JIM MORAN sounded fine on the phone and you had to feel that pretty soon before hanging up, the old publicity man was going to sell you something.

Moran, 70, is the zany, energetic, ubiquitous publicity man who amused Americans with his antics during the late '40s and '50s.

He claimed he could sell anything to anybody and he usually did, making more money in his lifetime while doing less work than anyone around.

Born in Ashburn, Va., Moran started his career in Washington by trying to find a needle in a haystack at a gas station on Connecticut Avenue.

He sold advertising space on barber shop ceilings, and once led a group of volunteers up the slopes of Bunker Hill to test the efficiency of, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

Always ready with a promotion scheme, Moran, while working on the account of a refrigeration company, went to Alaska and sold an icebox to an Eskimo.

Moran went to Hollywood for a while to beat the drums for the movie industry, and while there, sat on an ostrich egg for 23 days until it hatched.

Back in New York he went to work for band leader Fred Waring and won a bet with the musician when he led a 1,500-pound bull into a china shop. The bull moved gently around, and only Waring, backing away from the bull, knocked over a display causing $300 worth of broken glass.

When Waring was undecided as to whether he should spend a vacation sunning in Florida or California, Moran volunteered (with Waring picking up the tab) to spend a week in each place.

To test the sun, Moran had the right side of his body totally covered with paint and masks while he lay on a Florida beach. Flying to California, he reversed the process to see which side tanned the better.

The Chambers of Commerce in both the sunshine states took umbrage so Moran called it a draw.

He once brought 500 pounds of ice to California, telling buyers it was from the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska, and had been aging for 3 million years. His selling point was, "It is so old it will age the whiskey in a highball glass a hundred years, and it will be plenty smooth."

Sophisticated New Yorkers, who are not easily startled, turned one day to see an orangutang sitting in the driver's seat of a big car, moving slowly through Times Square.

Moran had it rigged with a long steering wheel that he controlled from a hidden spot.

He promoted the movie "Myra Breckinridge," based on the novel by Gore Vidal, by squiring an 18 1/2-foot-high, bikini-clad, laminated fiberglas cowgirl around on a flatbed truck.

Moran married his third wife in Kyoto, Japan, two years ago and he says this is his last marriage.

The two live in a spacious 11-room apartment in Manhattan where Moran is working on his sixth and seventh books, which he says are his memoirs.

Although he had no children of his own, he wrote two children's books, "Sopoles the Hyena" and "Miserable --The Story of a Dinosaur."

Of his literary efforts he says, "I don't consider myself a professional writer but that's just what I'm doing."

A few publishing houses have been after him to write an autobiography, but Moran says, "I would prefer it to be my memoirs. I'm more interested in the present and future than the past."

Once a door-to-door salesman, he described his future by saying, "I've just got my foot in the door and I haven't been able to demonstrate my vacuum cleaner yet."