It was Ken Auletta, the author, New Yorker contributor and Daily News columnist, who finally put the Feddecks in print. It had taken a long time, considering that the Feddeck family has been moving the households of media luminaries for 20 years.
The Feddecks came close three years ago after moving New York Times columnist Russell Baker into a Greenwich Village town house; he referred to his movers in a subsequent column about cockroaches, but not by name. "Mr. Baker could have mentioned Careful Moving & Storage, but he didn't," observes Fred C., the oldest Feddeck son. "The stiff." All those cartons of books--and they had to be lugged up to the brownstone's fourth-floor study, yet--and Baker only calls them "my movers."
But Auletta came through in his annual Good Guys awards column in the Daily News a couple of weeks ago. He honored a long list of Gotham worthies including the corned beef at the Carnegie Deli, and "the people at Careful Movers, who don't scratch or bruise furniture."
The Feddecks--father Fred F., still shouldering sideboards at 69; youngest son Jimmy, the driver; and Fred C., the manager--seem to be the Media Movers. As its name has passed from author to reporter to editor like a cherished anecdote, Careful Moving & Storage has moved Barbara Walters to her Park Avenue flat, put Gloria Emerson's ("Winners and Losers") belongings in storage "while she went down to El Salvador to protest or something," Fred C. reports. Weeks before the New York gossip columnists were onto the warming friendship, the Feddecks moved Carrie Fisher's sofa into Paul Simon's apartment. "We know a lot of the stuff before Liz Smith knows," says Fred C.
Careful Moving runs a single line in the Manhattan Yellow Pages and does no other advertising. It relies on the fact that New York is a collection of small towns, and that the very small town inhabited by journalists tends--what with books selling or not and reporters paper-hopping and couples splitting--toward considerable mobility.
Moving is a more salient phenomenon in New York than in Washington, thinks Feddeck client David Halberstam. "Very few people I know here live in the same apartment they had 10 years ago," says Halberstam. "Needs change; neighborhoods change; rents triple. Movers play a more basic function in a city of renters." Media folk also are gossipy by nature, of course, and the combination of mobility and chatter produces a lot of work for the three trucks and six employes of Careful Moving.
A case study: A Time magazine editor and a New York Times reporter are moving from the West Side to a brownstone in the East 50s. The reporter asks her agent, Amanda (Binky) Urban, about a mover. Urban recommends the Feddecks, who moved her and her husband, Auletta, from Central Park West to the East 80s last year. They heard about the Feddecks from David and Jean Halberstam, who in turn learned of the Feddecks many moves ago from Richard and Shirley Clurman (he's the Time-Life big shot turned consultant; she's with ABC's "20/20"). And Shirley Clurman (are you with us?) first used the Feddecks on the recommendation of Marion Javits, wife of former New York senator Jacob Javits.
Customers are quick to point out that they don't hire Careful Moving because of its cachet. (They also claim to relish the food at Elaine's.) They hire the Feddecks because friends describe them as reliable, courteous and reasonably priced in a city where walk-up apartments and double-parked taxis make moving particularly difficult and expensive. "The Halberstam Rule is that the sofa never fits down the tiny staircase," says David. "The essential mover shows up and says, 'Jesus, we've never seen a sofa that big or a staircase that small.' You feel guilty, and he doubles the price. Well, the Feddecks have seen lots of sofas that large and staircases that small and they get it done." Besides, the Feddecks take personal checks. In New York, your grandmother won't take your personal check.
For their part, the Feddecks say they'd prefer not to trade on their celebrity clientele. But Careful Moving is based in the South Bronx, which makes potential customers nervous. "Like there's vermin everywhere," Fred C. complains.
So he's got a little list. He tells potential movees about Clurman, Halberstam, Walters, et al. And about Marjorie Benchley, whom the Feddecks ferried from Nantucket to New York after her husband Nathaniel's death. And Cristina Ford, who keeps three crates of designer gowns in Careful's warehouse. And Jackie Onassis. (Fred doesn't mention that it's just five air-conditioners Jackie has removed from her windows and stored until spring.) He also passes out photocopies of the thank-you notes from Walters, Javits and Baker.
Russell Baker, the Feddeck brothers reminisce, had the greatest number of books to pack and haul. Auletta had a seven-foot-long desk to maneuver cross-town. Fred C.'s award for best inscription in a book presented as a gift by the author goes to Halberstam. "For the Feddecks, with gratitude for their excellence and affection for their friendship," he wrote on the flyleaf of the "The Breaks of the Game."
Fred's least favorite inscription came from Najeeb Halaby, former president of Pan Am, where Fred once worked before joining the family moving business. "To Fred Feddeck, a fellow Pan American and moving spirit," Halaby wrote in "Crosswinds." "Very weak imagery," Fred critiques. Besides, moving Halaby International's consulting office to Connecticut was a notably disorganized process. "If Mr. Halaby conducted the airline business the way he conducted his move, no wonder Pan Am's in trouble."
In general, though, the Feddecks regard their customers highly. Barbara Walters, for instance, won Jimmy's heart when she gave him a stuffed animal for his baby daughter. He felt genuinely sympathetic when the Shah of Iran complicated everything by abdicating in the middle of her move.
The Feddecks understand moving-day madness.
"Next to getting married," says Fred C., "moving is the most traumatic thing."