this reads like the treatment for a movie script, you will get no argument
The piece was written in 1997 by Tom Curtin
and edited here by Flossie Arend.
The piece reflects the times, when David
was at a cargo zenith, although we are sure Dave’s light always
shone bright and clear until that sad day last month when he left us.
But what fun, and what chops!
What you will read here is a celebration,
reminding us first and foremost that David Bluth was a life well lived!
Pan Am flew for the second time in 1996, David helped lift the carrier
and Marty Shugrue said thanks.
airline executives and investment bankers laughed approvingly as Martin
Shugrue, the President of Pan American Airways 11, roasted David Rueben
Bluth. Mr. Shugrue's impromptu remarks came yesterday during his speech
at the Wings Club, on Pan Am's resurrection and Mr. Bluth’s role
in rebuilding it.
Tongue in cheek, Mr.Shugrue said
that, among other hires, Mr. Bluth had placed Heidi Fleiss as the head
of human resources, and Dennis Rodman as the person in charge of creating
a new image for the airline.
truth, Mr. Bluth, the 68-year-old president of David Bluth & Associates,
who is a one-man human resources firm with an unlisted number and no
business cards, enjoys a solid reputation within the airline industry.
Calling himself a "top sergeant to the generals of the airline
industry," Mr. Bluth is widely known for his knack for solving
complicated problems with uncomplicated solutions.
Mr. Bluth, who is proud to be
the first and only person to place a woman as president of an airline,
says "in times of trouble they call me, because they know in their
own mind I’ll do whatever I can to get the job done." This,
he adds, is done quietly and honestly.
Humor, airplanes, extraordinary
characters, clandestine activities, his aunt, and his immediate family
form the centerpieces of Mr. Bluth's life.
Bom and raised in Brooklyn by
his first generation Jewish American parents, Mr. Bluth attended trade
school because of his parents' "depression mentality."
"I was a schelp, I always
worked after school running errands and did whatever it took to make
a dollar honestly."
From grade school to junior high
and until his graduation from trade school, he made most of the deliveries
for his uncle Izzy, who ran non-union clothing shops in Manhattan.
"That's where I met certain
people of an Italian persuasion, and they liked me," Mr. Bluth
says with a grin.
"What saved my ass was the
Navy." That, and his father who warned him to stay away from “meshuganas,”
His fifty-year involvement and
love affair with aviation began in the late forties. "In addition
to odd jobs, I used to help my aunt Miriam load supplies," and
"also a few side shipments of arms," onto planes bound for
as Mr. Bluth calls her (he refused to give her real name) was a small
woman involved in a big movement. She was helping the "IRGUN”
try to get the British out of Palestine. According
to him, she was the head bookkeeper: "Miriam was quite a tiger.
A feisty little woman who never married, she could get you to do anything.
She was not demanding, just an expert at inflicting guilt. Davila,"
she would say, "I need an errand, I know you like airplanes,”
and “hey kid, come along.”
After that, he went into the
Navy, where as a "glorified grease monkey" he received top
security clearance so he could work on aircraft carrying special weapons.
After his naval stint, he worked in "contract maintenance"
from 1955 to 1962 for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation at Idlewild Airport,
now J.F.K. It was there he joined, as he put it, the "no margin
for error club" while working on President Eisenhower’s plane,
"Ike," he says, "was
a nice old guy." He also met Nixon, who was “a gas, a nut
on baseball. He’d come in, shoot the breeze, but never talk politics."
Mr. Bluth, who sports an American
flag pin on his lapel, will talk about his politics. He calls Conservatives
"Liberals who just got mugged," but he will say little about
the leaves of absence he took from Lockheed for “contract jobs"
he had to perform. He does say that while his contract work required
different levels of clearance, "he never stayed too long on any
job" and that he worked at various times for “Air America
and “Air Asia.”
These were "kosher operations,
the comercial side."
Sometimes, he says, "we'd
fly in planes painted black." with no I.D. marks on them. These
were "clandestine trips."
"And occasionally we'd drop
a few bombs" in places like Kee Moi and Matsu just to let the Communist
Chinese "know we were around."
in 1962 at a party at the Norwegian Seaman's Club in Brooklyn, Mr. Bluth
met his wife, Tove. Their marriage and the fact that he was becoming
deaf from jet engine noise were the catalysts for a career change. He
"I was always great with
my hands. I wanted fresh air and a change of scenery, so I thought I’d
get money from my uncle Izzy to be a chicken farmer in the Catskills,
" Mr. Bluth recalls. His uncle turned down the request and told
him "you have a brain, go use it.”
His wife was now pregnant, and
over the span of twenty months he had to bury five relatives including
aunts, uncles, his mother, and his step-father. Desperate for work,
he turned to an old military acquaintance who ran the Patten Personnel
Agency: "They wanted someone to perform specialist jobs in the
aviation field. I knew people in the industry, so I got the job."
There he prospered and grew the business. He was on a straight forty
percent commission, with sixty percent going to Mr. Patten.
One day a man came in to tell
him about various jobs he wanted filled and the kind of people he needed
for them. "The guy told me it wouldn't he smart for me to travel
around with this kind of work. I told him I wasn't going anywhere."
Ominously, the man told him "you may not have to." Shortly
after that, Mr. Bluth left Patten to start his own successful company.
Bluth is a happy man. According to him, the most exciting thing that
ever happened to him was raising three kids with his wife. His daughter,
Lisa Nantsis, 31, is the eldest of his three children. She is married
to a contractor from Astoria, and has a one year old son. His twin sons,
Norman and Eric, are thirty years old. Norman, a lawyer for TransWorld
Airlines, is married and lives in New Rochelle. Eric, who lives with
his parents in Bethpage, New York, does bartering and capital recovery
work. "I tried teaching him skull-duggery," said Mr. Bluth,
"but he has no ear for it."
Mr. Bluth loves to smoke his
pipe. He loves to tell jokes, and he loves his anecdotes. "You
get two Jews, you get five opinions; amazing they get anything done."
When he is not working, which he is "always doing," according
to Mrs. Bluth, the two travel to Air America reunions, visit the race
track, or just stay home and putter around the garden.