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Crane Davis

Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan

April 07, 2017

Call number: 2008.031.8.002

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SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. So, if you would tell me what you had breakfast --

CRANE DAVIS: No, but I haven't eaten breakfast yet, but [laughter] -- let’s see -- talk about the dogs. Two Labradors, a chocolate and a yellow, both of them two to three years old. He was bred for the ring, you know? Didn't make it in the shows, and she is a rescue out of Texas, out a hoarder situation. So the two of them are like Mutt and Jeff [laughter]. He's dumb as a box of rocks, but beautiful. She is not beautiful, but smart as a whip. So they sort of work together [laughter].





SADY SULLIVAN: We're good.

CRANE DAVIS: Good, good.

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. So, to slate the interview, today is April 7th, 2017, and 1:00I'm Sady Sullivan with Brooklyn Historical Society. We're here in the Catskills, New York, and, if you would, introduce yourself.

CRANE DAVIS: I'm Crane Davis. We're in Palenville, New York, and I lived in Dumbo from 1976 to about 2006. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Great. Thank you. So let's start just getting some biographical info. So if we could talk about your -- your early life, where you're from, where you grew up, parents, grandparents --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Parents were both in the Marine Corps in World War Two, and got married over in Hawaii during the war, eventually ended up in Dallas, Texas, after the war. [date redacted for privacy] Then we moved. Well, I lived there 2:00for ten years, public schools, moved up to Hingham, Massachusetts. Went to public schools up there for about five years. Moved into New York City when I was in -- was a sophomore in high school, and went to collegiate school on the Upper West Side through high school. Got a scholarship to Princeton, and it was a Navy ROTC scholarship. So I started at Princeton in '63, and graduated in '67, and at that point Vietnam was going on. So I went and spent two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer with the Marine Corps. Came back. Got stationed on Fifth Avenue as the Marine Corps spokesman in New York City for '70, '71. When I got 3:00out of there, I went to Time Magazine. Spent a year or so at Time Magazine as a reporter/writer. Then left that. Moved up to the -- back off the grid in the backwoods of Maine for about a year and a half. Came back. Went to public television, Channel Thirteen in New York. Spent several years there, producing and hosting news shows. Then in '76, I left WNET, and moved out of Manhattan, and found a loft over in -- on Washington Street, 31 Washington Street in Brooklyn, and moved in over there, and then lived there for thirty years -- yeah, thirty years. So, that's --

SADY SULLIVAN: Great. Thank you. I'm excited to hear about, you know, that 4:0030-year history, and then I have -- if we could go back, I have a few questions. So, both of your parents, mother and father, were --

CRANE DAVIS: Were both in the Marine Corps.

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. What -- well, tell me more -- well, it's unique that your mom was that --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. She was -- they were both -- how to say -- he was from Maine. Worked for a newspaper. Joined the Marine Corps before the war, because the Marine Corps was very, very aware of its public image. And so they hired people from newspapers, and PR background, basically, to do stories about Marines. The best story I can tell about -- about what they did for a living is during -- during -- if you look any documentaries about World War Two, it's black and white film footage. Until the very end of the war, you started seeing color film. The Marine Corps learned about color film that Kodak had, and they went to 5:00Kodak, and they recruited a m-- a guy who worked at Kodak, who had all of the color film, made him a major. He joined the Marine Corps on the condition that he would bring all of the color film with him. So that -- the Marine Corps film of World War Two is in color. The Army film of World War Two is in black and white, unless it's been colorized subsequently, but somebody back in those days figured that someday people are going to want to watch color instead of black and white, and so they cornered the market on color film. My mother was a junior college graduate, and -- out of Missouri where she'd gone to school there, Chicago, and Missouri, and she, midway through the war, joined the Marine Corps. She was a radio -- was doing a radio show. A Marine Corps recruiter came in, a 6:00woman Marine, and she just fell in love with what she heard, and then the uniform, and so on. Joined the Marine Corps. Met my father in California. They then -- he went overseas, and then they saw each other again in Hawaii late in the war, and in -- they were married in March of '44 -- sorry, March of '45, and I was born nine months later. She was discharged from the Marine Corps because of the pregnancy, basically. So, then when -- I sort of grew up with them, and figured I would probably go into the Marine Corps also. I think -- guessed, because that's what my parents had done. So, that's how I ended up taking the scholarship at Princeton to -- and then ending up in the Marine Corps eventually. So --


SADY SULLIVAN: So, in the Marine Corps, they were both doing a sort of journalism, PR, documentation stuff?

CRANE DAVIS: They were. They were. When -- when the first women arrived in Hawaii, they came over by ship. My mother was on the ship. She was a photographer, and did radio also. He was a writer. He was waiting in Hawaii for the ship to pull in. The story goes that they took the women immediately, and put them on a bus, just because there weren't many women there, and they wanted to get them through the men, basically. My father supposedly ran alongside the bus asking her to throw the film out, so that he could get it processed -- to get it in the process. So, that was -- his first words to her were "where's the film?" [laughter]. So -- but that was what -- they were what were called Combat Correspondents, is the technical name for what they did. So --


SADY SULLIVAN: And, so then when your -- your early years in Texas, did you have other family around, or it was just what?

CRANE DAVIS: A younger brother, four or five years old, and four or five years younger, three or four, sorry, and we were very close growing up, but in large part, I think because we -- my parents both loved reading. And so we both were very avid readers, and there weren't many kids around that I could talk to about what I had read, except my brother, and even though he was three years younger, he was a very bright kid, and very, very well read. So, we stayed close, still are today. So, that's -- and he in fact lived in Dumbo also. He moved over there. So, he was living in Dumbo at the time when I was living there.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, wow. That's cool.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah.

SADY SULLIVAN: And was there a faith or religion in your childhood?

CRANE DAVIS: No. Actually, if anything, probably an absence of it. My father was a -- well, he was an atheist. My mother took me to Sunday school, figuring that I probably should get some religious training, but it didn't stick that much. So there was really no religious background. They were both very -- I guess probably Humanists, is what you would call them now, but very moral people, and very committed to justice, I guess. That's a -- it's an interesting thing. One 10:00of the things I learned after I had been in the Marine Corps is it's pretty common in the Marine Corps that if you've been through that, you feel fairly secure in your beliefs, and you don't like to see people picking on people. So, it -- you know, that seems to run through most of the people I knew in the Marine Corps -- most. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: From sort -- people picking on people, from like micro to macro. Yeah. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. It was the -- I think that -- that's also sort of -- when I think of what happened in Dumbo, that's sort of what led me down the path that I went down there. So it was that attitude of -- you see, you know. You'll 11:00see someone with power abusing someone without power, and you can just look the other way, or you can do something about it, and my propensity was to do something about it, and that was, you know. I think I saw that in my parents. That would -- if they -- if there was a religion that was probably it.

SADY SULLIVAN: And did they, and you as a family, have connections back to Missouri and Maine?

CRANE DAVIS: Back to Maine. Missouri, really, her family died. My -- her father, my grandfather, I met once when I was maybe a year old. He had been gassed in World War One, in, in the war over in Europe, and died of a heart attack at a relatively young age. Her mother lived in Dallas. So, I grew up around her, the 12:00time that I was down there, and then went back several times, down to Dallas, to, to visit her there. His family -- his mother lived up in Maine. His father had been in the electrical -- had been a supervisor of a hydroelectric plant in Bangor, Maine. In fact, there's a picture up there of his Anah Temple, when they went down to Washington in the 1920s or '30s, and I asked him why did he join that group, and he said mostly to get apart -- away from their wives -- that they would just go down and drink and play cards, and so, and wear silly uniforms.

SADY SULLIVAN: So, I don't know -- yeah, I don't know what Anah Temple is. It's like a club, or --

CRANE DAVIS: It's -- yeah. It's a social organization. They do -- the Shriners is what they're called.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: So, it's, you know, and they get involved with hospitals, and -- but mostly it was to get away with the guys up in Ma-- the middle of Maine, where there wasn't much to do. So -- and he supposedly was self-educated, very well read. My mother talked a lot about him as being very bright and articulate. So, his wife up there was a school cook up in Maine, and my other grandmother was a food inspector in Oklahoma and Texas for a while, but that's -- So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Where? So they had been in Maine, and it sounds like your mother's side was Missouri and Texas.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah, they were -- she -- I think technically she was, I'm going to 14:00say, she was born in Oklahoma City, and then they moved to Chicago, which is where she grew up. Ironically, she ended up in a -- it was a Protestant family. She ended up in a Catholic school, because it was the best school in the area. So, she was not raised Catholic, but went to a Catholic school with the nuns, and, so, had a fair amount of religion in her background, but my -- we continue the relationship up in Maine. The -- actually there was a camp on the Penobscot River up in the woods of Maine, that my parents had bought in the '60s, and we continued until probably about ten years ago . We finally sold it to somebody up 15:00there, but we would go up there with the kids, and -- partially because it -- it had a lot of the features that this place has now. So that it -- once I had this place, I wasn't going up there as much as I had been. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And their immigration stories -- heritage --

CRANE DAVIS: The -- almost all Scots, Irish, English, Welsh. Davis is a Welsh name. It was a surprise to find my grandfather from Maine, the engineer of the hydroelectric plant, was doing -- looking at ancestry and stumbled across somebody who had already researched it. And all of a sudden, he had jumped from, 16:00you know, 1886, back to 1500 in England, where they had come over fairly early, quite early, and had turned north, and had gone from Boston step by step up the coast into central Maine, basically. My mother's family was -- and there are some pictures up there on the top of -- basically of her family. They were Ohio, central United States, and they were preachers, and patent medicine salesmen. The story was that somewhere back in the family, there was a Cherokee woman, and nobody knew who it was, because nobody wanted to talk about it for many, many 17:00years. So, I was researching, and found a woman -- found a woman in my line named Yaw -- Y, A, W -- who was from South Carolina, the Cherokee -- the original Cherokee area, and I Googled Yaw, and turned up a whole bunch of Yaws in the South Carolina area. And I concluded that Yaw must be a Cherokee name, because there were so many of them there, and then, probably a month later, I was doing some more research, and discovered that Yaw in fact a Palatine German name. There was a Mr. Yaw, who moved to South Carolina, and really, really liked 18:00Cherokee women. So, there are a whole lot of little Yaws running around that area. So, whether she is actually the person, or wh-- whether there ever was, you know. You look at the Elizabeth --


CRANE DAVIS: Wa-- Yeah, exactly, Elizabeth Warren thing, where the family grew up talking about, and then you discover it never happened, but I don't know if she was or wasn't, never could pin it down, but -- So, those are the -- probably not the only, you know, heritage things I could talk about.

SADY SULLIVAN: And, so now let's talk about the -- your first experiences of New York. So, as a high school student moving from Texas, that must have been a big transition.

CRANE DAVIS: It -- actually we went through Hingham. So I -- wasn't --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, right. Right.

CRANE DAVIS: -- wasn't direct, but it was -- couple. There were a couple of 19:00transitions there. One was that it -- I was going from a public school to collegiate, which was a very exclusive private school. The class was thirty --


CRANE DAVIS: -- boys only. There were a lot of parent names. You know. The way I can describe is that if there was a PTA meeting, you could look around the room, and there would be Ethel Merman, Arthur Rubinstein, a group of --

[interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: All right. So, Part two on April 7th, 2017. Yes. We were talking about Ethel Merman [laughter].

CRANE DAVIS: Right. If you went to a PTA meeting, it would be Ethel Merman, Loretta Young, Arthur Rubinstein, Jerome Weidman. Who else was there? There were 20:00-- there were a lot of kids who were there because their parents were well placed in society, basically. My brother and I were not from that bloodline, but we -- we basically tested well. So they were interested in having us come to the school, I guess because we would raise the average scores. That's the only way I can say it, and my parents, when we went to the city, it was actually a little strange, but they looked at three schools -- three private schools that they -- we narrowed it down to three private schools. And then my brother and I went and met with the headmasters of each of the schools, and decided which one of the 21:00three we wanted to go to. So it was a -- and Collegiate was a great school at that time.

SADY SULLIVAN: And were the three all in New York City, or?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah, they were all city. It was Horace Mann, Trinity, and Collegiate, were the three we looked at.

SADY SULLIVAN: And, was school the reason that your family was moving, or was there also a job?

CRANE DAVIS: A job. My father was with American Airlines at that point. He was in the public relations end of American Airlines, and he got transferred from Dallas up to Boston, and then five years later, from Boston down to New York, and my mother had been working also. She had been doing television in Dallas. Up in Hingham she was magazine writing, I think, and then when we moved to the city she started working with the March of Dimes, the -- what was at that time Polio, 22:00and became birth defects. They were the only -- what is it -- they were the only charity that cured their disease. Polio -- what's the Salk and Sabin vaccines -- and they found themselves in the position of having a huge setup, very well organized, fundraising, blah, blah, blah, and no disease. So they basically moved to birth defects as, as what -- as their area of research, and she was their chief writer for -- in that period. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And, so that -- in the 50s, 40s, and 50s, having your mom continue to work was not always common.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. No. It was -- actually when I came back, when I was in the Marine Corps and I came back to New York City -- I don't know if you know Bess 23:00Myerson -- she was a Miss America, actually first Jewish Miss America, from New York City, very bright lady, very accomplished, and I was at the Marine Corps' public affairs office in New York, and we got a call from a producer at the -- Bess was doing a new TV show. She was going to do an interview show, and -- so the producer called over and asked if I could be on the pilot for the show, and I said, "Sure." I wasn't quite sure what the topic was, what we were going to be talking about, but I said, "Fine." I went, and we got into the show, and it turned out that her position was, given the new woman, the new independent woman, does that frustrate you? And the reason I guess I had been picked was 24:00because I was a Captain in the Marine Corps, and they figured that I would be the most testosterone driven person they could bring on, and wave a red flag in front of it. I finally said to her -- I said, "Look. My mother was a woman Marine. My mother worked independently her whole life. If I could find someone like my mother, I would be more than delighted. The problem is they're -- for all the talk -- there really aren't that many who are as independent as my mother was. So, I'm probably not the person you should be asking this question. Now, I understand what you're asking [laughter]. I understand what you're trying to get, but -- " No. She was -- she was quite a lady, just a really impressive woman, and it was very, very lucky to end up where I ended up.


SADY SULLIVAN: So, where -- when you were at Collegiate, where were you living as a family?

CRANE DAVIS: Oh, we were down in Peter Cooper Village. We moved in down there, and my parents would live there for about fifteen, twenty years, I guess, before they both retired and moved out, but we were living on -- in down 23rd and First, and commuting up to school at 77th and Broadway, basically.

SADY SULLIVAN: And your brother went too?

CRANE DAVIS: He went to Collegiate also. Yeah. He was three years behind me. So, he was --

SADY SULLIVAN: And how -- what was -- what was that like being, as you said, someone who was there, who was not --

CRANE DAVIS: Not of the cloth?

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah [laughter].

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. It was eye opening, because I had -- all the people who were 26:00in that PTA meeting, all those parents, were people I knew only from seeing on television, and to suddenly have them walking around the building, and going over to a classmate's house and seeing Ethel Merman at home was -- it was being introduced into a much larger world than I had grown up in, and it was -- it was disconcerting. I mean, it was -- it was a radical change from what I had been used to. I can remember being angry at some point during high school basically because my parents weren't divorced, and everybody else's was. They -- they'd been through a couple of marriages, and I couldn't understand what was wrong with my parents, why [laughter], why they were together all this time. It was -- 27:00it was just an introduction to a very different world. In the end, it had a very salutary effect in that there weren't too many people I could meet who would cow me, that had to be somebody pretty special to -- to make me -- throw me off my game, basically. So -- yes. The one other thing I think it taught me was that with that kind of family, and with that kind of money, and with that kind of opportunity, there is no guarantee that you'll be a good person, that -- those two things are totally separate. And it gets back to what I said, the feeling 28:00about people being picked on, and there was an arrogance in a lot of these kids who -- what's the line about George Bush? That they were born on third base, and think they hit a triple. They felt -- and -- and it's exactly what I see in Trump. It's just that he never -- he always had everything he wanted. His name was always on the door. You know. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And were you engaged in activities and stuff there? Was there --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. I was. I was in -- did a lot of photography. I was Yearbook Editor. I was in the Glee Club. There was actually a quartet in a very -- as I said, my class was 30 people, basically. There was a quartet made of people in 29:00the high school. I was the third or fourth best voice in the quartet, which made me decide I wasn't very good [laughter]. However, one of them went on. One was John Rubinstein, who went on to play the lead in Pippin on Broadway. One became a professional choral singer afterwards. So, as I look back on it, if I had -- if I had a little more confidence [laughter], you know? But these were pretty talented people I was running with so.


