Yesterday I was discussing Albert Brooks‘ Lost in America with The Atlantic‘s David Sims, who had just posted a piece about this 1985 film (and more specifically about the new Criterion Bluray version) called “The Brutal Cynicism of Lost in America Still Resonates.”
Things got interesting when Sims reminded that prior to LIA‘s end credits we’re told that Brooks’ David Howard got his job back with Ross & McMahon, but at a 31% cut in salary. Howard was making around $100K (i.e., a base salary of $80K with a bonus situation), but having recently been canned and still half in the doghouse I’m guessing his bonus situation (if he got it back at all) wasn’t as liberal. I’m guessing Howard’s lower salary might have been around $65K, if that.
With taxes taken out David’s weekly salary of $1250 might have been…what, $950 or $1K? Remember that David and Linda had no savings — they were wiped out in Vegas. They may been able to arrange a condo purchase with a loan, but the smarter move would have be to rent and save as best they can. Could they have found a decent Manhattan rental for $1000 to $1200 monthly in ’85? It’s conceivable, but not unless they were willing to live in a one-bedroom abode, but even then they might have had trouble finding someplace they would regard as “suitable.”
Yes, Julie Hagerty‘s Linda might have contributed to the kitty with a job of her own, but the post-script mentions that she quickly got pregnant so maybe not.
This was a couple, remember, that was living in a nice home in West L.A. before David got fired and they bought the mobile home, etc. And living in a one-bedroom place would’ve been really tough once the baby arrived.
I’m not saying they would’ve been seriously struggling, but a $65K salary in Manhattan in the mid ’80s was not a basis for any kind of easy-street lifestyle, especially with a kid on the way. The Howards probably would have been too scared to buy or rent a place in Tribeca or even Soho back then. Both of these regions were cutting-edge but they were dark at night and lacked ATMs for the most part. (Remember what happened to poor Griffin Dunne when he tried to find his way out of Soho in After Hours?) They certainly didn’t offer abundant yuppie comforts, certainly by today’s standards. The Howards would have more likely sought out a place in the Grammercy Park or Murray Hill districts, or perhaps even in the then-downmarket Chelsea or Hells’ Kitchen nabes.