Sherman M. Fairchild, 17 East 6buy cialis uk th Street, New York City, 1970
Most people don’t get killed in hospitals they’ve helped build. I don’t mean die, I mean killed. The odds of this happening are pretty slim. A baby born in 189buy cialis uk in upstate New York: What would be the odds that the baby would live a glamorous, exciting life and then be killed in a hospital in New York City 76 years later? Pretty slim. But that’s exactly what happened to Sherman M. Fairchild.
These days, if I stopped people wandering down Broadway and asked them if they knew anything about someone named Sherman M. Fairchild, I’d probably have to stop about 100,000 people before anyone would recognize his name. He’s been dead for forty years and wasn’t a household name when he died in 1971, and that was just fine with him. I only knew Sherman for three years, from late 1967 until his death in 1971, but they were very interesting years and we spent a good deal of time together. Who was Sherman and why was he interesting? This is the short version.
Around the turn of the century, Sherman’s father, George, took control of a modest time clock company, the International Time Recording Company. A few years later this company became known as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, with Fairchild as its Chairman. He wasn’t a hands on Chairman because he was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1907 – 1919. In 1914, Thomas Watson, on the run from the law and the National Cash Register Company, became part of the company but maintained a low profile. In 1924 CTR changed it’s name to International Business Machines with Fairchild still at the helm. When he died a few months later, Watson took over and everyone knows what happened after that. A few years earlier the elder Fairchild gave a good deal of the company stock to his son Sherman, who kept most of it but sold some to launch, among other ventures, an aerial survey company. Some people say that if he hadn’t sold any of the stock to start his own ventures he’d have been even wealthier, but he certainly wouldn’t have had as good a time.
When I began my New York City CIA tour in 1967 I knew of Fairchild through my friend, Marian McPartland. “Oh, you have to meet Sherman,” she’d say, “he loves jazz pianists.” I met Sherman, but under other circumstance; I needed to ask a question of someone at one of his companies. Fairchild Aerial Surveys was now Fairchild Camera and Instruments and built sophisticated cameras, some of which were installed in satellites and high flying airplanes. There was something someone in Washington needed to know and I was charged with gathering the information. In late 1967 or early 1968 I met Sherman at 17 East 6buy cialis uk th Street, his home in New York City.
It was unlike any home I’d ever visited in New York. 17 had once been an ordinary old-fashioned town house but Sherman had gutted it and built a very modern residence. The various levels were reached not by stairs, but by ramps, there was an enclosed interior courtyard, there was a lot of glass, and the expansive living room, slightly below street level, boasted two perfectly matched Steinway L pianos. Sherman had removed the legs from the pianos and mounted each on a marble base. This annoyed the people at Steinway and they refused to service them.
My first meeting with Sherman was in his dining room, overlooking the living room and courtyard below. I asked him about who I should speak with at his facility in Syosset, he gave me a name and said he’d make sure I got a good reception. He also said he’d heard about me from Marian and he wanted to give me a tour of his unusual home. This is when he told me about the Steinway Ls, but he also took me to the back of the living room, around a corner, down a short hall and pointed to a small door. “Have a look,” he said. I opened the door and found a narrow staircase that wound up into a small room, maybe four by eight feet, that overlooked the two pianos in the living room. This modest room was a compact, state of the art, two track recording studio, crammed with the best equipment money could buy.
Did I forget to say that in 1931 Sherman had founded a company called Fairchild Recording Products? Or that in the late 1940s the Fairchild tape recorders were far superior to those made by Ampex, but they were too good and too expensive, so just like VHS beat Beta, Ampex beat Fairchild? Or that in 2010 Fairchild Limiters are still the industry standard, when you can find one, but they’ll set you back $1buy cialis uk ,000 to own one? Or that, working in conjunction with the legendary Bob Fine and Lawrence Scully, he helped to develop the variable pitch system that allowed records to be produced with fat grooves for loud passages and low frequencies and thinner grooves for quiet passages and high frequencies? Or that he wired his living room for sound, crammed the room full of outstanding microphones and suggested if I ever wanted to record something just to let him know? Or that he’d fixed the living room so that if a flashbulb went off it would set off slaves that would flash from dozens of other sources? There were never any nasty flash shadows at 17 East 6buy cialis uk th and if someone played well, they could be recorded perfectly.