CRANE DAVIS: The -- I'm trying to think. What else did I do at Collegiate? I had a very -- I was, for some reason, I had a propensity for languages. I found them -- they came very easily and I had a math teacher, and at that time, there was a 30:00language called Esperanto, which was theoretically going to be the language that everybody could learn, because it was made up of part Romance, part Slavic, part -- you know, they had borrowed a lot from different languages. And if we could all just learn this language, then we could all just talk to each other with no problem. At that time, there were no computers. There was no simultaneous translation. There were none of those things. So, it seemed like a great idea, and this math teacher was teaching it. So, I studied it, and never learned a whole lot of it, but the bigger problem was I never met anybody else who spoke it [laughter]. So there was never any opportunity to use it. So it was -- but that took part of my time also. It was that, and being a teenage boy, which took a lot of time, a lot of work [laughter]. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And would you -- did you have freedom to hang out in the city outside of school?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. I was -- I did. I have a very clear memory of my father, who 31:00had been a Marine Corps Master Sergeant. I went out one weekend night, and I said I was going to be home at midnight, and I didn't get home by midnight, and I didn't get home until about two in the morning, and I was trying to sneak to my bedroom, and the bedroom door opened. It was my father, and he stepped out, and looked at me and he said, "You told use that you were going to be home at midnight, and you weren't, and you didn't call. And for that reason, your mother has been up since midnight, and because your mother has been up since up midnight, I have been up since midnight, and I just want to make this very clear to you, if you want to do this, it's perfectly fine with us, just don't bother calling until at least eight o'clock the following morning, no matter what happens to you out there. I don't want to be called at four o'clock in the 32:00morning and told that you're in trouble. So, if you think you're ready for that, have at it." And I very, very religiously called up [laughter] from there on. I -- you know -- I didn't want to be out on the city on my -- but they were. They had a very strong attitude of saying, "You want to do this? Fine. Just understand the risks, and don't call us until after eight o'clock in the morning." That was -- yeah, and traveled around the city a lot. The great thing about the city being that you have buses and cars, and subways -- not cars -- subways that run all night, or cabs, and you can get anywhere, anytime. It was pretty much of a -- I -- I grew up from '60 to 2006 in New York City, and I'm 33:00told that the '70s and the '80s were a terrible time in the city. I have no memory of that. I have nothing but great memories of -- I loved Times Square the way it was in the days when it was dirty and wild, and it was a -- it was -- it was like living in Hong Kong. You know. It was -- which is what the city is. I mean, that's -- it's -- it's a port city. It's a major world city, and I regret a lot of the cleaning and polishing that went on around the city, but that's -- that's just me.


SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. We have -- I have a panoramic photo that my husband's uncle took of Times Square, just like a couple blocks in Times Square sometime in the '70s, and it's awesome [laughter].

CRANE DAVIS: Oh, God, it was a great -- it was -- it was wonderful. Actually I -- I went to work at WNET, at Channel Thirteen, and they had a nightly news show at the time. And I was the -- started out as the reporter on it, and ended up hosting it, and we had a guy who was doing stories about communities in New York, like the Russian community out at Coney Island, that he'd go and spend a couple of weeks out there interviewing, and put it together about how these people had moved here, and they're building the community, and blah, blah, blah, blah. And he had a wonderful way of telling the narrative, and structuring it, 35:00and so on. And I had a satirical sense of mind. So, I went to Times Square, and I did a piece modeled on his piece about the massage parlors of Times Square and how great it was that this economic renaissance was taking place in Times Square that -- that massage was driving the economy of -- and I literally went standing there with a pimp, talking with him about, in those terms, about the economic growth of the area, and how well his business was doing, and just the look on his face. He just thought I was from Planet Zulu. You know. [laughter] He was just -- but it was quite a city.

SADY SULLIVAN: And where in the -- in the '60s, where were you? So, high school 36:00time, where in the city did you -- was like the cool place to hang out?

CRANE DAVIS: I actually -- I loved jazz. I had a -- an uncle who was a psychiatrist up in Connecticut who would come to the city and I would go with him to Birdland and Metropole, and -- so we would -- he would take me, and we'd hang out. I got to see a lot of great, great jazz in those days, and then later, I went more up into Harlem. There were a couple of clubs up there that I would go up to, and hang out at. The -- in the '60s, I spent a lot of time hanging out at girls' schools also. It was -- it's strange to go to an all boys' school, because you basically sit with all boys thinking about girls. It's -- at that 37:00age, I've told many, many people that of all the drugs I ever did, testosterone was by far the strongest, and the -- the most mind numbing [laughter], just -- you know. There's no other drug I ever tried that could your brain going as fast. So -- but it was -- we would -- so, when you were out of school, you would try to get together with girls, if you could find a place to, and there were -- there was a place called, I think, Chason's, was on Madison Avenue, which was a little corner hang out, and we'd head over there and spend time. The teams -- 38:00the funny thing was that the athletic teams, our home field was Central Park, basically. So we would practice out there, and we didn't have any fields, per se, but we'd play at various schools that -- Fieldston, and schools around the city -- that had their own athletic fields, and, you know, that's -- that's what I remember. I was -- and I was into photography. So I would, oh, go around the city a lot and shoot stuff in the city at that point.

SADY SULLIVAN: And was your interest in photography -- did that come from your mom, or?

CRANE DAVIS: It actually came from the fact that, because of both my parents being in those industries and having worked in photography, but perhaps more was the fact that my father, through his work, had access to unlimited amounts of 39:00film. So, it was -- and if you -- I don't know if you remember photography before digital photography, but it [laughter] -- it was -- it cost you. You either did yourself, which I did. I had a darkroom, and would process my own stuff, but still, the film costs were pretty substantial. Then if you got them printed, then, you know, it was -- but, in -- he always had film around. In fact, they were -- they shot slides, primarily, and during World War Two, it was Kodachrome -- was the film, the thirty-five millimeter film that was used, and it -- it -- Kodachrome continues to today, but in the post-war period, Ektachrome came out, and Ektachrome was a faster, more light sensitive film. So you could shoot it in darker, indoors, et cetera, and I inherited their 40:00collection of slides, basically. My brother and I did. I went down and -- five years ago, ten years ago -- went down and pulled slides out, and brought them up here and went through them, and the dyes in the Ektachrome have faded. They're -- they're almost all gone now, but Kodachrome dyes are -- just held the whole time. So the oldest slides are the ones that are -- are the best quality and have held up, and everything else. It just -- it's sort of -- there's an odd feeling when you -- when you open up a box of slides, and your life is very faintly, you know, you can sort of -- it's almost like your memory [laughter]. It's almost gone.


CRANE DAVIS: Sort of a metaphysical moment. It's -- looking through that stuff.

SADY SULLIVAN: So, ROTC -- your during high school?


CRANE DAVIS: I -- I -- no. Not during high school.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, that was college.

CRANE DAVIS: It was in college. I -- when I graduated, it was very strange. You took the admissions test for college. You took your SATs, and your whatever, but then there was a separate test for the scholarship, and the -- whether you got the scholarship or not depended on how many -- which schools you would go to, and to take the scholarship. I didn't -- I did extremely well on the college entrance tests. I did not do well, apparently, on the ROTC test. So that, had I wanted to go to the University of Texas, I couldn't have got the scholarship, but since I wanted to go to Princeton, that was fine. So it was a very strange 42:00sort of thing. Then, when I got to Princeton, they offered, based on my advanced placement stuff that I had done, they offered to let me start as a sophomore. I could skip freshman year and start as a sophomore, and do it in three years, but if I did that, I wouldn't be twenty-one when I graduated, and I couldn't get a commission. So, I had to give up the scholarship. So, I had a choice of either paying for three years, or getting four years free. So I took the four years free, and since I already had -- my major in college was Spanish, only because I was fluent in Spanish by the time I got to Princeton, and it meant that I really didn't have to take many Spanish courses. I could take almost anything I wanted from -- they were very open about "if you see a course you like, you can take 43:00it," and I had a senile advisor [laughter], which is very helpful, because I could talk him into just about anything. And it all worked out until my senior year, when my advisor retired, and I got a young pedant in, who sort of looked at what I had done. He was not a happy man. He was -- I hadn't studied any Spanish while I had been at Princeton, but I'd had a great time. I really had -- took some great courses.

SADY SULLIVAN: What were your interests?

CRANE DAVIS: Oh, psychology. I did a lot of psychology. I did a lot of history, a lot of politics, did some statistics, did Asian history. The -- when I went to Princeton in '63, Vietnam didn't exist as a -- as anything. Nobody even knew -- 44:00there were no -- there was nobody in the United States who knew anything about Vietnam, basically. In '65, I'm two years into it at Princeton, Marines are sent to Vietnam. So that now I'm looking at "this is where I'm going to be in two years." So I tried to study what I could, and there was one survey course of Chinese and Japanese history, and I took it, and it never mentioned Vietnam, or if it did, it was just, you know, in passing, but it was amazing how little there was. There were -- the books on Vietnam -- were primarily books written by French authors about the war, about Dien Bien Phu, and the -- the -- the French 45:00Vietnamese War, and there were five books that you could read about Vietnam in English.


CRANE DAVIS: That was the whole body of knowledge, and that -- one of them was fiction. The -- you know -- it was -- was very, very interesting to go from knowing -- having worked very hard to learn about stuff, to end up going to a place where no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't learn anything about, you know, in advance. They did -- I took -- I was basically a Romance Language major. So I had -- by the time I left Princeton, I had studied Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, never took a course in French, but ended pretty much being 46:00able to understand French, just because of all of the other Romance languages. And when I hit the Marine Corps, I went through language school there for Vietnamese -- a very , very brief six-week intensive, twenty-four-hour day Vietnamese course, and that was it. That was -- you know -- what I knew about Vietnam was based on all that. So -- but it was interesting, the -- being in ROTC at a campus in that period, because I graduated in '67. In '67 is really where the first major demonstrations started showing up, but there was an air about the military even before that on campus. So it was -- I remember reading a 47:00comment by a member of the Yale faculty in that period, and they were very upset. They threw ROTC off campus, and one of the reasons for it was that the courses that you took for ROTC -- basically you'd take five courses a semester, and one of them would be the ROTC course, whatever that was. And the argument was that those courses did not measure up intellectually to the other courses at Princeton, and so they were not -- and my argument was that they were absolutely correct, but the final exam was a bitch. You get to spend a year in Vietnam fighting, and guess what, it's quite a test boys. I mean, you know, if you want 48:00to go over there with your economics course and see how you do, you know, good luck to you. It's -- so --

SADY SULLIVAN: And was there -- were you experiencing that socially with peers?

CRANE DAVIS: No. It was interesting. Actually I was -- probably based on the photography -- I was an -- I was hanging with the artists there, and I'm, in the summer, I'm going away for part of the summer to -- well the Intrepid, the aircraft, I was stationed on the Intrepid in the Mediterranean one summer. I went down to Quantico for Marine Corps. One summer I went down to Corpus Christi for aviation, flying for a period, and they were just sort of offering up the various areas that I could go into on graduation. So I was spending my summers 49:00doing that, and then coming back to Princeton, and hanging with the artist group. And I remember one year, we had -- we used to have a big weekend each year, where we would invite artists to come to Princeton and speak on -- and I remember sitting with Allen Ginsberg, smoking dope in the room, and they were -- because I had no hair, they were sort of aware that I was, you know, probably, and we talked a little bit about the fact that I was in ROTC, and that I was headed for Vietnam, but there was no -- nothing pejorative. And in that whole weekend, we had a whole lot of very famous names who were there, and there was 50:00never any discussion of the war that weekend in any of the speeches that -- that I went to. So it -- I think what's happened, is looking back on it, in the histories of the period, they track back the fact that at the University of Michigan, the first Moratorium Day was held, and blah, blah, and so on and so on. But generally, across the society, there really wasn't much -- you can give an example from '66, but that was an isolated example, and then it really doesn't, until '60-- late '67 is the first major Washington protest, and by that time, I'm at Quantico about three months from going to Vietnam. I'm in training. 51:00So it's -- but we've -- we've sort of back-timed it to make it appear inevitable from the time. And as I say, there was nothing -- there was no way to understand, because there were only five books [laughter]. It was -- even if you wanted. I tried. So it was -- it was not as clear in '67 as it appears in hindsight. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And was that -- what was your feeling when it was then time for you to go over?

CRANE DAVIS: I was very confused because it was -- all of my friends were moving to anti-war, and I had no basis, even though I had -- had done a lot of research, I couldn't find -- I couldn't find my footing in terms of yes or no. 52:00So my -- what I concluded was that I'll go, and I'll know if it doesn't feel right, and it -- that -- that -- that's about the only thing. You know. But I though seriously about not going. Not -- when I say seriously, I thought about not going. I guess I was pretty much committed to go, but felt pretty free to walk away if that, you know, if that's what it came to. So, and then when I arrived there, I began to, based on what I saw, became convinced that we were doing the right thing that -- I'll just go on with the -- as a language major, I 53:00ended up -- I had a rifle platoon. And we were out in the night, one night, and we were sleeping, and we had several guys break into the camp. At language school, my language teacher taught me -- my Vietnamese teacher said, "You're learning South Vietnamese. North Vietnamese sounds very different." And I said, "Well, how does it sound different." And he said, "You'll know it when you hear it. It's just very distinct from South Vietnamese." I said, "Okay." This night when we've got the guys in the base, I wake up, a hand grenade goes off above me. And so I'm wounded, and concussed, and I hear a voice screaming, and I thought to myself, "Well, that's North Vietnamese," and then I said to myself -- you study a lot of languages. And the thing you know is that the only way that 54:00you can take a language and split it is if you isolate the populations from each other, and everything I know about Vietnamese history, that never happened. There's nothing in Vietnamese history about it ever being split. So that sort of stuck in the back of my mind from that night on, and then when I retired up here, I began to research, began to finally go back and read all the stuff that had been written about Vietnam. And I read probably a hundred books that. I'd find little bits and pieces but nobody explains how this had happened until I started reading stuff, not post-war stuff about Vietnam and not Vietnamese history about Vietnam, but Cambodian history about Vietnam, and Chinese history about Vietnam. Vietnam is the only language where they have changed the way it 55:00is written. In the 1920s, the French -- it was originally written with Chinese characters -- in the 1920s, the French basically transitioned the Vietnamese education system over to a Roman character writing of it. So all the kids who went to school after that learned how to use it, which is why if you look at Vietnamese, it's written with Roman characters. You almost believe you can understand it, and that for -- knowing so many Romance languages, I said, "Well, how hard can this be?" Well, it's a bitch. It's -- because it's really totally different, but when they did that, they -- and -- and remember this is a period when the French colonial government is ruling Vietnam, and so it's a period when 56:00nationalism is growing, when the independence movement is growing in Vietnam. They split the country into three parts at that point. There were -- there was no Vietnam. It was Tonkin, Cochinchina, and Annam, were the three states they created. So, the Vietnamese, who were basically translating everything from the old Vietnamese-Chinese characters to the new writing of it, bringing it forward, it turns out that from 1600s through 1820, there were two Vietnams, and they were at war with each other. And there were three walls, from the mountains to the ocean, 20 feet high, between the two countries, which is the period in which the language separated, because they were at war with each other. However, because they were trying to throw over the French government, the Vietnamese 57:00didn't want to promote the idea that they had ever been split. We have always been Vietnam. You know. We are all together, et cetera, et cetera. So they go through the war with France. Now France departs, and now the Vietnamese are free, and suddenly, it looks the North is going to rule the South, and the South, basically, had not only fought against -- the North had invaded the South about ten times, between 1600 and 1900, and lost every one of them. The South actually had beaten the North in the final battle and it was the -- the Southern government that French overthrew when they took over Vietnam. Now the South is looking at it, and they're seeing that the settlement that was signed in Geneva means that Hanoi in the North is going to rule all of Vietnam. That's what the 58:00fighting was about. It wasn't -- we -- we weren't fighting a guerilla movement of -- of Vietnamese who wanted to be free, because if that were true, all they had to do was say, "We want to be free. We're not going to fight with each other. Let's be free."


CRANE DAVIS: But -- and that was reason why we were so conflicted over the -- the -- the interesting -- the -- couple of statistics show that the people who fought in Vietnam, two thirds of them were volunteers. It's treated as a draft war, but it in fact was a volunteer war, and of the people who fought in Vietnam, the only survey that's ever been done that -- that was an actual survey where they -- we know that the people who answered the questions served in Vietnam. We know where they were and what they did. Sixty Seventy% of the 59:00veterans of Vietnam are very proud of what they did there. They don't see it as a major mistake. Two-thirds said they would do it again. I myself served for thirteen months, and then voluntarily stayed for another six months. The -- the view of the Vietnam war between those who were here, and those who were there is diametrically opposed, and it's a little ironic that it was the people who were there who feel that it was not a bad thing [laughter]. You know. They -- if you were to say, "Who knows anything about Vietnam?" You might talk to the people who have been there for a year or two, but we got locked into the vision, because of the wanting to be part of the third world movement to independence that we were -- the Chinese occupied Vietnam. The French occupied Vietnam, and now the Americans are occupying Vietnam. No. Not quite, but wait a minute, 60:00they've been fighting for 200 years.

