From the Schwartz/Bing Tapes
Note from Stanley Bing: I became aware of Gil Schwartz ’73 around 1984, when my column began appearing in Esquire magazine. I was most annoyed by the fact that Schwartz was reportedly attending parties and other social gatherings purporting to be me. Stoking this fire was the fact that at no time had we been seen together in public. As the years have gone on, and my star has achieved uncommon luster, Schwartz has languished in relative anonymity, wrapped in the cocoon of a bureaucratic functionary somewhere in the dark heart of corporate America. Perhaps for this reason, he continues to maintain that there is some link between the two of us. Finally unable to take this canard any longer, I tracked Schwartz to his lair in a midtown Manhattan office tower, bearding him in his cozy, plush, well-appointed den.
Stanley Bing: Aha! I have you at last.
Gil Schwartz: Do you have an appointment?
Schwartz: Once you start seeing people without an appointment, the value of your time becomes commoditized.
Bing: Let me write that down.
Schwartz: That’s what you do, isn’t it? That’s you all over.
Bing: I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Schwartz: I put in the hours. I wake up in the middle of the night with a knot in my gut the size of a softball. I attend the meetings that would put a manic two-year-old to sleep. I assemble corporate insights and wisdom through a lifetime of servitude. And you just write it all down and get all the glory, the invitations to parties, the adulation of the multitudes.
Bing: Well, let’s not overstate things. I’m doing all right, but I’m not blowing the roof off Spingold.
Schwartz: Don’t be modest. You spent 15 years at Esquire, moving to the front of the book writing about all kinds of manly things.
Bing: Yes, those were happy days.
Schwartz: And then in 1995 you went over to Fortune, which lured you away with a fat new contract and a prime position on the back page of the book, where you’ve remained ever since.
Bing: I had no idea you’d been following me so closely.
Schwartz: I can’t escape you. Everywhere I go, there you are, watching, observing and eventually writing it all down. You’d be nothing without me.
Bing: That is so bogus.
Schwartz: Go ahead. Say something I didn’t think of.
Bing: Like what?
Schwartz: Like … OK, what do you think of the economic situation right now?
Bing: It stinks.
Schwartz: That’s it? It stinks?
Bing: I’d be curious to know what you think.
Schwartz: I think we’ve come to define our economic system solely on how it is expressed on Wall Street, where a bunch of crazy lunatics gamble with other people’s money.
Bing: It sounds like you’re sympathetic to those Occupy Wall Street types. I don’t know what to think of them! So … what do you think of them?
Schwartz: I like them. I like how incoherent their message is. I remember when we occupied the administration building at Brandeis back in 1970. We weren’t much more coherent than these guys down on Wall Street are right now, but we knew we didn’t like the way things were going in Vietnam or at home. We didn’t like the suits who were running things, and we wanted to make some unauthorized noise. In the end, it’s that kind of noise that gets things done. I mean, look how unformed, uneducated and idiotic are the blatherings coming out of
the Tea Party movement. Rick Perry thinks the American Revolution happened in the 16th century! Sarah Palin believes that Paul Revere rode out that fateful night in 1775 to warn the British! It doesn’t matter. These guys have the entire Republican Party at their Beck and call.
Bing: Beck and call! That’s a good one!
Schwartz: You’re not the only one with a sense of humor, you know.
Bing: I read that some marketing guru somewhere said that the demonstrators should “refine their messaging” and “define their goals” in a more systematic way, like Coca-Cola or Ford does when they are trying to bring a new product to market.
Schwartz: That just makes me want to barf.
Bing: How come?
Schwartz: This society immediately trivializes and extinguishes the spirit of every genuine, nonsynthetic movement or art form by putting it through the marketing mill and turning it into consumable, processed, bite-sized nuggets. They’ve done it with hiphop. Now they’re going to try to assimilate this protest movement, munch it up, and excrete it as a digestible breakfast treat you can enjoy with your preselected online news pellets.
Bing: (writing) … preselected … online … news pellets …
Schwartz: Go ahead. Write that down. You could expand it into a blog later.
Bing: Yeah! My blog! Actually, I’ve recast www.stanleybing.com recently into a comprehensive and incredibly entertaining website, complete with tweets, links to fans on Facebook, feeds from other sources of news, opinion and humor, and tons of interactive features that will keep the user engaged for hours. You’d love it.
Schwartz: You’re so bloody boastful. I suppose you’re going to tell me you’ve written a bunch of books, too.
Bing: Well, as a matter of fact, my biggest seller so far is “What Would Machiavelli Do?” It’s an explanation of why mean people do better than nice people in the world. Other entertaining and useful books include “Sun Tzu Was a Sissy,” which is about the art of war as it’s really played these days, and “Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up,” which is about how little lightweights like you and me can manipulate elephants hundreds of times our size, at least in terms of net worth.
Schwartz: Is that all? I seem to recall another recent title … something vaguely allegorical …
Bing: It’s called “Bingsop’s Fables” and represents the collected thoughts of the fabulist Bingsop, who you might think was a lot like Aesop, and you’d be right. It’s illustrated by New Yorker artist Steve Brodner and offers a whole bunch of illuminating and engaging fables for our times.
Schwartz: I bet you think that’s a big deal.
Bing: Oh, it is truly excellent. Believe me. Next year, I’ll be putting out a real-world MBA course that will make it completely unnecessary for anybody to attend an actual business school. If it sells well enough, I might be able to retire and get a job teaching at one. Talk about a cushy gig!
Schwartz: Hey, I gotta go. Thanks for dropping by to interview me. As usual where you’re concerned, this has been all about you.
Bing: Oh. Right. So … how are you doing?
Schwartz: Like you care.
Bing: No, seriously. What have you been up to?
Schwartz: I continue to be a Section 16 officer of the CBS Corporation, the executive vice president and chief communications officer reporting to the chief executive officer, with offices in New York and Los Angeles. I have a beautiful family…
Bing: Whoa, just look at the time!
Schwartz: Thanks for dropping by, Stan.
Bing: Let’s have lunch, OK?
Schwartz: Sure. I’ll have my people call your people.