More Stanley Whitaker Stories



Here are some additional Stanley Whitaker stories via Pete Willett:

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While Denver buo manager he received a wire from NX to "lift the cancellation" at a small Colorado newspaper out in the mountains. Took him most of the day to get there and he arrived in the midst of a heavy snow storm.

He entered the one-room newspaper office and began getting the snow off. The publisher/editor was hand setting type behind the counter and asked him who he was and he responded.

"Get out of this building." the man ordered. "I will not have anyone from United Press in this office."

Whit did not leave. He finished brushing off the snow and took off his coat. The editor came around the counter and waved a stick of type in his face: "Get out." Whit didn't move. So the editor asked him why he wasn't leaving.

"I was sent here to lift your cancellation of the United Press service and I am staying here until you lift it."

The editor was so taken aback and surprised that after some discussion he did lift the cancellation.

Whit's later surmise was that it pays not to know that some things can not always be done.

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At a broadcaster's convention I had set up a meeting in my cabana with Whit and the owner of a group of radio stations and the fellow had signed contracts for all five of his stations. We continued talking while the contracts lay in front of us on the coffee table. Whit got up, went into the kitchen, positioned himself so I could see him and the broadcaster could not and signaled me to come talk to him immediately. (Most unusual since Whit almost never told you how or what to do, simply the results he expected.)

I excused myself and went into the kitchen. Whit told me to pick up the contracts, leave the room, hide them somewhere before returning and if later asked about them to say they had already been mailed to New York. And made it clear I was to do so immediately. I did.

After the broadcaster left, Whit explained. Some years earlier, when Whit was in Dallas, UP hired a promoter in Denver as a salesman, the first time the company had ever hired anyone directly into sales, and had the fellow traveling out of New York. He had done well for about a year but had gone into a slump and couldn't seem to make a sale. So Biscoe sent him down to Whit and asked Whit to take him on the road for a few weeks and see if he could get him out of his slump.

Now this fellow made elaborate sales presentations. He would sit up half the night in his hotel room preparing notes and would give his sales pitch using flash cards. After a week of strike outs they called on a newspaper in Oklahoma and LeRoy started his pitch to the publisher. The publisher interrupted him to ask about a feature United Features had. Was it for sale? Yes. He wanted it. Whit filled out a contract and Lee gave it to the publisher. The publisher signed it.

Lee left it sitting in front of the publisher and returned to his prepared sales pitch. As he droned on the publisher, obviously not interested, began looking down at the signed contract in front of him and reading the fine print. Suddenly he grabbed the contract, tore it up, and said "I'm not signing this damned thing."

Whit said it took them another two hours and 25 cents to get that feature sold again. The lesson was pretty clear. Once you get that contract signed, get it and your ass out of there. (Whit's first encounter with Bubbles, known to most hereon as LeRoy Keller.)

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Myrna usually traveled with Whit, since they had no children. She was a bit more loquacious than Whit and much more apt to voice an opinion about someone. Once she was holding forth about a cab driver and hammering Whit about tipping the man. After a spell, Whit finally said: "Well Myrna, it's a mighty thin board that doesn't have two sides."

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Some mention has been made of Whit's legendary frugality and of the house he and Myrna shared in Smyrna. Whit worked through the depression. Find someone who did who was not frugal. He was very much pay as you go and never believed in owing money. The house is most interesting: probably the only million dollar house where the master bedroom contained a commode, a kitchen sink, and a small stove. The reason being the house started as a one room cabin (a tent actually).

When Whit and Myrna first lived in Atlanta it was in a small apartment and they often spent weekends hiking in the woods then surrounding Atlanta. One of their favorite spots was in what is now Smyrna. Whit found he could purchase the land of one spot they particularly liked, did so, and that summer they put up a tent and started spending weekends camping there. Soon he was commuting to work from the tent, so he built a one room cabin and that became home. Then each year they added a room. A most unusual place, truly "rambling."

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Finally, one can not describe Whit without mention of a certain Dallas newsboy: a kid who walks into the Dallas bureau during the '30s. Cliff Bojanowski, 14. Folks are Polish immigrants, don't speaka the English. Cliff not too well himself. But he's supporting the family as a newsboy and he's learned the way you make money selling newspapers is selling extras and the way to sell extras is to be the first newsboy at the end of the press when there is an extra.

Now this is one smart 14-year-old because he studies these extras and discovers they all come from stories from something called UP. So here he comes into the bureau and he has a proposal: he will work 10 hours a day doing whatever, no pay, and he will work like hell, just so long as he can leave on a moment's notice whenever he wants. And can be gone for a couple of hours. Bureau manager, this is a new one on him, so he ships the kid into the division manger, Stanley Whitaker. Kid's obviously a charger, give him a shot.

Bojanowski goes to work, does a hell of a job. Of course every time the slot man opens the little window into the newspaper's city room and hands in a piece of copy saying "Bulletin," Bojanowski disappears. And he quickly owns the "Extra" business on the streets of Dallas.

Whitaker figures out what's going on and says OK, this is a good deal for both of us, but you have to go to school and we'll pay for it and makes Bojanowski go to school. Then when Whit is transferred to Atlanta he takes the kid with him, puts him in college and and puts him on as an operator at night.

Few years later, Whit puts Bojanowski on the road. This was a big, big deal because this was at a time when UP, like most of America, was very very much a "class society" and operators were "lower" class. (Interesting when you realize most newsmen, certainly me and all I knew, owed their jobs to an operator who had saved them from themselves: Emory Cain, Clyde Forrester, Red Cates, Woody Butler, were always saving me from myself.) And

Whit made him change his name to Marshall (Southerners didn't like furriners). Cliff went on to become easily the top salesman in UP and when it became apparent the NX brass wasn't going to note this fact with a promotion, despite Whit's recommendations, he left to run Blackburn and company and become the top media broker.

Whitaker was a great people man. Cliff was just one example, one grad. At one point it seemed half the Washington bureau was made up of Whitaker graduates. He had a number of exceptional ones (and here I'll play the fool by missing some of the best) but any listing would have to include Merriman Smith, Gene Patterson, Claude Sitton, Warren Duffee, John Herbers, Bill Lyon, Bill Tucker, Bernie Brenner, Jack Young, Roland Dopson, Dick West, Frank Eleazar, Ed Pope, Steve Gerstel, Barbara Frye, Leo Soroka, Russ Dailey, Herb Foster, Bill Middlebrooks, Jack Harvey, Jim Russell, John Couric, Ed Rogers, Rhea Eskew, Lowry Bowman, Billy Ferguson and H.L. Stevenson. Three of his folk (Smitty, Patterson and Sitton) went on to win Pulitzers. During the mid 70s, UPI's news, newspicture, broadcast and audio operations all were headed by Whit grads.

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