SADY SULLIVAN: Right, but there's history before this. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Exactly [laughter]. I know we're doing this for their sake, but let's ask them.

SADY SULLIVAN: Right [laughter].

CRANE DAVIS: So, anyway, long story short, that's what --

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. That's really interesting.

CRANE DAVIS: So, that's what -- that what I ended up spending the last ten years doing, after I got through this.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah. Do you -- I mean, this is an aside, do you plan to like write anything, or?

CRANE DAVIS: I've got a book that's written that now I've got to go back and edit, but --

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Oh, great.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. We're coming up on the fiftieth anniversary. So it will be interesting. Ken Burns has a public television documentary coming out, a series about Vietnam, this year. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, I didn't know that.

CRANE DAVIS: It should be interesting. So, what was your question [laughter]?

SADY SULLIVAN: Let's see. Where were we? Well, so I was -- I was interested in -- well, I guess let's -- let's go to when you -- so you come back from Vietnam. 61:00Did you come back to New York City, and I'm assuming?

CRANE DAVIS: Mm-hm. I got stationed on Fifth Avenue, right across from 666 Fifth Avenue. There was an office which was the -- all four services had an office there, and we were doing -- I was going out and speaking at schools, and stuff like that. I remember sitting at my desk in that office with Sergeant Branley, who was one of the people stationed there, and his desk was pushed up against mine, facing me, and the phone rang, and Branley takes it and he says, "Yeah. Yeah. No. No. No. No. We're not here -- no. Not Saturdays, we're not. Okay. Thank you." And he hangs up, and I said, "What was that?" And he said, "Bomb threat."


CRANE DAVIS: [laughter] We were getting them so regularly that he was just -- you know -- "leave it outside." But it was -- it was very interesting time, 62:00again, to be in the city, because I was -- I was in uniform. And then I would go down and speak at Quantico to the young officers, the ones that were coming out of training, and headed for Vietnam, about press relations, and the -- in Vietnam I -- I was a -- because I spoke Vietnamese, the first job was dealing with the Vietnamese in the area where my regiment was, which is probably about five thousand men, south of Da Nag. I then took over a rifle platoon, and -- in that same area -- then the unit I was with was the first unit that got pulled out of Vietnam, in the de-escalation. So I got transferred to a different Marine unit, and I ended up working at the regimental headquarters down -- in the same 63:00area. And then when I extended for six months, I got stationed at Division Headquarters as Press Officer, as the public spokesman for -- for the First Division, and dealt with the press that was in Vietnam at the time. And then from there I came back to Manhattan to the press office there, and did that for a year and a half, a little bit more. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. So that's a really -- I imagine that was -- that's a really interesting time to be doing press [laughter].

CRANE DAVIS: It was. It was. Yeah. Yeah. It was -- and then when I -- when I came back to New York. There was no compensation in pay, whether you were at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, or Fifth Avenue in New York City, but they did 64:00allow me to take another job. They said, "You can freelance, blah, blah." So I ended up stringing for Time Magazine in New York. So, I'm literally working with the press as part of the Time New York Bureau in New York, and at the same time I'm the spokesperson for the Marine Corps, dealing with the press on issues, and then when I left there I went full time with the New York Bureau --


CRANE DAVIS: -- with Time. Yeah. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And so, at that time -- so you're in uniform like most days, or every day, or?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. I was in -- most days I was in uniform. They were pretty -- basically -- because now this is -- I arrived there in late 1969, at which point the anti-war movement is full-blown, and the general who was in charge of the 65:00Marine Corps public information at that point, said to me basically, "I'm not going to tell you what to do. You're on the scene. You make the call. You screw up, you're out of there." I said, "Fine." That's -- so, I pretty much had the freedom to dress, to do, to say. When we went down to Quantico, to Marine Corps, where the -- where the Marine Corps offices go through training, and we were going to address a class of 220, the general introduced me as the Abbie Hoffman of the Marine Corps. So, I figure I played it sort of right up the middle. I was hated by both sides. It was -- you know [laughter]. So, it was a very interesting time.

SADY SULLIVAN: And what was your -- you know -- so when you're back in New York, 66:00what was social scene? I mean, being down the middle, like how [laughter]?

CRANE DAVIS: Well, one of my strongest memories from that period was being invited to the South Vietnamese National Day Celebration at the United Nations. I came in my dress blues, and it was a very dressy occasion, and at some point, I looked across the room, and there was the most gorgeous Eastern European woman, straight out of Doctor Zhivago. I mean, just, you know, with the hair piled -- dark hair piled up and so on, and so on. She was just -- and I stared at her for a few minutes, and then lost track of her, and talking to someone else, and I suddenly felt a hand on my arm, and I turn, and it's her, and she 67:00looks at me, and she says, "Excuse me. The uniform you're wearing, whose is it?" And I said, "It's the Marine Corps." And she said, "Yes, but of what nation?" And I just thought, "Shit. I could have said Polish Cavalry." [laughter] You know. I could have -- damn! So, that didn't happen everyday though [laughter]. It was -- it was -- it was kind of actually -- it was kind of -- it was kind of interesting because everybody, and this -- this -- women. It was men too, but socially, women felt that I must have -- I was from Vietnam, and therefore I had suffered so much that I needed to be taken care of, that -- and I didn't feel 68:00that way. You know. I didn't, but it must have been really terrible. I had -- I had a woman who had been in the movement, pretty close to the center of the action, who I worked with at Channel Thirteen, and she was talking to me one night, and we -- we -- I didn't know much about her. She didn't know much about me, and she told the story of what had happened in that period, and being in the movement, and being in Chicago, and the violence, and the attacks, and the gas, and the blah, and the blah, and the blah, and it was a wonderful tale. It was so heroic, and so, and then she finished her story, and she sort of turned to me and she said, "Well, where were you?" And I said, "Well, I was out of the country at the time. I missed all that." You know [laughter]. God, I didn't have 69:00a story to match hers. It was -- it was -- it was so absorbing. You live the myth in that period, and there were just a lot of, particularly the circle of people that I was hanging with, again, artists, and the -- they were so into themselves, and their conviction of what was right and wrong, and how bad it was, and you know, literally, baby killers, we were all baby killers. It was -- you know -- and it didn't -- if you explained that you had never seen that, it was just that you were the exception, that you somehow magically didn't have that happen, but it was -- the other thing that was interesting was that when I 70:00was stringing for Time Magazine at that point, I did a proposal to do a cover on The Grateful Dead. And so I ended up spending a month living with them here in New York when they were playing Fillmore East, and so on. So I was -- they were staying at a hotel on 59th street, and I would go up -- during the daytime -- go up there and talk with them, and then at night go down to the concerts, and so it was -- and I was in the Marine Corps. I was a Captain in the Marine Corps at the time. So it was a long, strange trip. It was -- yeah, it was --


CRANE DAVIS: -- but again, they were the least judgmental pe-- they were -- they 71:00were kind of interested in -- in -- in wanting to hear me talk about it, not to argue about it, but to -- So that was an interesting period.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. So there were people who would ask actually what your experience was like? Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. There were. There were assumptions almost always. I mean, from the get go, there were assumptions, but a lot of people could get around that fairly quickly, and when -- when -- when they sort of realized that what they knew about Vietnam was from people like them who knew nothing about Vietnam, you know. It -- and the -- the other thing was at that point you fairly quickly, because of Nixon, you fairly quickly moved into a scary period that 72:00wasn't so much Vietnam related as it was "is the place going to fall apart". When I was at Channel Thirteen, I remember the day when it was going down with Nixon, and one of the people I worked with at Channel Thirteen had been a correspondent in Vietnam. And I had known him briefly over there, and we were back there, and he was absolutely convinced that the military was going to revolt, that there was going to be coup, and I said, "Wait a minute." You know. [laughter] Say what you want. Understand that everyone who is in the military was a kid in high school three years ago. They didn't suddenly become the Wehrmacht. It's -- you don't have to worry. If anything, it's going to be the military that puts a lid on it, and says, "Let's all slow down here, and let's 73:00-- " That was the last thing you had to worry about, but that was the mentality at that point, was that it was going to all fall apart, pretty similar to what's going on right now, which is why when you see McMaster and some of the generals that have been brought in, I actually feel a little more comfort, just because he's such a wildcard. You know. So, at least I know these are -- these are mature adults. So, anyway, then go and rock it. Oh, well.

SADY SULLIVAN: Did your brother also do ROTC?

CRANE DAVIS: No. He actually went for his physical. He -- he was going to go to teach in Italy, and I convinced to get his physical before he went to Italy, 74:00because otherwise he was going to go over, get his physical, and I was pretty sure he wasn't going to pass his physical, because he had for many, many years, used what was called Afrin, which was a nasal spray, which is basically hydrochloric acid. And what it did was it sort of burned, and made your mucus membranes contract. So it opened up your -- well, he pretty much burned out his sinuses, and I had a feeling he was going to be -- So, I said to him, "Look. If I can set it up, so that you can go get your physical before you leave, will you do it?" I said, "Look. Do me a favor. Trust me. Trust the system. We'll -- we'll -- " You know. So, I called up a captain, a Navy captain who -- a Marine Corps captain is a very junior to a Navy captain. They're two different ranks, just 75:00two whole different worlds. It's close to a general, and so there's a captain down on Whitehall Street in Manhattan. I told him who I was, and I said, "Here's the situation. Could you do me the courtesy of having him get his physical." He said, "It's not a lot a request we get a lot, people wanting to get their draft physical early," but he said, "Yeah. No problem." And so I said, "Thank you." And I told my brother, "Be there at such and such time, such -- " And he goes down there, and I'm in the office working, and I get a call, and he is pissed. He is really pissed. He's -- he's run into an enlisted -- Navy enlisted man -- senior enlisted man down there, and he's told him they don't do that. "No way we're going to do that."

SADY SULLIVAN: Do the -- do his physical?

CRANE DAVIS: Do his physical. Yeah. Yeah. So, I said, "Well, is Captain Jackson 76:00there." And he said, "He's not here today." I said, "Okay. Would you put the mate -- the Navy man on the phone with me." And he put us on the phone together, and I said, "Top. This is Captain Davis in the Marine Corps. I'm up on Fifth Avenue. I spoke with Captain Jackson last week about this. It's all arranged. He's well aware of it. I understand he's not there today, but let me just say that I'm one wee-- one month away from getting out of the Marine Corps, and they may have to call me back to testify at your fucking trial, because I'm going to come down there and break both your fucking legs and shove them up your ass if you don't get this done." I slammed the phone down, and about five minutes later the phone rings. My brother, "Wow. They say I'm out." [Laughter] I said, "Good. Trust the system. The system works." You know, we're -- [laughter] but it was 77:00just infuriating to have that happen. So he went off to Italy, and he was 4-F, because of the sinus condition. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: And he, just out curiosity, was -- so he was -- the Afrin was just because he had allergies or something?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. He -- he -- from -- from the time he was, I don't know how old. Probably when he was about 14, he started using it, and it cautions. In those days it said on it, don't use it too much. Yeah. Well, if you're stuffy, you use it. You know. So, he -- he had burned out -- he didn't do it to get out the draft [laughter]. I know that.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah. No. No.

CRANE DAVIS: No. It was long before that.

SADY SULLIVAN: And did he have feelings -- I mean did he not want to go? Like was he?

CRANE DAVIS: He probably wouldn't have gone. He -- he would have -- I guess we never got to that point, because I said to him, "I'm ninety% sure that you're 78:00going to get out on a 4-F anyway. So, before you make the decision to move to Canada, let's find out if it's even a question," and so it was -- it turned out he was out. It was -- one of the interesting things about the -- the draft, was that over half of the people were eliminated, were -- were 4-Fed basically, except that the, among white males, the leading reason was obesity, and among African American males, it was generally the intelligence test. The way it was -- and it's probably because it was racially white -- the test itself but.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Had a bias to it.

CRANE DAVIS: They tended to be physically much more fit than the white kids who were coming in.


SADY SULLIVAN: I have to change the SD card.

CRANE DAVIS: Absolutely, let me --

[interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. So, this is part three on April 7th, 2017, and so I thought we could start with the '70s, like right before you moved to Washington Street. So, you know, where were you living? What were you doing?

CRANE DAVIS: I was living on West 56th Street and working at Channel Thirteen, and by that time I was hosting the show that was called -- sure, right, what was the show called? 51st State, which was a new show, and had my own series, which 80:00was a series of specials that were -- grew out of the fact that we were doing pledge weeks, and in those days they would literally install phones in the studio. So, AT&T comes in and then NYNEX or whoever installs 50 phones in the studio, and they're there for the week, the pledge week, and then they come and pull them out. The cost is in the putting in and taking out. So, I suddenly thought, "Well, as long as they're here, we can keep them for an extra three days, four days, and do a show, and get subject matter experts on the phone to answer questions," so that -- for example, we did one on Social Security. We did 81:00one on welfare. We did unemployment. We did health. Then we did sex. Then we did the gay community in New York, and this is 1975, and what had happened was that the gay community had come to Channel Thirteen and said, "You're doing no programming at all for the gay community. Somebody has to do some programming for the gay community." So the guy who was in charge of 13 at that point called his three hosts in to his office, that would be me, and Bill Moyers, and Robin MacNeil, who was the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, and he said, "One of you is going to have to host a show on the gay community." And I had a sense that I knew where 82:00this was going to end up -- that I was probably the one who was going to end up with the job]. So I volunteered, and we did a three-hour live special called "Lesbians and Gay Men, We're Here and We Care," and we had about 70 lesbians and gay men in the studios on the phones. And it was the highest rated local show in the history of Channel Thirteen, got the most mail of any show in the history of Channel Thirteen, and was just a blast, was -- was a riot, and the interesting thing was going back to see it recently, looking at the tape, realizing that 83:00almost all of the males died --


CRANE DAVIS: -- after that, because it was just before the AIDS epidemic, and we had a section in the show about -- two, actually two sections -- about medical issues in the gay community, one about male, one about female. And there was absolutely no mention of AIDS or SIDS, or any of the pre-cursor names, that there were no -- within the gay community -- there were no significant health issues. So -- so it was a little ironic.

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. Yeah. And so, I don't understand exactly the format, like the people were --

CRANE DAVIS: I was hosting. So, one of the first things that happened was when the gay community came together, I said, "Look. You've got a shot. You've got two choices. You can find someone who is gay, who is out and gay, to host the 84:00program, or you can trust me to host the program, and do it fairly, and balanced." Well, at that time almost nobody was out. We actually had a -- the news director -- not the news director -- he was the program director at Channel Thirteen at that point -- had been a news man at CBS, who had been run off the air because he was gay, but he was not out. I mean, it was known that that's why he had left, but he was not out. The director of my -- of the show was gay, but was not out. It was still at a time when -- when it was really -- Somebody was talking to me about the -- just before the raid at the Stonewall -- the New York 85:00City had a law, and what it meant was that if you went to a gay club, couples would dance together, but there was a stepladder in the center of the dance floor, with somebody sitting up on the stepladder with a flashlight, sort of going around from couple to couple. And each time the flashlight would come around, they would part, and stop dancing close, and as the flashlight went by, they would start dancing close, and if you can imagine that kind of life, it was a pretty, pretty, pretty weird time. Anyway, they decided to -- to trust me to host it, and it -- I think the thing that I was proudest of was we had over a 86:00thousand letters, and they split almost evenly, people saying how great it was to see a show with a gay host, and it was so great to see someone who wasn't gay who was able to --


CRANE DAVIS: -- so, I figured, "Okay. Cool." You know. So, it was --

SADY SULLIVAN: And the phones, would people -- like audience people would be calling and they'd get --

CRANE DAVIS: On the phones there were gay men and lesbians who were from various gay organizations.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. And would they be out definitely, or they would --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. They were all out. They were on camera. They were -- yeah. Yeah.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, they were. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: So, it was -- and the -- you know -- the letters that were to me the most touching, where there was one guy from central or southern Jersey, who 87:00just said, "You know. I live in a little town in -- down in Jersey, and I had never realized that there were this many people like me." Just -- yeah. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: How did -- this is going back a bit -- but how did you -- so, how did you transition from Time and -- and writing to TV?

CRANE DAVIS: I went up to Maine --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, yes. I would like to know more about that. Okay.

