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The Professor Who Wears Two Hats

SURVIVAL IN THE '60s, One of an intermittent series.

November 24, 1985|MARSHALL BERGES | Times Staff Writer

"I always want to be doing more than one thing at a time," Gordon Patzer says, "and that creates problems. I want to be in university life and I want to be in the entertainment industry, and I really can't do both, so I move from one to the other."

Restless and ambitious, Patzer by his own description is "a manipulator" who finds special satisfaction in being "a person in control, behind the scenes." He has the tense, breathless manner of a man stepping gingerly on a path strewn with pins and needles.

Patzer, 33, teaches at Loyola Marymount University and works in marketing research at CBS Television, where a major part of his job is to help collect and analyze audience reaction to pilot shows for possible TV series, and then to recommend action to CBS management.

Between the two jobs Patzer, a bachelor, earns close to $37,000 a year. Additionally, he has built up a nest egg of $85,000 as a result of doing part-time consulting work and spending little money on himself. But he has been "too busy," he said, to invest that nest egg creatively to make it grow, and "it's merely earning interest" at a current money market rate, which brings him approximately $5,000 a year.

He referred to his nest egg as "practically nothing" in terms of purchasing power. "It's ironic, but I feel financial stress, because I realize if I tried to buy housing, I couldn't do it. And I do need housing. I need a car. I need clothes.

"So when I stack up my needs against what I have available, I actually feel poor. Sometimes it gives me second thoughts about why I'm working as hard as I do. I'm practically killing myself, putting 60 to 70 hours a week, or more, into a couple of jobs. I should really slow down to a less hectic routine."

Not least of the ironies in his life, Patzer said, with an air of self-deprecating amusement, is that "I'm doing the very thing I faulted my father for. He seemed to be working all the time, when I was a little boy, and I really resented that."

His father, who leased heavy machinery to construction companies and to farmers, conducted business from an office at home in suburban Washington. "He took phone calls morning and night, weekdays and weekends," Patzer said. "There was no clean distinction about being at work or not being at work.

"My friends seemed to take normal vacations with their parents. But my father didn't take vacations unless my mother really made him go somewhere to visit. He just seemed too busy with work to do anything else.

"I thoroughly disliked that life style then. I hated it. But now I'm leading a remarkably similar life, almost an identical pattern, with no distinction between working time and non-working time."

The youngest of five children in "a conservatively religious Lutheran family," Patzer characterized his boyhood attitude in a sentence: "I was extremely self-centered and manipulative."

In elementary school, for example, "If I wanted someone's lunch, I'd persuade friends to steal it, and then we'd all share it. But I'd feel totally innocent because I hadn't done the stealing."

The family later moved to North Dakota, and there he practiced more mischief. One time he urged a group of chums to stack "a whole bunch of junk on railroad tracks. The idea was to derail a freight train." The blockade was discovered and the derailment averted, "but regardless, I felt innocent because I hadn't personally done anything--I simply planted the idea with others and they were the ones who did the dirty work."

'Selfish Schemer'

Patzer fast-talked classmates into helping him during school tests. "But if I had studied, I never helped the others. I didn't share information. I didn't share my car. If they needed transportation, I'd charge them $1 or more. I was strictly a selfish schemer."

He found plenty of jobs in off-school hours: hashing in a fast-food restaurant, pumping gas at a service station, waiting on tables in a strip joint.

"My parents had no interest in higher education. They wanted me to go to a trade school and find something steady and reliable, like factory work." Defiantly, Patzer enrolled at Moorhead State University in Minnesota, and on the side he operated a one-man entertainment agency, booking rock bands.

"It was illegal to run a business out of a dorm," he said, "but I did it anyway. I'd take phone calls day and night, booking bands into proms, school dances, bars, parties. It involved lots of headaches, but I got 15%" of the fees.

Always there was a temptation to rush toward the unknown, to live dangerously. After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, he traveled West, aimlessly at first.

He stopped in Las Vegas and "I thought, 'boy, this is scary and big. Wouldn't it be great if I could be comfortable here?' I kept feeling tempted to go to places where I was uneasy and to imagine how wonderful it could be if things were different.

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