Interview between H. L. Stevenson and LeRoy Keller

(Following is an interview between H. L. Stevenson, former UPI vice president and editor-in-chief, and LeRoy Keller, former UPI general sales manager, at a New York restaurant on Feb. 18, 1993. It was transcribed in May 1996 by retired UPI San Francisco bureau manager Dick Harnett. The tape begins after the conversation had started).

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Keller: First the decision in Chicago in a suit brought by Marshall Field that broke up the AP monopoly. The second was the entrance into radio.

Stevenson: When AP got into radio?

Keller: Yes. We had a strong positions in both areas before that and we were weakened greatly by that, by the decision of AP to go into radio.

Stevenson: Well, AP always had a built-in advantage, being a cooperative. At the end of the year they could say, "Well, we need to split up the losses." And I doubt if they ever had any profit that they would admit.

Keller: Their income today is about $260 million.

Stevenson: Yes. Maybe closer to $300 million. (some conversation about food)

Stevenson: Lee, you really enjoyed the international. You did so much.

Keller: Yes, I did.

Stevenson: Do you remember some of the highlights? Some of the low lights? Overseas? You spent all your time in domestic, domestic sales manager.

Keller: Well, the first thing, I went to work on communications. That was the first thing I did, because Australia, the Far East would have blackouts, sun spots, radio and all that, it was terrible. I courted the IT&T. I got acquainted with them and persuaded them to offer what they called the Press Bulletin service. They put us in Manila. IT&T eventually offered us the Press Bulletin service for $500 a month, moving our main trunk news to Manila. From there the radio reception was much better and we moved our headquarters from Tokyo to Manila.

Stevenson: I remember that.

Keller: Later.

Stevenson: Is Ernie Hoberecht still around?

Keller: No. By that time he was out, and that's another story by itself. I know what happened. We opened our headquarters and Ferdinand Marcos came there to the opening and cut the ribbon. I had to explain what opening the Manila bureau as the Far East news center meant. From then on they began to subdivide the cable. The satellite came in, and we got lines all over the world, one telephone line we could subdivide for cables and pictures and everything. Pretty soon we had cable service from Sydney Australia, Melbourne Australia, to Tokyo and Moscow, all over. That was a tremendous thing.

Stevenson: Did it help our business?

Keller: I'm sure it helped our business. There were no blackouts any more.

Stevenson: With the radiocast you would get sun spots and blackouts.

Keller: We had the old Divatel. Remember that?

Stevenson: I don't remember working with it. I remember the name. At that time, (Bill) McCall was in Latin America?

Keller: Yes.

Stevenson: And Curran was in Europe. I guess Beaton had replaced him.

Keller: Yes. Mims and Curran fell out some way.

Stevenson: Is that right?

Keller: Mims wanted Curran out of there.

Stevenson: I heard that somewhere.

Keller: Tom was bitter about that because he was the prime promoter of Mims Thomason.

Stevenson: I think Tom Curran and Bart were very close. I think Bart and Tom Curran were close, because Tom speaks of him very affectionately.

Keller: Yes, they were great pals. You had to know Bart. News people didn't like Bart because he was very chintzy. But Bart was a good newspaperman. He could write a good story. But he didn't give the news department the respect it deserved.

Stevenson: You took over as international vice president in the '60s?

Keller: Yes, '64.

Stevenson: That's when Joe Jones retired. Joe, I guess, had been really strong on Latin America.

Keller: Yes, Joe spoke a little Spanish. When Joe went to Lima, I think he was manager down there at one time, he got acquainted with Peter Grace.

Stevenson: This of the W. R. Grace family?

Keller: He paled around with him. That gave him a huge entre into South America.

Stevenson: I can see that, because Grace was so strong, and still is.

Keller: You're right. . . . You ask me questions and I probably will have the answer.

Stevenson: Well, I will do that. Bryce Miller. You remember Bryce Miller in Saigon?

Keller: I do.

Stevenson: He gives you great credit. He says you came out there once and spent time with him. We were trying to get some time off for those fellows, to take a week off every three or four months.

Keller: I got home leave insurance.

Stevenson: He says you helped push it all through. He says he'll never forget you. And he recalls that somewhere along the way you got shot at and he helped you write a story.

Keller: Mims upbraided me when he read the story, for putting my life in danger. "You shouldn't do that." Well, I'll tell you, I didn't think about it at the time, and Merriman Smith's son was going to take a helicopter and fly over the Viet Cong area and there was a mountain out there. A bunch of American Marines had captured this mountain top, but all around them below were the Viet Cong. Smith took the helicopter over there. This is the way they captured him. By putting bazookas and other armaments up there on top of the hill we (the Marines) warded off the Viet Cong. What are those other weapons?

Stevenson: Mortars, mortars.

Keller: So we landed up there. The poor guys up there. They were insulated and were out of beer and nearly out of food. They couldn't bring anything up by land line. They had to bring it in by air. I think it was the first time in weeks anybody landed there. They couldn't offer us a beer or anything. We landed up there and flew over the area occupied by the Viet Cong. I don't know whether we were shot at or not. I do know they said there were white puffs below us. I had a flack jacket on and said, "Well, I don't want to get shot in the ass. I'm going to take this off and sit on it." Which is what I did.

