Some, in the Smart Set, feel Leonardo da Vinci may be history’s most creative person. Leo also invented the world’s first resumé.
The word is French and means, “summary.” Around 1481, da Vinci (I pronounce it — duhhhhhhh-VIN-kee) produced a summation of his abilities in letter form and presented it to his future employer, Ludovico Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan. The Italian nobleman would become Leonardo’s patron, commissioning him to sketch The Last Supper.
Two coats, no primer, as the old joke goes.
In the early 20th century, resumés included info like your height, weight, marital status and religion. In my lifetime, I’ve filled out millions. On several, under “ethnicity,” in labored thick letters, I printed: “HUNTER/GATHERER.”
I mean — who’s going to check?
The very first letter of recommendation I ever collected was from my best pal, Phil Lanier. Or, as my schizophrenic mom used to address him: “That lousy Phil Lanier…” I sort of worked for Phil. He was Signal sports editor and I was his lackey stringer. Cripes. That was 50 years ago this fall. Same time, I was the NBC news director at Santa Clarita’s first TV station, call letters — VCCT.
Viet Cong Cable Television.
The brass didn’t like me calling their primitive media outlet, “Viet Cong Cable Television,” especially on air. Ruth Newhall, managing editor of The Mighty Signal, didn’t like me, period. She rarely let an opportunity pass to remind me that she didn’t like me because I sort of/kinda would rewrite Signal news stories and have our braindead hayseed newscasters read them on the (insert serious bass reverb) —
LIVE — THE SANTA CLARITA EVENING NEWS!!!
Pity. The Signal was a tri-weekly then so NBC-VCCT only had decent news shows on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays? I’d just promise our viewership to tune in tomorrow for late-breaking updates.
Understandably, Ruth hated that. And me. So. When Phil turned in his notice, it seemed well-duh I was the obvious choice to replace him as sports editor. I invented a resumé (not mentioning I was the accomplished news-stealing news director four blocks up the boulevard) and presented Ruth with meaningless letters of recommendations from the SCV volunteer county dog catcher and a former member of the COC pep squad. I even asked for a written endorsement from Ruth’s son, Tony, who was The Signal’s publisher.
Tony said “no,” preceded by bad words.
Phil’s letter was complimentary, but, useless. Judge for yourself. Phil wrote: “Walter Stanislav Cieplik Jr. (my birth certificate/slave name then) is a snappy dresser, a gifted dancer and doesn’t get in the way much…”
Har dee. Har. Har. Har.
Phil noted: “As a former Soviet nuclear submarine commander, Mr. Cieplik has untested leadership skills although folds under pressure.” Apparently, I also owned a llama. And was adept at herding it. I don’t recall serving in Mother Russia’s navy nor do I recall Phil’s insistence that I was an “…addendum junior taster at a kidney-blackening vodka factory.”
Or perhaps my memory was fried from all that subpar potato alcohol and that’s why I can’t recall my South American camel ranching days.
There’s no way I’d convince Ruth Newhall, one of Earth’s most intelligent, feared and vengeful in a mwa-ha-ha-ha kind of way editors that I could dance. Plus, that would have given Ruth the opportunity to point out, in her quivering, Katherine Hepburn voice: “Wwwhhhhell… You certainly must dance better than you write…”
The “damn you” silent but implied.
Years and jobs went by. I gathered humble accomplishments, ignored embarrassing detours in between attempts to conquer the world. My helium-filled resumé inflated. I concocted a really cool one for creative, non-cowboy-type positions. It was a slick, thick four-page fold-out. On the cover was the headline: “Meet John Boston.” Below was the sub-hed: “He’d Like To Help You Make a Couple of Bucks for Your Company.” In the middle, I rubber-cemented a fresh, crisp $2 bill.
I suspect mostly secretaries pocketed the two bucks and ash-canned my curriculum vitae. Still. That resumé opened a few doors no one wanted opened. Once, I argued with a Universal Pictures exec to NOT hire me. Why? He was a numbers guy. When I get close to numbers, you can actually hear them crunch, in pain. I shook his hand, thanking him for not hiring me. Strange. He seemed disappointed.
Another time, it was a miserable Santa Clarita August day and I was clearing out a barranca on the tractor. I looked like a crumb doughnut soaked in soot, sweat and oil. A then-wife rushed out with the message that some Beverly Hills mega-suit wanted to meet me immediately for an interview. I took a frantic wire-brush shower, jumped into a monkey suit, asked Future Ex-Mrs. if skinny ties or big fat ties were en vogue as I hadn’t worn one in eons, shaved with a hunting knife on the way down to BH as I crossed three mountain ranges in record time.
This guy’s office was the top floor of a skyscraper and fit for a Bond movie villain. He employed two leggy (four) gorgeous secretaries in an outer living room and rushed out of his office to greet me. I held a goblet of whiskey he had poured and we chatted amiably. He couldn’t stop complimenting me and my resumé. Something I’ve suspected all my life, he said: “The World Will Be Your Oyster,” which is actually a gooey time/space warp continuum of “Where Does The Oyster End And I Begin?” kind of concept.
I’m thinking, “Adios, tractor. Useless Middle Management, here I come!”
Then, he looked at his watch, apologized for having to catch a private jet and dashed out of his office down to a waiting Rolls Royce with me sitting on a leather couch holding whiskey, which I don’t drink, especially not at 3 in the afternoon.
I filled out a job application once. Under “RACE:” I wrote, “Vanguard of a new species…”
Didn’t get that position.
Didn’t want it, either…
John Boston is a local writer. And, a crackerjack former Russian nuclear submarine captain.