Category Archives: Working Stiff

Coming Soon: “Dirty Dancing” anti-bullying workshops?

Patrick Swayze: "I want you to be nice, until it's time not to be nice."

Workplace bullying expert Rick Lawrence believes that too many people are afraid of confrontation, even when it might be necessary to stand up against someone who is undermining their career. At his “Sabotaging the Bully” seminars, the former Marine dispenses the unconventional advice that sometimes you should mirror your tormentor’s behavior and outbully him or her in a covert manner.

You can read more about Lawrence’s eye-for-an-eye philosophy that counters today’s kumbayah culture in this week’s “Working Stiff” column.

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of his anti-bullying consulting business is that he quotes from the classic Patrick Swayze movie, “Road House.”

“I want you to be nice, until it is time not to be nice.”

Love it. Can Swayze’s “Dirty Dancing” wisdom be far behind?

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Did you REALLY think Wade Boggs was going to pay for your kid’s future college education?

Sucking the Joy out of Card Collecting: Baseball card enthusiasts today are more like dorky coin collectors, caring more about microscopic ink discolorations on “graded” specimens than the HR and RBI stats on the back!

Do you have a secret stash of baseball cards from your childhood, either stored in your basement or perhaps even in your childhood bedroom, which your parents have left untouched since the day you left?

Or perhaps you’ve never stopped collecting cards and have 3-ring binders stuffed with plastic sheets and rookie cards.

Here’s the bad news. If your collection is from the 1980s or 1990s, not only won’t you be able to retire on the proceeds — you’ll be lucky to make enough to buy a steak dinner at the Capital Grille. And that’s only if you’re fortunate enough to even find a buyer.

Author and Yankees fan Dave Jamieson explains why in my Boston Herald Working Stiff column this week. Although steroids and the baseball strikes have contributed to the contraction of the baseball card market, it mostly comes down to greed and overproduction — more than 81 BILLION cards were printed annually at the peak of the hobby in the early 1990s.

That means that Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are like Monopoly money. According to Jamieson, author of “Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession,” those unopened boxes you hoarded in your basement are absolutely worthless.

Are 1980s and 1990s baseball cards really worthless, as author Dave Jamieson asserts in his book, "Mint Condition?"

Jamieson’s book is a phenomenal primer in the pitfalls of personal investing and the dangers of believing something is valuable just because everyone says it is (see: Tickle Me Elmo, Retired Beanie Babies).

I thought my Wade Boggs rookie cards would at least fund a vacation. Maybe in his honor I could buy some chicken wings instead.

ALSO SEE: “Mixing Baseball Cards and Cleavage.”

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Filed under Red Sox, Sports, Working Stiff

Meet America’s most (unintentionally) condescending bosses

7-Eleven's CEO was shocked his employees regarded the third shift as a dead-end job

Before all the sex scandals, remember the “Two Americas” theme of the John Edwards presidential campaign? It was tough to take the guy seriously about working class issues when he was infamous for getting $400 haircuts.

CBS obviously has a recession-boosted hit with “Undercover Boss,” the new reality TV series that lets corporate executives play Blue-Collar Dress-Up at their own companies for a week. Disguised as entry-level workers, the CEOs are shown talking to their minimum wage employees, learning about the challenges of their jobs and building empathy for their pitiful lives eating brown-bag lunches and driving used Honda Civics.

The opening credits show foreclosure signs and laid-off employees carrying their belongings off in a cardboard box.

“The economy is going through tough times. Many hard-working Americans blame wealthy CEOs out of touch with what’s going on in their own companies,” the deep-voiced narrator says. “But some bosses are willing to take extreme action to make their businesses better.”

Then comes the graphic dissolve of the show’s slogan: EXTREME TIMES CALL FOR EXTREME MEASURES.

Sorry, I’m not impressed when a CEO grabs a mop, puts his arm around the other guys with mops like he’s at some group therapy session, and then pontificates about how he appreciates the struggles of the working class. Especially when it’s for the cameras.

In this week’s “Working Stiff” column, I argue that the participating CEOs on “Undercover Boss” come across as insincere, patronizing buffoons.


Going on this show is a foolish PR move. Even if a boss is sincere and really does feel for the guy making $8 bucks an hour to get his hand stuck in the meat grinder, the melodramatic music and close-ups added during editing will make him look condescending.