CRANE DAVIS: We had a -- my parents had bought this camp up there, and I -- after I had been at Time for about a year, and it was -- this was Nixon administration, and we were getting ready to go the 1972 convention in Miami. And I was being put in charge of convention coverage -- organizing convention 88:00coverage, and I -- the more I stayed at Time -- and then they practiced what they called -- what did they call it? Group journalism. There were no bylines. People in the field filed stuff that came back in the writer, who was in New York, who then molded it, melded it and produced the story, and none of those peoples' names appeared on it. So, it was -- it was anonymous, and so on. It was also very heavily driven by politics and ad-revenue interests and things like that. So that -- and I -- I was -- I ended up being the Assistant to the Chief of Correspondence, and ended up sitting in a lot of very high meetings, and 89:00listening to what was going on, and dec-- how decisions were being made and so on, and it made me crazy, basically, because it was nothing like I had imagined a job like would be. It was just totally apart from the -- the truth of what was going on. Everything else got considered before the content got considered -- con-- considered, and I was coming off of getting out of the Marine Corps, having been in Vietnam, really hadn't slowed down at all since I'd come back. So, you know, there's some question in my mind about how much of it was a delayed reaction to being in Vietnam, how much of it was a real reaction to what I saw at Time. I -- I -- I think what I learned at Time was I was not cut out to 90:00be part of a corporate structure. I just don't -- didn't -- didn't function well in that kind of environment. So -- but it was interesting. It, in the time that I was there, I traveled around the world, flew from New York to Chicago, to Anchorage, to Tokyo, where I met with the Premier of Japan, had dinner with him, flew on to Vietnam, went back to visit some parts of Vietnam while I was there, went to Nationalist China. I was growing a beard at that point. So I wasn't allowed to meet with the head of Nationalist China, because he just denounced who wore beards like two days before we got there. And then -- then traveled on around, actually landed in Iran, didn't get off the plane, but -- and ended 91:00going to Cyprus for a week-and-a-half, two-weeks' vacation there, and then visited my brother who was in Florence at that point. So it was a good gig. It was --

SADY SULLIVAN: But the -- when you say that the corporate structure, I mean, I get what you mean, but could you elaborate a bit, like it was the priorities of it, or the?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. I -- the -- the best example I can think of was a story I had been working, which was about rugby, about -- because there were teams forming up in New York at that point, and I was actually playing, and said, "You know. Why don't I do a piece about it, because it's a funky little sport, and so on," and it got -- everybody loved the story. It was ready to run. The magazine came out. I got the magazine, and the story didn't run, and instead there was a story 92:00about Lake Havasu, Arizona, which is a development resort, blah, blah, blah, blah, and then I found out that the Associate Editor of the magazine was close friends with the guy who owned Lake Havasu, and, you know, I say, "Okay. Well, you know, frankly, if I want to do that, I can get paid a lot more for doing corporate shill work than I can for -- " You know. "So, why am I here?" That was the -- the -- that's the one I remember -- I think. Yeah. That's one of the things.

SADY SULLIVAN: That makes it clear. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Okay. I get it.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. So -- so going to Maine.


CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. I just spoke with my boss at Time, thanked him a lot for the opportunity, but "I got to get out of here. I'm leaving New York, going to move up." And I moved up in -- when was it? It must have been spring time, bought myself a VW camper bus, loaded all my possessions in it, drove up to the camp up there, and became the -- the -- it was a -- had been a hunting camp, and had very low ceilings, and what I discovered is up there, when you can't get out, because the snow's too deep, or whatever, living in a low ceilinged place is not a fun prospect. So, decided I was going to build a geodesic dome.



CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah , but the problem was, where I wanted to build it was on a pretty steep slope, and so I figured, "Well, what I'll do is I'll -- first I'll put up a platform, and put it up on legs, so -- and so that the front end is about 10, 15 feet off the ground, and then the dome I want to build is a dome that is what's called five-eighths dome." So it goes -- it's the top half of the dome, and then it starts to come in again, and there were fifteen points at the bottom, and I had a pretty significant library at that point. So I needed something straight up and down to put shelves between, so I could put my books on it. So I figured, "Well, what I'll do is I'll put verticals up to -- you know -- that high, and then the dome will sort of go out and so on, so on," and there 95:00was a book called Dome Book, which was like the last Whole Earth Catalog. They were large format books, and this was peoples' accounts of building domes and how to's, and great tips and so on. It was a community wisdom about building domes, but there was no math in it that told me for a five-eighths dome of X circumference, where will those fifteen points be to put the verticals under?" So I proceeded to put the fifteen verticals approximately where I thought they would be and brace them, and then build the five-eighths dome, two-by-four structure up from that, the problem being that as you build it, you're climbing up on the structure. And it's not -- until you put the last pieces in -- it's 96:00not -- it doesn't have tensegrity, and you're deforming so that as you get to the top, and all these pieces are supposedly the same size. Well, up there, you start trimming a little off this one and a little off that one, and so on. So there's -- I spent a part of my life that summer about 50 feet off the forest floor on this bizarre, jungle-gym kind of structure , and then we -- we put plywood on the outside of it, and then we had to seal the seams and my thought had been to treat it like a fiberglass boat, and fiberglass the seams. The problem was that it was about September or October by the time we were putting 97:00the fiberglass on, and as I'm putting it on with the knowledge that it says on the can "Do not use below 60 degrees." The snowflakes are falling into it, and sort of you could see it. They would literally land on it and you could see the outline of the snowflake in the fiberglass, and I'm thinking, "This doesn't bode well." So, eventually we shingled the whole thing to seal it off, and it lasted for about fifteen, twenty years.


CRANE DAVIS: Yeah, and it was great. It was like -- like living in a Dixie Cup, except the whole south side was plastic -- translucent plastic. So, it got a lot of light in it, and it heated up, and stayed warm, no matter cold it was out, and so on, and so on. It was --

SADY SULLIVAN: That's awesome.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. We built ourselves a dome. That took the second summer, 98:00and then basically ran out of money, and said, "Okay, back to work." Came back down, and I came back down, and my boss at Time -- another boss, the New York Bureau Chief -- I contacted him. I said, "What's going on down here," and he said, "Bob Hansom" -- the guy I said was concerned about the military taking over everything, the guy that I had known in Vietnam -- "was just setting up at Channel Thirteen, was setting up this nightly news show," and Bob and I had not been close, but when this guy interceded on my behalf, Bob agreed to hire me, and so -- and it worked out. So, that's -- that's the tale of -- of those days. Let my hair grow, my beard grow, the beard that I started in Nationalist China 99:00went on for the next year and a half.

SADY SULLIVAN: And you were living in Hell's Kitchen area, or Midtown, or where?

CRANE DAVIS: When I moved back -- let's see. Where did I move back to? I guess I pretty much, I -- I must have lived somewhere as a transition, but there was at West 56 Street, there was brand new egg crate that had just been built, 20 stories. And it was within walking distance of the studio, of Channel Thirteen at that point, and it was kind of an interesting building to live in, because the rents were so high that most of the apartments by either three young women who were all secretaries and sort of crammed into a one bedroom place, or three 100:00hookers crammed into a one bedroom space, and so on. Now I'm on the next-to-top floor of this, and so I'm riding the elevator up and down the -- And this pattern became apparent to me, and then one day clearly, Mom had come in from Omaha to visit her little girl who was a secretary, and we were on the elevator together when the hookers got on, and Mom started looking at them, and then she started looking at me, and it was clear that she -- You know. Oh, well. As I said, I loved the city in those days. That was a time when it was a wonderful place to live. So that's -- I stayed there pretty much the whole time I was at Channel Thirteen, and then I moved up to, briefly, up to a place in Jersey -- a placed called Sneden's Landing. It's up around Nyack, that area.


SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, I love Nyack. Yeah. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. So, back into the city, and when I left 13, that's when I said, "Look. I'm going to go," and again I sort of reinforced the idea that I don't function well in a corporate structure, and so I'm going to go out on my own, and I was going to freelance television, was my thought, little knowing that freelanced television in those days, but I knew that I needed to drop my rent -- drop my expenses. And I went up to Maine that summer, '76, and I went up there in August, and was looking through The Village Voice, and someone had an 102:00ad for a loft in Brooklyn. And it interested me because my brother had moved over to a loft in Brooklyn a few months before, and I didn't know where he was, really -- where he was living, and I didn't know where this was located, but I figured -- price is right. I came down and found out where it was. It turned out, it was in the same building that he'd moved into, but he was like on the third floor, and this was a top floor loft. I went up to the top floor, and it was a -- at that time -- a -- an 1800 square foot studio, just a huge L, open, fifteen, sixteen foot ceilings, skylights, no furnishings at all. This guy was 103:00living there, and he put on some -- I'm trying to think of the name -- Keith Jarrett. It was the first time I had ever heard of Keith Jarrett, and he lit up a joint, and he told me the fixtures were like 4000 dollars, or something like that, I said, "Fine." You know. I thought it was the best music I had ever heard. Great -- great weed, and I bought myself a loft. That's -- that's how I started out in -- in Dumbo. It was the late summer of '76.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. And so that -- that was 31 Washington Street.

CRANE DAVIS: That was 31 Washington Street.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, and so did you -- so I guess let's -- let's get in there. Like I want to know what, you know, what the building looked like, what the neighborhood looked -- you know -- all of this sort of description of that whole time.

CRANE DAVIS: You know. Moving to Brooklyn was like moving to Afghanistan at that 104:00point. It -- I don't -- I think had Brooklyn once before in my life, apart from maybe going through it to get to JFK. It -- it -- also in that area there were very, very few lofts at that point. So it wasn't -- there was no community. It very much felt like we were the only people living in this industrial area, and as a result, you got to know the people in the building fairly quickly, and part of it was that there was a freight elevator. The fre-- I think I may have put it in the article that I wrote online, but the first night that slept in my loft, there was not a door with a lock on it and the street six floors down, and it 105:00was -- So, we started by putting a lock on the front door [laughter]. I mean, let's start here and work our way up, okay?


CRANE DAVIS: We got to know the people in the building first of all, and at that time there was no sense of being a loft tenant. There were -- eventually it got to a point where there was a group of people known in the city as illegal loft tenants, but at this time it was just -- I found a place to live, you know? And there were -- it was interesting because like next door to me was a carpenter who did all his work in his loft. It was literally a living workspace situation. I was a writer. I really didn't need a lot of space to work in. So, I can't 106:00claim that I was -- I couldn't have got an artistic certification, because the rule was the -- the history of how lofts came about was that during the Lindsay administration, the economy went south, and a lot of the buildings -- what was happening was the mill construction buildings, the six-story-high brick buildings, which -- which 31 Washington is an example. They're all wood floors, wood pillars, brick walls. The top floors were emptying out, because if you were a manufacturer, you didn't want to have to fight the tenants for the elevator. You only got one, and it's -- it's a self-service elevator. So you, you know, the people on the ground floor were in great shape. They could get their goods in and out, and the first and second floors, it's a fairly short run. You could 107:00-- you know -- but once you get up to the sixth floor, you're losing time moving goods on this elevator. So the top floors were emptying out, and the building owners were distressed. They're now -- they can't fill those. They can't put manufactures in there. So the city came up with the idea that -- living, working spaces for artists, and they had a program called Artists in Residence. You had to apply for it. You had to give examples of your work. You had to be approved by the city as an artist in residence, and there could be no more than three artists in residence in any given building. That's how it started. The landlords fairly quickly noticed that they could actually put more than three in there, and it cost the landlords nothing. They weren't bringing anything up to code. They weren't -- I -- I was paying for my bathroom. I bought my toilet. I bought 108:00my -- I actually bought it from the guy that sold it to me, but he had put it in, all the sheet rock, all the blah, blah, all the wiring. So, he's -- he's making no investment in it, but he can now get -- what was interesting was the rents were staying comparable, because I was renting raw space, and a manufacturer would pay the cost per square foot as I was -- so that -- and these -- and generally it was the top floors -- were that they -- they were empty, which was how the thing had started. So now he's actually -- he's doing all right. He's not carrying the building. I'm paying what a manufacturer would pay, and I'm not competing with the manufacturer for space because they didn't want to be up there. Fairly quickly the landlords began to realize, "Well, if I can do the top floor that way, I can probably do the next-to-the-top floor that way, and I could -- " And so -- so as buildings began to empty out, then they realized -- there's a famous case. There's a guy named Bruce Wright, and in fact 109:00there's a Wright now in city government -- African American, something Wright. I can't think of his last name. It's his son -- is now in city government, but Bruce was a judge, and he had a reputation. His nickname was Turn 'Em Loose Bruce -- that -- that Bruce was not buying a lot of the laws in the city. He said, you know -- there's something squirrely here. There's a famous loft case where a guy came in, and what he had basically done was to throw the loft tenants out once they had built the -- put the fixtures in -- throw them out. And then re-rent the space to a new loft tenant at a higher rate, because now it had a bathroom, and now it had wiring, and now it had so on, and so on. So a landlord came to Bruce, and wanted to throw out these tenants, and the decision 110:00that Bruce made was -- and famously, he sat there and said to the guy, "You know. I have a hard time believing that you did not know that these three tenants have been living in your building for the past four years. I have an even harder time believing that you don't know that there are six other tenants living in your building that have been there for four years. Therefore, you're going to have figure this out. They have equity. They have -- they've bought the toilets. You've done nothing. You're now going to throw them out, charge -- you can't do that. You can buy them out. You can -- there are lots of ways we can cut this baby, but somehow you've got to resolve this equity," and that was the beginning of a long period of time negotiating the loft law, and the pressure, if you stop and think about it -- all of those lofts were illegal and not up to 111:00code. It is only by the grace of God that we did not have what they had out in Oakland last year.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah, the Ghost Ship. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: Exactly. Exactly. We had buildings like that and for some reason it just didn't happen here, and it was not because of the loft tenants. It wasn't because of the quality of our work. It was none of that. It was just a miracle. So, the question was, how could we move toward resolving this equity issue that -- because there was a famous -- it's called latches in property law, that if you attach something to walls, or floor, or ceiling of a building, it belongs to the landlord.


CRANE DAVIS: If I put up a wall, it's the landlord's wall. That's historically how it's been interpreted. We were now violating latches. We were now saying, you know, "That's not necessarily true."

SADY SULLIVAN: And so this was -- did that idea -- this idea of equity-- of like 112:00the sweat equity idea, was that like Judge Bruce Wright, he was the first person?

CRANE DAVIS: It came out of -- he was the first one who made a judicial ruling that recognized the equity of the tenant, and so it was a major -- suddenly we all woke up because we all -- we all lived in fear -- I mean -- that, that one day somebody is going to come around here, whether it's the city, whether it's the landlord. Somebody's going to throw us out. Should I do this? You know. Should I, you know -- should I paint the bathroom? Should I, you know --

SADY SULLIVAN: Because you might get kicked out.

CRANE DAVIS: Exactly. Next week I may be out of here. So it began a long period of negotiating, and you're talking about lofts in Chelsea. You're talking about lofts in SoHo. You're talking about lofts in Brooklyn. You're talking about -- you know, there were -- Brooklyn had an advantage of sorts in that we had been in Brooklyn less time than the Manhattan lofts had been there, so that a lot of 113:00the politics and negotiating, and legal stuff was happening in Manhattan before it happened Brooklyn, and we could sort of piggyback on those precedents, and those decisions. So, we go through the loft law negotiations, and obviously you've got building owners who are opposed to any of this. They're, you know -- "It's my building. What the hell do you do you," and so on, and so on, was their, you know -- they wanted to -- the basic way -- if they could have had their way, they would have thrown the loft tenants, and flipped their building over to a residential building. Now remember, all of these are basically manufacturing buildings -- was where they started. The neighborhoods in Manhattan were under great -- manufacturing was under great pressure there. Brooklyn, in our neighborhood, was very interesting because the -- we did a deal 114:00with -- I'm going to start this another way. The borough president of Brooklyn at that point was -- he was a white guy in a black borough. He had a strong political machine. Helmsley Spear owned the Gair Complex, which are these huge buildings here. That was the -- and it's -- it's -- Robert Gair built these buildings back in the late 1800s, and early 1900s. They're the first reinforced concrete buildings in Brooklyn, and in fact the Brooklyn fire department made him build a small building -- a reinforced concrete -- and set it on fire to prove that it would not fail. He built this up, and his -- what he made here was 115:00corrugated cardboard. He -- all the boxes. The shipping boxes -- that. He developed the technique and the machinery to make corrugated boxes, and so all of these were corrugated box manufacturing. That's what the Gair Complex was.

SADY SULLIVAN: And that's between the two bridges.

CRANE DAVIS: Between the two bridges. Right. Exactly. Ov-- what's over here is much more diverse, all the way over to the Navy yard, all the way out, and of course the -- the Stores are sitting here. Empire Stores was sitting here also. Helmsley Spears has these buildings. J-51 is set up so that you can buy buildings, or that time it was -- you could buy buildings, and over a window of, I think it was twelve years, maybe, did not pay taxes, or pay a slowly tax until you were up to full taxation on the property, and so it was -- it gave you 116:00incentive to buy the buildings and invest in the buildings and bring them up. What it also did was make sure that about every twelve years, people who bought, Helmsley Spear would sell its buildings and buy its buildings in a new neighborhood with a new J-51 over there, and somebody would buy it. So, one day Walentas shows up and buys the Helmsley Spear buildings, and he bought them and I -- I can't -- I'd have to go back to find the figure, but as I recall, the purchase price was around eleven or twelve million dollars for all of this, which is basically half the floor space in this area. This is forty blocks here in the area. He buys these, and suddenly we're looking at a developer, who's -- 117:00which probably means this neighborhood is going to change. He only had three loft tenants in his building. They were in a little building up on York Street.

