TESTIMONY OF BENJAMIN FREEDMAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, NEWSDEALERS
ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK AND AMERICA
The CHAIRMAN. For the record, will you state your full name and address and association?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Benjamin Freedman, 518 Vermont Street, Brooklyn. I am chairman of the board of the Newsdealers Association of Greater New York and America.
The CHAIRMAN. Counsel, you may proceed to examine the witness.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Freedman, you are also a newsdealer here in New York City?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. BEASER. Where is your place of business?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Located on the northwest corner of Broadway and 42d Street.
Mr. BEASER. Do you carry on your newsstand crime and horror comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. I did at one time.
Mr. BEASER. You no longer carry them?
Mr. FREEDMAN. No, sir.
Mr. BEASER. Will you tell us what you know about the problems you run into in carrying them, or not carrying crime and horror comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Originally, we carried the regular crime ─ not crime, I mean the comic books, but when these crime and horror comic books came out they were forced upon us by the distributor.
Mr. BEASER. In what way were they forced?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Tie-in sales. I gave you an illustration. Without giving any notice or placing any orders we get a bundle. Most of the time we get a bundle from the deliveryman and it is thrown at us, probably sometime when we are busy.
The first chance we get we open it up and put it out on the stand. Then until our attention we don't even know we have those books sometimes.
The average news dealer is always so busy getting his latest editions and getting through with his work, that half of the time he doesn't know what he gets until he starts checking up to pay the bill. Then he realizes what he gets.
Now, when we protest about some of these books we are told that "Unless you buy these books, you cannot get the other leading books." Many times we have been cut off and threatened and harassed.
The CHAIRMAN. When you refer, Mr. Freedman, to "these books," you are talking about books such as you see before you on exhibit here?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes; sir; some of these books and books that are not fit to be on public newsstands. We have no way of fighting this.
Mr. BEASER. You say you no longer carry these, though.
Mr. FREEDMAN. I for one don't. Some of them do. But most of them since that last investigation have done away with it, particularly those members of our association.
The CHAIRMAN. By the last investigation, you mean the last appearance of this committee in the city of New York?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir, they are being handled now as we call it "underground;" the second handbook stores get them and these fly-by-night dealers and peddlers. They are sold in automobiles, some of them near high schools and some went out of town. Most of them are secondhand bookstores that are getting most of that stuff.
Mr. BEASER. You say as a result of the hearings we have held here many of the dealers in New York City have notified their wholesalers they will no longer carry those?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right.
Mr. BEASER. Have there been any retributions?
Mr. FREEDMAN. There are some threats. We can't tell you exactly how many stopped carrying them, but a small percentage I will say.
Mr. BEASER. Have stopped completely?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes.
Mr. BEASER. Have they been cut off from any of the other kinds of magazines?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Some of them have been cut off and some of them have been hurt some other ways.
For instance, if a bundle is to come in, let us say, Thursday 6 o'clock in the morning, a certain distributor has a package. Those that have returned their horror comic books, instead of getting theirs at 6, they get theirs at 11 o'clock. He will make that the last stop. Everybody else has his books sold.
Mr. BEASER. When you say bundle, what would appear on a typical bundle?
Mr. FREEDMAN. It is just tied up with a lot of wire. It takes a little time to open up. You just can't open it and check. It is wire all around. When you open, it up, there is your bundle; you don't know what is there until the driver is gone.
Mr. BEASER. That is not all comic books?
Mr. FREEDMAN. No; it is all tied in together.
The CHAIRMAN. How big is this bundle?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Some of them weigh 50 pounds some 40, some 60, some 30. Sometimes you get, 3 bundles, sometimes you get 2, sometimes 1.
There is no such thing as uniform bundles. It all depends on what they feel like sending you.
Mr. BEASER. It will be a mixture of good comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Good comics, other books, magazines, and these others.
Mr. BEASER. And the popular magazines?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right.
Mr. BEASER. Have any of the dealers found that the deliveries of the good magazines have been cut down rather than cut off?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Some of them have, been cut down and some have been cut off.
Mr. BEASER. They are not getting as many?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Not as many as before.
Mr. BEASER. Now, is there any handling charge you pay for getting the crime and horror comics, or for returning crime and horror comics, or other comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. There is a service charge on the delivery. Whether it is particularly for the crime comic books or otherwise, we don't know, but there is a service charge for the entire package.
Mr. BEASER. Each time you receive a package ─
Mr. FREEDMAN. There is a service charge, sometimes a dollar, sometimes 50 cents.
We pay it whether we like it or not. It is paid to the distributor on the bill.
Mr. BEASER. If you were to return 100 crime and horror comics, or comics, is there a charge for returning them?
Mr. FRIEDMAN. No, sir; there is no charge for returning them, but you probably won't get your credit for maybe 6 weeks or 2 months.
Mr. BEASER. Are there any instances in which the credit has been delayed deliberately because of the number of returns made?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir; there has, many of them.
