In the late 1970s, the staff of DC Comics had shrunk due to cutbacks nicknamed “The DC Implosion,” but by 1982 the staff was growing again and a move was planned from 75 Rockefeller Plaza to a new location across 52nd Street, the Tishman Building.
DC was then in the Warner Publishing Services division of Warner Communications, directed by William Sarnoff, and all of Warner Publishing moved, with DC mostly on the 8th floor of the Tishman Building. On the 9th floor were Warner Books, the magazine distribution division, and Publishers Advertising Association (which handled publicity for Warner Books Authors), as well as DC’s accounting department and mailroom, all overseen by Sarnoff as Chairman of Warner Publishing Services.
A satellite view from Google Maps showing the approximate location of the DC offices tinted red. On the other side of 53rd was the St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Museum of Modern Art. As an employee of DC since 1977, I was already familiar with some parts of the Tishman building because the E and F subway train station was below it, so when I commuted to work on the E train from Penn Station, I would emerge there and walk across 52nd Street to the DC offices at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. There was a large two-floor B. Dalton bookstore at street level, on the southeast corner of the Tishman building that I frequented, and on the basement level a restaurant, “Pastrami & Things” that became a favorite of DC staffers once we moved in, though we could still eat at the Warner cafeteria under 75 Rock as well, and I often lunched elsewhere nearby.
This is the best photo I could find of the 53rd Street side of the building. I believe the DC offices were where I’ve tinted red, but more window offices are hidden by a setback in the facade.
Though it’s been replaced by another sign, the large 666 atop the Tishman Building was a landmark for decades, and jokes about “the number of the beast” were frequent. In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel “Good Omens,” it’s the headquarters of Famine. An expensive restaurant on the highest floor was known as “Top of the Sixes.” The Tishman Building, constructed in 1957, was 41 stories high and held 1.5 million square feet of office space. It was designed by Carson & Lundin and built by the well-known Tishman Realty & Construction Company begun by Julius Tishman in 1898 and run by his family.
Perhaps the most unusual reference to the building is in this song about Tishman by singer/comedian Allan Sherman on his 1967 album “Togetherness.” Listen for references to the elevators and rest rooms. Sherman was with Warner Music, so perhaps he spent time in the building on business. Note the song says there are 48 stories instead of 41 as reported by Wikipedia.
The ground floor had a T-shaped open corridor that connected 52nd to 53rd street, and from the center went to 5th Avenue, as shown here. The B. Dalton bookstore was just to the left, out of this picture, and the actual entrance to the building was at the end of the corridor. This arm of the corridor has since been filled with stores.
The corridor running from 52nd to 53rd was fronted by an Isamu Noguchi sculpture and plants. The stairs down to the subway were just right of this picture, and the building entrance was between the black pillars further down.
Looking into the elevator lobby with more Noguchi sculptures on the ceiling. Elevators to different groups of floors were in halls down and to the left.
Here’s a floor plan of the DC offices when we moved in and soon after, drawn up by me with lots of consultation and input from other staffers at the time, including Bob Rozakis and Paul Levitz. It’s based on our collective memories, not any actual plans, and may well be off in proportions and seating details, but it’s reasonably close. Paul remembers the move was largely handled by Office Manager Midge Bregman under his direction. Working with Midge was a new employee, Angelina Genduso, who also helped with the move, which I believe happened in the last week of November, 1982. The new offices were officially open for business the first week of December. Bob Rozakis remembers, “Because of the locations of the loading docks and the directions of one-way streets, the trucks had to load and drive about six blocks from one building to the other. They spent more time in traffic than anything else.”
Looking more closely at the left side of the floor plan, as you emerged from the elevators, you turned right to the DC Comics entrance door. The other way led to the offices of the Lorillard Tobacco Company which held most or all of the remaining 8th floor.
The entrance door had a small round porthole window with the DC symbol etched on the glass, as seen above, and inside, by one of the visitor waiting couches, was a statue of Clark Kent reading a newspaper. The sculpture was created for these offices, I don’t know the sculptor. It was reasonably realistic, clad in real clothes, and caused many double-takes by visitors.
The statue actually sat on a connected round pedestal with DC comics covers on it. The entire thing must have been fairly light, because editor Mike Carlin was able to bring Clark to DC’s 50th anniversary party in 1988 at the Puck building. Here he is hailing a cab on 5th Avenue for himself and Clark. I can just imagine the cabby’s reaction.
