Back in 1980, after being at Citi for less than 2 years, I got a new partner in crime, John Hibel.
John had been the lead Auditor for the Brooklyn/Staten Island Branches, working for George Bissell. He now came over to Operations to head up a small project team, working for Peter Fasano, VP & head of Operations (Regional Processing Center).
Pete came into power when my old boss, Arnie Waldman, became debilitated with a bad back. I absolutely loved working for Arnie!
Pete was a very, er, unique individual. Probably better suited to be a longshoreman working on the docks, but such is life.
Pete & Arnie…polar opposites.
My buddy, Mike Loewenberg (a fellow Management Trainee) & I used to keep the infamous “green book” on various “Peterisms”.
It just happened to be a green-covered notebook where we keep notes on wacky stuff we would hear from our boss.
> “Pete, how long does a teller usually take to process a ‘mixed deposit’ (a deposit containing both cash & checks)?”
He thought for awhile, appearing to picture the transaction in his mind.
Then he replied, “1 minute and 70 seconds!”
> We were working on developing a new system for the tellers in the branches, UTS/Universal Teller System.
The first pilot branch to roll out with the new technology would be the Bush Terminal Branch #63.
For some reason, it was decided to hold several cocktail parties at the branch (after closing) with some of the branch’s best customers in attendance. Kind of a booze-n-schmooze affair.
Pete made an announcement about the cocktail parties at a presentation meeting we were having with senior management.
“I’m proud to announce that we’ll be having customer cocktail parties at the Bush Terminal branch on 3 consecutive evenings…May 21st, May 22nd & May 25th!”
> At a meeting we were having with our Regional Manager, Gordon Oliosi (he replaced Dick Perry who retired), Pete made a comment, but didn’t want any meeting attendees revealing it to anyone not already in the meeting.
“I need you to keep it a secret. You know, keep it in your left shoulder!”
He actually meant to say “…keep it under your hat…”, but somehow blurted out that left shoulder reference.
> Pete once took me along to a NY-wide meeting of the different regional DMR/Distribution Management Review teams somewhere in Manhattan.
Pete usually took me everywhere so I could speak on his behalf. I wrote ALL his stuff, including the annual performance appraisals for all of his direct reports (a few VPs & several Asst VPs…I was still a Management Trainee!). When I asked him for his assessment of each officer (as I believed that I would merely put his thoughts to words), he said to me, “Don’t worry, you know these guys, Mike. You just write up the appraisals yourself & give them the appropriate rating & merit increase. OK?”
Anyway, Pete takes me along to this Divisional DMR meeting. The teams were responsible for a number of big projects, including where our branches & ATMs should be located, opportunities to automate major functions, organizational realignments, etc. – – all pretty “heady stuff”.
The 5 other DMR heads were all VPs & incredibly intelligent & well-spoken. They went around the table, doing their monologue on what projects & programs their team had undertaken & what they were researching.
Not sure if I ever heard so many multisyllabic words in my entire life! You needed a dictionary to keep up with these people.
(Pls note: I referred to them as “incredibly intelligent & well-spoken”…not necessarily “super smart”.
They would all make excellent tenured university professors or research scientists. At any moment, I expected one of them to break out a Sherlock Holmes pipe & look out from under his Wall Street Journal.
The term “stuffed shirt” also comes to mind.)
Now it was Pete’s turn.
I was about to step in when Pete grabbed my arm & whispered, “I got this!”
He then went into this semi-tirade, filled with lots of “f*cks” & “shits” all over the place! I couldn’t believed what I was hearing.
I just looked down & refused to make eye contact with any of the other 5 VPs.
I was mortified.
It almost appeared that he was being especially, er, “rough around the edges” deliberately, almost as if he was sticking his “street smarts” right into their faces!
He sounded like a mad dictator, ready to pounce on a neighboring territory!
And then he finally finished. Nothing he said really made a lot of sense & was 180° away from what all the others had covered, both in content as well as style.
I was still too embarrassed to look up & just continued to scribble copious notes on my pad.
I feared that Pete would jump up & try to give me a high five!
We covered a number of different topics in the meeting & I found myself representing us as Pete simply appeared to be gloating.
BTW, we had dozens & dozens of other entries in the “green book”. If you’re old enough to remember the comedian Norm Crosby, Pete was his double…without knowing it or even trying.
And if you’ve never heard of Norm or simply forgot, pls google him.
OK, back to John Hibel (remember him from way up above?)…
John also was a very unique individual, but nothing like Pete.
He was extremely intelligent as well as street smart.
He had long curly hair, down to his shoulders.
And in the early 80s, he wore $1000 suits. John has a side business collecting antiques, especially painted glass (Tiffany) & beautiful Handel lampshades (a company in Connecticut around the turn of the century). In fact, he was probably the foremost collector of Handel pieces in the entire country!
He once sold a Tiffany stained glass window…of a peacock…to NBC for $99,000. They hung it in their lobby. Probably worth well over a few million today!
One day, Pete was talking to John & I about remodeling his kitchen at his home in Valley Stream, Long Island. He had the contractors in & was due to make a 2nd installment payment.
(BTW, Pete once invited us to his home as we were meeting there to visit a number of different, stand-some CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers (ATM kiosks) across Long Island.
He said that he lived across the street from a “brook”. I was picturing this pastoral setting, tweeting birds, little barefoot kids with their straw hats & homemade fishing rods.
When we arrived there that day, we found out that he lived…across the street from a big storm sewer!
Brook? What brook?)
So, Pete was bitching about having to “break a CD/Certificate of Deposit” (cash it in before maturity & incur an early withdrawal penalty) in order to pay the contractors.
John asked, “How much, Pete?”
John reached into his pants pocket, peeled off 50 crisp $100 bills & handed them to Pete.
“Here. You don’t hafta break your CD now. You can pay me back when the CD matures.”
And then we walked out of Pete’s office & went back to work.
One more Pete story before it’s time to go…
Pete had this AVP who worked for him, managing the UTS/Universal Teller System project (the one with the cocktail parties).
His name was Lou Haygood & he sat in a large cubicle, previously occupied by a Credit VP. (BTW, back in those days, VPs were a rare breed @ Citi. In the entire Bklyn/Staten Island Region…50 branches & an entire back-office, including Credit, Check Processing & Statement Rendition…there were only ~10 VPS. Many Asst VPs then would be Senior VPs today!)
Pete did not like Lou in the least. Not even a little bit.
Once when Lou went on his 2-week vacation in the summer, Pete contacted our Facilities Management Dept & gave them a quick project to do.
When Lou returned back to work on a Monday morning, he went over to his cubicle…but it wasn’t there! Instead, the space was subdivided into a number of clerical workstations & was being used by a neighboring department.
He then came over to Pete’s secretary to ask what had happened & where his office was now located.
“Right off this hallway here, across from the restrooms.”
Pete had turned this closet, a small custodial supply room, into Lou’s new office.
I kid you not.
He had his desk placed at the rear, facing outward. There was barely any room to get by the desk & into his chair.
The original solitary light bulb (that hung from the ceiling & which you turned on by pulling the string) was the only source of light in the “room”.
Pete could be brutal to you if you weren’t “one of his boys”. It was pretty clear that Lou wasn’t
Oh, and Pete had the door to the storage-closet-turned-office removed so people would constantly look into what happened. It was also right next to the break/lunch room.
It was like Pete put poor Lou on display.
He didn’t last too long after that. Lou, that is.
As always, thank you so much for listening!
Mike, this is one very funny story! I remember the book! Thanks for the walk down memory lane & the chuckle.
The truth is stranger…and funnier…than fiction!