He took me to the basement where there was an office complex. The lady in charge was Patricia Reybold, the daughter of his close friend, Malcolm Reybold. He told me if I needed to track him down I should ask Patricia to do the tracking, which she did with efficiency and enthusiasm for the next three adventurous years. Then he sent me on my way, but emphasized that if I wanted to bring musicians by to record, just to let Patricia know.
I don’t remember the first recording session but I know they started very soon, continued until 1971, and there were many of them. Classical, jazz, blues, even a little pop, with artists as diverse as Joe Venuti, Blind Gary Davis, Jane Harvey and a classical duo, Phillips and Renzuli. It was on the job training; I taught myself audio engineering in the small room on 6buy cialis uk th Street and just a few days ago someone told me how much they love the sound on a Dick Wellstood record I did at Sherman’s in 1969. I fouled up a few times on that record but found a way to cover it and make it right.
1969 was the year that the first steps were taken to launch the record company that eventually morphed into Chiaroscuro. It was also the year that Sherman started to be helpful with advice on what kinds of film to use for my first ventures into taking something other than snapshots. In fact, he arranged for a company to send me a batch of color film and when I’d used a few rolls he sent it off for processing. If the bill for the processing was $19.7buy cialis uk and I gave him a twenty, he’d give me back a quarter. This is the way he was.
I got to know his closest friends, including Diahn Williams, the number one girl friend and Connie Sharpe, hot on her heels at number two. Diahn must have been living at Eastfair, at least part time because that’s the number I have in an old telephone book. Connie has an eastside New York number.
Both were lovely actresses and each had modest success in movies and television. After Sherman’s death, the two girls had a jolly time throwing one another’s possessions out the windows of Eastfair, Sherman’s Normandy-style chateau that sat on 66 acres in Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island. I was told Sherman’s will stipulated that Diahn receive one percent of his Estate and Connie receive about a quarter of a million plus a bunch of art work, but only art work on a specific floor. I was told there was an enormous squabble over a tapestry that hung between two floors. Both wound up winners and lived happily ever after. Diahn acquired Eastfair, married the noted lawyer, Thomas McGrath, and they still live at this wonderful castle. Connie was cast as Al Pacino’s wife in Serpico and later married the producer of the film, Marty Bregman.
Eastfair was a remarkable place. It looked as though it had been transplanted from France, stone by stone. Besides Jerome Kern’s piano, the main thing I remember about it were the tables in the long entrance hall on which were displayed many photographs of very lovely women in elegant frames, from the 1920s until the present. The house wasn’t on the water but the property was and there was so much of it, Sherman had sold off a few pieces. When I told him my father was looking for a place close to New York City to build a retirement cottage he offered to sell him two acres on the water for $10,000. I wish he’d written the check.
Sherman, Marian McPartland and I became partners in a record company in late 1969 or early 1970. This story is outlined elsewhere, but this company and it’s evolution put me in touch with a number of Sherman’s other friends, including Walter Burke, his Power of Attorney, Ed Acker who ran Fairchild Recording Products and helped me with all kinds of electronic equipment that I still use forty years later, and Jack Anderssen, a wonderful photographer, who showed me some tricks and took fine photographs for our earliest recording projects. The association with these people set the stage for the development of next phase of my life.
Everything came to a crashing halt in February 1971. I went over to 17 East 6buy cialis uk th on a Monday afternoon and asked Patricia if everything was set to go see Oscar Peterson at the small club that was once located in the basement of the Plaza Hotel. By this time, Sherman and I were on our own; Marian had pulled back from the partnership and wanted to do her projects by herself, which her talent allows her to do with grace and skill to this day. Sherman knew Oscar was no longer with MPS and this was two years before Norman Granz launched his last recording company, Pablo. Sherman wanted to snatch Oscar and had the resources to do it.