One CEO proudly declared he would be slumming it in budget motels “that are in line with someone who is new to town and working at an entry-level position.” Oh, the sacrifice!

Another boss seems shocked that a third-shift delivery driver never gets to see his wife awake.

Again, these executives are in a no-win situation. Even if they do sincerely care, caring on camera comes across as ridiculously contrived.

The smart CEOs would be much better off being nice off-camera.

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Booty Call: Butt Sketch artists shake up corporate trade shows

Original Butt Sketch charcoal artists are shaking up the world of trade show entertainment

Original Butt Sketch charcoal artists are shaking up the world of trade show entertainment

THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
” BOOTY CALL: ‘Butt Sketch’ artists shake up corporate trade shows”

Originally Published: February 22, 2006 (Boston Herald)
It’s called the “Butt Sketch.” And it’s probably the only time co-workers can blatantly ogle their office crush without being accused of sexual harassment.

It’s also the great equalizer between bosses and employees. Fashion doesn’t care what your business card says.

“If there was any tension before in the office, it’s gone when I get through with them,” grins Butt Sketch artist Pjae Adams, who captures “posteriors for posterity” in up to 10 cities per month. “Hopefully, they’ll go back to work with a new sense of comraderie.”

Adams was sketching butt this past weekend at the Hynes Convention Center, where thousands of college students gathered to scout entertainment acts at the National Association for Campus Activities Conference. Her act seems gimmicky at first – Project Runway meets amusement park caricature – but those who walk away with the charcoal picture may momentarily fantasize about posing for the next Macy’s newspaper ad.

Revere’s Jeff Smith, a student affairs administrator at Salem State College, plans to hang his likeness in his office. “It’s a different perspective of you,” he says. “You never see what you look like from the back. There’s no mirror to do that.”

“Some people are shy at first, but there’s a little bit of exhibitionist in everyone,” adds the 29-year-old Adams, who used to design boutique shop windows in Atlanta and Dallas.

The artist’s outgoing personality must have been wasted on the mannequins. Adams begins her two-and-a-half minute sessions with friendly banter urging her models to relax. Usually, the Butt Sketch becomes a group experience with co-workers smirking and laughing in the background.

Original Butt Sketch artist Pjae Adams

Original Butt Sketch artist Pjae Adams

“I think this is great for guys and girls,” says Butt Sketch devotee Krystal Johnson, a student at the University of North Carolina. “But you can’t take it too seriously.”

Sage advice.

My turn on the Butt Sketch runway was enlightening. At the risk of sounding trite, I have gained new respect for fashion models. I had trouble standing frozen yet “relaxed” for more than two minutes. And I still can’t pull off a pouty expression.

Nonetheless, my butt does look fantastic. In fact, everyone’s butts look fantastic off the charcoal pencil of Adams, who admits using a flattering touch.

“Whether people believe me or not, that’s what I see. Every butt is different. Every butt has its own personality,” she says.

Just as fascinating as the psychology of the Butt Sketch experience is the backstory. Dallas sidewalk artist Krandel Lee Newton first set up his easel in 1987 at the West End Marketplace, a tourist spot similar to Faneuil Hall. The popularity of his “Original Butt Sketch” appearances at trade shows, conventions and private parties eventually encouraged him to build a Butt Sketch empire.

Today, a dozen artists travel the country to immortalize the tushes of people who’ll likely never have the opportunity to model again. Newton’s company, which charges between $1,700 and $3,000 for a four-hour session, boasts more than 250,000 Butt Sketches in its portfolio — including the famous rear ends of Alex Trebek, Donnie & Marie Osmond, Ted Danson and Queen Latifah.

Butt Sketch artist Pjae Adams

Butt Sketch artist Pjae Adams

“I never imagined I’d be sketching people’s butts for a living,” says Adams, who hopes the gig will advance her art career. “But I always hoped to use my gifts to support myself.”

Specializing in acrylic paintings of the human form, Adams sometimes finds that her rapid fashion drawings of accountants and dental hygienists subconsciously influence her future work.

“The more butts I sketch,” she says, “the more inspired I become.”

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the Boston Herald. Story tips from the workplace are welcomed via email at heraldstiff @


ALSO SEE: Every tush is beautiful – in its own way!

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, Fashion, Marie Osmond's Tush, Uncategorized, Working Stiff