An Evening with Wally at Arby’s

I guess it takes a lot of energy to keep a hyperactive giant running. Wally certainly enjoyed eating to keep the fires stoked.

I remember John’s Kingburger, a sidewalk hamburger shack directly across Vine Street from the Capitol tower. John was a very quiet guy who lived with his dog(s?) and made on Hell of a hamburger. The meat patty wasn’t thick, but it was made from fresh meat, formed large enough to cover the large buns John used. John used lots of seasoning to bring out the flavor of the meat. The real crowning glory of his hamburgers was the trimmings. He would stack up lots of lettuce leaves, slices from big beefsteak tomatoes and beautiful slices of large onions. I think John would pick up his daily supply of vegetables from the L.A. Produce Market each morning. My mouth waters just describing those masterpieces. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my chin!

Lunch for Wally was two of John’s burgers, and then at least one chilidog for dessert.

Once when I was visiting L.A. during my 2-year stint at New Mexico State University’s graduate school (1969-1971), I stopped at John’s stand just as I was leaving town in my Volkswagen to drive back to New Mexico. I can remember how proud I was that first time that I was actually able to finish off 2 Kingburgers, but I certainly couldn’t handle a chilidog chaser. I also bought an extra burger to take to my girlfriend back home. On my straight-through drive to New Mexico of about 800 miles there were several times when my girlfriend almost lost her opportunity to see her first Kingburger. I did manage to deliver the burger intact, and she ate it and enjoyed it very much.

Another thing I remember is that Wally loved shrimp cocktails. I don’t remember where we were, but we were walking along a pier lined with places selling various seafoods. We went from place to place, with Wally ordering at least two shrimp cocktails at each place.

Once we were walking around Times Square when we were in New York City to record the Broadway play “Boys in the Band”. We stopped at an oyster bar and Wally ordered oysters for both of us. I’m not much of a shellfish eater, but as soon as I hesitated, Wally eagerly volunteered to eat my oysters too, and then he had at least one more serving after that.

Now on to the main topic of this episode…

After Wally bought his first 3M 8-track, he quickly realized that he could make good money renting the machines. He really didn’t need an 8-track for the little studio/office on the alley on Selma, but 8-track was good for remotes and for rentals.

I can remember that Wally would get very frustrated when dealing with 3M. We would have a new machine ready to deliver to him, only to find out that Wally wanted to change the name on the sales contract. He bought machines as Wally Heider the individual, Wally Heider Recording and through leasing companies.

One time I was talking to Wally on the phone regarding one of these delays in delivering his latest machine. He got so agitated that he finally stammered out “C-C-Can’t t-talk – c-c-c-call you back,” and he hung up on me. About 2 hours later a cooled down Wally called back, and we resolved the problem.

Wally would send his truck up to Camarillo to pick up the new machines (or sometimes for modifications.) We would wheel the machine out of the employee’s lobby and use the lift gate to load the machine. Away the machine would go to a new Hollywood career.

One time things didn’t work out perfectly. The truck arrived in the late afternoon and the latest machine was loaded as usual. Next morning the stuff hit the fan. The machine had been whisked off to Hollywood, and by 7:00 it was already in a recording session. Somewhere along the line they were doing punch-ins, only to find out with horror that one of the good tracks had been erased! Two of the wires on the erase head were swapped, causing the machine to record on one track while erasing an adjacent track.

Wally was irate, blaming us for the problem. He never acknowledged that it might have been prudent to test the new machine before placing it into service. (We immediately added a test during check-out to verify proper erase.

Wally was so lathered that he actually set out to sue 3M Company to teach them a lesson. He even tried to get other studio owners to join in on this attack against 3M. Those of us who had given Wally extra consideration were devastated because this was also an attack on us personally.

I got the job of trying to persuade Wally to back off. I remember that I arrived at Wally’s studio around dinnertime. Wally and I headed over to the Arby’s Roast Beef stand on Sunset Boulevard (my first time at an Arby’s) for dinner. I lost count of how many sandwiches, each piled high with the Arby’s horseradish sauce Wally ate that night. We sat there and talked from maybe an hour or hour and a half about the lawsuit.

I explained how we had done all our work in good faith, trying to maintain technical excellence in our products. I mentioned that it would have been good for his staff to check the machine thoroughly before putting it into use. I told him that he was damaging the close working relationship that he had with all of us at 3M, and that we probably wouldn’t be able to help him as much once the legal wranglings of the lawsuit got between us.

He didn’t tell me what his final decision would be, but we did go to his apartment and he put in a call for Scotty Lyall, our sale person, who lived in St. Paul. Scotty’s wife told us that Scotty was at some type of club meeting, but she would give him a message when he came home. It must have been around 9 p.m. in Minnesota by then. Wally and I sat around his apartment for quite a while, waiting for Scotty’s call, but finally I gave up and headed home to Camarillo because I needed to get up for work the next day. At that point I still didn’t know what Wally intended to tell Scotty. I thought I had failed.

Next morning when I arrived at work, the phone was already ringing off the hook in our lab. It was Scotty calling. “I don’t know what you said to Wally last night, Dale, but thank you.” Wally had told Scotty that he was dropping the lawsuit. Boy was I ever a hero that day! As word spread through the plant about the satisfactory resolution of the dispute, people came by our lab and shook my hand and patted me on the back.

To this day I can’t eat an Arby’s sandwich without recalling that night with Wally.

2 thoughts on “An Evening with Wally at Arby’s”

  1. The first time I met Wally, was at “The Pit”, L.A.
    Wally’s first comments were to go with him down to the Jolly Roger on Hollywood Blvd. He was buying.
    I also recall being at Wally’s home in Portland, Or..
    Wally was busy evaluating tapes, etc. for Hindsight Records. He went to the refridgerator pulled out a large bottle of Clamato juices, and being a considerate man, offered me a large glass.
    Now, I probably love oysters as much, or more than Wally, but I had never tried Clamato juice.
    I may have studdered myself resisting his offer.
    B D Gardner

  2. I have been very busy lately. I have been in contact with Wally’s relatives.
    I also have spoke with Mike Dorrough, who has some history with Wally.
    Hopefully before much longer , we can add much more to this wonderful tribute site.
    B.D.Gardner kd7bcw 73

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