Audrey Bishop, Ideal Boss


June 30, 1996|By JACQUES KELLY

Twelve years have passed since a group of friends gathered to honor and recall the late Audrey Bishop, a newspaper writer who spent some of her best years on this publication. Audrey's funeral, on a cool and clear last day of May, was a sad one for me. Audrey was one of my newspaper mentors. She was a witty individual with a quick, dry sense of humor, and she also possessed fine, old-fashioned standards.

Audrey contributed a mountain of copy to the pages of Sun Magazine during her years here in the 1950s. I still recall her feature stories -- not so much for their details, but for the quiet reading pleasure they gave me on that first day of the week when I went through the part of the paper Baltimoreans called the Brown Section.

As a first- and second-grader, I much preferred to read those magazine articles than the often-dull children's novels that filled the school library shelves.

I did not start working with Audrey until 1972, when she was my first boss. By this time, she had done a stint in New York with DuPont, and was back in Baltimore editing the News American's Sunday magazine.

I was two days out of college and 22 years old when I reported to her office, a rather crummy chamber in the collection of buildings that housed Hearst's Baltimore newspaper. I believe that Audrey had two or three cigarettes going and she was talking a mile a minute on the phone when I presented myself.

She was fairly tall and carried herself well. She dressed formally in a place where there were a number of slovenly newspaper types. Her style was breezy, and she did not take herself too seriously.

For the next year or so she tried to work me into some sort of newspaper writer. Although she would never have admitted to it, she was an ace teacher and ideal first boss. She gave me far too much latitude and I loved it.

It didn't take her long to spot two of my faults. I cannot spell. And I am often late with copy.

The spelling she figured was hopeless and all she could do was watch for errors and correct them.

One afternoon we had a collision. I had ordered some type set for a magazine headline. When Audrey looked over the made-up page, she said, "That can't go out. You have spelled good-bye wrong." Indeed, I had left the hyphen out of the middle of the two words and she wanted a final "e" on "bye."

To complicate matters, the Sunday magazine was printed in Philadelphia on a special press. All the magazine's master pages had to be put on a Greyhound Bus (no Fed-Ex then) and sent to the printer. We now had to go through a time-consuming process to correct my error.

As the foul-up was being resolved, Audrey reached into her large handbag, extracted a five-dollar bill and instructed me to catch a cab and take this last, overdue page up to Howard and Centre streets to the Greyhound loading dock. She never mentioned the error again and I'm sure she didn't put that five down on her expense account.

Audrey had an effective system for combating my lateness with stories. She learned that I was living at home with my parents. She would regularly call there, chat with my mother and enlist her as an ally. Now I had both boss and mother goading me into hitting the typewriter keys. It worked.

The way Audrey handled problems made me respect her all the more. She was a traditionalist. She did things the right way. There was not an untrue or phony component in her being. Any piece of work she put her name to was the best effort she could give it.

In time, I got to know her well. We both took the same St. Paul Street bus and complained the same about the spotty service. We also often took cabs and she frequently treated me to a ride home at night. She was a hard-core city dweller who spent Saturdays downtown, at her Charles Street hairdresser and the Howard Street department stores. She loved a Lexington Market lunch.

To my knowledge, she never drove a car, yet managed to get around all over Maryland for her newspaper interviews. Her father, Mark Bishop, who was in his 80s when I worked with Audrey, would occasionally drive her around.

One Sunday we were working at some extra duties when Audrey said her father could drive us both home. What I wasn't prepared for was this octogenarian speedster who treated Calvert Street as if it were the Indy 500. I shut my eyes as we nearly sideswiped the Battle Monument and a construction trailer at Mercy Hospital. During that ride I learned Mark Bishop was the brother of the professional baseball great Max Bishop.

As Sun Magazine bows out today, I reflect that Audrey Bishop's name is one of many that have been associated with the publication. I'm glad she was my first boss.

"Jacques Kelly's Baltimore" will appear in the Sunday Today section beginning July 7.

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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