Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
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Tributes have been made to outstanding individuals in just about every field of endeavor, but nobody has ever come out to honor the hard working press agent.
That's why I'm here today.
I'm announcing my first annual "Mortie" award, to acknowledge excellence among the little-known plodding men who work behind the scenes to give America its idols.
The "Mortie" award isn't for the razzle-dazzle type of press agent, like the one who put the hole in Stevenson's shoe or the one who draped a cloth coat over the shoulders of Mrs. Nixon.
I want to salute the little man of the industry -- the press agent whose fertile mind barely keeps his clients from plunging into oblivion, and who, more often than not, has the ability to take a nobody and turn him into a somebody.
Like, for example, Phyllis Standish! Who ever heard of her before Levin, Cohen & Fletcher got their hooks into her?
Now, she's right up on top with the rest of the big names like Lester B. Dill and Mary La Roche.
This year's "Mortie" statuette is a very modernistic plaster of Paris copy of the Thinker -- but decently dressed, of course, in a set ofSy Devore threads.
You're wondering, I suppose, why I chose to call it the "Mortie." I don't know. It just seems to have a ring to it. Besides, it's every bit as clever as "Oscar" or "Emmy."
But on to this year's candidates. Since I thought up the idea, it's only reasonable that I get to pick the candidates, too.
I offer first the above mentioned team whose technique is to put clever words into their clients' mouth. Or mouths. No, I guess it's just mouth.
Every week I get a press release from them with a new gem of humor attributed to Phyllis.
One week, it will be, "Phyllis Standish claims that a tree is an object that will stand in one place for years, and then jump in front of a lady driver." The following week: "Actress Phyllis Standish opines that egotism is usually just a case of mistaken nonentity."
What they did, they took this pleasant, inconspicuous, attractive little girl and, with dynamic perseverance, molded her into a cross between Kay Thompson and Just Plain Bill.
Another "Mortie" candidate, Aleon Bennett, uses a different technique. His clients become involved in totally unlikely situations.
For example, he had actor Don Porter invite an old lady who was tottering on the curb to cross the street with him. When they reached the other side, arm in arm, the old lady turned to Don and -- according to Bennett's release said:
" 'There you are, my dear boy. You are quite safe now. But never be afraid to ask anyone to help you across.' "
Bennett had another client, actress Mary La Roche, meet a bachelor who kept a French poodle to run around in circles every time the phone rang so the poor, cooped-up animal would get exercised. Then he would call his apartment periodically during the day.
So one afternoon, Bennett had Mary break into the bachelor's apartment, pick up the phone after it rang for about a minute, pant into it and hang up.
For such ingenuity, Bennett certainly deserves to be a candidate.
Then there's Sy Preston, whose favorite client is Lester B. Dill, owner of Meramac Caverns, Stanton, Mo. Preston has come up with a bagful of jazzy stunts to promote Mr. Dill's cave -- but the one which makes him a leading "Mortie" contender is his free "honeymoon" offer.
He had Dill volunteer to pick up the honeymoon tab for any couple willing to be married in the cave, dressed only in leopard skins.
Fraught With Emotion
I don't know how it came out. I was not invited to the ceremony. And I wouldn't have gone, anyway. Weddings always make me cry.
At any rate, those are my selections. I haven't decided on a date for the awards dinner yet.
In fact, I probably won't even have an awards dinner. Those things are always so damn depressing. You know what I mean. All those losers who get all dressed up expecting to win.
What I'll probably do, I'll have a quiet dinner alone at Lucey's and mull the whole thing over.
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