Real-Life Horror #5: High-rise Terrors
When I worked at TV Guide
in the early 1960s, I was on the 28th floor of the Sperry-Rand Building (at 1290 Sixth Avenue). The CBS building had just been constructed across the street. It was nicknamed Black Rock because the building was clad in unpolished Canadian black granite. One day I looked out the window and saw a small crack in the granite on the 27th floor. Some days later, I noticed it had widened. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I should report my observations, a scaffold was lowered, and three guys in suits and ties nervously climbed out a window, making a scary transfer to the scaffold. Later, a huge metal bolt was put in the crack, maybe to keep granite from falling to the street. Exactly how the final repair was accomplished I never knew. Years later, I learned that certain sidewalks in Manhattan have temporary coverings not because construction is underway but because pieces of buildings are falling off.
There were only three offices on the 28th floor: TV Guide
, Martin Ransohoff Productions and Jac Holzman's Elektra Records, with its subsidiaries Nonesuch Records and Nonesuch Films. One day I asked Holzman what films Nonesuch Films had made, and he said, "Nonesuch." When some kind of construction work was going on inside Elektra, I heard an odd sound, turned and saw a drill coming through the wall toward my head. I backed away.
Around the corner from the elevators was a door that obviously did not lead to Ransohoff, Elektra or TV Guide
. I became curious, and one day I turned the doorknob, realized it was unlocked, opened the door and gasped in amazement.
The door opened into a gigantic airshaft about 30 feet across. I stepped out onto a tiny platform with a waist-high railing. With one hand I clutched the railing. I was standing inside the airshaft, and I took care not to let the door close behind me, keeping my other hand on the doorknob. What if it closed... and then locked? In retrospect, the situation looked like it could have been a scene from Die Hard
. Wind swirled as I looked up toward the top of the building and down into darkness. There was nothing to see but other small platforms off in the distance. I stepped back inside and closed the door.
Every so often I recalled the moment of standing on that tiny ledge inside the immense interior. It had been like stepping into an alternate world from the brightly lit hallway. No one else ever seemed interested in the door, even when I described what I had seen. When the coffee cart rolled from the elevator, we stood in line in the hallway, and I would glance at the door, knowing the world beyond. I was haunted by that memory, and a month later, I opened the door again. This time was different. The wind was much stronger. Holding the door, I stepped out with only one foot. The intensity of the wind was such that I wondered if I could be suddenly sucked into the airshaft. With that fearful thought, I quickly stepped back into the hallway and never opened the door again.
Labels: die hard, holzman, real-life horror