SADY SULLIVAN: That he owned previously, or what?

CRANE DAVIS: This is -- Walentas buys the Gair Complex from Helmsley Spear, and he's only got three tenants, three loft tenants. We're not -- we don't have a lot of loft tenants in his property, so it's not going to directly hit us, except for those three people who were in his. He -- he would try to get them evicted. However, Mr. Walentis is also the largest contributor to the borough president of Brooklyn, political contributor. So, he wants to basically scrub the neighborhood. He wants to -- he's got a vision. He's going to -- all of this 118:00is going to be his, and here's what he's going to do with it, and he's got an ear in borough hall. So suddenly, we've got a war on our hands, basically.

SADY SULLIVAN: So, you -- just to clarify -- you weren't in one of the buildings that was bought.

CRANE DAVIS: No. No. I'm right across -- I'm surrounded by his buildings.

SADY SULLIVAN: But you knew that it was -- I see.

CRANE DAVIS: And just tangentially, the guy who owns our building is a -- how to describe him -- is a classic older guy who -- he and his brothers had started the burlap bag business in this building, and his brother had moved out to California, and now he's here, and he and his brother still own it, and he's not very smart. And he eventually gets behind in taxes. So, our building is adrift. The -- so it's -- we're right in the middle of all of Walentis' buildings. He's 119:00got a vision for what he wants to do in the neighborhood, and there's a good chance our building is going to come up for sale pretty soon. So, we're not in his buildings, but we're not in a very strong place. We all -- when we heard that this transaction was going to go down -- was the first time that really the loft tenants get together and the -- at this point, we're talking about two hundred some odd people, 220 roughly, people in forty blocks, forty square blocks. So you're talking about five per block in terms of -- so, our density ain't real high. I mean, we don't have a whole lot of people, and actually I remember talking with my brother, Monty, and saying, you know, "What should our 120:00strategy be?" And he said, "I think we stand in the bushes and make noises like a crowd," is [laughter] -- which -- which is actually what we ended up doing. What had happened in Manhattan, and again we had the benefit of seeing this -- basically the developer would come in and say, "The loft tenants are putting pressure on the manufacturers. They're -- the manufacturers can't compete with these people who are illegal and so on. We've got to get the loft tenants out of the neighborhood. We've got to get them out." As soon as the loft tenants are out, the manufacturers go out, because manufacturers have no protection whatsoever. They're not rent stabilized. They're not rent -- when your lease comes up, I can charge you anything I want, and you're there. You've got all your machinery in the building. It's going to -- how much is going to cost you? And one of the things one of the manufacturers said to me, he said, "You know. 121:00You make me put my stuff on a truck. It doesn't matter how far I drive the truck. I can move it to Omaha. I can move it -- because the real cost is the disruption of -- " So, they would break neighborhoods that way.

SADY SULLIVAN: So, explain a little bit more. So were they saying -- they were also saying -- they were saying that illegal loft tenants were taking up space that should be manufacturing. So that's why -- was that their argument?

CRANE DAVIS: Well, it was not only that. It was -- there's only one elevator, and there are conflicts in these buildings. The manufacturers are not happy with them. Their -- their cars, they park their cars out in front where loading platform, and there was some truth to some of that, but it was almost all anecdotal, and we had seen them break neighborhoods over in Manhattan, and how they'd gone after it.

SADY SULLIVAN: So, by -- by separating the, you know -- everybody's in the 122:00building. It's the tenants and the manufacturers, and really, you're --

CRANE DAVIS: Well, at that time, frankly, we weren't that integrated. We really didn't know the manufacturers, but that became our strategy, was to say, "Look. You know. These people are under as much pressure as we are. Let's not get split. Let's talk to them," which is where we came around to the survey idea of going to the Brooklyn Planning Department, and that's a -- that's a forum.


CRANE DAVIS: And what we said to them was, "You have to decide what you're going to do with this neighborhood. We will go to every door in the forty blocks, and we will knock on it. We will ask them the questions you need to know. The only 123:00thing we ask are two things. One is we get a copy of each survey form. You get a copy. We get a copy. And two: we may add a couple of questions of our own to do it, but other than that, you will give us a letter that says we're here representing City Planning, and request your cooperation, etc.," and we did it. Now, the interesting thing about it was for the most part, these are artists, because the artists -- there were a lot of people like me who worked corporate jobs, who lived in lofts, who didn't need the loft space, and so on, but the artists were the ones who were at home during the day when the manufacturers were there. I don't know the breakdown, but my -- the people who got involved in the survey were primarily women artists from the neighborhood. The business 124:00owners in the neighborhood were primarily Hasidim. Hasidim don't like women asking them about their business, I mean, whether they've got a union, blah, blah, all the questions you see there. So what was happening was about half of the survey forms were coming back to me -- women had filled out: "went into a building. There were twelve tenants there. I got six who would answer and six who wouldn't talk to me." So then we'd follow up. A man would go over and talk with them, and basically, the dialogue would go something like, "Why should I tell you anything?" I said, "Well, you're going to get evicted." He said, "Yeah, well I started in Manhattan. I moved. I came over here, and so on." I said, "What did you get when you were evicted last time." "Nothing." I said, "Who knows? We could get you something. Let's see. What -- it's not going to cost you anything. The only thing I'm going to ask you is answer these questions. If you 125:00want to join us, three things. It's -- we will go to all the community meetings, and we will keep you apprised of what's happening, because one of the big problems was that these people leave at five o'clock. They go out to Manhasset, where their home is, and the family, and the community board meeting takes place at seven o'clock tonight in -- up on Montague Street. We're there. They're not. So, we'll go up there. We'll represent your interest, and we'll feed back to you what's, and so on. Now, there will come a time when I'm going to ask you to come to a meeting, but probably it's only going to be one or two a year, maximum. We're going to keep it -- you know, unless -- we're not going to call you unless we really, really need you, and -- and if you want to throw some money into the organization, we'll figure out where to use it. Those are the three things, and 126:00we got a bunch of guys that said, "What the hell? You know. Five hundred bucks. You know. And I know I'm going to get screwed if it keeps going the way it's going." So, they signed up. Then comes the meeting -- what eventually -- what happened first of all was we went in and we go to a meeting, and we would be there, and we would speak on behalf of the manufacturers. My brother was the head of the Loft Tenants Organization. I was the head of the Local Development Corporation. I'll tell you that story in a second, but we had the Local Development Corporation for that, and a third loft tenant was the head of the Manufacturers' Organization, because he had -- he literally was a manufacturer. He also had a -- a thing there. So, we had a bunch of letterheads. They knew this, and we would get to a meeting where they were basically saying, "This is a 127:00fraud." You're a bunch of loft tenants running around pretending to blah, blah, blah, blah, and I said, "You think so?" I said, "I'll see you next week." And we would turn out forty manufacturers. Hasidim -- we had -- and they'd come to the one meeting, their one meeting of the year. They'd come, and they'd show up, and we really did have -- they really did show, and the most important thing that happened was there was a piece of government in New York that was devoted to protecting manufacturing, the ID -- or Industrial -- oh, it's in one. I'll show you in a minutes -- the papers -- it's in the paper. Their job -- their brief was to help manufacturers. They finally -- one of the people said to me, "We suddenly realized you are the only people who knew what was in the neighborhood, 128:00and you were the only people who were fighting for the manufacturers. You were also fighting for your lofts, but you really were fighting for the manufacturers," and when that happened, it -- we got the survey done. The results came out, and just -- just two -- there's -- I'll show you later -- there's a summary -- there's a statement in here by the head of the industrial group writing to City Planning, and saying, "People, you just did this survey. This area has the highest possible occupancy by the conforming use, by manufacturing. Nowhere else in the city has -- it's 100% occupied by what it should be occupied by, and they're healthy." City Planning wouldn't release the 129:00study. They never published the study, because the developer had the borough president, who was coming back in and saying, "I want this to be what Dumbo is today." So we're now in a very weird place where City Planning's study shows that it's a hundred%. The only way that you can change the zoning of a building is if you can prove hardship, that -- that unless you change my zoning, I have a hardship, because I can't fill my space. Well, you're 100% filled, you know? You're getting more than you should be getting given the state of the city in general. So that was the battle that ran for -- it actually -- I'm not going to remember the year, but what broke it the first time was that Walentas applied to 130:00the federal government for money for his buildings, for a federal grant, loan, something, in the amount of one hundred something million dollars. The problem was that the program that he was applying to was a job development program, and we pointed out to the government that it -- you have 5000 manufacturing jobs here, now. Unless he promises to replace these 5000 manufacturing jobs with 8000 manufacturing jobs, we should not be using job development funds to destroy these jobs, it just makes -- and they pulled -- they said, "No. We're not going to give you the money." So, he literally got stopped, and what happened was --


SADY SULLIVAN: And that was due to this survey?

CRANE DAVIS: It was -- it was due to the information. It was -- it was due to the reality of what was there. I mean, we just happened to be able to prove it. As part of the settlement, the Clock Tower Building, they -- when they said to him -- I mean he's now invested his money in the building, and he hasn't invested that much -- it was ten million, eleven million. That's chicken feed, but he was going to leverage that with a hundred million of federal funds. Now, he's blocked. Now he can't develop the buildings. So the -- to make him whole, they took the Clock Tower Building, and made it a state building. I think it was state agencies would rent the Clock Tower Building, and I believe it was the highest price per square foot in the city of New York that he would receive as rent from state agencies. So, he got hurt. He didn't get mortally wounded. Among 132:00the things that happened during that period, it was when Cuomo was running for governor, and he was running against, and I'm not going to remember his name -- Republican. We -- with about a week to go to the election -- we invited both candidates to speak to a "Save the Jobs" rally held in front of the Clock Tower Building in the -- you know that big open area there in front of the Clock Tower Building, down in Dumbo? We invited both. Cuomo accepted. His opponent did not, but we were even handed about it. I hired Patty Semmel, who was an artist, woman artist, to work for me. I had a company. So I put her on the payroll for two 133:00weeks to help me put it together, and the first thing I say was, "Patty, we're going to need a flat bed, a trailer, to get above and be able to speak to the crowd." She said, "Where do I get a flat bead?" I said, "Patty, you got the job. You find me a flat bed." And, by God, she found me a flat bed, and Cuomo showed up and what happened was in -- let's see if I can show you how -- here's Clock Tower Building. So, we're in this open area here, in front of the Clock Tower Building. In this building around on Washington Street, there's a needle trades company, and most -- needle trades was the dominant thing there, unionized needle trades. The guy who runs the plant was a former Marine. I went up to him and I said, "Look. We need a crowd. You got 500 people." He said, "Yeah. This is 134:00a business" -- you know -- "I'm running a business here, not a political machine." I said, "Look. We'll talk to the union. We would like them to come out -- take their lunch hour at noon, and they'll be back here at one o'clock." So, on the day when the flat bed is out here, I'm standing on the flat bed, and the place is empty. There's nothing there, and I'm looking at the thing, and it's coming up to five minutes before noon, above tick, tick, tick, tick, and I started hearing this sound. What was happening was, over here on Washington Street, the 500 are coming out, and as they're coming out of the building, the artists who had been up all night making signs, are handing them signs as they're coming out of the building, and they are coming around the corner, and what I'm hearing is them chanting. As they fill the thing, Cuomo's limo pulls in right alongside, along with the press, with The Post, and The Daily News, and so 135:00on, and so on, and Cuomo delivers a real barn burner, which gets him the front page on newspapers, about saving the jobs, the manufacturing. So, that combined with pulling the money, pretty much stopped motion here for, I'm going to say four to five years. He couldn't move forward. The meanwhile, the borough president -- the loft law is still trying to be settled out. They finally come up with a solution to the loft law, which -- it was called balancing the equities, and it was that the landlords basically had to bring the buildings up to code, but the tenants had to pay the price of bringing it up to code. So they would then be legitimately in the buildings, and it would be -- I've forgotten 136:00what it was of -- oh, that rents could only go up so much. There was a whole package. That comes out, and the borough president of Brooklyn says, "That's fine, except for Dumbo." We'd like to do some more study here. So, we're going to take six months more to study the situation in Dumbo, and what he did was, he carved us out so that all the loft tenant in Manhattan got settled. They didn't care what happened to us six months later, but he now had us, you know, in a very narrow little -- So we get sort of squeezed, oh, and part of the settlement. And I'm trying to remember whether it happened there, or whether it happened later, but part of it was that we started working with the industrial development branch of city government moving the people who were under pressure 137:00-- the manufacturers who were under pressure -- down to Bush Terminal, down -- it's down the BQE toward Staten Island. There's a huge group of manufacturing buildings that I believe they have now flipped also. They're becoming residential, but -- but the idea was that we could keep jobs in New York City rather than just throwing them out, and they go wherever they want. We -- there was a program set up to help move manufacturers, pay their transportation, pay the shift costs in that move. So, the manufacturers actually got a program, and I go back to what I had said to them the day I walked into the factory: "What did you get last time? You got nothing. Maybe we -- let's see what we can get." And they got something. They got -- a number of them moved down there. I would love to say that they prospered, and so on. I don't think they did. I think they 138:00-- once you start moving. That's what the manufacturer was saying to me, once I put it on the truck, the -- your -- your labor force. The reason this -- one of the reasons it contributed to this being a viable neighborhood was that there were a lot of workers in Brooklyn who could take the subway. There, you've got A Tram, the whole Borough Hall, that -- they were using that transportation to get to work and get back again. You don't have that in Bush Terminal. You can't get to Bush Terminal from King's Highway. You know. That's -- suppliers -- the reason -- one of the reasons it was cited by the manufacturers -- they loved about it was you can drive a semi-trailer right along the BQE here, and jump off right there, and you've only got three blocks to drive on a city thing, and you get back on a highway again. You've got the Manhattan Bridge that takes you straight into Manhattan. You know. You're -- you're almost there. So, all the 139:00things that make it attractive to residential tenants made it attractive to manufacturing, and what we were arguing was there's a whole lot of waterfront here. This is a fully functioning -- it's providing jobs, and if we eliminate these 5000 jobs, what are we going to do with the residents who work there? And it's exactly the problem we've run into now. It's the carrier moving from Indiana -- you know -- that -- there was a time when nobody cared about manufacturing, and we're paying that price right now, because we didn't -- we didn't come up with a solution that would keep the manufacturing. And we had the -- my favorite story is there was a paper company, and I'm going to say that it was in this building here, called Boorum & Pease, and when I was in school, Boorum & Pease made the loose leaf folders, the snap -- you know -- the ring 140:00binders, and so on. Boorum & Pease had five factories in the United States, one of which was here. This one was a four story, five story building, and pretty convoluted internally, not well laid out. The other four plants were out in suburban --

SADY SULLIVAN: Just have to change the card. Sorry.

CRANE DAVIS: Absolutely.

[interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: This is part four, April 7th, 2017, and I'll ask, just since our pause, how do you spell Boorum & Pease?