Mr. BEASER. In other words, if you return too many they will delay on the credit?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right.
Mr. BEASER. How often do you have to pay for shipments you receive?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Mostly weekly bills.
Mr. BEASER. On that bill, they give you credit for what you returned the week before?
Mr. FREEDMAN. You are supposed to, but you don't get it all the time. They hold it up a month or 6 weeks. Sometimes they tell you they can't find the bundle. You just keep calling until you get tired of it sometimes.
Mr. BEASER. Have you personally had any retribution because of your not carrying crime and horror comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. No, sir.
Mr. BEASER. You are still getting the same number of other magazines that you want?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right, sir; I am one of the few they know is active in the association. I am one of the few that will just fight them if they do that.
Mr. BEASER. The returns are made directly to the wholesaler?
Mr. FREEDMAN. The driver picks the bundle up when he delivers sometimes, and sometimes the day before, and sometimes we deliver it ourselves.
Mr. BEASER. They are returned by the wholesaler to the publisher; is that right?
Mr. FREEDMAN. I assume that is what they do ─ no, I don't think so ─ I think that these books, if you are talking about the comic books, the crime ones, they are not returned to the publisher or the wholesaler, but they go to other places, sometimes out of town and sometimes to the second-hand bookstores. That is where you will find most of your filthy books now.
Mr. BEASER. You mean they try to keep selling them in as many places as possible?
Mr. FREEDMAN. They keep them on the market as long as they can.
Mr. BEASER. So what you get in the bundle may not necessarily be the most recent publications. They may have come from other news dealers?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right; they may have come from other newsdealers or out of town someplace.
Mr. BEASER. Actually, Mr. Freedman, would you be able, if the system were a little different, to select these magazines? How many magazines do you carry?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Sometimes we carry 800, a thousand, 600.
Mr. BEASER. Weeklies, monthlies, bimonthlies?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes. It depends on the time of the year when you are doing business.
Mr. BEASER. Would you have an opportunity to sit down each week and go through a checklist of 800 magazines and decide how many you need and how many you do not need?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We do that while standing at the particular stand.
Mr. BEASER. You do it for any of the publications?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We see a book doesn't move any too fast. We just make a note of it and say we will cut down on that one, while we are at the stand.
Mr. BEASER. You tell the driver or distributor?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We either call up the office or we tell the driver we don't want these. If they insist on sending them to you we must put them under the counter and keep them there to return them.
Mr. BEASER. Then you have to wait fort credit?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right.
Mr. BEASER. The incentive would be to sell?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We try to push them if we can, to exist.
Mr. BEASER. Otherwise you have a lot of money tied up?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right.
Mr. BEASER. Can you give us the names of the wholesalers from whom you have refused to accept crime and horror comics?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Our secretary, Mr. J. Kay, has a list of all the names of the distributors. We will be glad to furnish them to you off the record. We just don't want to get tangled. There may be some legal angle there for a comeback
If you want the names I think Mr. Kay will give them to you.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair will order that that list be made a part of the subcommittee's files.
Mr. FREEDMAN. All right, sir, and Mr. Kay will furnish it here.
(The information referred to was received at a later date, marked "Exhibit No. 28," and is on file with the subcommittee)
Mr. BEASER. There is still fear of retribution?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We are continuously being threatened.
Mr. BEASER. With what?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Being cut off, no telling what is going to happen.
A couple of years ago our attorney, Mr. Richter, advised us that if we don't want to carry the Daily Worker ─ and we refused to handle it and most of our members don't, we had threats for lawsuits ─
The CHAIRMAN. This subcommittee can understand that. We are occasionally threatened, ourselves.
Mr. FREEDMAN. We have threats and we are people, most of us out at the newsstand, most of us are disabled veterans, sick people, and we don't look for trouble and we are tickled to death to be left alone. We don't want to put up with any threats. We are a little careful. There are a few of us that are not afraid, but you can't fight all the people all the time.
Mr. BEASER. Have there been threats of physical violence?
Mr. FREEDMAN. There is a way of hurting you. If a distributor cuts off a certain item it means he has to lay some help off. I will give you one little angle.
Let us say he loses a certain amount of magazines that he is not going to deliver. He lays off two men. He tells these two men "Because these newsdealers refuse to handle these books, I have to lay you people off."
You figure out the rest. They have a union; you think what is going to happen to us.
The CHAIRMAN. You do not have to worry if you are right.
Mr. FREEDMAN. I am one of these that is not worried. I would rather die than be afraid, but not all of them feel that way.
Mr. BEASER. You said some time ago there was a cutting off by the newsdealers of receipts of the Daily Worker. Was there any retribution that you know of?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We were threatened our counsel was threatened, but most of us just don't carry it and people just don't ask for it. Some of them do, but the majority don't.
Mr. BEASER. But the distributor did not cut down on magazines, or don't you know?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Well, the distributor that handles the Daily Worker is a newspaper distributor. They don't handle magazines.
