Interview with George McCadden - Part II



(This is Part II of interview by Dick Harnett with George McCadden at his home in Sonoma, Calif., on Jan. 16, 1996.)

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Harnett: Who followed that, Bennyhoff?

McCadden: Now wait a minute. He committed suicide. About 6 oíclock one morning the phone rings and it was Joe Jones. Joe said, "Would you like to come back?" And I was so confused I said, "Oh, Christ, Joe, I've got this commitment." I should have said yes. So Riel took over for a while. Then they sent Bennyhoff down. I had problems with him too.

Harnett: You were down there then?

McCadden: No, I was out of the country (Australia) then. I got back to New York and wound up as news editor and house organ editor for Standard Vacuum Oil Company. Standard Vacuum Oil Company was a coalition of Standard Oil of New York, now known as Exxon, and Mobile Oil, and it operated only in the eastern hemisphere. I was wrong about Caltex. Caltex operated all over the world.

Well, in New York without a job. Ed Dowell calls me up. He was a Canadian who worked in Montreal and all over, and he was out at Standard Vacuum in White Plains, New York. He said, "We need a guy like you. Why don't you come up and we will pay you $40 a day per diem." So I worked that for 21 months. They finally put me on the payroll.

Harnett: In New York?

McCadden: I lived in New York and commuted in reverse.

Harnett: Where did you work?

McCadden: White Plains.

Harnett: Oh, I see.

McCadden: For Standard Vacuum Oil Company. Their headquarters were there. It was very elaborate country club headquarters. It was built by a moral coward president of the company who was mortally afraid of the atomic bomb. I found it ridiculous but it was true. They had wonderful offices. (At this point Hazel brings us pferfeness cookies).

Harnett: Great! Iím going to have one of those.

Hazel: I love them.

McCadden: I don't want any. It interferes with my talking. He was afraid of the atomic bomb. Now they had a nice headquarters, right down at the end of Broadway in one of the Rockefeller buildings. Everybody was happy, but they all had to move up to White Plains (because of the worry about atomic bomb). One day I get a call from Davis. He was the section head guy. He said a guy by the name of Murdoch was coming up for lunch with his bride. "You better join us." So we go to lunch at a very nice, quite elegant dining room in the best executive style. It was an excellent lunch and not a goddam thing to drink. I had been tipped off "don't expect any wine" because there is a Rockefeller tradition against alcohol in company dining rooms, and of course Rockefeller controlled a lot of stock in those companies I suppose. So the idea was to give this young Australian publisher a tour of this state of the art corporate headquarters.

So we start down the hallway and alarms start clanging like crazy, a civil defense alarm. We all herded down into a defense shelter and I'm sitting alongside of Rupert and his first wife, Patricia. I could see him slowly rising up to a boil. So the thing broke up and we got into our limousines and he said, "Jesus, George, imagine a lunch like that and not even a goddam sherry." We chatted all the way to New York, stopped at his hotel and had a couple drinks in the bar and he said, "Look, I just got myself a television license in Cincinnati and I think I need a New York office. How about joining?" Thatís how it started.

Harnett: That was about the 60s?

McCadden: No, that was 1958 I think. So I said, "Fine, I'd be delighted. Could you let me have a little something in writing?" He said, "Yeah, when I get to London I will." He wrote what I consider to be a rather celebrated letter. I am trying to find the original copy. This is what it said. It was written from a hotel:

"Dear George. This will confirm your appointment to open a New York office for News of the Day of Australia at a salary of $12,000 per year. Paragraph. As to your duties, you will know instinctively what to do. Sincerely yours, Rupert Murdoch."


He wouldn't waste any time. I'm going to copyright that letter.

Harnett: That's good.

McCadden: I had two real assignments, UP and Murdoch. They were both great.

Harnett: I don't want to keep you. You are getting tired. Do you remember anything of later in the Bennyhoff era down there?

McCadden: While he was in power I made a trip down there and called on Rupert. He said, "The first goddam thing I want you to do is get this guy Bennyhoff off my back. He comes running to me with the most tiddling dam questions. I can't spare the time." So I took care of that. Also (Wendel) Burch (UP Asia chief) knew I was going down. He said, "For Christ sake, tell Bennyhoff to lay off the Telex." He had run up a bill of something like 700 dollars in one month. He just couldn't resist.

Harnett: Was he running the bureau?

McCadden: Sure, sure.

Harnett: I'm trying get hold of him. He's down in Southern California.

McCadden: One angle on him involving Murdoch that I would like to track down. According to Lee Keller, Bennyhoff was bureau manager either in Las Vegas or Reno.

Harnett: Reno.

McCadden: Reno you think?

Harnett: I know.

McCadden: Rupert ran up a gambling bill. He didn't have any money and Bennyhoff arranged a sizeable amount of money. I heard it was $50,000 or $15,000 or $5000, but the UP bailed him (Murdoch) out.

