Matt Weinstock, Feb. 12, 1960
February 12, 2010 | 4:00 pm
Hollywood Countdown Lt. Gen. James M. Gavin, retired Army chief of research and development, related wryly yesterday that MGM almost launched the nation's first satellite in 1957.
Producer Andy Stone, he recalled, was bringing out a movie about missiles at the time. Knowing the military hoped to put a satellite in orbit as part of the IGY program and realizing what a great publicity buildup it would be for his film, Stone got busy.
He approached the Army, the Air Force, then Dr. William H. Pickering told him there was one man in the country who'd do this for good old MGM -- Dr. Wernher von Braun at Redstone Arsenal.
"How much would it cost?" Stone asked.
"About $10,000,000," Pickering replied.
Stone grabbed a phone and called his MGM chieftains. They said no.
IT HAS BEEN a prolific week for inadvertence and byplay, public speaking division.
As the Rev. Dan Towler, former Ram fullback got up to acknowledge his appointment to the County Commission on Human Relations, a newsman pointed to the step to the raised podium and said, "Be careful somebody doesn't go over you, reverend." Dan replied, "They may go around me but they won't go over me."
Then there was the fluff at the press conference for Sen. Hubert Humphrey. A questioner called him "Mr. Kennedy" then, trying to correct himself, "Sen. Kennedy."
Finally there was the exchange between Al Terrence, president of the Eastside Boy's Club, and Sheriff Pete Pitchess when Terrance was given a scroll for his work in youth welfare. As Pitchess arrived late Terrence needled, "I wonder how our sheriff made out with the mayor of Chicago about that police job back there. Did you get it, Pete?" "No, Al," Pete retorted, "but I recommended Bill Parker for the job."
HARRY OLIVER retells on his Almanac page in Desert magazine one of Abe Lincoln's favorite stories.
A tanner needed an emblem to proclaim the nature of his business and decided to hang a calf's tail outside his door. One day the tanner saw a dignified stranger staring intently at the tail. After a while he could stand the suspense no longer. He went out and asked if the stranger wanted to buy leather or perhaps sell hides.
"No," the stranger replied in frowning contemplation.
"Then who are you?" the tanner pursued.
"I am a philosopher, sir," the stranger said, "and although I have been standing here for half an hour I still can't make out how that calf got through that hole."
ONE OF THE other papers had a situation-wanted ad for a "public relations engineer" and Joe Weston feels that the ultimate has been reached. Joe still calls himself a press agent, the original term. Others, however, refer to themselves as publicity directors, public relations counselors, media guidance experts, communications advisers, press consultants -- and now the PR engineer. Wonder if they'll wear those funny caps, like locomotive engineers.
Some weary wise, lonesome
For apple pies, family ties,
MISCELLANY -- A final literary switch is achieved in Stuart James' gamey new novel, "Jack the Ripper." It is stated to be "based on the original screen play by Jimmy Songster" . . . Remember when the tanker Angelo Petri, with a cargo of 2.5 million gallons of wine, was reported wallowing helplessly in a storm off San Francisco? Well, no truth to the rumor that volunteer groups on Skid Row had formed flotsam and jetsam committees and stood ready to rush to the scene . . . Mark Larkin, press representative for Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks Sr. in Hollywood's good old days, is back in town to stay. He explains, "I went to New York on a six-weeks job and stayed 20 years."