In one corner of the reception area sat Ruthie Thomas, shown here in a 1986 photo by Steven Bové with production artist George Roberts. To her right are mail cubicles where entering staff could pick up their mail and phone messages, or Ruthie would deliver them if they sat too long. We all remember Ruthie, now Ruthie Chisolm, as charming and professional. She didn’t take any nonsense from visitors! To the right of the mail slots was the actual entrance, a Dutch door with the top half almost always open.
Up a short hall, there were single doors on each side. On the right was the Film Library overseen by longtime employee Milt Snapinn, above. The Film Library did not stay there long, in a year or two it had moved to elsewhere in the building, and then much further away to a location in Flushing, Queens, making room for other business offices in that area. The film involved was the printer’s film for all DC comics from when it had begun to be saved in the early 1950s. Later, it was converted to digital files.
On the left from the entrance hall was an office for Angelina Genduso, Denise Vozzo and Bonnie Miller. Angelina recalls:
“After a few months that we were at 666, the International Rights Dept was brought in-house with the hire of Chantal D’Aulnis and I transferred to working with her, because of my knowledge of foreign languages, as her assistant. At the time, I shared my office (if you could call it that, it was so small) with two other girls: Denise Vozzo-Conaty and Bonnie Miller. Both reported to Bruce Bristow, Marketing.”
Around 1984, Angelina moved to the Special Projects department under Joe Orlando.
A left turn at the end of the entrance hall led toward the business and executive offices. On the left was the entrance to the DC Library, at that time with business person Dee Nelson in front of it. The library was then run by part-time employee and longtime fan Mark Hanerfeld.
Midge Bregman, seen here in a 1985 photo by Albert DeGuzman, had a glass-windowed office overseeing this end of the main hallway as the Office Manager.
A left turn after Midge’s office and straight ahead brought you to the Conference Room, where monthly bagel parties were held to celebrate employee birthdays that month. In this post-1984 photo by Albert DeGuzman are Richard Bruning (seated), Bob Greenberger, Shelley Eiber in the checked shirt, Dick Giordano in the light jacket and tie. Bob Rozakis has also identified Mary Moebus Yedlin behind Shelley and Carlos Martinez behind her, Kathy Petrucchio is right of Shelley, Robin Phelps is right of Dick Giordano and Tom Pattison is behind Robin. Joe Orlando is partly visible on the right edge. Company business meetings, staff meetings and other parties, like Julie Schwartz’s 1986 retirement party, were held here.
Carol Fein, in a 1984 photo by DeGuzman, was Publisher Jenette Kahn’s assistant, with her office between Jenette and the Conference Room. At some point she got her own assistant, Carlos Villanueva, who ran errands for her and Jenette. I don’t know where he sat.
DC Comics President Jenette Kahn had the large corner office, as fitting for the head of the company, where she met with her staff, business and media contacts, and artist friends like Andy Warhol and Milton Glaser, who designed the DC symbol as well as, reportedly, the yellow-dotted wallpaper everyone remembers. We’ll see it later.
Paul Levitz, in an undated photo found online, had the second largest office in his role as the executive in charge of the business side of the company, with the title of Executive Vice President during the 666 years. Paul later became President and is well known for his comics writing.
His assistant in the early days there was Robin Phelps, seen here in a photo by DeGuzman, 1985, the best I can find.
Charles McDade, Bruce Bristow and Chantal d’Aulnis in 1985 photos by DeGuzman.
Filling out the business window offices were Charles McDade, Business Affairs; Bruce Bristow, Marketing; and Chantal d’Aulnis, International Rights.
Another person on the Marketing team I can’t place in a room is Corinda Carford, seen here in a photo from her website. Corinda is a successful singer and now goes by her original family name of Carfora.
Arthur Gutowitz, Diane Perla and Tom Pattison in 1985 photos by DeGuzman.
Of the Accounting Department on the 9th floor, I recall and have photos of three I’m sure of: department head Arthur Gutowitz, and his employees Diane Perla and Tom Pattison.
Nick Caputo wrote about working in the DC mailroom on the 9th floor:
“I began working in the mailroom of WPS (Warner Publishing Services) the month before the move to 666 Fifth. The mailroom on the 9th floor serviced DC as well as everyone on 9, but the main mailroom remained at 75 Rock, meaning we would have to transport the mail to and fro, from freight elevators, out to the street (rain or shine) and to the 75 rock freight elevator a few times a day. Quite a job! I remember many of the faces from DC, since I and my co-workers, Ben Valdez and Ronnie Grant, delivered their mail.”
Thanks, Nick, for filling me in on an area of the company I never visited and knew nothing about! We’ll continue with more of the early 666 staff and offices next time. Other articles on DC Comics history you might enjoy can be found on my COMICS CREATION page.