Stevenson: You knew Merriman Smith's son then. He was quite a young man.

Keller: Yes.

Stevenson: Smitty was devastated when he was killed.

Keller: He was a nice boy.

Stevenson: I'm sure it had something to do with Smitty's later drinking and depression.

Keller: It's a terrible thing to lose a son. Roger lost a grandson, you know, and that's hateful, too.

Stevenson: I remember that. I do.

Stevenson: Bryce also told me when he went out to Vietnam in the '60s, '65 or '66, Fran Leary gave him certain instructions to find out some of the things that Ernie Hoberecht was doing. Bryce said, "I tried." In effect, Bryce is saying he tried to gather some evidence against Hoberecht. Hoberecht by then had been there almost 20 years. What happened to Hoberecht?

Keller: Hoberecht had passed word around that if anyone ever fired him he had the goods on everybody in his secret files. We sent a young guy out from Ohio named Ron Wills.

Stevenson: I remember the name.

Keller: Ron Wills got chummy with the Mainichi people. It turned out that the Mainichi people didn't like Ernie Hoberecht at all because he still kept the attitude that we were conquerors and they had to do what we wanted. They resented that.

Stevenson: Long after the war.

Keller: They hated him. Ron Wills wrote me a long letter about this. I went to Mims. Mims didn't like Hoberecht anyway because he feared that Hoberecht might be named president because Roy Howard liked him so much. I showed this letter to Mims and he said. "We have got to get Hoberecht out of the Far East." He immediately sent me to Tokyo. Ernie Hoberecht was in India at the time. Mims sent a cable to Hoberecht, "Please come to New York instead of going to Tokyo. Come directly." I looked through the files to see that there was nothing. Then we locked them up and changed the locks on them. There wasn't anything there.

Stevenson: In Tokyo?

Keller: Yes.

Stevenson: Hoberecht was in New York. I see.

Keller: I ordered Don Brydon out to take his place. Brydon had worked out there as a newsman.

Stevenson: That's right.

Keller: So we made . . . Don succeeded Hoberecht.

Stevenson: But they never found anything improper?

Keller: No. It was all hot air.

Stevenson: He was quite adept at hot air. He loved his reputation. A lot of us sitting in the grandstands had the feeling that Ernie Hoberecht thought HE was the United Press in his little kingdom.

Keller: When I first went out there he had a car meet him downstairs in the Mainichi building where our office was. At five o'clock or six o'clock, whatever it was, he would put on a Homberg and carry a cane and a brief case and go down to the limousine to take him home. He had a certain style, which you can't fault him for. But he demeaned the Japanese. They resented it. That was his problem.

Stevenson: I never heard that. It is a good point. He was there right after the surrender, wrote two or three books and things that made him popular. But I could see that Ernie would do that.

Keller: He married a Vietnamese girl, a very pretty girl, Lorraine. But he deserted her and took the children.

Stevenson: Is that right. Well, he's down in Oklahoma now. Every now and then you see his name.

Keller: I remember when he had these two children from Lorraine, the Vietnamese girl. He used to say, "I love these children as much as if they were my own."

Stevenson: We had a lot of characters around the world. Well, what happened to Ernie? Was he living too much in the past, with this Imperial attitude and all that? We had a number of these fellows that ran their own little kingdoms. At least, that's what I am told.

Keller: We had one in, Mazandi. Was he in Tehran. What they had going for them was that they used United Press as a facade to bolster what they were doing and then they went on and built their independent kingdoms.

Stevenson: Of course, UP had grown so big it couldn't watch all these fellows that close. You had to have a strong manager, a strong manager whom you could trust.

Keller: Well. I had to replace Bennyhoff in Australia because he had gotten in a terrible mess down there.

Stevenson: What sort of mess? I've heard he was a great womanizer.

Keller: Bart loved Bennyhoff, and when Fred McCabe quit, Bart wanted Bennyhoff to go down there (to Dallas) as division manager. He felt obligated to him. Well, Bennyhoff got in trouble with the wives of the publishers. He had a perpetual hardon.

Stevenson: I'm told that.

Keller: Frank Contros owned the San Antonio newspaper. I went down there for some reason. I think our contract was then in trouble. I knew Frank very well because I was down there and spent the night in their house on one of their honeymoon nights. Frank took us to the Alamo Club in San Antonio, and he invited several, about 10 or 12 people. Bennyhoff and I were invited. All of a sudden I noticed that a steak came for Bennyhoff and he wasn't there. He'd gone. He'd heard about a local dance hall where he could pick up some skirt, and he'd dropped out of the meeting. I was down there to give him a hand as division manager and he just disappeared. Everyone noticed it but they said nothing to me until later in New York after I knew Bennyhoff had to be taken out of there. There were many other incidents. I met Frank Contras at the ANPA at the Park Lane Hotel in New York. He said, "What did you do with Bennyhoff?" I said we'd made him Australia manager. "Well," he said, "that's America's Siberia, isn't it?" I said, "Well, that's your statement. We had to get him out of there."

