By MIKE MALAK
Army was one of the meekest, quietest staffers at the Daily. When he would take his copy into Tom, something he did personally unlike most other writers he would stand still, never sitting, while Tom read and edited his copy though the edits were more in the nature of paragraphing and transpositions. I never saw Tom get out a heavy pencil when he read Army’s work. Tom would nod to him and Army would take the copy back to deliver it to the City Desk which would send it for typesetting, in the latter days at the in-house Photographics Unit headed by Steve Smith formerly of California Offset Printing.
The one thing that Army never did was waste time. He was above the floating menagerie and rarely took his ear away from the phone, which eventually was replaced by a headset. In the old Hollywood Offices at 6400 Sunset, which we leased from our General Counsel Martin Gang, Army’s desk was crammed in, near the front though, along with everyone else’s. I recall the first time I saw the desk. It was amazingly cluttered, something that changed with time and, perhaps, the more spacious gigs at Cahuenga Blvd. Though he probably got more releases than anyone else, except for the desk which the networks bombarded every day with this and that non-news, he managed at the Cahuenga Office to keep order. He was generous with his Rolidex and when I was lost for a contact he was my go-to of last resort. He was succinct and to the point with just about everyone due but unfailingly polite.
Bill Feeder the Exec. V.P. at Rogers and Cowan P.R., like most praisery toppers considered the “liner notes” Army wrote about the business to be more important, it seemed, that a front page story. I was at my friend Candy Clark’s house in Hollywood one day when Feeder called her and gave a briefing on how she should talk to Army, fairly ridiculous since he was one of the easiest men to talk to due to his lack of ego. She called Army and, as expected, the call went well and an item ran regarding her then picture “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” I believe. Feeder called minutes after she hung up and I happened to answer the phone. When he inquired about how the call went I tried to reassure him that Army took all call seriously, even if he truncated them from time to time. Army and I had a chuckle over Feeder’s nervousness which was utterly unwarranted since Clark was a charmer in her own right and seldom failed to impress with her homespun personality.
Army was an anti-smoking activist long before that was cool. The Daily was a den of smoke until the L.A. City Council passed an ordinance outlawing smoking in places of commerce. Prior to that time, due to his allergy to smoke, Pryor made a concession to Army and constructed a closed office in the City Room for him, something no one else ever had before or since. The fact that it was small didn’t phase Army at all and he continued doing what he did every day and night for his entire career at the Daily, documenting the mores and occasionally morals of the town. He was uniquely qualified to do so because he always took the higher ground and no matter how much Holiday tribute flowed to him over the years he treated the ingenues as respectfully as the moguls. To him a sincere hello was as valuable as the lavish largess of those thinking he needed to be schmoozed not realizing that he was often embarrassed by displays that could separate him from his peers. He was the real thing and I miss my friend Army who was never more than a call away even if we rarely spoke as the years went by. It was, still, a comfort knowing that he was as close as my receiver.