BACK in 1964, the New Yorker magazine described Tony Schwartz as ``an absolute fanatic about sound.'' He still is. But he has no desire to remake his ``Sounds of the City'' tapes. Selling products and candidates is no longer enough either.
Instead, Schwartz wants to work full-time on the problems of the city - problems such as smoking, drug abuse, and AIDS.
In an interview in his studio-lair on Manhatten's West Side, Schwartz talked about the need to find an economic interest in prevention to fight the economic interest in disease.
Schwartz has been making anti-smoking spots since the 1960s. But its getting harder to cajole radio stations into running them. Tobacco companies now own so many other consumer products - from cookies to beer - that stations are afraid to offend them.
So Schwartz is looking for an economic counterforce. Auto companies, he observes, spend hundreds of dollars per car on medical insurance for workers. Perhaps they'd help sponsor anti-smoking spots.
He thinks its time to train a ``media peace corps,'' to bring to worthy causes the media sophistication that goes into selling cars and drugs. ``There is no market for them,'' Schwartz says, ``but there's a tremendous need for them.''
He's teaching a course at Harvard's School of Public Health.
But the students don't seem interested in becoming real media activists. The local New York students who come to him to work as interns are too interested in money.
``Today there are 15,000 businessmen [in political consulting] and no craftsmen,'' Schwartz says.
``Very few people [today] have a sense of the craft of what they are doing, the art of what they are doing.''
He has no intention of quitting soon. A vacation, he says, means to ``vacate from things you like to do.''
``The most horrible thing I can think of is sitting on the beach when I have ideas in my head.''