Stevenson: He didn't stay in Texas that long, only a couple of years and he was gone.

Keller: Then we sent Ed Brandt down there and Ed panicked. Bill Payette was made sales manager and I was moved up to director of client relations. It was Mims’ and Bart's idea that I never sat at my desk, and a sales manager sits at his desk and directs people. My conception of a salesman was to know the clients and visit them all. That is what I did. First we had to get rid of Bennyhoff and then we put in Brandt. I didn't put him in. Mims put him in. We had to get rid of Brandt. So Mims, in his exasperation, went to Bart and said, "Well, what are we going to do?" Bart said, "Let Lee Keller solve this. It's his problem." I was then general sales manager, or had been. So I went to Washington with Bill Payette for a radio correspondents dinner. Mims said, "Well, Bill's the right man, but you'll never sell it to him." I said, "I think I will." So Bill and I had a few drinks that night and I explained the whole thing, and Bill said, "I'm off to Dallas." I got my title back as general sales manager.

Stevenson: I'd forgotten that. I think Bill Payette loved Dallas and the Southwest. It was like a change of life for him.

Keller: He was right for that down there. You know I knew Bill very well from 1945 on. I met him in Los Angeles in 1945 and I was impressed with him. We put Bill in several other jobs. Once he was sent to Latin America for Tom (Curran). We brought him up as editor of Movietone.

Stevenson: He was a real trouble shooter, but he loved that Texas and Southwest.

Keller: Then later Bill was made assistant general news manager under Earl. He wanted to be named president of the United Press. He would have been a good one.

Stevenson: I asked him that one time. He smiled and said, "It will never happen. It doesn't do any good to talk about it."

Keller: He would have been the man.

Stevenson: He would have been a good one.

Keller: Yes.

Stevenson: Well, he more or less proved that at United Features when he went over there.

Keller: He did a tremendous job at United Features.

Stevenson: He got that thing straightened out. You know they used to take us to these board meetings. During my first four or five, six years as editor, Scripps-Howard still had an office on Park Avenue. They had their board meetings there. Rod would take me. Sometimes he'd take Tremaine. Sometimes he'd take Bill Lyon of pictures or someone else. But I'd always go. They'd have the United Media or United Features meeting at the same time. Payette would sit there very quietly and listen to all the sad stories that Beaton had to tell. That part of the meeting would end and then they would call for the United Features report. Bill was always very low key. He would bring along maybe two index cards or the back of an envelope and write down a few figures and would usually say something like, "Well, we had a pretty good month last month. We made a profit of $600,000 or made a profit of half a million." But he turned that thing around and made it a real business. It kept increasing and increasing. He would have made a good UPI president.

Keller: He would have. I went down to see Bill a few days before he died. I know Jack Fallon and Don Brydon and others went down.

Stevenson: We had about 10 of us that went down, a few from Dallas.

Keller: I didn't go then because I had to go a couple weeks later and I did and I went down to see Bill. He was bedridden. Ginnie took me to the airport and she told me cancer had spread to the brain and the spine and Bill was not for long. He died a few days later.

Stevenson: Well, he was quite a remarkable guy, and I think, my personal feeling, he would have made a good president.

Keller: You know he only had one ball.

Stevenson: I didn't know that.

Keller: Yes. He got one of them pinched in a chair in the bureau and it had to be removed.

Stevenson: In Los Angeles?

Keller: No, in Montana.

Stevenson: When he first started?

Keller: Yes. But it never slowed him down.

Stevenson: He was quite a legendary guy. He and Jack Fallon got to be very close. Fallon was quite a capable guy, really good with the clients, very good writer.

Keller: I always kind of felt that Jack had it in for me because I moved Bill from general sales manager to division manager. But Bill was not a good sales manager. He got this horrid Business Review. He'd cite all these magazines about how to sell.

Stevenson: Actually, he and Jack were very close in Dallas. When he went to Dallas, Jack was down there and it got to be a good relationship.

Keller: He felt I had done something to Bill.

Stevenson: To derail him or side- track him? I certainly never heard him say that.

Keller: I could see that Bill was never going to be given a chance to be president. People at the top have all kinds of ability and maneuvering to block out people that might be a good president. They just seemed not to want him in there.

Stevenson: Well, comment on this. Did Baillie pick Bartholomew? Did Bartholomew pick Mims? How did those all happen?

Keller: Baillie didn't pick anyone. He didn't want to quit. Scripps-Howard forced Baillie out.

Stevenson: Tell me a little bit of what you know about that.

Keller: When Roy Howard, Bill Hawkins and others came to California, Bart always took care of them. It's the old story, that's when you can get your licks in, when the big shots come in. Bart even bought a home up on Lake Tahoe right next to Bob Scripps’ widow, who later married Bill Hawkins. Bart never pushed it, but he laid the groundwork perfectly. He laid the groundwork, and I know Bisco feared that Bart would come in. Ed Williams was pathological about Bartholomew. Baillie fired him. You don't remember these.

