Mr. Steven K. Heller has bestowed upon me the honour of writing for him a letter recommending the potentates of Boston Tech to secure his services as an usher in the Graduation Ceremonies of 1985.
In reviewing a copy of the resume that accompanies his application, I note that Mr. Heller has been in his characteristic way guilty of supreme understatement and over-reaching modesty. Permit me therefore to embellish the picture of himself painted by this shy and unassuming young gentleman in the hope that you will thereby gain an appreciation to some measure of the lofty accomplishments achieved by him as the supreme exponent, nay, as the pioneer of this little-noticed backwater of human endeavour. I speak of course of the fine art of ushering, and of Mr. Heller, the man who single-handedly shaped that field into what it is today.
From early childhood, Mr. Heller has displayed a unique fascination toward showing people "The Way". With rapt and hypnotic intensity he thrilled to stories of shepherds, of Biblical figures leading tribes back from Egypt, of traffic policemen and crosswalk monitors. "To be an usher", wrote the young dreamer, "is my crowning ambition, ... would fill me with a satisfaction and inner peace ...".
Since those early days, Mr. Heller has shown a remarkable aptitude for his vocation, leaping from crag to crevice in a dizzying career of creative and breath-taking innovations, changing the face of the ushering and molding it into a respected and prestigous art, ensconcing it forever in the pantheon of respected professions.
To watch Mr. Heller practice his art is to be struck by the realization that here one is in the presence of a Master. He makes a difficult task look utterly easy, executing his moves with a smooth, polished mastery that is a joy to behold.
He approaches a patron with a cool, suave and calm demeanour that is calculated to calm and relax the guest, who perhaps is hyper or nervous after fighting his way through traffic and being abused by an obnoxious parking attendant. With an almost imperceptible glance at the guests' tickets, he has instantly pinpointed, in his mind, the exact location of the seats, and has already planned the optimum route there, taking into account such seeming trifles as to whether an approach from the left would disturb more already-seated guests than an approach from the right. With a nonchalant and almost fluid motion he executes the legendary "Heller Ticket-Rip", and with a murmur, scarcely audible, of "This way, please", he glides down the aisle to seat the guests. With an impeccable aisle-side manner, he effortlessly puts them into good humour, lightly regaling them with amusing trivia about what really went on in Orchestra B15 in April 1965.1
All the while, he is sizing up the guests, pigeon-holing them into the "fidgeter"s, the "MUST cough between movements"s, the "throat-clearer"s, the "weak bladder"s, the "snorer"s and other classifications of the Standard Heller Taxonomy. He is thus prepared for every eventuality and is the acknowledged expert in dealing with "difficult" situations. A mild raising of the Heller eyebrow has been known to quell the antsy-est pre-pubescent press-ganged into wearing sissy clothes and made to attend the Nutcracker. In his pocket, one is sure to find the Heller Standard Usher's Kit, including 1 Packet Cough Drops, 1 Linen Handkerchief, and 2 Alkaline Cells (size AA).
Mr. Heller's skill does not arise merely from a natural talent for ushering. He works hard to keep his skill honed to a state of fine and delicate perfection, practicing every day for an hour in the lobby of our laboratory volunteering to show each passing person the way to their office. In this he exhibits a remarkable diligence and perseverance, little discouraged by the suspicious glances of long-time office-workers edging away from his profferred hand. All of his admirers routinely go to him the first thing every morning to have the privilege of being directed by him to our offices.
Mr. Heller often visits concert-halls and divers other auditoria incognito to appraise the standard of ushering. The industry-standard Heller Rating is an appellation that is feared by some and worn with pride by others. In his evaluation expeditions, it is amazing to watch Mr. Heller's expertise: within seconds of setting foot in the hall, he has made a mental map of the auditorium and judged how easy or difficult it is to seat2. He can immediately spot the inexperienced usher and point out lapses in the technique of the more experienced ones. On occasion, he has had to give up his disguise to deal with a particular difficult situation that the management was unable to control.
In all his years of distinguished ushering, Mr. Heller has compiled an impressive and spotless record of showing guests to their correct seats. Many a high-strung and cantankerous celebrity member of the international jet set has refused to attend a performance if it were not ushered by Mr. Heller.
The list of glittering ceremonies that Mr. Heller has been invited to usher is too long to be listed here in its entirety; the Nobel Awards, the Gong Show, Spanish bullfights, are but a few in the illustrious litany of triumphs. He is routinely called in as a consultant annually for a pre-game address to the ushers at The Game between Harvard and Yale, traditionally attended by as unruly and imbecile a crowd as one can imagine. He has often been called upon to deliver an inspirational address in front of dispirited school-going teenagers who otherwise see nothing ahead but a bleak future of business or medical school. The Japanese have in fact instituted the prestigous Ray-O-Vac Heller Prize awarded annually to the young usher who has most assiduously studied and applied Mr. Heller's methods.
Recently, a movie was made about Mr. Heller's life and accomplishments, but was not distributed widely because they were unable to find any usher who was not so transfixed by the movie that he or she could not reliably direct patrons to their seats.
Mr. Heller is the author of the now classic tour-de-force "The Compleat Usher" which has at last count been translated into 23 different languages. For the advanced afficionado, Mr. Heller has also authored several important monographs that are most highly regarded by the cognoscenti dealing with the more subtle aspects of the art.
Mr. Heller's name is spoken with awe and in a kind of hushed, respectful whisper wherever ushers gather in bars and club-houses all over the land. The story of the cool elegance and panache with which he moved a group of 50 Japanese tourists mistakenly seated in Parquet Left instead of Balcony Right by a young novice usher is still repeated with shaking heads and disbelief.
In summary, I would like to impress upon Boston Tech that this is an opportunity not to be missed! I cannot believe that Mr. Heller is applying for this position because he needs the experience; rather, it must be because he has a warm and tender affection for this, his adopted home. It would indeed reflect badly on Boston Tech not to benefit from his magnanimous offer.
Goodyear Professor of High-Temparature Pneumatic Studies