TEAMSTER ex-president Dave Beck had no idea what happened to his missing successor Jimmy Hoffa when we talked to him the other day but he said his own health was excellent.
"I never smoked or took a drink of hard liquor in my life, except for a little wine the past four or five years," he cheefully announced.
Once referred to as "the portly" labor leader, Beck, 85, says now, "When I went into McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary I weighed 216 pounds. When I came out after 2 1/2 years I was down to 179 and I still keep that weight."
The longtime Teamster boss was jailed on his conviction of tax evasion charges, and was sentenced to a five-year prison term. He served one half of the sentence before his 1964 parole.
Beck's first wife died of cancer after 47 years of marriage.
"A few months after that I started my sentence and it was a vacation for me. I could sit there and think about things."
The former president of the powerful Teamsters Union ran into trouble in the '50s when the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, headed by Arkansas Democrat John L. McClellan, decided to look into his affairs.
Beck's labor career dates to 1926 when he began as a junior organizer for the Teamsters.
An ambitious man, Beck eventually built a financial empire.
His family - nephew, son, Dave Beck Jr., and wife Dorothy became officers and major stockholders in major breweries and distributors of wines, liquors and beer.
He owned an auto financing agency that did about $2 million worth of business a year on new and used cars.
The McClellan committee accused him of 52 instances of misusing his position for his own gain and McClellan himself said Beck showed "flagrant . . . disrespect for honest unionism."
Beck always denied the charges that he had misused union funds or his position.
Upon his discharge from prison, Beck married Helen Drake. She died of cancer a year ago after 12 years of marriage.
He received a "full and unconditional" pardon from President Ford in 1975.
When he retired in 1957, the Teamsters numbered 1,584,000 members. He put in his full 30 years with the union and, he said, now has an annual pension of $50,000 a year.
Beck is still very active and available for consultation during contract time.
His sentiment for union members makes him still outspoken when he says, "Miners are not out of line, clerks in department stores get more money than miners. Coal mining is a skilled job requiring skilled personel. Their lifespan with black lung disease is short."
He speaks before civic organizations, at colleges, and keeps up in his real estate business.
He works hard for his favorite charities, raising money for Hutchinson Memorial Cancer Hospital and Children's Orthopedic, both in Seattle.