Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
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Diana Barrymore was in love with Tennessee Williams and wanted to marry him, the Mirror's Earl Wilson says.
We Quiz Quiz Guy Who Blew $64,000
Al Einfrank isn't exciting news copy. Not any more.
Three years ago, he was.
Then -- according to Nielsen, a man who counts people who sit in front of television sets -- the $83-a-week Los Angeles truck driver was a national idol.
People loved Al Einfrank. At 57, he was a pleasantly homely little man with the gravel voice of a train conductor, a vocabulary which ranged from "ain't" to multi-syllable words which would choke professors, and a vast knowledge of world geography.
The quiz show craze was raging, and the stubby ex-seaman was swept fondly into its madness. And Al Einfrank, the common man's common man, loved every minute of it.
In five weeks on "The $64,000 Question," he cleaned up $32,000. On the sixth week, he gambled it all and lost. His consolation prize was a Cadillac, which he sold for $6,000, pocketing half of it and investing the other in an automobile which wouldn't look out of place in his neighborhood.
Net cash profit: $3,000. But the people loved Al, so six months later he was invited to reappear on "The $64,000 Challenge." This time he went three weeks, built his bankroll to $16,000, and retired.
On a second appearance on the Challenge he was at $8,000 going for $16,000 and he missed. Consolation money was $1,000.
Totaled up, the quiz show craze was good to Al to the tune of roughly $16,000.
I first met Al when he took the $16,000 gamble and lost -- and reportedly, in the process, almost lost his happy home of 33 years. ("The wife's a little upset," he said. "She wanted me to stop at $32,000.")
Our next contact came -- not surprisingly -- when the quiz scandals broke. I called him to find out if he'd been "fixed."
His answer was no. It was a "no" supported by the circumstantial fact that he lost the big question.
After that, I talked with Einfrank a few times. He was the kind of man whom it's a pleasure to keep in touch with.
He'd tell me the news- that he was back at Douglas' El Segundo plant as a dispatcher, that his relatives were still bugging him about not taking the $32,000 and quitting, but that his wife had forgiven him.
Yesterday, Al dropped by the office again.
He wore his patent smile and in the course of the conversation mentioned that he'd been laid off at work.
"Seven years I been there," he said. "Things are really slow."
I asked him if he was hurting.
"No," he laughed. "Don't be silly. I got unemployment and my Navy pension."
The $16,000 was long gone, he admitted. "What we did," he said, "we lived $5,000 above our income for three years. Vacationed in Honolulu. Things like that.
"The future doesn't bother me," he said. "It's just the idleness. It's been almost a month. I been looking every day -- truck driver jobs, warehouseman, dispatcher, guard. Physically, I'm in great shape.
"But," he added, "I'm 59."
I asked Al, "If you had that $16,000 cash again, what would you do with it?"
Einfrank leaned forward, frowning. "I'd take it," he said, "and invest it in a little business. A little store. A small trucking operation. Something to make sure the wife and I would be provided for.
Yes, We Don't Believe Him
"You believe me, don't you?" he added, almost in a whisper.
I started to nod that I did when he interrupted me with his grating laugh.
"What I'd do," he started again, "I'd see some of this geography I've read so much about. Mexico first. Then the U.S. and Canada.
"I'd buy us a camper truck. Fully equipped. That's $3,000. I know just where I can get one, too. A friend of mine . . . "
His words trailing behind him, Mr. Geography was out the door, laughing all the way.
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