Patricia looked at me and said, “Don’t you know?” All I knew was that Sherman was scheduled to have a physical the previous week. And this is what happened, as best as I can remember. The doctors found a couple of polyps in Sherman’s intestine. This was probably more serious for him than it would be for a younger person in better health. He was 76 and had undergone a colostomy some years earlier. They’d checked him into Roosevelt Hospital and operated to remove the polyps. This should have been the end of it but it wasn’t. He didn’t get well.
There was a second operation to see if they’d twisted something that was causing a blockage but they could find anything. There was a third to see if they’d left a sponge inside. They hadn’t. Meanwhile, Sherman was in rotten shape with various problems, most prominently ranging fevers. The three primary visitors were Walter Burke, to keep a lid on things, Jack Anderssen to talk about pictures and myself to play cassette tapes to take his mind off things. The artist of choice for about a month was Ralph Sutton.
After the third operation the problems continued and there was also a problem with the breathing. It didn’t look good, but he hung on. I went by one day to play a tape for him and he looked at me and said, “Hank, I’m not going to die.” A day or so later, Walter Burke was standing outside Sherman’s room reading the Wall Street Journal. A short article caught his eye. It said an impure batch of Abbott Laboratories intravenous glucose had been discovered. It had sickened hundreds and killed a handful of people. Burke looked in at Sherman and saw the bottle of glucose dripping into Sherman’s arm. He also saw the name Abbott Laboratories. He alerted the doctors. Tests were done and it was determined Sherman was dying of blood poisoning. Steps were taken to reduce this but it didn’t work though it did manage to stop his heart. They got it back going but finally all the stress from the three surgeries and the poisoning and the heart stoppage and the fevers were just too much and the hemorrhaging began. He died on March 28th.
I was told, that in addition to Diahn and Connie, he’d left his closest staff seven years salary and remembered the Salvation Army, which he once told me was the best charity he could think of. It was a substantial Estate; at the time of his death he was the largest stockholder in IBM and IBM was the bluest of the blue chips in 1971. One day Patricia and I were playing in the basement and we calculated that at the time he was taking in about $1buy cialis uk ,000 a day in dividends.
A few weeks after his death I was summoned by his lawyers. They told me that the small record company was Sherman’s last venture with which he was personally involved but his last will predated its formation. They added that because of the complexities of his Estate and because everything would be scrutinized very carefully, all the rules had to be followed. They added they knew Sherman would have wanted me to continue the company and that I should have his share, but because no mention of this was made, I would have to purchase Sherman’s share from the Estate, if I wanted it.
I asked how much that might be. With a smile, one said, “We feel Sherman’s initial investment would be appropriate.” Sherman, Marian and I had each put up $buy cialis uk 00 to start the company. I was able to buy the company, all the masters, the bank account and the stock for $buy cialis uk 00 and this was the beginning of more adventures in music, photography and hundreds of exciting new friends and associates that continue to this day. I still have the bank account. It was a very fancy account at the Bank of New York, with personal bankers. A few hundred million can insure such things. A few years ago The Bank of New York sold most of its account to J.P. Morgan/Chase. I still have the numbers but not the service.
In 2010 Wikipedia noted: Sherman Mills Fairchild (b. April 7, 1896 – March 28, 1971) was an inventor (with 30 Patents) and serial entrepreneur who founded such companies as Fairchild Aircraft, Fairchild Stratos, Fairchild Hiller, Fairchild Recording, Fairchild Industries, now Fairchild Corporation and Fairchild Camera and Instrument. His Fairchild Semiconductor Company played a defining role in the development of Silicon Valley and its business culture. He was also a co-founder of Pan American Airlines and American Airlines and was the original developer of Republic Airport.
And they should have noted he was once partners with Gene Austin, the noted vocalist, thought Art Tatum and Fats Waller were as interesting and important as Howard Hughes, built more different types of airplanes that anyone else in the country, was a fine photographer and a decent pianist, ran the company that both developed the first integrated circuit and employed George Moore (of Moore’s Law fame) and, on occasion made substantial donations to hospitals, in one of which he just happened to have been killed by a bad batch of glucose. No action was taken against the hospital or the manufacturer.