The following transcript of an interview with Charles Grabasse brings some startling insights as to how the CEO / President / Chairman / WhatEver of a major American corporation applies an interesting set of values to take care of number one – both financially and mentally.
The interview took place on a Monday afternoon in a hotel private dining room, in a major East Coast city. Mr. Grabasse was dressed in a golfing outfit, and a rather young and attractive female administrative assistant waited in a lounge chair by the door. There was a bottle of expensive scotch on the table, a little over a third gone, and the “Corporate Kahn” had glass in hand, keeping it busy throughout our talk.
I had the classic reporter’s tape recorder and microphone on the table, but also, a smaller voice activated unit hidden on my person. That proved to be a smart move, as two of Mr. Grabasse’ security gorillas later relieved me of the table tape deck, not caring for the way the interview went.
MadDog Rag: Well Mr. Grabasse…
Charles Grabasse: No, no, call me Chuck. I insist. (Takes a sip).
MDR: Well Chuck, as our people discussed with yours, we’d like to learn more about you than about the financial aspects of your company. We’re guessing there’s more than financial gain behind your decision processes in the wheeling and dealing world of corporate America. It’s not ALL about the money.
CG: For sure, for sure. It’s not really about the money at all at this point. Hell, I’ve got more money than the Vatican. It surely isn’t the money.
CG: It’s about the impact, uh, positive impact, men in my circle can have upon society and our culture. (Takes a sip).
MDR: Forgive me Chuck, but that’s a bit trite. I mean, open up. Tell us what it’s really all about. Power? There’s a cliche for you.
CG: Power? Power?? (Takes a bigger sip).
MDR: Ok, easy. If it’s not the money….
CG: I don’t mind telling you. You know those big time medical drama shows on the TV, where every other episode is about some surgeon displaying God-like authority over life and death? Shit, those boys got nothin’ on men like me. (Takes a sip).
CG: Son, a surgeon can stand over an operating table with scalpel in hand, and truly have life and death impact over the poor slob laying before him. But in my circle, a handshake, a signature, a simple meeting on the 11th hole can have more catastrophic impact on tens of thousands, if not more.
MDR: Ah, the impact on the everyman. John Q.
CG: Screw John Q. I’m talking about the direct hit on the alleged working stiffs under my hand.
CG: Freakin’ cattle. Mice. Minions. (Takes a gulp).
MDR: Whoa again!
CG: Their kids’ education. The car they drive, the house or tenement they live in. I can control what they can afford and what they can’t. (Pours another). Better than that, I can control their mind.
MDR: Yikes, Chucky. You have to explain that to us. Their mind?
CG: Hell yeah. Keep ’em worried, keep ’em stressed. (Takes a sip). “Will I still have my job tomorrow ?” You see, I meet with a bunch of my friends and they meet with their friends, and we all have a ball trying to keep the economy at the point where we’re all doing OK, but John Q., as you call him, stays worried shitless about the next pay check.
MDR: You know, I always thought you guys were…
CG: And it’ so much more fun with the older ones. Especially this bunch. They’re all Al Bundy’s, who grew up with their slob of an ol’ man working for the same outfit his whole life, mostly for nothin’. And they can’t handle the instability of today’s setup. Loyalty and seniority don’t mean shit. (Takes a long sip, wipes his chin). Every once and a while, we off a few we let get to twenty or thirty years in, just to keep the rest guessin’ and stressin’!
MDR: You bastard!
CG: Ain’t it grand? You ain’t heard nothin….
MDR: Wait! Wait! We did a little research into the last ten or so years of your reign and I have to admit, we were sort of fooled by some of what I now can see were simply stellar performances by a cagey manipulator.
CG: Like what? What do you mean? (Takes a sip).
MDR: We saw a video. I think it was from the mid nineties, it was a company broadcast to your “minions” across the realm, over your network. It was right after you, ahem, “merged” with a major competitor. We actually saw you express fondness and love for your employees, and Christ, even shed a tear.
CG: Wasn’t that a hoot! I don’t know if I’ll ever top that one. I’m trying right now as we speak, but that’s a tale for another day. (Downs the glass).
MDR: Come on, back to that video.
CG: Man oh man, what a setup that was. An all time ass reaming. How it all went down was, me and that son-of-a-bitch Teddy Maroo happened to be drinking together on consecutive days out at one of our “seminars”, and, we were joking about which one of us could be the bigger bastard. (Pours another). You know, hardest hard-ass over the grunts in the trenches. Well we made a bet for about a grand and got our cronies to agree to be the judges. And as an added bonus, we love bonus’, we figured that at the same time we’d stuff our pockets with more cash than a god could spend.
MDR: Tell us more.
CG: I had kept our rumor mill quietly buzzing about how bad a place Teddy’s company was to work, how bad he treated the herd. And I turned that up a notch. Then I brought in this outfit to “re-engineer” us all into efficiency, to make us a “better place to work”. Well the grunts weren’t buying it, especially after they found out the last four outfits these bastards reengineered were sold, and gobs of people were put on the street. (Takes another long sip). Well, we just reassured them nothing was afoot, we were all going to enjoy the outcome of their analysis, yadda yadda yadda. All the time me and Teddy are working our major stockholders into a frenzy over promised profits and setting up the deal of a lifetime, for me and Teddy anyways. It was orgasmic. (Takes a sip).
MDR: And then….
CG: Long story short, me and ol’ Maroo announce the “merger” on a Sunday night. Oh my god, to see the look on the Monday morning faces. Not only did we sell their collective asses down the river, but whatever buttheads still had their jobs when all was said and done, would be working hard for the guy we painted as the meanest motherfugger on the planet. It was rich. (Empties the glass).
MDR: I’m not sure I want to hear anymore.
CG: God, man. That video. When those camera’s went off and I got to a private phone, I called Teddy and we literally wet our pants laughing. We met in Barbados a few days later, called our bet a draw, and drank ourselves into a coma, laughing the whole way.
MDR: So how many “grunts” and their families did you impact in the end?
CG: All of ’em goddamit, all of ’em! (Double gulp). The lucky ones were the ones we shit-canned. And boy did we shit-can a boatload. You know what’s neat? When you have twenty thousand or more heads to play with, and they’re spread all over hell and creation, there’s too many of them for any one of them to know how many “died” in the fire. We could print that fifteen hundred jobs were lost when in actuality, it was around six thousand, maybe seven. (Takes a sip). Multiply that by dependents, and you got numbers. Real numbers.
MDR:Man. You sure get off on the carnage. You have a family. Can’t you relate? Any second thoughts at all?
CG: Are you serious? Let me tell you about my family. (Takes a sip). The fondest memory I have is the day back in sixty-two, when I walk through the front door after a hard day. My kid’s at the TV, and without looking up, says: “Hey pop. Who’d ya fuck today?”
MDR: Well I guess that says it all.
CG: Yeah, don’t it? (Takes a sip). That gave me a real, honest tear. (Takes a sip, slams the glass to the table, splashing scotch all over both of us).
Originally published, the MadDog Rag, November 11, 2003. And here’s me admitting I borrowed the “…without looking up says…” line at the end from the masterpiece Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.