Col 1

by Phil Cecchini, former CBS tech

In November 1972, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) struck CBS. The union represented all technical broadcast personnel, including Camera, Audio, Video Tape, Graphics and Electronic Maintenance technicians.

Pickets were posted around all CBS broadcast facilities, including corporate headquarters, which housed CBS FM and Newsradio 88.

At that time, I had been employed by CBS for five years as an audio technician. My picket assignment was 51 W. 52 St., corporate headquarters, known to all employees as Black Rock.

That November was exceptionally cold and damp. When the weak November sun did shine it was blocked by the surrounding 50 story monoliths, and the wind was always amplified when funneled through these steel and granite canyons.

On one particular cold and wet day one of us found a 55 gallon drum, filled it with scraps of wood and, made a fire. The next day as we were warming ourselves by the heated drum, the New York City Fire Department arrived.


The firemen sheepishly approached us with hose in hand and said they had received a complaint from CBS and had to extinguish the fire. Although very apologetic, they then doused the flames and beat a hasty, if not embarrassed, retreat.

That same afternoon, a tall handsome man came out of the building dressed in chauffer's livery. He looked quite elegant, even Gatsbyesque. He said that Doctor Stanton, second in command at CBS just under William Paley was embarrassed and apologized for what had just happened. He said that no one would call the fire department again, and not only should we restart the fire but CBS would provide the wood. He then returned again carrying fuel for our fire. He also gave us a telephone extension to call whenever we needed more wood.

The story does not stop here. CBS and Doctor Stanton obviously felt so guilty about the incident that they set up coffee urns and donuts in the lobby of Black Rock for the pickets only. The coffee was available around the clock and donuts were there in the morning. The only thing that CBS requested of us was that we remove our strike placards before entering the building.

In this era of corporate greed, union abuses, hostile takeovers, and bottom line bean counters, could this happen today? I don't think so. CBS and Doctor Stanton then, in their benevolence, knew we would all be back in the fold. ...And two weeks later we were.

by Don Swaim

Back in the old days, when almost everyone smoked, CBS supplied ashtrays for every floor of Black Rock, the famous company headquarters building. Phil Cecchini insists that each floor had a different color-coded ashtray. The ashytrays were blue on the sixteenth floor, where Newsradio88 had its studios. Personally, I believe Mr. Cecchini's story is apocryphal; however, no one has yet come forward to disprove his claim. The blue ashtray pictured above is one that Mr. Cecchini appropriated as a souvenir, and which he has not yet returned to CBS or to whoever currently owns CBS.


In his recent essay, retired CBS tech Phil Cecchini maintained that the ashtrays in the CBS headquarters building (Black Rock) were once color-coded by floor, the 16th floor's being blue. This position was immediately contradicted by former WCBS staffer Rica Rinzler, who says she saw red ashtrays. And by former producer-writer Peter O.E. Bekker, who writes the following:

As a denizen of the 16th floor from 1975 until 1989, I'd like to testify that if there was an ashtray color code at 88 during that period, it was yellow. (Ipso facto photo attached).

However, as you insightfully and colloquially point out on your excellent WCBS Appreciation Site, CBS was "one classy joint" (though some might argue, strongly, that the ambiance on 16 was more like the impact zone of a major earthquake). Still, 16 was just one floor of many. It's not out of the question that if there were color codes, they were seasonalized by the chic corporate stylists: yellow for spring and summer, blue for fall and winter -- or, to be outré, vice-versa. Either that or maybe the company caved during bitter, top secret, sidebar negotiations with the Guild and IBEW, conceding to each a top demand: yellow ashtrays in the newsroom, blue in the tech areas. The latter possibility might also explain Frank Stanton's eagerness to tote wood to IB's bonfire, as recollected by Phil.

Speaking of which, the union negotiators must certainly have been formidable back in the day. Nothing short of the highest regard would have prompted the dapper Dr. Stanton to go rummaging around for wood in Blackrock's furnace room in those days before steam heat from Co Ed.

Yr, obt. svt., peter o. e. bekker



Mr. Cecchini responds: "I worked on the 16th floor from 1967 to 1974 when all was blue. Mr. Bekker was a Johnny come lately....Phil"

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