Stevenson: At our last lunch you said that Bisco was one of the few people who could deal with Baillie.

Keller: Yes, he could.

Stevenson: I guess he figured he had some chance of being president himself.

Keller: That's an interesting story because Bisco spread the word around the New York office that he was going to be the next president. He fired up his disciples, Carl Molander, Gerry Rutman, Ross Downing and someone else. These people were sure Bisco was in. I refused to get on his team. I just went on my way and there was a great estrangement between Bisco and me for quite a long time. But I knew that Bisco would be a horrible president. I couldn't have worked for him.

Stevenson: Now, he was number two to Baillie?

Keller: Yes. I knew he'd never be president. I refused to acknowledge him as the front runner.

Stevenson: Meanwhile Bart's building up all this support on the West Coast.

Keller: That's right. It was the board that named Bart to succeed Baillie. Nobody else had a chance.

Stevenson: You say Baillie didn't want to quit but finally the board told him.

Keller: In 1955. It was and after the ANPA. Baillie took a long vacation. Bart had been named president. When Baillie got back, Bart had moved Baillie out of the top office, back into where Joe Jones was. When Baillie got back he upbraided Bart for moving him out of his office. Bart said, "Well, Hugh, you made this office a symbol of authority, and I'm the president, therefore I felt I should have the office."

Stevenson: Was Baillie the guy who put in all the paneling and that in that office?

Keller: Yes.

Stevenson: It was a beautiful office.

Keller: Baillie had delusions of grandeur, you know. He had this single ring on the elevator that would bypass every other. Baillie was basically a good police reporter. That's what he was.

Stevenson: We talked about that. He was also very harsh in his treatment of people.

Keller: I didn't get along with him at all. I was amazed. When I look back over my career it astounds me that I was able to get as far as I did under Baillie, because he didn't like me.

Stevenson: At that point you were senior sales executive?

Keller: I concentrated on sales because I knew I could sell. As a matter of fact, after two years in the news department everyone wanted me to get into sales. I didn't want to but I agreed to take a chance at it. I was very successful in selling, so I never got back to news at all. It's just as well because I'd never have been a good newsman. I had no talent for news. I might have had if I stayed and developed. But I didn't. Two years I had.

Stevenson: With Baillie you were not yet sales manager but you were senior sales person, right? Bisco was general manager.

Keller: Bisco first became sales manager under Clem Randau. When Randau left, then Bisco moved up to general business manager. He didn't want anyone to become general sales manager. He wanted to handle both jobs. He'd heard noises that Baillie might bring in Mims Thomason, and Bisco feared Thomason, so he quickly paved the way for me to become general sales manager. That's how it happened.

Stevenson: One of the things you mentioned last time was when the UP, United Press in those days, got into TTS, you were pushing, I think, early 1950s, Baillie sort of dismissed it, was chewing you out about losing money. Tell me about that.

Keller: That's right. We had to start Movietone and TTS at the same time.

Stevenson: Oh, I see.

Keller: And at the period "closing," the things I started were responsible for our entire loss. Then in particular he worried about TTS because Tom Edwards was general counsel and Tom -- you see what TTS meant was that you could punch copy at a United Press bureau and feed the tape into a linotype -- and this upset the linotype operators on newspapers. Tom Edwards and Baillie and I all went out to the Tamarack Country Club, which I belonged to at the time, for a round of golf. During the round and when we later had a drink, Tom Edwards said to Baillie, "If you don't stop Lee Keller from this TTS folly, we're going to have a strike in every Scripps- Howard newspaper."

Stevenson: He was, of course, working for Scripps-Howard as well as us.

Keller: Anyway, we battened down and we kept the two operations going. If we had stayed with the television and eventually got satellite cable we would have had a worldwide news service like CNN.

Stevenson: Some of the CNN people have told me that.

Keller: Beaton and I had a fight over Movietone. He had absolutely no faith in it at all. One day I walked in the office and he said, "We've got to do something about Movietone." I took him on. We shouted at each other. Frank Tremaine poked his head in the door and saw we were near blows. He quickly bowed back out. We had a tremendous fight over that. Then, it was the same night we were entertaining the (word not intelligible) people.

Stevenson: Yes, the famous cocktail party.

Keller: Rod came up to me and said, "Are you still mad at me?"

Stevenson: Rod would always apologize.

Keller: Yes, he did. I said "No." I said, "Rod, I’m not mad at you. I never was. I just think you're wrong."

Stevenson: Many people have told me that. They would argue and yell at each other and Beaton would come up a day later or two days later, and say, "Look. Don't take it personal." But boy when he was going at it!

Keller: He was fierce. I stood up to him.

Stevenson: I stood up to him too.

Keller: He really didn't like it, yet he respected people who stood up to him.

Stevenson: I wonder, is there any kind of comparison? Baillie had a hot temper. He would chew people out. Is it fair to compare Baillie and Beaton?

Keller: Yes, Baillie liked people who stood up to him.

Stevenson: Would Baillie apologize later to somebody?

