As we close out this week something is sneaking up on me! I kinda feel it on the back of my neck, like I never had before. Fusebox is closing in on it’s 19th year of doing business and embarking on it’s 20th. WOW, is all I can say. 20 years running a business that has employed over 200 people during it’s tenure, many of who are still with me from the beginning or shortly after.
So I look back… I was 26 and was just fired from a job that I knew they were trying to find a way to get rid of me. Why. I was making too much money and they didn’t like that. Let me explain, I was working at an agency that was paying me hourly at first, I would come in do my my 8-12 hrs a day and collect a paycheck. One of the brains, (and I use that word lightly) of the operation decided that instead of paying us artist by the hour they would pay by the amount of work we produced per week. We were a catalog agency so the work was mostly comping up the pages in catalogs and then producing them, a fee attached to both tasks. To put this into perspective, I was making on the hourly scale about $1,300 a week (remember it is 1989 here and my rent on my 1,200 foot awesome loft was a steep $1,400 per month). The decision to move to a performance base compensation was they would pay $200 per page to design and $200 for the final mechanical (anyone remember those, yes all paste up, you using a knife, a ruler, wax and ruby lithe).
So I though cool, I started cranking out about 10-15 pages per week raising my pay substantially, no one in the studio could keep up with me, and they were getting pissed. About 6 months into the new pricing model I got called into “the Office” I was asked if I called a certain female coworker a bitch (and not in an offensive manner, just a sorta, you are such a bitch), (side note she was a total bitch) I said yes because she kept getting in my way to get work done, for as you know I get paid for how much work I can produce, yada yada yada. I was shown the door.
That was late July 1989, it was summer, beautiful and warm out and I have not had a summer off in about 12 years (yes I’ve worked since I was 14). I decided I’m going to chill and take the rest of the summer off, I had bank, I wasn’t worried. I figured I could take a few freelance gigs, so long as they didn’t interfere with my summer plans.
I took a project from a dude who would later come and work for Fusebox (and his name was freakishly like mine, Thatcher Drew). He was a documentary filmmaker, he needed a sell sheet and a slipcover for his VHS that he was promoting. Budget $300, (I later found out that he made serious bank off that film and my work) cool I took it, easy job, bust it out in a day (it took longer…).
I was walking back from his office on the upper west side, (I had nothing else to do so why not walk to the east village). I was passing thru Columbus Circle, where the colosseum used to be, it’s now the Time Warner Center and I ran into a former SVA alumni. I liked this guy and thought he was going to do well in the world, towards the end of our 20 minute chat he mentioned that he was going in for double knee surgery in the next few weeks and had a great gig that he landed that he could not possibly do. He asked if I wanted it, I kinda hesitated, being that I was only a few weeks into taking the summer off, but said fuckin’ a bro, I would love to.
The project was to redesign a magazine called High School Sports, a small rag, only about 50-60 pages with a huge circulation of like 500k. So it was on! I not only had a company but we had major deadlines, something I have never dealt with in the past.
I hired my first employee, well kinda, I paid them cash cause I had no idea how to run a business, (thankfully my new found client also became my early mentor and helped me quite a bit in how to “get my business shit together”. I created a name for the company “Twelve Point Rule” (look it up on the wayback machine) And we redesign a stagnant boring looking Magazine into a vibrant cool fun publication. Did I mention that the magazine was completely produced on a Mac, yes in 1989, ouch, yes a lot of blood was spilled to make that happen.
The first few issues we had RC paper prints made from our Quark files and pasted them up on boards, very shortly after I convinced the printer that we should be printing 4 color film from the files. Surprised they did. So we were one of the first completely digital produced magazines in the history of publishing. Pretty Cool!
For the next 2 years We produced the High School Sports Magazine, (for a company called Pindar Press owned bt Harvet Rubenstein), the guide to the NY US Tennis Open, and six different Olympic viewing guides (funny note I recently found a bunch of my work regarding the Olympics, Texas University and others for sale on ebay, for some decent dollars, was almost tempted to purchase them since I somehow lost my originals in the mayhem of running this company), as the company grew, we grew with new clients. It was kinda cool
So the moral to this story (I don’t actully beleve in morals), calling someone a bitch was the spark that ignited the fire under Fusebox for the last 19 years.
Rock on you bitch
as a postscript, I wish I had some of the old graphics to post, many, many were really cool. but they have all been lost, (or maybe in my storage unit). I’m going to post the next chapter of the comapny soon, it’s a great story that involves a lot of great people over the years.