Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Some Beach"

Freeze this moment
A little bit longer
Make each sensation
A little bit stronger

Song, Time Stands Still

Making time stand still is impossible of course, but Lord knows I tried.

In our house those last precious minutes of “freedom” on Sunday nights were signaled by the voice of Drew Pearson with his radio version of The Washington Merry-Go-Round which he closed each week with his “predictions.” I can hear the announcer now, “...finally, here's Mr. Pearson with his PREDICTIONS OF THINGS TO COME.”

Now, as far as I know, the clocks never slowed, even though millions of us kids were practicing synchronized telepathy with the universe each week at that time. However, that voice on the radio was permanently engraved on my mind.

Imagine the thrill that 12 ...going on 27 year old Ed Myers felt when he introduced Drew Pearson as his guest on the morning TV show he hosted in the late 60's on channel 9 in Washington.

"Predictions of Things to come."
As the leading “muckraker” (a name he was very proud of) in the country and the man who had been called an SOB by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, began to talk, my mind wandered back to those Sunday nights in Charlotte. The first thought that came to me was that I might have to go to school the next day....then that voice in my head that always appears during moments like this began shouting “What are YOU doing here?”

The interview went well. Pearson seemed to like me,  perhaps because I was one of the few people in Washington who wasn't trying to sue him, I don't know, but as I got to know him, I considered him a friend. Several times when a scheduled guest would cancel an appearance on my show, which was LIVE in those days, Drew would delay his plans and rush over to the studio and fill in for the absent guest. He gave me several of his books and several bags of his prized fertilizer from his farm. (Drew Pearson's Fertilizer. All cow, no bull.)

Drew Pearson 1967
 He also saved two highly sought tickets for a major Washington event in 1967; a Frank Sinatra concert that Drew had arranged for his favorite charity, THE BOYS CLUB.

He reminded me of an English Squire, or some one's kindly grandfather. However there has never been anyone who ever exposed corruption in Congress like Drew Pearson. He sent four congressmen to jail and ended the political careers of many others. Pearson liked to say that he had more enemies per square inch than anyone in Washington. Senator Joseph McCarthy made him his number one target in the 1950's.

When Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader in the Senate, Pearson referred to him as “Lyin' down Johnson" for his refusal to challenge to Joe McCarthy.

But there was one crime, or mystery that seemed to elude even the nation's number one muckraker:
It was a lottery called The Irish Sweepstakes, which was established in Ireland in 1930 to finance hospitals.
Pearson's Farm in Potomac, MD
The winner was determined based on the outcome of several horse races.

The United States has always been a bit ambivalent about gambling. Some types were allowed and some weren't.. For years, horse racing was OK but lotteries weren't.
The Irish Sweepstakes was a very popular lottery “worldwide” but was illegal in the United States.  In fact, it was technically illegal to even report the winners and how much they received in the nation's  press at the time.

Irish Sweepstakes Ticket
However, the Irish Sweepstakes had more Americans purchasing tickets than Irishmen.
All the sweepstakes tickets were printed in Ireland so just how so many  got into this country was a huge unsolved mystery. The postal service took extreme measures to insure that no tickets got into the country by mail. Airlines and cargo ships were searched by authorities in an effort to keep Americans free of the gambling scourge.

A legend about a "man in a dark cloak" grew out of the mystery of just who it was who was smuggling all those tickets into the USA.

The mystery was never solved.

At least not until many years later when lotteries were commonplace in the US and nobody really cared anymore.

It was one “prediction” or scoop that the old Muckraker never made.

No doubt, the reason was that the “man in the dark cloak"...was him.


(In 1930 Drew accepted an offer to be the secret Director of the Irish Sweepstakes for the Western hemisphere at $30,000 a year, a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental plus legal and other expenses.
Not everyone at the time condemned gambling for worthy purposes, and many considered it no worse than taking a drink (which was also illegal.)