Keller: I don’t think Baillie ever did.

Stevenson: There's a little difference there.

Keller: I think Baillie just let it wash away.

Stevenson: He apparently just liked to run over people.

Keller: He liked to bully people. He was a bully.

Stevenson: With a police reporter's mentality. Is that what you are telling me?

Keller: Well, that's true. Bickel was the great one in my opinion. Bickel had vision. He had a wonderful cosmopolitan manner. He could meet with any head of state. He was a very smooth, cultured, educated man. I don't know where it came from, but he irritated the hell out of Roy Howard.

Stevenson: I know. You told me about that, (Howard) chewing him (Baillie) out over the radio deal or something. That probably pushed him out.

Keller: Roy loved to knock down people bigger than he was. He was a little man.

Stevenson: He was a short man.

Keller: He loved to bring down the people who were big. No matter what job they had he would take them on. He encountered E. W. Scripps. He had brass balls. He went in there and told E. W. Scripps what was wrong with United Press and Scripps said, "Well, in that event, you go fix it. You're the general manager."

Stevenson: Scripps was a big tall man. I saw Howard once or twice, in his very last few years. Of course, by then he was elder statesman.

Keller: I had lunch with him two days before he died. He warned me against Stan Swinton. Stan Swinton was a miserable little prick.

Stevenson: He sure was. He was in trouble all over the world. I've heard stories about that. Well, Beaton talks about principally the merger. Bartholomew got it in his head we could be on an even parity with AP. We never could. We didn't have that kind of money. Things started slipping. I think the big thing was when we had to start buying all that damn computer equipment. We finally had to go to Scripps and say, "We need five million. We need six million. We need eight million."

Keller: I personally signed a contract for 10 million dollars with Hearst newspapers. We got every Hearst newspaper into the United Press, something we never had before. We could have made it, but the real story where we lost out -- I don't know how much you know about it. Do you know anything about the Reuters effort?

Stevenson: The last one?

Keller: No. The one that Mims killed.

Stevenson: Mims and Rod Beaton were involved. Beaton says he went to a meeting once down in Brighton.

Keller: It was Mims who went to that meeting.

Stevenson: Well, tell me about it.

Keller: The way it started. Shortly after the merger or the acquisition of INS I went to Europe to meet the clients and so forth. Frank Earl was in Germany, the manager for Europe at the time. Tom Curran was in London. I will always remember this. I conceived an idea. I knew about Reuters' system. It was chartered by the royal government, could never give up control to anyone. I knew that. I lay awake one night at the hotel in Munich, thinking out a plan whereby we could merge with Reuters. The essence of it is this: We would come together. Reuters would operate in Australia and the kingdom and wherever they had a priority. We would operate in the United States as United Press. They would operate as Reuters in the Commonwealth. All the rest of the world would be Reuters-UPI, or UPI- Reuters. This way we would set up a board to handle the operation of two services which would feed into one headquarters and that report would be distributed outside the priority areas. We said we would get the Reuters’ report in the United States and Reuters would get the UPI report, whatever it wanted, for the Commonwealth.

Stevenson: Keep the name.

Keller: Yes. This didn't confront the ownership problem. We'd have a simple way of resolving any disputes. This would be a separate operation. The UPI-Reuters would be a separate operation. Well, I carried it before our own board and they agreed to pursue it. Bart was for it. Reuters were intrigued with it too. But then Mims became president and immediately they moved me out of all connection with it. It was Mims' thought that we were going to take over Reuters. He wanted to be the top Pooh-Bah in that.

Stevenson: That would be about '65?

Keller: It was '62. Right after Mims became president. Reuters was having a board meeting and had invited Mims to come over and make a presentation of what we had in mind. Well, Mims felt that meant they were going to cave and we could take them over. I wasn't included in it. He took Al Bock with him. They got a taxi. It's about a 25 minute ride by train, but they took a taxi. . . .

(Tape interrupted. It resumes with Stevenson noting a blank spot of several minutes because he "had not pushed the buttons properly." Keller repeated some of the things he said about the Reuters-UPI merger talks in 1962.)

Stevenson: Your pension is through Scripps-Howard?

Keller: It's in the UP pension fund but my part of it was funded by Scripps-Howard. The pension is situated in such a mess the government has to pick up the bad, for all the companies that have failed and unable to fulfill their pension obligations.

Stevenson: That story about Brighton is very interesting. You clarified it for me that it was Mims and Al Bock that got a taxi and went down, with help from a bottle of Scotch.

Keller: I don't know who succeeded Beaton in London? Was it Blaby?

Stevenson: No. Blaby was always the sales manager. Who was it that replaced Rod as division manager? Page had gone over to Hong Kong.

Keller: Was it Bradford?

Stevenson: No. That was an earlier time. Beaton came back to New York as general manager. Somewhere in there Page went to Hong Kong, to Tokyo and then later Hong Kong. But who succeeded Beaton. That's a good question. I'll have to research.

Stevenson: You never worked closely enough with Page to know anything about him, did you? Page was sort of a big spender. He liked high living.