CRANE DAVIS: B-O-O-R-U-M and ampersand, Pease, P-E-A-S-E. Boorum & Pease had five factories nationally, one of which was in Dumbo, and was really a poor 141:00manufacturing site physically, because it was multistory, and convoluted internally. The other four factories -- or factories that they had -- were all in suburban industrial mall, one story, laid out, delivery, etc. Everything was perfect in these other four. This was -- was just wrong. Their highest productivity factory was the one in Dumbo, and the reason that the guy said that was he said, "Look. We've got a workforce here that knows that if they lose this job, there's no more jobs." And they worked their butts off. So, it -- the only people I saw during this entire time who had any recognition of the importance 142:00of manufacturing was that little group in the city government that was -- that was their charge was to work with them, and so we worked closely with them on a lot of the stuff. We also worked really closely with the unions. I mentioned before needle trades. The ILGWU, and the -- the -- what am I thinking of? There's another needle trades union. I can't remember it now. When we did the survey, over half the jobs were needle trades jobs, and they were almost all unionized. There was very, very little non-union labor here, which shocked me, and the -- the classic situation was a Hasidic business man running the factory, and African -- or not African, they were Haitian, and Dominican women from 143:00Brooklyn working in the factory, and we were able to get the manufacturers' support. And we were also able to get the union's support, because they literally -- the unions didn't know what they had in that in that neighborhood until they got a copy of the survey, until they suddenly realized, "We've got 2500 jobs over here." They knew -- they knew they had jobs there, but they had no idea the -- the dimensions of it. What was interesting was in the end, the -- when they finally six months later, when the study group thing got resolved, it eventually was resolved to our benefit. We were given loft -- coverage of the same loft law, but we had to fight very hard during that six months to make -- 144:00to make that case. When the night that the decision was made at city hall, I was there, and the representatives from the ILGWU and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers -- that was the other union -- came up to me and said, "We've been through this in SoHo. We've been through this -- you know -- all across New York City. We have always opposed loft tenants in industrial neighborhoods, flat out opposed it. We're not going to oppose this. We're not going to support you, but we're not going to oppose you." So, that was about as good as it gets in terms of the -- and I go back to the -- the developers saying at meetings, you know, 145:00"You guys are just trying to save your lofts," and we were, but we actually made good on our commitment to the manufacturing. We -- we -- we couldn't save it-- and we couldn't save it because the city government didn't recognize the value of manufacturing. That was the major issue, and it got worse when Giuliani got in. In terms of the loft tenants, once we got to coverage under the loft law, we basically got together and said, "Okay. We now are covered" -- there are -- and I don't even remember the number of buildings. I think there were something like fourteen buildings in the -- in the neighborhood -- "you're all on your own now. I mean, you're covered under the loft law, but how you resolve it going forward 146:00is up to each unit, basically, whether you want to sell your loft now, because it now has -- you now have something to sell. You have equity. Whether you want to try buy your building with however," and there is -- the range of what happened to the buildings -- there are bad stories of what happened to them. We, in our case, our building owner lost the building for taxes. So now the city owns the building, and the city became our landlord. We were negotiating to buy the building from the city, and we were negotiating from the standpoint that we had equity in the building and therefore, you know, we were going to pay -- we -- we -- it was as though we had already invested in this building. We'll pay the difference, and so on. Giuliani, as mayor, was in the period of selling off 147:00every property that he could that city owned. He was just, you know, "Let's get the highest price that we can." We were going to auction, and Walentas was going to bid on it. He let me know that I'm -- "I got you where I want you now, and you're going to pay for these years that you fucked with me." We got down to about the last week before the auction, and there was a guy who, actually -- there's -- he now owns a building. It's a very tall building. I think it's on York Street. It sort of stands up by Yo-- last time I looked, it -- it stood up in the middle of nowhere. He built that there. He started out as the guy who owned the parking lots in the area, down, down here, that the manufacturer, the 148:00workers and so on, parked in, and he owned several other parking lots. I knew he was developing. He owned 81 Pearl, and he was going to be building -- he was talking about building something over here, and I went to him, and I said, "Here's the deal. We have about half the units in this building -- in 31 Washington -- are grandfathered loft tenants," which means half the units are open market. We would like to have you buy the building, and bring it up to code, and we will pay you for bringing our units up to code, and you can have the non-grandfathered units for yourself to sell once the building is up to code." So we all -- those of us who had been through these years, what I just described, all ended up owning our units, and were able to sell or stay. There's 149:00still a couple people there who -- who have been there for 40 years now. So we made out probably better than most, and -- and others sold their lofts individually to the building owner, and didn't do badly, but it was -- there were no great -- we always used to get hit with the idea that you guys made out like bandits because you weren't paying much in rent. You were paying manufacturing costs per square foot, and I think to myself, "True." That is true. I also lived in a shithole basically. No locks, no nothing, and from a 150:00safety point of view, I raised two kids in a place I probably shouldn't have, but, you know, they seem to have made it. and frankly I was working -- by that time I had my own company, and I was working with AT&T and Ford and Merck, and a lot of Fortune 500 companies, and I was spending about half my time on my business and half my time doing this. And if I had spent my full time on my business, I could have afforded a much better apartment somewhere. I could have bought an apartment somewhere for a lot -- you know, if I hadn't committed the time to the how many years of ups and downs negotiating with the -- with the various people. So, did I make out like a bandit? Well, I feel kind of good about what we did, actually. I think, you know, we fought the good fight, and did I ultimately sell my loft? Yeah. I did. I did. I don't think I made as much from my loft as I would have if I'd worked on my business during all that 151:00period, but that really wasn't the point. I wasn't in it to maximize my return on investment. It was -- it was more about doing the right thing, and this gets back to what I said earlier about the sort of attitude that I grew up with that when I saw these Dominican women coming into work in the morning, and realizing that they were going to be looking for work, and there are going to be a whole lot of baby carriages rolling around from -- from boutique to another in five or ten years, unless -- unless we figured out a way. I guess what, at the heart of it, developers make an extraordinary amount of money when they do this to a neighborhood, and there should be some way that the people being driven out get 152:00a piece of the pie. And it just -- it galled me that my government was so aligned with him that they wouldn't help the manufacturers and the workers there with a piece of the profits, not the whole thing, not the -- you know. And that was -- I actually had a meeting with Walentas in which he said, "You just want a piece of the pie," and I said, "You're right. That's exactly what I want, and if you give us a piece of the pie, you can probably go ahead do all this. If you don't want to give a piece of the pie, then we're going to fight," and that's -- that's why it took as long as it did. [interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: And how -- how was it to see? I mean, going again to the -- So 153:00how was it to watch as -- as the manufacturing jobs and the people, and the manufacture--and from like a more personal standpoint? The people were leaving the neighborhood. How did that change things?

CRANE DAVIS: Oh, the neighborhood is just totally changed. I mean, Dumbo itself has totally changed, and in a way I am totally understanding of why it changed, because I was one of the first people to choose to live there. I understand why it's attractive. I understand all of that. My concern is not so much with Dumbo, as it is with the neighborhoods that these workers lived in, which are now -- there is no work for them. We -- we've destroyed the places where the work was, 154:00and they're -- that's -- you can say some positive things about what we've replaced it with, but there's nothing positive in it for them, other than what we were able to extract in a battle. I feel like I fought a long, losing campaign, a lot like Vietnam actually. It's -- it was a loss, but it -- it was a good fight, and I say this looking at what happened in all of the neighborhoods in New York. We're the only ones who were able to come out with this kind of solution, even though we weren't able to take care of everybody. And it probably wasn't as much as -- as I would have wished, but I don't think anything like 155:00this happened in SoHo, where -- where a community -- and frankly the experience of working with the 220 people who lived there, and doing what we did, because these were, at this point, we were all thirty years old. We had kids. We were -- we were -- we were youngsters, and we were showing up at Bureau of Standards and Appeals on -- on various applications, and we were going up to Albany and lobbying. I remember there was a -- a Republican senator from Staten Island -- Marchi, M-A-R-C-H-I, and he was a noted hard ass. He was really somebody that -- 156:00he was the leader of the conservative wing, and we went in to lobby Marchi, and I sat down across his desk, and I said, "We're here to represent the loft tenants in Brooklyn." And he looked at me and he said, "Say no more. My father had a loft in San Francisco." He said, "I understand it, and I'm behind you."


CRANE DAVIS: Yeah, and he was. He did. He voted -- voted with us. I will say I met some very dedicated people in government, very committed people, and representatives who -- where I least thought I'd find them. The -- the group that was working for manufacturing. It was a very interesting situation, which 157:00I've seen several places now, where the government itself, the -- the mayor and the top of the government have no real commitment to manufacturing, so they fill a lot of the slots with deadwood -- honorary positions. They've got to find this guy a job. He was a political leader and the blah, blah, blah, blah. Then, these people, no matter how much talent they natively had, really worked hard to do it. So it was sort of a very odd situation where these people at the lower levels, in city planning, were really committed to what they were doing even though their bosses were cutting their legs out from under them every turn. They still tried to make it happen, and it was really -- as I say, the smoking gun, 158:00and I didn't -- it was funny. I had, when I was talking, and I'm going to forget her name now. The -- the woman at the Brooklyn Historical Society.


CRANE DAVIS: Julie. Julie and I were talking and I said, "You know. We did this study, and we got it to city planning, and the blah, blah, and the blah, blah, blah, blah." I said, "I think I've got a copy of it around here. I think -- " And it was only after I went through all the stuff that I remembered they never published it. You know. And it -- it -- and I felt like I was hallucinating that -- that this whole story, I knew all the facts, but there was no evidence, and then I found -- just the --

SADY SULLIVAN: I might have a copy of something. Yeah I think --

CRANE DAVIS: It was -- this is Ira Brophy, who was the head of the manufacturing group, writing to Sturrs, Herb Sturrs, who was the head of city planning, and down here he's [interview interrupted.]


SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. So the present vacancy rate is 1.74%. Tiny.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Wow. Yeah. It's amazing to me -- I mean the -- the labor -- the foot labor -- on the ground labor of doing this -- doing this kind of a survey and collecting this information, and also the trust required, you know, across -- race across class, across religion with the Hasidim, to get that amount of information. And it's so -- and it reveals so much, and it's so 160:00important, and that it has -- so major case and I -- like -- it's not surprising too -- too much to publish .

CRANE DAVIS: Exactly. In the end, it was never published, and -- and it had slipped from my mind that "oh, yeah. They never published it." That -- but the good thing -- good news was that the conclusions were public. I mean, everybody knew it. Everybody was talking about it, even though they never published it. It's just the fact that they never published is very telling. I mean, it's "I'm sorry we embarrassed you," and I'm quite sure the borough president of Brooklyn had a lot to do with it never being published, that he was leaning on them saying, "Don't -- don't publish that. That's my boy down there who's -- " You know. It's not -- it wasn't a -- it actually -- everybody I've talked with who was involved in it came away very pleased with what they did. We all had -- had 161:00-- and I go back to what my brother said, you know, "We're going to stand in the bushes and make noises like a crowd." Well, you know, when you show up with 40 manufacturers, it looks like a crowd. It's -- and we -- frankly, and just off the record. [redacted by narrator] Developers are by nature. That's -- witness our president. The -- he's accustomed to getting his way, and when the rug kept getting pulled out, he just angrier and angrier, and he knew what was -- we -- they were right. We just wanted a piece of the pie. What we were able to do is come up with a strategy that was bigger than -- that helped it not be about us, 162:00and something that was reasonable and good -- that we were saying, so that every time he tried to hit us, the Dominican ladies would show up. They all -- we went into literally -- we went into Borough Hall, and I swear to God, the -- the fife and drum picture from the Revolution, the little kid and the band. We -- I had a Catholic nun. I had a -- you know -- a labor leader. I had -- I had one of everything on my boat, and we went in for a meeting with the borough president, and basically saying to him, "It's a viable manufacturing area. Don't destroy these jobs," and as we left, he had an assistant who was a big, big guy. He probably 6'5", 6'6", and everybody was going out of the room, and they're starting down the hall. And I'm sort of at the back the group as we're going 163:00out, and I feel this hand on my shoulder. And it's him, his assistant, and he sort of grabbed and pulls me back, and leans over, and he says, "You're not going to get what you want this way," and that was it, and I thought, "Well, maybe not, but we're having fun." You know. It's -- [laughter] it was -- it was clear we were swimming upstream, but it was -- and then I must say it was so miraculous that in the end we ended up owning our building -- our loft. I mean that was purely serendipitous that we were able to -- that I was able to find a guy who was -- would do a deal with me who, you know, was -- I don't know if you ever saw the movie with, who the hell -- I can't remember her name -- the 164:00character who's out on the river on the ice flows, and she's jumping from one ice flow to the next, just trying to get across the river. She's --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, I know that one.

CRANE DAVIS: I can't. It's a famous 1920s, 1930s adventure, and this -- this poor little girl is being pursued by either slave drivers or wolves, or something, and she's just going from ice float to ice float , and that's the way this felt for about twenty years. It was -- we'd just get onto the next ice float, and oh, Jesus. We've got to go again. It's like --

SADY SULLIVAN: So, I'm curious about when -- like there's the -- there's the combination of like you want to stay -- you want to stay in your home, like both your loft, and your -- the people you know, your community your neighborhood, and like, life as you know. And then there's also the part of the -- of the situation which is the greater good stuff that's what you're seeing, and when 165:00did -- so when did that -- was that there immediately or -- sort of when did it -- when did the struggle kind of become both of those things?

CRANE DAVIS: It -- it actually happened fairly early because it was -- it was when Walentas showed up that we realized that -- we could see what was ahead that he was going to try and flip the neighborhood. And we knew from -- my brother was the head of a loft tenants association here, and he was with Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants, which was the citywide group, and he was going to their meetings, and seeing what was happening over there. So he knew how it was being done elsewhere, and they were having major issues, and the -- what happened was they were able to split the manufacturers and the loft tenants over there. So we 166:00benefited from that very early. People knew the manufacturers in their buildings, but remember there were only about twelve buildings, and they were small buildings. So that's a handful of manufacturers. It was actually the survey that got us out into the other manufacturers, and allowed us to gather the information. We now had their name, their phone number. We can get back to them. We can keep them up, and we -- we worked -- one of the things we really worked hard on was getting the information back to them, so that they were getting a report on -- every community board meeting we'd send out, and this was before email. I mean, we're physically sending out typed, you know, stuff. So it was -- that -- that's one of the hard things for me to even remember is that this was done -- I actually had a computer for my business, which was the operating system before DOS. It was C-- CPM, and I put this information into a 167:00file. The spreadsheet program that I used couldn't hold all the information from the survey. It couldn't hold that many for it. It could only do, I'm going to say, 144 lines by 144 cells. So I didn't have -- I had to do it on two spreadsheets, and -- and it was at the very early edges of -- there were no cell phones. There were -- it was -- it was really hand carved, but it was -- it was that that brought us together with the manufacturers, and brought together the community of loft tenants in different buildings, the starting to work together. And we -- we -- trust me on this -- if you ever want to try and organize a 168:00political force, a group, don't pick artists [laughter]. You know. It's like -- because it's -- it's just they all have ideas. Getting them to execute is -- is a whole other question. So we fortunately -- we had some good people who -- and we would, sort of continuing the ice flow analogy, just about when all was lost, something would happen. Like we found this guy the week before the auction, and he agreed to put up the money, to blah, blah, blah, blah, and he did it. He -- he -- I mean we could have -- I could -- we literally had probably one of the worst landlords in all of Brooklyn buying buildings down there, and he was looking at our building, and -- not Walentas -- this is -- this is another guy. This is a Hasidim who had been up working at -- he just had a reputation for 169:00being a terror, and I went over and sat in his office, and I said, "Look. I know about you. I know what you do. I know your history. I know you're going to give us a couple of addresses." So I said, "I don't know if you know about us, but right now we've got a major developer. And we've been busting his balls for about 15 years now, and if you want to buy a building in this neighborhood, probably not a good idea to buy ours, because we know what we're doing, and we won't win probably in the end, but you're going to pay an awful lot more than -- than you really want to. So, you know, go ahead do what you're going to do, but -- " And I walked out of there and I was shaking, when I went out, because this guy was into physical violence, and, you know, so -- as I said -- but it worked. He stopped looking at our building. So it was -- every time it looked like we 170:00were dead, something would happen and we weren't quite dead.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. There's -- I don't know how to phrase it exactly. There's a relationship way, or communication, or trust, or like a way that you're communicating with people like that is -- that's special, that is part of I think the strength of the success here. Can you talk to you that? Like how, you know, how -- how you were able to communicate across differences and --

CRANE DAVIS: You know. Probably the -- in my -- in my job -- in my business job, I was speech writer and wrote videos and things like that for corporations, and 171:00I would go to different corporations in different industries and I'd probably be working three jobs at a time. So I might be dealing with AT&T and telecommunications, and work in pharmaceuticals, and Ford, and automotive, on meetings that were going to be happening within the next two or three months, and I would generally do the speeches for the top executives, and I would always go in, and I would ask two questions to start with. First question was "what do you want to tell these people? These are your employees. What do you want to tell them?" And they'd go on for about ten or fifteen minutes, and I'd say, "Okay. What do they want to hear?" And there would just be silence, just -- and almost inevitably: "I hadn't thought about that." And I said, "Well. You know." It's like what am I going to say to the Hasidim who says, "Why should I tell you 172:00about my business?" Well, what does he want? He's been evicted from three places previous to this, and he's got nothing for it at each time. He's a businessman. What can he get? I can't promise him anything, but could be better than nothing. That's a deal. You know . And, and a bunch of them said, "What the hell? Why not? You're right. I -- I have no voice. I have no idea how this works. I know suddenly that I'm told I'm gone, and I've just -- in the past I've just moved on. You think you can do better? Yeah. Okay. You know." So, it -- it really came down to -- and getting people involved at the -- getting the loft tenants involved came really down to the fact that we were all living in fear of being 173:00evicted. I mean, that was -- we -- we -- you know -- it's -- everybody -- when you think of a loft, you think of the nice clean white SoHo loft. These -- these were bad. These -- these were ugly. The -- the lead paint on the walls. That's actually -- there was a story -- how do I begin. There -- there was a period where there was lead in gasoline, and New York was trying to get a law passed to get the lead out of gasoline, so that there was a lot of talk about lead and one of the reasons was because of the exhaust from the diesel trucks and everything else, and for the reason we discussed before, that this, and this, and this, we had a lot of lead in the air. So, somebody in the city administration got a 174:00really bright idea, which was "we want to get the people out of there -- get the loft tenants out of there. Let's say it's the lead in the air." You know, and so I got a call saying that you're going to have to move out of there this month. I mean, "We're going to clear that entire area of the loft tenants. Not -- it has nothing to do with manufacturing; it has to do with lead in the air. You know, that it's just -- just intolerable. We can't have these poor children living there, and so on," and I sat down and I was just incredibly depressed. Well, that ends that, and all of a sudden I had a thought. If you look at this map -- you know Farragut Housing Project?


