Publishing giant was power personified

Oct 8, 2002 7:25 AM

      GOLIATH MEETS DAVID? When I read of the death of publisher Walter Annenberg it brought back memories. One story -- the one I like best -- has to do with an old racetrack character named Eddie McCann.

      Eddie was easy going, well liked and usually very non-confrontational. He spent his time trying to dope out a winner and telling stories in the press box between races. Occasionally he would take on work as a stringer for one of the newspapers to pay a few bills and get a bankroll going again when the horses had not been kind.

      One season, while Eddie was doing his handicapping in the press box he started paying attention to the grumbling he heard from his fellow scribes. They worked for Walter Annenberg and they felt they weren’t getting their just dues from the publishing mogul. Usually this kind of talked rolled right past Eddie. He was not a crusader. However this time, for reasons no one was ever able to explain, he got interested. Then he got involved. Before anyone realized it, Eddie McCann had single handedly started a movement to organize the press corps and the fight to get more money and concessions from Annenberg was on.

      It was a tough, costly battle. Annenberg had to go to the mat to quell the uprising and restore order. When the dust settled he was back in control, but it had taken all of his power to do it.

      The ever-resourceful Eddie, undaunted by his loss, thought he might be able to salvage something from the situation. He confronted Annenberg at the next opportunity and tried to talk the powerhouse into giving him a job.

      It didn’t work.

      So, Eddie went back to handicapping and Walter went back to publishing. But, I’m sure he never forgot the name of Eddie McCann.

      Another yarn involves Walter Annenberg, Steve Wynn and Gene Kilroy. Back in 1987 when Gene was working at the Golden Nugget, the billionaire publisher called to say he was coming to Las Vegas for a visit.

      Kilroy immediately made arrangements for the stay and set up a meeting so Annenberg could meet his boss, Steve Wynn.

      Wynn is a graduate of The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, a major benefactor of Annenberg’s generosity.

      As expected, Wynn was very impressed with the former ambassador to Great Britain. But, the ambassador was also quite taken with Wynn. The two found much in common and a friendship that endured to the end was formed.

      KILLING A RUMOR! There was a bad story floating around that Carl Icahn blew nearly $5 million recently betting games in Las Vegas. It seemed like a large amount of money to lose anywhere, even in Las Vegas. Big bets not in a pari-mutuel pool are slim and none, especially since most of the stores dread big action on a man-to-man basis.

      Nonetheless, I decided to call Icahn. He certainly fits the description of a big bettor. It’s a pastime for him and the size of the bet has to match the size of his appetite.

      Icahn told me point blank that the story was phony: “I haven’t been in Las Vegas since January!”

      THANKS FOR THE MEMORY! Andy and Frances Jerry, now well-known Las Vegans, marked their 69th wedding anniversary Oct. 6. The happy couple has been holding hands all those years. And, unlike another story, if these two lovebirds ever let go it would only take a New York minute before they embraced.

      They were wed on Long Island in the town of Lynbrook. Late in life they moved to Las Vegas and bid farewell to the island.

      Congratulations, you kids, don’t do anything you’re not supposed to.