Keller: He was a disaster. He's having trouble now. Lots of it. (Go ahead and smoke. It doesn't bother me.)

Stevenson: No. I'll have a smoke when we leave. I'm quitting.

Keller: I used to smoke a little bit.

Stevenson: I'm sure you would smoke a cigar if you were in Cuba.

Keller: I don't ever smoke cigars.

Stevenson: You're looking well, and fit.

Keller: I'm well. I'll be 88 August 31.

Stevenson: You're about to take a little vacation?

Keller: We are going over to Allentown Sunday. Peggy's niece's recital. She's a piano teacher there. Peggy told her we would go over and hear it.

Stevenson: And tomorrow you are talking to the University of Colorado people.

Keller: We are having lunch with the vice president in charge of development and the dean of the College of Arts and Science. Middleton is going to tell me how they plan to operate, what they need. He wants me to sign the papers for the contribution. Heretofore I just put the contribution in my will. But I've decided now to fund it as much as I can before I die. The lawyers told me it was a good idea if I could do it because I get a tax advantage while I'm funding it and there's no tax on the amount when the estate goes later. I have a revocable living trust for both my wife and me. You are allowed $600,000 to pass on without tax, and the balance of that is subject to the federal estate tax which now is 45 or 46 percent and I think it will be raised to 55 percent under Clinton.

Stevenson: I heard that figure. Now, the University of Colorado, would this be part of the journalism school or separate?

Keller: It won't be part of the journalism school. Liberal Arts. They're going to put in a course on the amendments.

Stevenson: The Bill of Rights, the First Amendment?

Keller: The Bill of Rights. That's the way I understand this. I don't want this in the journalism school. I don't have much confidence in that.

Stevenson: I think it's good step. I still haven't heard any more from Al Kaff except what I told you. Al figured he might be the staff fund-raiser.

Keller: I missed it down there at the Downhold meeting. Al was leaving Cornell at that time and he wanted something to do. You say he's moving?

Stevenson: That's what he told Bryce Miller. He was looking at a couple of condominiums. Bryce Miller's wife is in real estate. She was also going to show him some things. Bryce got the feeling it was just a matter of time before he moves back out here.

Keller: You know, this First Amendment thing. There's only one in the United States now and it's in Nashville, at Vanderbilt. I read it again this morning, the original grant was $1,600,000. Whether that came from the Freedom Forum or not I don't know. They have a board of directors and a general manager and everything. What they do, they push the First Amendment, monitor it, have seminars, speakers down there on the First Amendment Center. It's a separate operation. But I think it ought to be integrated in the university's curriculum. I don't know exactly how it will work.

Stevenson: I agree with you. I also think I am basically in agreement to keep it away from the journalism school. But the president or somebody is going to have to look it over carefully.

Keller: This First Amendment Center could be a focal point for all of the Rocky Mountain region. I just hope they see it right. I hesitate to put any restrictions on them. In fact, my lawyer said don't tie the university's hands, just make the contribution. I have been talking to them and I haven't put any restrictions on it at all. I just talked to them with ideas and I think they appreciate that, but I am leaving it to them.

Stevenson: Well, they, if they're smart, in this area, it's not like science or chemistry or anything like that, they would follow your wishes. And they could go out and raise money.

Keller: I read a couple of months ago, reread this "Miracle in Philadelphia." It was written by the gal who wrote the biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes, a very good writer. Anyway, she wrote a book called, "Miracle of 1988" or "Miracle in Philadelphia." It's all about the convention in Philadelphia in 1785 in which they formed a strong central government. Up to that time there was a confederation of states and each state was independent. They only cooperated when it was to their advantage.

Stevenson: Is this what got you thinking about it?

Keller: That's what got me thinking.

Stevenson: Plus talking to your nephew, who didn't know anything.

Keller: So this thing has evolved. By the way, there is a letter I received from George McCadden who is writing a book. I thought you'd like to read it.

Stevenson: I was told he was doing something about another man out in the West.

Keller: Well, he'd been down to Australia and it is interesting because as Australian manager he got the UP back into Australia. Go ahead and read it. Are you in a hurry?

Stevenson: No. I told my wife I'd be home about three o'clock. You and I'll walk over to Wallach's in a few minutes and wait for Peggy.

Stevenson: Well. (reading the letter) He'd been to Brisbane, and Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, talking about the buildings going up. It says's they've managed to get a trial service and Bill Curry, the manager . . . a bit about money. They're spending on a new communications lash-up, open a bureau in Phnom-Penh, Cambodia. Well, that's interesting. He says, "I'm completing my book." He's writing a book about some California businessman or something. I heard that from somebody else. Somewhere along the lines of Bart's book. He's helping this other fellow put together.

Keller: I didn't know that.

Stevenson: He says Hank Rieger -- there's a name for you -- is going to get him an agent.

Keller: I thought you'd be interested in that because you're writing a book.

Stevenson: I am going to work at it Lee, and get some pieces. I'm going to talk to, I'd like to go see Tom Curran, but I'm told he has Parkinson's disease.