Harnett: Bennyhoff was in Reno when I worked in SX. He was also in Vegas at times. It probably happened in Las Vegas. That's were Murdoch was likely to go.

McCadden: They probably assigned him (Bennyhoff) to look after him (Murdoch).

Harnett: Yes, he was sales rep at that time, with Wayne Sargent. I had a long talk with Wayne a couple weeks ago.

McCadden: He doesn't remember anything about Murdoch?

Harnett: No. Sargent wasn't down there (Australia). He was in California, then he went to Atlanta, then to New York and then to work for Al Neuharth, a Gannett publisher. He is retired down in Carmel. He knew a lot about inside workings back in New York in the 60s, that period of time.

McCadden: I never ran across anything Bennyhoff did while he was there except get in trouble.

Harnett: I know. Lee Keller told me he used to get in trouble with clientsí wives and daughters over there as well as in Texas. I understand that's the thing that made it necessary for them to send him to Australia, and they had to pull him out of Australia for similar problems. When he came back and he left UP.

Hazel: Young Pete Gruening.

Harnett: I wanted to ask about Pete Gruening. I met him briefly. He was in San Francisco for a little training or something before he went down to Hawaii and then to Australia.

McCadden: Well I can give you, when I'm up to it, an article I wrote for the Bulletin of Sidney about his death. Rumors began to fly around that he had been murdered because he knew too much about something. I have a letter or two about it. I said that's a pile of horse manure. I wrote the article and the Bulletin published it.

Harnett: Sidney Bulletin.

McCadden: Sidney Bulletin, Australia's news weekly and a very good one. I went to a Downhold Club affair in Southern California, some guy came up and said, "What's the real story about Gruening? I believe that he was murdered." I could see this guy was a John Bircher or something. I said, "I'll send you a copy of what really happened." I never heard from him.

Harnett: You checked it out, right?

McCadden: His problem was that he felt he had to be prominent. He would give lavish parties and invite all the bigwigs he could get. Then he'd write Bartholomew that he had a very successful party. Bart would write back and say, "Well what's the point of it all?" But that didn't stop him. He kept on spending money like crazy. His wife moved out of the apartment and took all the furniture while he was out of town. He wanted to be prominent. When he committed suicide I was at his funeral, of course, and his older brother showed up, Hunt Gruening. He was operations manager for Alaska Airlines. I got a call from Pan American chief, what the hell's his name?

Harnett: Robin Kinkaid?

McCadden: No.

Hazel: Chuck somebody.

McCadden: A bachelor, and he said, "Look, this guy Hunt Gruening has got me unstrung. I can't handle him. Why don't you take him to my apartment. There's plenty of booze there. You work on him." So I did. We got stuck into the Scotch. This was before noon, before I got into arranging some kind of funeral service. He told me the story of Pete Gruening. It goes back to his mother, who must have been very neurotic. Anyhow, she lost a son who died under mysterious circumstances. Pete never went to school. She had private tutors for him until finally he did go to college and I guess he graduated. The war came along and he wanted to be in it. So he enlisted, and sure enough he wound up as a bomber pilot, B-24s I think, at some field in Texas. So then he wanted to go overseas, but they put him through some tests, Rorschack tests or I donít know what all, and decided he was not mentally fit for overseas duty. That really broke his heart. He finished the war as a trainer. Well, the assignment to Honolulu you know. After he leaves that they go to Singapore. Harnett: UPI sent him to Singapore?

McCadden: I think so.

Harnett: He got hired up in Seattle, though, didn't he?

McCadden: I don't know.

Harnett: His father was governor of Alaska.

McCadden: Yes, first senator. Anyhow, he gets to Australia.

Harnett: What made them think he had been murdered?

McCadden: God only knows.

Harnett: A kind of rumor?

McCadden: Right wing kooks, you know.

Harnett: It was a rumor?

McCadden: Yeah. Hazel: He disappeared.

McCadden: He disappeared first. Hazel: Didn't he commit suicide in a woodland? They didn't find his body.

McCadden: For several days.

Hazel: That's right.

Harnett: tell me about Ernie.

McCadden: Well, when we got Pete to Singapore, Ernie told Bart and I he (Gruening) could not correspond with anybody in New York except through him. If Pete Gruening in Singapore had a question for Harry Flory he had to write to Hoberecht. My complaint -- when I had this service going to the Telegraph they got very peed off because Hoberecht was weighing in with great ecomiums for MacArthur, which, of course, the Australians didn'tí agree with at all. The British line was completely different.

Harnett: But you weren't under Asia control in Australia?

McCadden: No.

Harnett: You were separate?

McCadden: Yeah, that was Bartholomew territory. I could tell Ernie to go lump it. I did write him some pretty stiff letters. He finally calmed down on that.

