Stepping out with Happy Legs…

by Alden Cole on April 27, 2014 · 1 comment

HappyLegs4WPfour drawings done in 1969, each 14″ x 8.5″ • collection of the artist

My time at Paul Ressler Ltd. was just that — a brief nine months, from late August 1968 until late May 1969. Despite Paul’s assurances that the company was going to expand its design line, that change seemed awfully slow in coming. Despite the fact that my salary had jumped from an initial $100 a week, to $125, and eventually to $165 by spring, my youthful impatience with what I perceived as the slow pace of growth caused me to complain to my lunch buddy Shelley, Ressler’s receptionist/secretary, expressing my frustrations with the present situation, and my desires to seek a more challenging job, possibly one in women’s wear, which was beginning to look much more interesting to me at the time. She informed me that her mother was a buyer for a small clothing store out on Long Island (pronounced Lawn Giland) and volunteered to query her mom about any possible openings she might hear of. In relatively short order, Shelley reported back that Happy Legs, a junior sportswear company in the 1407 Broadway Building — just chock full of clothing wholesale showrooms — was in the market for a designer. Like Ressler, they were a small company that had previously gotten by knocking off other peoples designs, they now wanted to go legit with a staff designer. An interview was arranged, on the sly because neither of Shelley or I wanted the Resslers to know about our subterfuge. Today’s drawings were part of the sheaf I drew up at home for my interview with Happy Legs in late May 1969, which went exceedingly well. They offered me a job on the spot, with a salary increase of $35 a week, to an even 2 Franklins. Excitedly I accepted the position. They wanted me to start ASAP. This put me in a bit of a bind. Paul and his wife Sylvia were away on a business trip to Europe, had left a few days before and wouldn’t be back for over two weeks. I agreed to talk to their son Michael the business manager, explaining the situation, and how much I wanted to take this bold step. He was dismayed about my wanting to leave, but couldn’t offer to better the salary without conferring with his parents Paul and Sylvia, which was not as convenient as such conferencing has become with cell-phones. He left it in my hands to do whatever I had to do. So I reluctantly resigned without being able to talk over this new situation with my first New York employer, who had also become a mentor, and who would be apprised of my hasty departure by his son rather than by myself. And my embarrassment at this kind of unprofessional leave-taking prevented me from going back to apologize, so when we met in passing years later there was an awkwardness still that created an insurmountable obstacle to honest and soulful communication between us about what I now understand as my youthful folly. Now it’s too late. One of life’s small regrets…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nancy wysemen April 27, 2014 at 4:58 am

I am really enjoying your life overview. Something about the rhythm. I “understand” the landscape of looking back. Not the complaining or judgementalism I seem to be hearing lately. Are you still interested in fashion? I am taken by pretty people…..hmmmmm. Like cookies. It must be ? difficult to be cute and brilliant….


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