Keller: Tom talks to Elizabeth and Elizabeth writes the letters. Tom can't. I had a picture of him on his 91st birthday.

Stevenson: In his beautiful kitchen or somewhere, sitting in the library or den.

Keller: The dining table.

Stevenson: Yes. That was it.

Keller: I know what Parkinson's is because I lost a friend in the past few months who had Parkinson's very bad. You know you lose control of your muscles.

Stevenson: Yes, Roger, in his letter, mentions that you and Tom Curran probably had the better focus on the big picture of United Press.

Keller: Tom's been at it a long time.

Stevenson: He (Tatarian) says Tom has had difficulty now because of the Parkinson's he can't talk very well.

Keller: Tom said to me in a letter Elizabeth wrote, he dictated it, he was very sorry he destroyed his papers but he had.

Stevenson: He got rid of a lot. His memory wouldn't be that good.

Keller: I don't think so.

Stevenson: He sent me some papers. I've got probably 20 or 30 letters he sent me, and one letter implies there was a discussion between him and Bart about Tom coming to New York and being heir apparent. And Tom said, "I prefer to stay in London."

Keller: That was not quite right. Here's what happened. Bart brought Tom up to New York right after he became president and installed him in that office which I later had, Joe Jones’ office, and made him assistant general manager. I think that was the title. It was the title, assistant general manager. Bart was the general manager and chief executive. Bisco was general business manager, Earl general news manager. There hadn't been a title of general manager overall, except the president. Bart stayed there for a while and Bradford had gone to London as European manager. Pretty soon he got into problems. Tom didn't like it in New York at all, so he asked Bart to make him European manager, and that's where he went. Tom loved it over there.

Stevenson: What the letter implies is that Bart said something, "Since our discussion I now realize you do not want to come back to New York." I don't know, that would be in later years, coming back to New York. They could have had some conversation and maybe it came up just routinely. "Do you want to come back some day?" or something like that.

Keller: I think the way this worked, Tom had gone to Europe as European vice president When he (Bart) appointed Mims as president. I think before he did he asked Tom if he wanted to come back to New York. Tom said no.

Stevenson: Not necessarily as president, though? Bart was pretty well committed to Mims.

Keller: No. Tom wanted to be president. I'm not really clear on what happened there. The nut of it is Tom stayed in Europe and Mims became president.

Stevenson: Yes. What Tom says is he's glad he stayed because he preferred London. He loved the lifestyle. He dressed in his bowler.

Keller: No doubt about it. He didn't like the lifestyle in New York at all.

Stevenson: Apparently he did a good job in Europe.

Keller: He did a good job. Tom did a good job everywhere except that he had no meaningful achievements. He just was a hand- holder. He was wonderful at client relations. Everyone loved him. But you can't name a single innovation put in the service by Tom Curran.

Stevenson: That's a good statement, Lee, and probably will wrap it up for today. We're going to have another lunch in the future, I hope, or another visit. "Meaningful achievements"? What did Baillie achieve, No. 1?

Keller: I think Baillie achieved this. He made the United Press an important factor in the news service business. He was a charismatic, powerful figure. Baillie really got up on his career when he got up on the stage and tackled some senator during the Republican convention in Chicago.

Stevenson: You mentioned that. I can look up the details.

Keller: I think it is in "Deadline Every Minute."

Stevenson: Yes, probably, and in Hugh Baillie's own book, "High Tension," all about himself. That's a good point. He had all this police mentality and drive.

Keller: Baillie was an impressive figure, really. I have to hand him that. He was an impressive man. He gave the UP a lot of upward spin.

Stevenson: That's well put. What did Bartholomew do in "great achievement"?

Keller: Bart claims the acquisition of INS. He set his heart on that. Bart had a tenacious personality. He would set a goal for himself and nothing would disturb him. Time and again. Oh, the big story that I have to tell you and you may not want to print it. Bart and I had been out with Gortotowski (a Hearst executive) in February of 1957. We negotiated the first deal for INS. We thought it was a pretty good deal. So we came back and presented it to the board of directors meeting on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12.

Stevenson: 1957.

Keller: I was there. Bart made the presentation. Roy listened. When Bart finished, he (Howard) said, "Now, Bart. You and Lee are just a couple of salesman. You don't know how to negotiate. That's a terrible deal." He said, "I can negotiate a deal with somebody, the general manager of the Hearst papers, in 24 hours." Bart got red. I could see the red come up the back of his neck. His bald head turned fiery red. But he held his temper. He said to Roy, "If you can do that, go to it." Roy said, "I'll take it over." This was in February. Next thing we heard from Roy Howard was on July 3, 1957, several months later. He came over with some notes and said, "I have just been talking to Ed Curran. There is no chance at all that we can ever put these two organizations together. I've worked at it now since February and there is no chance." That's the way that ended. Bart picked it up then.

Stevenson: At one point you said that Bart called old Bickel to come and help out?

Keller: Yes. Bart was going to Europe. He wanted Bickel to meet Gortotowski. Bick was then about 90 years old. Way up there. Bickel had won the respect of everybody. He was a wonderful man. You never met him, of course.