Harnett: I had him (Hoberecht) on the phone and said, "If I send you a tape recorder will you talk into it, give me stories for a history?" He said, "Yeah. If I can't remember the stories I'll make them up." So I sent him a tape recorder. He got it, called me back and said he didn't know how to run it but had one of his own and would send the tape. He related on the phone that he had recently been in hospital in Oklahoma City, had intestines checked. He said they gave him some color pictures of his intestine. He said, "I'm gonna put 'em on my Christmas cards next year with the caption "And you thought I didn't have any guts." He's still kicking down there in Oklahoma. There were a lot of great characters in the United Press and I want to get as many of them as I can.

McCadden: Oh sure. Getting back to Hoberecht, when the war was over UP had a tremendous force assembled in Tokyo. I think I counted 11 guys.

Harnett: Frank Tremaine was one.

McCadden: Frank Tremaine was appointed Tokyo bureau manager. I was PRO for Fifth Air Force. Frank came to me one day and said, "Look, George, I want to go home. Why don'ít you take this job? We can fix it with the Pentagon." I said, "Well, I've got a kind of commitment to go to Australia." So that fizzled out. That's how Hoberecht got it.

Harnett: Yes, Frank Tremaine was the first one there but I guess he did want to get out.

McCadden: Oh yes.

Harnett: He's back in Savannah, summers in Maine. He deserves it. There were some great old guys. LeRoy Keller called me. He said, "I want to give you some more stuff." I said well I'd be glad to take it. I said I would give him my tape recorder. He said, "I can't talk into a machine. I've always had a secretary. He's down in Florida. I said, "You call me on the phone, preferably at night or weekends when rates are cheaper, and I'll put my tape recorder on it here." He asked me what were some of the things I was interested in, so I made a bunch of questions. I haven't heard from him yet. He;s a gentlemen. I like him a lot, and his wife Peggy is a very nice lady. Of course in United Press there were a lot of people who had a kind of internal attitude -- "Awe, that Bennyhoff, that McCadden, he's an Aussie Murdoch guy." They say this about each other but they all have one thread amongst them, which is they loved their jobs and they had nice life with UP. To Hazel: Did you work for UP? Hazel: I wrote a few stories from Australia but didn't work for UP. There was Charlie Bernard.

Harnett: Yes, Charlie Bernard. He was a good friend of mine.

Hazel: He was a sweet guy.

Harnett: I like Charlie. He's the one who broke me in at UP.

Hazel: Is that so?

Harnett: He was night manager here. I was night rewrite. He was, you know, a very nervous guy. One night he looks out the window at the bay bridge and sees some activity. I'd only been there about six days. He said, "Go!" So I said I donít have a police card, I have nothing. He said, "Go!" I went and I bulled myself past the police guard. Some little guy was trying to climb up the bridge tower.Every day Charlie was in at 1 o'clock, and when I came in at 3 or 4 he'd go through the things I did the night before. Like, I had been in journalism school where they taught you to write in active voice. He changed everything to passive. He said this is the way do it. He taught me a lotta stuff. Then he went to Honolulu and Australia. When he finally came back after being in Iran and everywhere, he came back to San Francisco and they didn't treat him very nice.

McCadden: No.

Harnett: They didn't treat anybody very nice.

McCadden: I had a lot of experience in New Zealand too.

Harnett: Yeah?

McCadden:Yes.

Harnett: Covering news or selling?

McCadden: Both. I was trying sell this service to the New Zealand Broadcast Authority, which wanted a news service. They were trying to make up their own from government press releases, but the New Zealand Press Association was a very tightly closed, conservative, outfit and they wouldn't sell their news to the government. So I flew over on an old Summerland flying boat, a wonderful trip. I go into see the Prime Minister, Peter Frasier, Labor prime minister. He said, "Well, how did the trip go?" I said I was quite surprised when somebody comes along and asks me to sign a declaration to proclaim my allegiance to the king. He said, "Oh, for Christ sake. Don't tell me. That was a war time thing." So he pushed a button and an aide came in and he said, "Get rid of this." I got on very well with him. At the time there was a New Zealand force in Japan, a small one. They called it the J-Force. The war was over and there was an increasing clamor -- we want our men home. It came up on the floor of Parliament. Frasier would have waited (to bring the troops back). Finally I pinned him down for an interview and amongst other things I asked him about the J-Force. I told him that the United Press usually, as a courtesy to a head of state, we would let him see the copy, and here's my copy. He took out a pencil and changed a word here and there. He said, "George, I'm going to give you a scoop." He said the J-Force would start moving on January 1 or whatever, put the date in. But he said youíre not to give this to the New Zealand media. He said the BBC will pick it up and they will carry it. I took it over to my correspondent (stringer) who then was the editor of the Wellington Dominion, the morning paper. He read this story. It was then Saturday afternoon. He said, "Ah Jeez, the only thing we can do is pick it up from the BBC Sunday night. And of course the Press Association splashed it all over. So next day in Parliament during the question period some guy asks: "How come this very important news should be given to a roving foreign correspondent?" I laughed.