CRANE DAVIS: Okay. One of my outreach things had been to go up to Farragut Housing Project and meet with Margaret and the women of Farragut Housing 175:00Project, and I picked up the phone, and I called Margaret, and I said, "Margaret, they're telling me there's too much lead in the air, and they're going to move all the white children out." Click. I got a call back about an hour later saying, "Don't pack." You know . So, it -- it comes down to understanding what motivates people. What do they want? How can you talk to them on their terms? Which, actually, as a speechwriter is what I was doing by day, or by night, in the business meetings, was basically to try to take whatever the 176:00corporate vision. And make it make sense to the people sitting in the audience, to make them feel comfortable that the person up there knew where they were headed, and that that someplace they wanted to go. So it was a -- sort of a slight transfer -- that skillset, I would say, and letting people do -- like I said to Patty: "Get me a flat bad." You know. "You'll figure it out." You'll -- I've always said to my wife, because she and I have been -- she was a corporate executive. I met her on a job, and we've sort of -- working with volunteer organizations, you never propose to do anything that you're not prepared to do all by yourself, because that way you know what's going to get done, one way or another. If you can get other people to do it, fine, but don't -- don't go 177:00around creating things and then expect other people to do them. So, just keep -- keep very focused on what -- what you can do that will make a difference. What are you willing to do?

SADY SULLIVAN: Was there -- was there a structure -- was there an organizational structure like that was more explicit, or?

CRANE DAVIS: You know. It was weirdly anarchic. The best way I can describe it is there were a bunch of letterheads that we used as the face of the neighborhood and we -- we -- as I said, we had the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists' Coalition. We had the Two Bridges Loft Tenants. We had the Fulton Ferry Local Development Corporation. We had the Manufacturers' Association. So, we had all 178:00of those facing outwards. We met pretty regularly, and I'm going to say in the -- in the busy time, when we were really fighting, we were meeting monthly at Olga's Barge, down on the Bargemusic.


CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Olga, the woman, and I -- God -- I don't even know if she's still alive. She was an old European revolutionary -- don't know -- Communist. I have no idea, but she just thought we were the bees' knees. She just -- she loved us, and we'd meet over there at Bargemusic, and the meetings were always the same. You know. The same people would get up and blow the eight, and then we'd finally come out and say, "Okay. This is what A, B, C. These are three things we need to get done this month," and people stepped forward. It was 179:00really -- part of it was I think that they, as artists, they had time. They -- they weren't going nine to five to do work. We -- we basically said to the nine to five people. You can help provide money. For those of you with time, we can make use of time. It was pure -- I say this -- we had this overall strategy, but it was almost always reactive. It was how do we implement the strategy, given that this is happening. I mean, how do we direct it here? The first time I went to a zoning meeting. Building -- the way buildings change their zoning, your -- if you zone for manufacturing, you can only be manufacturing. If you are zoned 180:00for commercial, then you can do office space. If you're zoned residential, you can do residential. To change the zoning of the building, which goes with the plot of land, you have to go in and prove that it's a hardship. There was a building called Nova Clutch, which was down -- how to describe it -- near Fulton Landing. The bank building is there on the corner of Fulton Landing, and it was a couple of doors up on Water Street, and Nova Clutch -- I suddenly heard, and I can't remember how I heard this. Probably there was a loft building over there, and one of the loft tenants had talked to a manufacturer, who said he was being driven out, and he came to me. He said, "What -- is there anything we can do?" I said, "Well, let's see what's going on." I went over. It turned out yes, the guy 181:00was going to flip the building, and he had told the three manufacturers he was going to drive it out. What they would do is just drive them out, and then claim hardship, saying, "It's vacant. I -- you know -- I can't get anybody to fill it."

SADY SULLIVAN: How -- and how would -- what did -- what were some of the driving them out ways? I mean --

CRANE DAVIS: It's over.

SADY SULLIVAN: You just tell them to leave, and they'd -- okay.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. You -- you got -- as a manufacturer, you -- you have a -- at the end of your lease, I'm not renewing it. "You're out of here," and he had lined up the leases so that they were all going to end within a short period of time. So I went over and I talked with the three manufacturers in the building, and I was just starting out. So I didn't know really what to ask, but I asked things like "would you stay?" I mean, "If you could, would you stay?" Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, I then went to -- I heard, and one of the manufacturers I went to, he wasn't there. His wife was there, and she talked to 182:00me about how he was so upset about the pressure, and having to move, and so on, that he'd had a heart attack. So, he was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now, I'm going to the board, and I'm thinking to myself, "How do I present this evidence?" So I did a statement from each of them, wrote up what they had said to me, and sort of helped, the story of the guy's heart attack, made it sound really sad, and then I signed it as me, and I went and had it -- I had a -- what the hell are they called? The -- where they stamp things officially.


CRANE DAVIS: A notary. I had all three of them notarized. So, the paper arrives, and you're looking at it, and you read the statements to each other, and they 183:00want to stay, and the blah, blah, and the blah, blah, and the blah, blah, and it's notarized, but it's not their statement that's notarized. It's my statement, and so on, and so on. But nobody does the math, and says, "Wait a minute. This is a statement by this guy, but it's actually a statement by this guy who says this guy says that, and it's notarized that he says that that guy said that," which has no legal value whatsoever, but it's notarized. So it must have value, and they reversed it. They said, "No. You ain't getting out of here. You -- you know -- you're -- these poor -- this poor man who has had a heart attack, you've been -- you know -- " And it worked, and what I realized was that sometimes they're not the brightest bears on these boards. Sometimes they're political appointees. They're -- and they will go down this road that they've 184:00always gone down on every other case unless something falls across their paths, I mean, something that says, "No. You're going to have think." And when they think, they -- "Oh, no. We can't -- " You know. That's -- and they -- they -- they actually rejected so few various applications that they were really glad to be able to reject one occasionally, and I was just trying to make sure that it was mine that got rejected. You know. I just got to tell a better story than this guy over here. So, it was -- it was fascinating that the -- the human dynamics of all of this was -- and as I say, it was fun. It was, in the end -- I -- I've lived -- I've lived in New York, or had lived in the city for however many years it was, forty, fifty years, and I never felt more of a sense of 185:00community and neighborhood than I did living in this abandoned piece of real estate -- you know -- the -- with 220 people in 40 blocks. I knew everybody. I had a good relationship. We partied. We had some great parties. We -- it -- and we -- we, as I said in the article, we got to name our -- our neighborhood. You know. That's -- my stepson, who grew up at 31 Washington called me -- God, it was probably about 1o, 15 years ago now -- and said, "I'm sitting in a bar in Chelsea, and I've got a guy right in front of me who just told me that he's the one who came up with the name Dumbo." I said, "Well, bless my soul." You know. Yeah.


SADY SULLIVAN: I -- I know the story, but I would like to -- to hear it.

CRANE DAVIS: Sure. We were -- there were four of us, and it was me, my brother, my brother's wife at the time, and a guy John Donovan who was -- is now living down in Washington, and John was one of the more cynical people I've ever met, delightfully cynical, but he said, at some point, he said, "You know. We should really come up with a name for this neighborhood that would -- would make people not want to spend a million dollars for a loft in something stupid. You know. We've got to come up with something." So, we were walking and there's -- there's a very high probability we were stoned, and we were coming up with names, and 187:00acronyms, and so on, and somebody said, "DUMBO. District Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass." And we all sort of agreed, "That's perfect." We actually came up with a second one which was DANYA, D-A-N-Y-A, the Down Around the Navy Yard Annex, I think is what that was, but that was based on the principle that I've learned doing pitches to manu-- to corporations, which is you give them something throw away. You want to -- you want to give them one that is clearly is not good, so that they feel like they've accomplished something. So, we took the two names in, and the group agreed on DUMBO, that that's what we were going to called it, and we just started promoting it as DUMBO, and the word I got back was that Mr. Walentas was not amused. He wanted it to be Fulton Landing, and he 188:00was ready to -- but we -- we got DUMBO, and in fact the -- the -- I happened to remember where we were standing when the name DUMBO was first mentioned, which was under the Manhattan Bridge overpass on Water Street and Anchorage Pl-- J, maybe. It's -- it's right there. Whatever it is that runs under. You go under the Manhattan Bridge. It's literally over your head, and we were walking. I think we were going to vote, because we voted over in Farragut, over at the public school over there. So, I think -- oh, yeah -- here it is. We were right here . That's where we were when we -- when somebody said the name and it was one of those things where all of us immediately recognized that's -- that's it. That's the one. This, by the way, this map was drawn by city planning for the 189:00study that was never published.

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, wow. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: So, that's -- I made sure I got a copy of that too. So, the one thing I don't have -- well, I have it. I can't find it. I know it's here, is -- as I said earlier -- there was no computer projection, no nothing, no PowerPoint. So all the presentations I was doing were being done with physical things, and at that point, you couldn't print anything big. I mean, there were no -- if you think about it, computer printers now, you can go up to an Inkjet. You can get it wide result and so on, and so on. That didn't exist. What you did was -- you may not remember this. You may be too young. There was what was called Letraset, which was a translucent plastic sheet, which had, for each 190:00sheet, there was a font, and a font size, and it had twelve capital A's, twelve little A's, twelve capital B's, and you put it on, down -- with plastic letter side down -- and you rubbed it to transfer it onto to the ground. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Wow. Letter by letter.

CRANE DAVIS: Letter by letter, if you were doing a sign. In this case there was a map, this map, which I had gone building by building identifying what was in each building by color, so that you could see what was going on in the neighborhood. You could see where the loft tenants were, where the manufacturing was, where the so on, and so on. The one that I remember best was a presentation I did at the community Board 2 Once Walentas had come in and he was taking these buildings, the -- the Gair Complex, and was taking the manufacturers who were -- 191:00had a river view, and moving them to a building inland, or that faced somewhere else, and so on, and I did color coded. It was -- I took those buildings, blew them up, and color coded vacant space and occupied space within the buildings so that you could see there was a line of pink that faced the water, and then there was the different color in there, and I went to Board 2 and I said, "I got" -- you know, I had been to see them a lot about manufacturing. I had been pushing, and pushing. I said, "We have a terrible situation that has just arisen down in Dumbo. Mr. Walentas swears that he is not doing anything to move the manufacturers, or anything like that. However, you will notice from this that 192:00the manufacturers are voluntarily abandoning any space which allows them to see the river, and we need to find out why this is, because if our manufacturers don't want to see the rivers, you know, we need to find out what's driving this." [laughter] They go, "Okay. I hear you." Yeah. So, yeah, but again it was little colors, and I rub, rub, rub, rub. You know.


CRANE DAVIS: We had good graphics, I guess.

SADY SULLIVAN: Do you have any of those -- any of the presentation stuff with you?

CRANE DAVIS: I have -- what I have is this base map on a piece of foam core that has clear overlays that you can bring down, and I've got it here, and I -- I 193:00swore it was in my office. I don't know where I moved it. I probably laid it -- what had happened was I deconstructed it. I took the plastic layers off. They had been taped on the top, and I took them off so that I could scan these, and computerize the graphics, so that I could do it on a computer, but I never reattached them. So the plastic was -- was lying crooked and it had sort of rolled up. So, I put it somewhere flat. I know that it's somewhere flat, but as soon as I find it, I will give it to you as a -- because it -- it was one of our presentation tools.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yeah. That would be great to archive.

CRANE DAVIS: The -- one of the funniest moments -- the -- we haven't talked at all about Brooklyn Heights. We kept trying to impress Brooklyn Heights what was 194:00going on, and basically the Brooklyn Heights Association didn't much care about manufacturing. They were -- so we're fighting a losing battle with them, and Walentas came in with his latest rendering of the park, and what he was going to do, and this area out here, the green area out here, had walkways across it clearly, and green, and so on, and he's been talking for about twenty minutes, thirty minutes, and we go to questions, and some guy in the audience, from Brooklyn Heights Association, said, "You know. I'm just curious. That's a high traffic area. What kind of grass are you planning on using? I mean, what are we talking about? You're going to need a tough grass to -- " You know. And he looked at him and he said, "Oh, that's not grass. No. That's concrete. We're 195:00going to paint it green. This is a money machine. We don't want people stopping and lying on the grass. We want them to come in, spend their money, and move on. We're -- " And, I'm thinking, "Oh, praise the Lord." You know. It's like, "Okay. We made it to the next ice flow." You know. It was just the most honest and self-defeating thing he could have said, and suddenly there was something they cared about. They didn't care about the 5000 jobs, but by God, you know, they wanted their grass. They --

SADY SULLIVAN: That's really interesting. Yeah. That's such a great boiling down of people's values, and --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah, and he was honest. You know. He was stating the corporate philosophy for that, and I had to admire him and thank him for it. Somebody else -- the -- the big argument they got into was when it was still undecided what was going to happen with the Empire Stores. There was a discussion of would it 196:00be an outlet like -- I don't know if you know -- high-end stores selling off their excess stock, and the people of Brooklyn Heights didn't think that was appropriate. They didn't want -- I think it was probably because the wrong kind of people might come, that they'd much prefer to have it all be high end, high end, you know, just -- none of this selling off stuff. You know. We -- they were -- I don't know if you were around when the -- the all the discussions about the pier and the redoing of the piers down there was going on. They thought it was wonderful. They thought -- they -- the people of Brooklyn -- people of Brooklyn Heights thought it was fabulous, that they were going to do all of this right there outside their doorstep, and their view, and everything else, until they 197:00realized that Joralemon was going to be street that people came to the park down, and you know who lives just up Joralemon -- they do.


CRANE DAVIS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, they aren't going to be coming to the park, are they? Sort of -- I don't know -- probably. They're probably going to walk through the Heights to get to the park also. Oh. That's -- the sociology of -- of the city is wonderful. It's -- so, that's kind of it in a very big nutshell.

SADY SULLIVAN: Yes. Thank you. I will -- I will turn this off for now because I know I have

[interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: Part five on April 7th, 2017. I'd love to start with talking 198:00about the raising your kids there, and -- and what it was like to be in a mixed-use neighborhood as a parent.

CRANE DAVIS: Right. The -- literally when I started there, I -- when I moved there I was single. I met my first wife at a party that I threw. Some friends brought her, and she had son who at that point was four years old. And he moved in, and his father stayed very much in his life, but it was -- it was really great for me, because it was like having a practice kid that you could -- you were really responsible for him, but you know, you weren't really because there was a father, but he was -- he was a really good kid. And then we had a daughter who grew up there from -- from the beginning, and in a mixed-use neighborhood, 199:00we were actually in a manufacturing -- we were a residential building in a manufacturing neighborhood, and we had manufacturers in our building also, and the things that she grew up seeing, and encountering were very different from -- from what you find in suburban New York, or even Dumbo today. When we looked out the window of our loft into the building next door, there was a warehouse of scientific glass, of the most wonderful things made of glass-- glassware for laboratories, and the things that you see normally in pictures of labs, but also stuff you've never seen before. And you have no idea what -- what they're for, and in the course of meeting with the manufacturers, I went out of my way to meet with Ralph Walther, who was the he-- owner of that company. And he invited 200:00my daughter Alden to come over, and just go through and look at the stuff, and it was really a wonderful place. We had another place, which was under the Manhattan Bridge, called Excalibur Metal Working, I think it was. They did casting of copper and bronze, and brass, and in fact they worked with some of the sculptors who were loft tenants, executing their work, but I remember most of all was that they made huge copper salad bowls. And I'm talking like snow-coaster-sized salad bowls, and they were the most gorgeous thing on earth, and anybody I knew who got married was going to get one of these. I had now had 201:00a solution, no matter who you were, I had the gift. So, I remember that. In our own building, we had a company down on the ground floor, who extruded vinyl, and if you think about old car seats, or you think about some purses, where the two sides meat, of the cushioning, there's that little piece that runs along in between them --

SADY SULLIVAN: Oh, yeah. That cylinder. Yeah.

