As I was driving around Westchester on Sunday, I had cause to motor past the old Carvel Inn on Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers. It looks like they are trying to put a fancy new spin on this dump, which is now called the Royal Regency Hotel. I was mentally capsized by a flood of memories of my days at this fleabag building, whose available rooms were usually used more often by sex-starved employees of the Carvel Corporation as opposed to tourists looking for a neat roadstop on the New York State Thruway on their way to much better locales than Yonkers, New York.
That was also the site of my first fulltime job after college.
I had gotten an entry level job as an all-purpose advertising assistant for the Carvel Ice Cream franchises. I was known as "send the kid." And that phrase was usually uttered by Tom Carvel himself, the founder of his little ice cream empire. The story of how he started his conglomerate is legend. His ice cream truck broke down on Central Avenue in Hartsdale sometime in the 1930s. Because his frozen treats were melting, he had to sell them on the spot. He realized people would come to a central spot to buy ice cream cones. The stuff is legend. As a matter of fact, out here in Hollywoodland, the chic thing for studios to now order for wrap parties, etc. are those goofy Carvel cakes. Hell, I was there when some of them were invented. Yes, I was present on the payroll for the birth of Fudgie the Whale---"a whale of a cake for a whale of a dad." Obviously, this was a Father's Day promotion. An interesting sidebar: these cake molds were very expensive for the Carvel dealers to buy. And, since the old fart kept churning out new characters for his cakes, they rebelled. So, Carvel had to figure out how to make future cake promotions by using the same mold. They would buy Fudgie but nothing else. So, they devised all these ways to make different creatures out of one mold. Indeed, the famous Cookie Puss is really the Fudgie mold simply cut differently. The man was a genius. Yeah, right.
To immerse myself into the custard business, I was forced by the old man to go into the dealer education program, which was more familiarly known as the "Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge." So, I got to learn how to prep machines to make soft ice cream, the correct amount of chips to sprinkle, etc.. And I learned how they made that secret cake crunch. Big freakin' secret. You take the Flying Saucer sandwich crumbs and mix it with some chocolate Magic Shell-like substance and then quick freeze it. Voila. Crunch. All the people who became franchisees were disgruntled former firemen or people who were tired of answering to some tyrannical boss. Little did they know.
You would think this merry old ice cream maker would be this larger-than-life storybook character. Wrong. The guy was an absolute pill. he was a cheap old bastard, whose gates were guarded by this old maid villainess named Mildred, who took out her spinsterhood on the employees. She resembled Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" and I was praying for a similar fire that would burn her to a crisp like a sugar cone. She held the penny while Carvel pinched it. Ultimately, I was fired by Mildred for not putting the cheaper paper in the Xerox machine. Yet, they pervaded this myth that the place was a virtual Willy Wonka movie. Meanwhile, I worked with the sleaziest of the sleazy. Secretaries were sleeping with bosses. Bosses were sleeping with their bosses. And "T.C." was the biggest perv of them all. If you were a young woman at the company, it was a matter of time before he tried to grope you in his lap. One of my regular duties was to drive the company car down into the bowels of Manhattan and pick up some specially selected skin flicks at a porno production house. Then, I would hand deliver them into a plain brown envelope to Mildred for messengering to Carvel's Dobbs Ferry palace.
One very icy day, I got the call from Mildred's bat cave. The old man's tape machine was busted. I had to bring his office VCR up to the house. He obviously had some new releases and a new box of Kleenex he was dying to crack. Okay, these were the days of the clunky tape players. When I got to Carvel's frozen lair, the cheap bastard hadn't bothered to clean the hilly walkway to his front door. As I mounted the icy tundra carrying a fifty pound tape player, I remember thinking to myself. If there ever was a time in my life that I would endure a broken leg, let this be the moment so I could sue the guy for all the hot fudge in the world.
I had to edit those stupid radio commercials he did with new dealers. The copy he voiced was always the same gravely nonsense.
"Where's your store located?"
"You gonna sell Thinny Thin?"
"You gonna carry Lo-Yo?"
It was a marketing ploy developed by Moses. Plus he would never expand his radio campaign beyond the stations he listened to. That's why he was wasting his money looking for new young dealers on WOR-AM, which was the flagship radio station of Woodlawn Cemetary.
For a first job, the experience was not rewarding, but certainly fruitful when it came to comical anecdotes. Once, there was some family of tourists looking to save a few bucks by staying at the hotel. There was always one room with clean sheets just in case this ever happened. Well, anyway, one of the family's younger members was carrying a tray of coffee through the lobby. I watched him trip and spill the hot java onto the floor. As luck would have it, TC was doing a walkthrough at the time. He promptly told the young boy to clean out his desk because he was fired. Probably the first time ever, a hotel guest was fired from the premises. There was another time where Carvel had found a cigarette stub on the floor and he promptly carried on a three day investigation to find who the sloppy employee was. I saw him literally going through office ash trays trying to match up the mysterious butt.
Tom Carvel viewed himself as some great philantrophist, despite being the biggest miser since Scrooge. He did have one charity he bend over backsward for. Dobbs Ferry Children's Hospital. Because he allegedly had this wonderful lifelong friendship with Bob Hope, Carvel decided to stage this benefit performance. He engaged Hope to preside over the evening. For the several weeks prior, no one in the company did a blasted thing that involved ice cream. Our complete focus was this stupid show. And Carvel had this dream that Bob Hope would spend the night of the event by sleeping at his beloved rat's nest, the Carvel Inn. All we heard for weeks was the sound of hammering in the hotel. Carvel was knocking out the walls of five hotel rooms to make a Bob Hope suite. Then, he moved furniture in from his home for Bob. I guess you have an idea where this is going. After the huge and costly renovation, Bob Hope did indeed stop at the Carvel Inn on the night of the show. To pee.
The old man died in 1990 after selling his company off. There are still rumors from his distant relatives that contend he was murdered. Gee, it would take at least 20 years to sift through all those with a motive.
Dinner last night: Shrimp Scampi at Duke's in Malibu.