IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY – Bo in the trenches / by Bo Gerard

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the day I fired my last “Day Job” boss.

After two years of college, I realized that it was not for me. (Two years and not one food fight or toga party!!!)  So, taking my Father’s advice, I took a job in the Payroll Department at Consolidated Edison, New York’s electric, gas, and steam provider.  This please my father greatly, since he also worked for Con Ed, (as did my sister).   Finally, I was making a career choice he could understand and get behind.  However, it only took about two months of working there for me to figure out I needed to start planning my escape.

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It started slowly with things like using my afternoon coffee break to juggle in the storage room, or always taking the 9 flights of stairs, instead of the elevator, to strengthen my legs.  I started looking for a band to join, one that needed a singer who didn’t just want to stand in one place and sing.  I started taking yoga and jazz dance classes and began auditioning for anything that sounded interesting – theater, music, whatever.  I began expanding my magic repertoire and visiting the local NY magic shops for ideas and inspiration.

Five years after starting at Con Ed, I felt I had developed enough contacts, and had enough advance bookings, to quit and try my hand at being a full-time performer.  Well, I didn’t actually quit, I went on a leave of absence.  This was for my Father.  I knew if I quit this stable, respectable job to try and be a "bum" performer, he would quite literally LOSE IT.  The idea of me being able to return to Con Ed after I realized I had made a horrible mistake, gave him some solace.  (But not a lot)

As for me, Con Ed was history, and I would never ever return.  And I have been extremely blessed to have made my living in this crazy business since then.  It has been, and continues to be an amazing, challenging and rewarding way of life.

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I will leave you with a story about my manager in that payroll division of Con Ed, Mr. Gunderson; one that will help you understand the kind of mentality I was trying so hard to escape, low those 40 years ago.  When you apply for a leave of absence from Con Ed, you have to fill out about a dozen forms.  One form required me to list the places I had worked BEFORE I came to Con Ed.  Why, I will never know.  However, I happily filled out the forms, because I could smell the barn and would do anything it took to get out of there.  I could see his desk from mine, and one day he gestured at me to come to his desk.  He then told me I had spelled the name of one of my former employers wrong and needed to correct it.  The company was “The Equitable Life Assurance Company”.  I informed him that “Assurance” was indeed correct. (since I had actually worked there, I ought to know), but he argued it was incorrect.  I stood my ground, so without a word he pulled out a phone book and looked it up.  When he saw that I was indeed correct, he slammed the book closed, grabbed the form out of my hand and said “Alright, get back to work!”  I could only feel pity for the man, for I was embarking on an adventure that would change my life, leaving him behind to gruffly shuffle papers and dream of his own escape.