Harnett: Did you sell any service over there?

McCadden: I did sell some pictures. I got on well with the press corps. They had a damn nice bar, had their own bar in Parliament House. And I got to know some of the legislators. I always remember a big Maori Indian, a big guy, must have been 6-foot-6. We were in the correspondentsí bar there, drinking. He's wearing a great big coat. I said, "What in hell you got in side pocket there?" He reached in and pulled out a duck.

Harnett: That's good. Who was president of UP at that time?

McCadden: Baillie. Harnett: Baillie was still president? Baillie made a lot of money with UP I think.

McCadden: I don't know.

Harnett: He ended up with a lot of money. I don't know where he got it.

McCadden: I am not so sure he wound up with that much. He got a salary of $75,000.

Harnett: I am going talk to Ace, his son. Ace must have inherited money. He lives in San Francisco. He quit UP about 25 years ago. I don't think he's worked a day since then. His wife is a PR person but she doesn't have much business.

McCadden: Baillie must have accumulated a portfolio.

Harnett: New York wasn't really running you. You were running out of London, right?

McCadden: Oh no. I was running out of San Francisco.

Harnett: San Francisco. You were Bart's man.

McCadden: And don't forget, when Baillie retired he got a big payoff. He got a couple hundred thousand there.

Harnett: One thing you mentioned to me once was that you left some papers. Was it to the University of Wyoming? What papers were those?

McCadden: Oh bits and pieces, the full text of the book I did on Bart, containing passages that Toni (Bart's widow) censored out.

Harnett: That is in the archives at Wyoming?

McCadden: Yes.

Harnett: I am going to try to get some of this stuff.

McCadden: They have a lot of UP guysí papers. If you write, they'll give you a list.

Harnett: I am going to do that. Tremaine left some stuff down at the Nimitz (museum in Texas), and Bob Miller -- remember Bob? He sent me a tape he made himself. He said, "I'll send you a tape every once in a while. You can look at my papers. They are not supposed be seen 'til I die. They are up at the University of Nevada." And the congressional library has a lot of stuff, but they don't loan it out. I thought I might try to get tied in with some university press or somebody who could get me access.

McCadden>: Access.

Harnett: I want to get access and a grant from somebody. You can get people to research for you but you have to pay them 25 bucks an hour. I can't do that, but I'm going to check out the possibilities. Don Reed, I donít know if you ever met Don Reed.

McCadden: No.

Harnett: He was in San Francisco, Dallas and New York. I got a box of stuff from him.

Hazel: Wonderful.

McCadden: Some pretty good stories.

Harnett: You miss them (news stories) if nobody is out there to get them. If AP doesn't have it, you don't hear about it. You don't know what stories they might not have.

McCadden: Another thing you gotta remember is since the demise of UP there has been a helluva growth in foreign correspondents sent out by the newspapers.

Harnett: I know something about that. I'm in touch with Ty Marshall in Germany and guys with the Chicago Tribune. But even in San Francisco where The New York Times has a bureau and spent $2 million a year on it, if anything happened anywhere in the west, in Las Vegas or Alaska, Wally Turner came up to our office and asked, "What have you guys got on this?" Then he'd go downstairs and write it for the Times. Sometimes he'd spend three months writing a story about something in Alaska or Las Vegas -- a big expense account and a great story. But they aren't news services, they are just features. What Sargent told me was that the newspapers liked to take their UP money and buy that (N.Y. Times service) because that was exclusive in the town, and they sold it for $35 bucks a week. For that you can buy The New York Times service. They (the newspapers) think that it's better than UP whom they were paying 60 bucks a week. Anyway, we maintained a bureau down there (Australia) until recently.

McCadden: The guy down there died recently.

Harnett: Yes he died. I know who you mean (Dewherst)?

McCadden: Good man.

Harnett: He worked in Pakistan and other places.

McCadden: You know, at one time Murdoch was the biggest client UP had.

Harnett: Is that right?

McCadden: They (UPI) operated that cable lashup, Singapore, Jakarta and Tokyo. There was one incident right after I quit Hill and Knowlton. I went to see Bart for Murdoch, Murdoch, who was then in the New York Post. I told him (Bart) he (Murdoch) said he had dropped News of The World on Bouverie Street (in London) and wanted to sell the building, the real estate, because he had other plans. But the UP has a long term lease (in the building) and didn't indicate interest in moving. I told Bart, "Why don't you negotiate a rate increase (from Murdoch in return for moving out)? And he got a good rate increase.

Harnett: We moved out of his place then?

McCadden: Yeah.

Harnett: Yes, I think I heard about that.

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