Mr. BEASER. Was there cutting off of the newspapers?
Mr. FREEDMAN. No, there was just a little talk and threats, but it went over pretty good.
Mr. BEASER. Was there any delay in deliveries?
Mr. FREEDMAN. No, not in that respect.
Mr. BEASER. I have no further questions Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Freedman, how many members do you have in your association?
Mr. FREEDMAN. We have about a thousand members.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have meetings regularly?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. What are the stated periods of your meetings?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Sometimes once a month or if it is a special meeting we call it within the month.
The CHAIRMAN. According to the needs?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right. Our board meets every week. We meet at our attorney's office, or at our own office.
The CHAIRMAN. I presume you discuss at these meetings this problem that brings this committee here this morning?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir; we did, and we instructed everyone of our board members and every board member comes from a key spot in the five boroughs, and acts as sort of chairman of his vicinity ─ to tell all the dealers there to do away with the horror books.
We have had some very good reports, but we are in trouble with the tie-ins, we are in fear. That is one of the reasons we started at our counsel's suggestion to organize this distributing company which we are about ready to start now. I think that maybe the answer.
The CHAIRMAN. You see your association or its members taking new heart as a result of this inquiry?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes, sir; they feel very good about it. Not only the members, but we get customers that come over to the stand and remark about the wonderful job you people have been doing with their children; that they don't ask for those books. They are a little scared, but it is still going on.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you find that the parents have known about these publications?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes; some of the parents would go out aud buy for the children. They are just as bad as the children, some of them, just bring them right over and ask for them. They both read them.
I would think, that this investigating committee has done a wonderful job with us dealers, too. Some of the distributors are little bit careful how to handle us.
Of course, this may be a temporary condition. They may feel during the investigation while the lights are on, why, they will just take it easy. As soon as it is over, they will start all over again.
The CHAIRMAN. Even members of the bar that are sworn to uphold the law need investigation once in a while.
Mr. FREEDMAN. I know it. I know one thing, Mr. Chairman, that our association has always been ready to cooperate with any agency or any department and help as much as we could. We have the loyalty oath in our association we find anything with any member we are the first ones to go to the front. We are the first ones to call to the attention of our license commissioner, who has done a wonderful job, the violating of any of the rules or the laws of the association.
We welcome this not only because of the comics, but because of the tie-ins and the abuse that we dealers have been getting for the last 50 years.
Mr. Kay, I believe, has been a dealer for 30 years. I have been one for 35 years. Some of them for 35 and 40. We have had nothing but abuse and there is nothing we can do about it.
But in the last few months it took a little bit of a change with the help of your committee, and our counsel are always on top of them.
The CHAIRMAN. Your Joint Legislative Committee of New York has done a very fine job.
Mr. FREEDMAN. They have done a great job, but they are not living up to the laws that have been passed; nobody is enforcing them.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean locally?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right. This tie-in law, they should have a certain department to follow it up and go out and check and bring these people to court and see that they do the right thing.
Of course, I think this law has only been passed recently, so we will be patient and give them little time to organize.
The CHAIRMAN. The has to be a period of education after every law is passed.
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right. There should be some law with teeth in it about these books, and everything else pertaining to these juvenile delinquencies, and get after the printers. They are the ones, if they will be told they can't print, they wouldn't.
It is like counterfeiters. The United States Counterfeiting Department is always after the ones that make the plates and do the printing. That is where you will hit home here. Get after the ones that print it, and they will get after the ones that want them to print it.
Mr. BEASER. You don't think it is the publishers?
Mr. FREEDMAN. Well, the publisher has something to do with it. They are the ones that are ordering it, but if the printer wouldn't want to print it and the publisher won't be able to get one, they won't print it.
The CHAIRMAN. If the publisher couldn't get printers it would be tough.
Mr. FREEDMAN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the reason I asked Assemblyman Fitzpatrick the question as to whether the unions could not help in this field.
Mr. FREEDMAN. They could. I believe if you went to the head of the legitimate unions, and I think the printing union is one of our legitimate unions, and explained the situation to them, I think they would cooperate and work with you.
The CHAIRMAN. I understand your local here is called the New York Typographical Union; is that correct?
Mr. FREEDMAN. That is right, sir. I think they would cooperate.
The CHAIRMAN. I think this committee will probably solicit their aid.
Mr. FREEDMAN. I think you will be doing a good thing. They will be a great help to you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Freedman, we are grateful for your presence here this morning. I commend you for your courage.
Mr. FREEDMAN. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Counsel will call the next witness.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Harold Chamberlain.
The CHAIRMAN. You do not mind being sworn?
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN. Not at all.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you solemnly swear that the evidence you are about to give before this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. Counsel, you may proceed.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Chamberlain, will you state for the record your full name, your home address, and business association?
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN. Harold Chamberlain, 6 Park View Place, Baldwin, Long Island. Circulation director the Independent News Co., 480 Lexington Avenue New York City.