CRANE DAVIS: -- that -- well it looks like a cylinder from there. In fact it's -- it's a flat piece with a cylinder on the top of it, and they extrude it, and literally, you're just taking pellets of plastic, melting them down, shooting them out, and they're going into a water bath, and cooling down, and then you're putting it on a spool, and you're shipping it off to a handbag maker, or the auto-- whatever. However, people don't always order the same colors. So you have 202:00to change the color, which means you have to change the pellets you're putting in, and you have to extrude until you're getting a pure blue, or a pure red, or whatever. So now you've got this glop that's mixed color, and you just sort of throw it over on the side. It's like a softball size, and it's all this stuff that's together, of different colors, and periodically they would take all the glop balls and put them out front to go to the garbage, and Alden would come out of the loft and suddenly see this like magical unicorn eggs, or whatever they were, in all these colors, and she'd pick her favorite one, and take it upstairs, and so on. And then if you walked down Water -- Water Street towards -- from Washington Street and you're heading down towards the Fulton Landing, there was a company called Lee Spring, and Lee Spring was a multi-floor company 203:00that made springs, and they made all sizes of springs, big springs, little springs. That's all, and at the end of the day not all springs got into the right box. So they would sweep up the floor, put them all in a fifty-five-gallon drum and put them out on the street to be collected. So, we would go over there and check the fifty-five-gallon drum to see what they had that day, and she had the most wonderful collection of springs that she -- she absolutely loved, and then beyond that, down Water Street was a place, and I'm not going to remember the name of it, but McCarthy I think ran it. It was a spice processing factory, and what they did was, when you come into New York Harbor, and you're importing spices, they inspect the spices, and sometimes you end up with rodent hair, and 204:00stuff like that, and they reject it. They won't let you import it. So you now have spice that you've brought from Zanzibar, and it's sitting on the dock. McCarthy buys it, takes it, and cleans it, and heats it, sifts it, makes sure everything's out of it that's bad, repackages it, and now it has its inspection again, and gets sold, but what that meant was, as you walked down Water Street, particularly like on an August afternoon, you had no idea what you were going to -- whether it was going to be cinnamon today, or -- or -- just literally cloying -- cloying, heavy, whatever it was, the marjoram. I have no idea what I was smelling, but God. What is it? So, it was --Actually, it's right next to where the theater is now.


CRANE DAVIS: St. Ann's. It -- it was just before you get to St. Ann's, but it was -- it was like invisible, because they had no presence on the street, but 205:00you -- you walked through this cloud of just wonderful, rich, rich odors. So it was a very unique education for my kids to, you know -- just found art all over the place. So -- and the other thing was, the -- I believe that there is no other neighborhood in the city of New York that appears in more films than the Dumbo, because the manufacturing shut down Friday afternoon, five o'clock, and didn't start up again until Monday. So you knew you had clear streets, no traffic, no parking all weekend long. So, Scent of a Woman was shot there. The Attorney, it's a Whoopi Goldberg film, I think. Once Upon a Time in America, the entire scene -- well, there is a film that I'm not going to remember the name of 206:00that features a car in a chase scene where the car is being shot at. And the -- there's a lot of action, and if you know the corner where they shot it, you suddenly realized that the car has not moved an inch. They have repositioned the camera, and shot it from all four possible angles, and put hot music under it, but it hasn't got anywhere. So, we came home one day to the loft, Alden and I. She attended Brooklyn Friends. So she was -- walked from the loft up to school, and I met her one afternoon, and we were walking back. As we got to the stairs for 31 Washington, Spike Lee was sitting on the steps. He was shooting down in the basement, which at that point was a film studio, and she -- she looked at 207:00him and said, "Hey, Spike," and Spike looked up, and looked at her. He said, "Hey. How are you?" She said, "I'm fine. How are you? What are you doing?" Just -- we're here. She watched Kris Kross do a music video out her window one night. My current wife, Doreen, when -- the first night she spent alone in the loft, I was up here, and she gets in there alone, and she suddenly hears screech of tires, gun shots, shouting -- "man down, man down" -- and she drops to the floor. She gets on the phone and she calls me, and says, "God, there's something horrible on outside on Water Street," and it was summer and I could hear through the open windows, and as she's talking to me, I hear screech of tires, gunshots 208:00-- "man down, man down". It is the police shooting a training film on Water Street. So, she by this time has low crawled across the wall, sort of, but they did it because, as I say, you've got Friday night, Saturday, Sunday to shoot whatever you want to shoot. So, it was a very interesting place to raise kids, and just an interesting place to be.

SADY SULLIVAN: What were other, just -- I know we're -- we got things to cover. We're wrapping up, but what were other parents or teachers, like what was their -- did they have thoughts about where -- where your daughter was? That she's growing up in a loft in that kind of a neighborhood.

CRANE DAVIS: She ended up being extremely self-confident and independent. I 209:00think there were probably some thoughts that I was being a little too loose with her, that I should have worried more about her, but the fact is, if you're a parent in New York City, if they're not right alongside you, there's not a lot you can do for them. It's -- it -- so you've got to train them to take care of themselves. When Doreen and I first got married, and Doreen started going in and staying at the loft fairly regularly, she basically schooled Doreen on -- "You're walking home at night in the loft. You want to stay away from the doors. You stay out on the curb. You don't want to be walking along the -- you know -- where the doors are, where the dark doors are. If you see something coming, keep an eye about a block ahead, and switch over to the other side. Get -- you know -- don't" -- and she just walked her through the rules. We had a very 210:00interesting situation down there for a period of time, which was there were four bodies dumped in Dumbo over the space of a year and a half in various places, and the primary reason for that was that you can get to Dumbo. You can drive down the BQE, get off, and literally you're in Dumbo, and get back on again. So you can just throw the body out the door. Nobody in Dumbo was killed. So, we actually had a little cynical discussion of that fact of should we advertise this? That, you know, love to have you use our neighborhood, just live the people who live here alone. I mean -- you know -- if you've got to dump a body, 211:00be our guest, but -- you know -- but she actually encountered with me a -- a couple of them. So it was, again, a learning experience for her. The -- and she -- she had a very unique childhood. The other thing was my brother lived next door, and so her two cousins were constantly around. They were a little bit younger than she was, but she had playmates fulltime there. There wasn't a lot -- it's kind of interesting -- the -- there weren't a lot of other kids to play with in the neighborhood. She would occasionally socialize with kids from other buildings, but it was mostly either at school, or within the building itself. Yeah.


SADY SULLIVAN: Do you think -- does she still have any of the springs, or the -- the gloopy balls?

CRANE DAVIS: [laughter] I don't know if she does or not. I know she remembers them. She talks about them.


CRANE DAVIS: But in terms of artifacts to -- yeah, I don't think she does.

SADY SULLIVAN: Well, can we talk about moving out, and -- and the decision, and then how that's been?

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. It was -- actually the hardest part of moving out was I managed to sell it just before the collapse of the real estate market. So I was very happy to do that, and it was a good price. My two kids desperately wanted 213:00me to keep it. They were just -- and particularly Alden, because in the end, I moved up here, and was living up here, and Seth, my stepson, had moved back from college, was working in the city, and he was living at the loft, and Alden had moved to the loft also, so that they were living together. Seth was living with someone also. So they were sort of a nuclear family there, until Alden graduated, and I held onto it until she graduated from high school, but boy she didn't want to -- didn't want to sell it, and was just -- just crushed that I did so. I -- I at that point had been away for -- I had been living up here for 214:00a couple of years. So it wasn't as abrupt as it might have been, and it had changed. The neighborhood was changing. The people had disappeared. The -- you know -- it was like any place else. I had really, really great memories of it, but it was time to move on, and it -- I wasn't that upset about moving, and by that time it had appreciated significantly. So I was -- I was so astounded that I actually got something out of all those years of work, because I had -- I had been thinking of it as a dry hole. You know. I'm just going to keep pouring down stuff into this hole, and it's never coming back, but it -- it worked out, and 215:00it, again, it's like it was the last ice flow, turned out just fine, made it across the river, and the wolves didn't get me. So -- [interview interrupted.]

SADY SULLIVAN: And you, being, you know, in the New York City area, like is it still -- do you still do stuff in the city? Are you interested in the city still? Or you're -- you're up here.

CRANE DAVIS: I don't go into the city that much. The occasional outgoing for a baseball game, or I just -- actually Alden, my daughter and I just took Seth's two children to see Cats in the city, because I had taken Alden to see it. So that was my last trip into the city. I don't miss the city. The city, to me, is a young person's place. It's -- living in the city takes a tremendous amount of 216:00energy to really live in the city, and I had that, and I enjoyed it immensely. I'm -- I don't have that energy anymore. So it's not -- although, you know the -- I also believe that if you're going to retire, the city is probably the best place to retire to, just because everything is within reach, and walkable, and so. I don't know. I could end up back in the city at some point, but for right now, I do enjoy the trees and the animals, and the ducks in the morning on the stream here, and so it's -- it's got its blessings, and both the kids come up here a lot. I see them pretty regularly. So, it's not -- I -- I feel so lucky to 217:00have been in Dumbo in the period that I was there, and to have been a part of what we did, that I just feel very, very good about that time in my life, and it -- I have no regrets, and anyway, moved on. So --

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. I know I'm taking too much time.

CRANE DAVIS: No, no, no, no. Don't worry about it. Literally, I have nothing else to do today.

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. We wanted to, and this is sort of with the production cap on, talking about manufacturing jobs, the -- the idea that they -- you know, what this proved that they were around.

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. The whole question of manufacturing, ever since I'm 218:00going to say the 1970s, early 1970s, there's been a mindset in the nation, and particularly in the city, that we're going to become a service economy, that manufacturing is going away, and in fact manufacturing has been going away, but it's not, ironically, going to China, and India. That was the first step of it. It's automation that's -- that's taking the jobs away. The thing we have not come to grips with is that money -- the money that used to be invested in factories, went in salaries and benefits for factory workers, and for the materials in and out of the factory. Now that you don't have the workers there, 219:00now that you've automated it, you're still paying for the materials in and out of the factory, but you no longer have the labor cost, and the benefits cost. So, it's much more profitable. The problem is those profits are going to the people who provided the capital only, that the workers in the past who built the brand name of carrier, who no longer work there, get no benefit from what they did, the drive is to -- the -- the philosophy is to get rid of regulation and get rid of taxation, so that business people can invest in their business. Well, that's only going to help the business people, because they're not hiring people to do the work, and they're not going to. There's -- automation is a better way 220:00to do it. What we need to do is figure out how to take the profits, which you can see on Wall Street, are very, very high right now. There -- the -- it's not an absence of profit. It's the fact that the profits are going just to that very top one%, and you don't have to be a sage to see that that road leads to revolution, basically. It will get worse, and it will get worse, until the people cannot live. This particular county, Green County in New York, is -- there's sixty-two counties in -- in the state of New York. Green County is one of the poorest counties, and the average income is 10000 dollars less than -- than the other counties in New York, and we've got just a tremendous number of people who are scraping by. There's a lot of talk about bringing manufacturing 221:00back, or developing manufacturing here. You really can't do that. I mean there's -- there's no rational reason to -- to create manufacturing jobs when you can -- can do them cheaper through automation. What you need to do is take some of that profit stream, and help the -- the people who aren't going to be working there eat, and educate their children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and then quite frankly there's lots to be done. There -- there are so many things -- I mean, I love, you know, just picking up the trash along the highway for God's sake. We need broadband. We got the worst broadband in the state of New York here, and if you look at what was done during the '30s, with the WPA, and the various the-- things. We could put a tremendous amount of people to work. We're about to build 222:00-- open the world's largest solar manufacturing plant in Buffalo. It's going to be churning out lots, and lots of solar panels. Somebody's going to have to install those panels. Somebody's going to have to maintain those panels. Why there's not a program to start shifting New York over, very aggressively, because I don't know what you pay for electricity. I know what I pay for electricity, and if I could take that out of my budget, I'd be a much happier man. So -- so why can't we -- we've got three needs here. We could find -- you know -- we could do all of this and everybody would make out like a bandit, but nobody's got that vision. There's a -- a feeling of "it's got to run the way it has run". It ran very well for a while, but Dumbo probably a real good example of right now property values are sky-high there. The people who have a piece of 223:00Dumbo right now, I have -- you know -- are very, very well off. The problem the 5000 people who used to have the people -- the piece of Dumbo -- are dying. They're -- they're -- they can't afford to live in the city anymore. Where do they go? They move out of the city. You can -- you can call it Darwinian, but it's certainly not the United States that I grew up in, or that I wanted to be part of. It's not why I went, you know, in the Marine Corps to -- to fight. I mean, it's -- it's -- the vision of what we're doing here has just been lost, and I think manufacturing is a -- is a big part of that.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. And -- and part of the -- focusing on Dumbo -- the interesting thing to me about this is that the -- the story is that the jobs are 224:00just disappearing and not that we're -- that we're actually seeing. I mean, you had an example of like only 1.74 vacancies. So therefore, manufacturing was happening.

CRANE DAVIS: I can show you, from the beginning of the time that I arrived in Dumbo to today. I can show you the headlines from the New York Times business section talking about the deserted, gritty, nourish Dumbo on the river, and a man has arrived with a vision to renew this empty area. It wasn't empty. It wasn't deserted. It was hiring 5000 people, and you may make the decision that there's a higher use for this area, but why destroy 5000 jobs in order to move to the next level? How could you preserve that 5000? Maybe move it. Do something with it, but then build the higher vision, and you'll have both, and that was 225:00the thing that just -- just drove me crazy throughout this process. Nobody could get their arms around -- how do we keep both? How do we -- we grow? And it frankly would cut the profits -- from Dumbo's flipping -- it would probably cut them up to ten, fifteen%. Boy, what a sad thing to have happen. You know. We're paying the price. It's -- it's a -- one of the things that we're hearing right about Opioids is -- is these are -- these are drugs of despair, and I -- I think what's happened is it's hit the white community, but it's the same despair that was in Bed-Stuy in the '60s and '70s. It's -- it's having no hope, having no place to work, having no future, and we've just done everything we can to -- to drive it down that road, because you know what? Dumbo looks great, and that's what matters, is -- you know -- I got mine, and that's -- that's the sad part.


SADY SULLIVAN: One more point that --

CRANE DAVIS: Mm-hm. Sure. Stop doing that. Just ask as much as you want. Don't worry. I mean, if you're --

SADY SULLIVAN: Okay. The organized labors, the unions, and the manufacturers, and --

CRANE DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah. Probably what I learned from working with them, we worked with not only the needle trades unions, who had people in the neighborhood. We also worked with the Longshoremen's Union. They were very supportive. So, I got to see a fairly broad band of union leadership, and the manufacturers we were dealing with were small manufacturers. They weren't the Fords, and the -- you know -- where you have the annual negotiations, and so on, and the laborers, as I said, were primarily Caribbean women, who worked in 227:00needle trades, or -- or related. The -- there were different -- it's not just different interest groups. They come from different cultures. The Hasidim tend to be male. They tend to not encourage contact with any women, much less minority women. The minority women don't seem driven to have a lot of contact with Hasidic men, just in general. The labor unions were losing as part of the manufacturing destruction, they were losing their membership, and so they were fighting to try to preserve it, but they were fighting at a level far above the 228:00ground level. What -- what struck me when we completed the survey was bringing in some of the labor people and showing them what they had in our neighborhood, that they didn't -- I'm sure they had numbers that said that in Brooklyn we have X number of jobs, but they had no idea what the reality was. The Boorum & Pease story, for God's sake, that's an incredible of a company that -- that had the worst possible place to manufacture. All of its other plants were doing worse than the Brooklyn plant, because the workers, the workforce was so committed, and in a way, it was very heartening to -- to be able to communicate that 229:00message to the labor management -- the labor leaders that there -- there still is a reason for labor that -- that -- and I honestly think that they were somewhat surprised that we were able. And when I say we, that, I mean working with them, we were able to preserve as many jobs as we did, or get the packages together to move them down to Bush Terminal that -- that it wasn't just another example of neighborhood being scraped clean, and start all over, that -- that there was a way it could have been done differently. Would it have ended up in a different way? I don't know. It -- I guess I started out thinking that we could accomplish all of it, and save all of it. I ended up feeling good about what we 230:00did, given what I know we had to go through to get that, it's -- it's -- made me feel good. Feel warm. You know.

SADY SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. All right. Thank you so much.


SADY SULLIVAN: This has been fantastic.

CRANE DAVIS: Great. Great.

[interview interrupted.]

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Crane Davis

Crane Davis (1945-) was born in Dallas, Texas to two parents in the Marine Corps. Davis received a B.A. in romance languages from Princeton University. He was a reporter at Time Magazine and WNET's Channel Thirteen, living in the woods of Maine in between the two jobs. He worked as an independent speech writer and fought for renters' rights in Brooklyn.

During the interview, Crane Davis (1945-) describes growing up in New York City and returning as an adult. Davis discusses his involvement in the Vietnam War as a Marine Corps officer, reporting on Gay and Lesbian communities prior to the AIDS epidemic, and his experience organizing loft tenants and manufacturers at DUMBO in the 70s and 80s. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

The Voices of Brooklyn: Waterfront series is composed of six oral history interviews that were conducted during 2017 as a part of the research process for Brooklyn Historical Society's Waterfront exhibition.


Davis, Crane, 1945-, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, April 07, 2017, Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Waterfront series, 2008.031.8.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Collegiate School (New York, N.Y.)
  • Davis, Crane, 1945-
  • Princeton University
  • Time
  • United States Marine Corps


  • Draft
  • Housing policy--New York (State)--New York
  • Labor unions
  • Landlords and tenants
  • Manufacturing industries--United States--History
  • Television broadcasting--Social aspects


  • Albany (N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Maine


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Finding Aid

Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Waterfront series