Harry Bleuzinski isn't bitter. "Bleuzinski, they say to me, you must be off your rocker. Here you are, laid off, and you're smiling all the time. So I say to them, man, I never had it so good."
Bleuzinski set down his Stroh's and picked up his cue stick. Outside Bill's Trojan Horse Billiards Parlor, around the corner from the shuttered auto factory, another Eyewitness Action News van was pulling up.
"Here they come again, Harry," called out Bill, a beefy guy in a red flannel shirt behind the bar.
A broad smile flashed across Bleuzinski's craggy face. From the back pocket of his jeans he pulled a small compact, took out a powder puff to dab pancake makeup on chin and nose, then bellowed over the whistles and jeers of the other unemployed auto workers clustered around the pool table:
"Let 'em in, Bill. I'm ready."
The TV crew, minicams at the ready, pushed through the crowd and encircled Bleuzinski. "OK, Harry," said Josh Walnick, the director, "we've got the network satellite feed at 6 o'clock. Make it good and we'll lead the show."
Bleuzinski perched on the pool table, leaned forward, and looked directly into the camera. The red light winked on. Walnick swept down his arm and pointed. Harry began to scowl.
"Well, I grew up in South Succotash. Best little town in Someplace. Had the best job you ever saw. Eight to 3 shift, made it all the way up from Warren truck to the Plymouth line. My job was the front door on the right. Had a camper, cabin on the lake, house near the plant, wife and two kids. Mabel's a waitress..."
Walnick quickly moved in front of the camera. "For God's sakes, Harry, get Mabel over here."
Mabel picked her way to Harry's side. "Look, Mabel," Walnick said, "when Harry's talking you stand there. Keep looking right at him. React to what he says. If you feel like doing something, do it."
"Whaddaya mean?" Mabel asked.
"Don't get me wrong, we don't want to tell you what to say, but if you feel emotional, act emotional. If you want to sob, sob. OK?"
"Gotcha," Mabel said.
"All right, Harry, here we go again. This time we're live."
"Hold it," Harry said.
He brought out his compact, put on more pancake, watched for the red light, and started scowling.
"Everything was great. We had it made. Then I got laid off."
Mabel began sobbing, softly at first, then louder.
"Great!" Walnick exclaimed to his camera crew. They panned to Mabel's face.
"Harry, how do you feel about President Reagan?" asked Ed Reddy, the Eyewitness Action News correspondent.
Harry looked pained. "I voted for him. He was my kind of guy. Not like that wimp Carter. Reagan, well, he was a real American, strong, but underneath you knew he was the softest touch we'd had in a long time. Now he seems like Scrooge."
Ed Reddy thrust his microphone closer. "Harry," he asked in a sincere voice, "how are you living?"
"Well, the unemployment's run out, so we get food stamps. And there's somethin' funny there. Every time Mabel goes in with the food stamps they try to give her vodka. How do you like that?"
"Yeah, vodka. And we don't even drink the stuff."
"Harry, what do you think about the Reagan budget cuts?"
"Well, I saw this guy on television the other day. He was limpin' around, like he was disabled, and he was saying he'd been dropped from Social Security and his wife was crying and the children were crying and they're all saying Reagan had cut them from the rolls. But I don't think they were truly needy. It's the guys who really work for a living that need the help now."
"Harry, now that your family's on welfare, what do you think about cuts in the welfare program?"
"Well, like I say, you get food stamps, they give you vodka, and the other day I heard this story about this welfare queen who drives up to the welfare office in a Cadillac and then goes back to her great big condo over the lake. Now we all take a little on the side. I mean, it's the system, right? But some of them are overdoing it. See, if you cut them off there's room for the rest of us."
"Harry, what do you think about Ronald Reagan personally?"
"Personally? Well, I think he's got a rightful image as a kind, generous, compassionate guy, but he better watch out. If he doesn't take better care of me, the media is going to crucify him."
"Thank you. On the scene from Bill's Trojan Horse Billiards Parlor in South Succotash, Someplace, this is Ed Reddy of Eyewitness Action News returning you to New York."
Cheers rang through the pool hall. "Attaboy, Harry," someone shouted. "You're a star."
"Harry, Harry." It was Bill, at the bar. "You've got a long distance call. They say it's urgent."
The crowd fell silent. Harry picked up the phone. He listened intently, nodded once or twice, said a few short words, and hung up.
"It was the Today Show," he announced to his friends. "They want to send a plane to pick me up for tomorrow morning. I told 'em no. I'm already booked for Good Morning America."
Bill yelled out again. "Hey, Harry, you got another urgent call."
"If it's my lecture agent, tell 'em I'm in conference."
He turned back to the pool game.