell.
It was like being on the set of an Andy Hardy movie, only with sex. It was blazing hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, and totally funky.
Egos clashed, tempers flared, love affairs were begun and terminated, and personality disorders came into full flower. Everybody was taken beyond his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual limits, through fear to terror and into redemption, and most of us rose up the next day to try again. Somehow out of all this a 24-page newspaper emerged every other week, one that people actually read. What a rush. I had a great time, but my salesmen weren’t selling, and I was blotto every night by dark.
Eventually, Nick came to his senses and had the accountant fire me. It was a wise move: I was moving into a rapidly accelerating slide down the razor blade of addiction that would last another eight years. But still …