Stevenson: I talked to him on the phone once or twice.

Keller: He was a remarkable man. Personality. Intelligence. He wrote a book called, "New Empires."

Stevenson: You mentioned that at our last lunch. I've got to find it.

Keller: I don't know whether I have it. I had it.

Stevenson: It was about the news service world?

Keller: It was about the importance of going into radio. This was his own undoing because Scripps-Howard didn't want radio news at all, didn't want radio to have news at all. Anyway, Bart went to Europe after the Bickel meeting. While Bart was in Europe he told me, "Bisco had a chance to do this. Mims got in a fight with Seymour Berkson. Baillie had had a meeting with Gortotowski. Nothing happened at all. It was always, No.’ Gortowski has now turned this down again." He said, "Lee, I still think this could be done. You know Charlie McCabe. Charlie McCabe is for this." Charlie McCabe used to work for us. He was then publisher of the New York Mirror, a Hearst paper. He said, "You work on Charlie McCabe while I'm gone. I appoint you caretaker of the conversations."

Stevenson: Right. He used the phrase, "caretaker of the conversation."

Keller: I went up to where Charlie had a big home. He married the daughter of a rabbi, you know, a beautiful girl, Ruth. We went up there and had meetings at the Palm and at other places in New York. Finally, Bart was getting back in early August. I had lunch with McCabe and I said, "Now, look, I've got to show some progress for the summer we've been talking. I want you to tell me if you think this could be done and how." He said, "It can be done, but I don't think you can do it. I'll tell you what it is." He said, "You've got to give Hearst a financial interest."

Stevenson: Oh, yes.

Keller: So I took this back when Bart got back. Bart just kind of laughed. He said, "You know, Scripps-Howard has never given anyone a minority interest. I think it's hopeless." But he said, "Let's present it to Roy Howard." We walked over to the King's Arm hotel, the old Barclay, and had lunch with Roy and Jack. On the way over Bart said, "I'll bet you two dollars that Roy will be in a nasty mood, that he will quarrel with the waiter and he'll ridicule the idea and throw it out the window." I said, "Well, I'll take the bet." So we presented our case. He said, "Lee has heard from McCabe and has this idea." Instead of exploding, Roy said, "Well, you know, that's not a bad idea. I've always felt that the United Press should widen the ownership and have a public audit. It would be a more reputable news service. Go to it!" Well, we could hardly contain ourselves. We knew then it was going to happen. On the way back Bart handed me two dollars. Then it got off the track again. Finally, one day, Spyros Skouras was giving a lunch for Peterson, the president of the Bank of America, giving a big dinner at the Waldorf, a big dinner. I was invited and I went over there. I had never met the head of Hearst, Berlin. During the cocktail reception I saw Berlin standing and I went over and introduced myself. I said, "Mr. Berlin, I think it is just a shame we couldn't put UP and INS together." Berlin said, "I don't see any reason why we can't." All the time we'd been told Berlin was against it. I was on the phone to McCabe and said, "Look. Here's what Berlin said." Then I called Bart. Bart was stomping out the grapes in his vineyard out in California. I said, "Bart, here's what happened. You must call Gortatowski and tell him what happened." So Bart called Gortatowski and Gorty said, "All right. Let's meet, when you get back and I get back in late November." He said, "I'll tell you what we’ll do. We'll have a meeting at the Plaza Hotel. Then, in order to keep this secret, we'll go down to Miami. You stay in one hotel. We'll stay in another. We'll negotiate a deal." That's what happened.

Stevenson: It was consummated in '58, in the summer.

Keller: This was in November of '57. Bart and I had met Joe King-Smith and Gortatowski in Miami Beach. They stayed at the Fontainbleu and we stayed up at Bell Harbor. We'd meet at one place one day and at the other another. The idea was we’d keep this secret. Then some columnist in the Miami Beach paper said, "Strange goings-on with the news services. The head of INS, UP and AP are all in town. Wonder what's happening?"

Stevenson: Was he wrong about AP?

Keller: AP was down there for another reason. The guy that preceded Wes Gallagher. My memory is slipping.

Stevenson: I don't remember either.

Keller: You know, last night I tried to think of the New York senior senator. I knew his first name was Pat and I couldn’t think of the last name until this morning. It happened I saw it in the news, Pat Moynahan. After I'd thrown the news away, I came back to the library and started reading and immediately forgot the name again and couldn't remember it. I went back the third time and finally got it implanted in my brain.

Stevenson: The final INS deal was in the summer of '58. I was down in North Carolina. Wayne Sargent was in Atlanta. He called us all in. Wait a minute now, that right? Beaton may have called us to announce it privately. But your original thought, if I heard it correctly, is that Hearst should have some small interest, so they wound up with five percent.

Keller: It was McCabe who made that suggestion to me. I said, "I'll present that to Bart but I think it will be ruled out."

Stevenson: That was at your two dollar lunch.

Keller: That's right.

Stevenson: That's remarkable.

Keller: That's the whole story.

Stevenson: We should walk over to Wallach's and meet Peggy. Thank you.

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