It was in the Sakowitz Christmas catalogue under the title, "The Ultimate Gift." Sakowitz is a Houston department store that caters to the very rich, and when it comes to thinking up wild Christmas presents, the store obviously is trying to outdo Neiman Marcus, which this year featured a "His and Her Atomic-Proof Vault" in the side of a mountain, where people can store valuables safely from World War 111.
Sakowitz is advertising many wild Christmas presents to play catch-up with Neiman's. But the one that really caught my attention was an offer to provide "21 Celebrities for Your Special Dinner Party, like Walter -Cronkite, Neil Armstrong, Sen. Henry Jackson, Uri Geller, Gloria Steinem, George Allen, Arthur Ashe, F. Lee Bailey, Bruce Jenner, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Milton Friedman, Ruth Gordon, Minnesota Fats and Buckminster Fuller," among others. The price listed in the catalogue was $94,125.
As soon as I received the booklet I called Cronkite and said, "Hey, I didn't know you were renting yourself out for Christmas parties days."
The usually unflappable Walter sounded really flapped. "There is nothing funny about it. I'm suing those (expletives deleted). I wasn't asked about this, I didn't give my permission and as far as I can find out neither did anybody else who's listed in the catalogue. The whole thing is outrageous.
"What did Sakowitz say?" I wanted to know.
"They said, legally, they're protected because the copy for the dinner party was the word like in it. They said they weren't promising me, but someone like me."
"You may take it lightly," Walter said bitterly, "but CBS is not, and we intend to make Sakowitz desist from pulling this kind of stunt again."
"Well, I'm glad I called you first," I told him, "because I was just about to send in my check for $94,125 so my wife would have a Christmas party with real live celebrities for a change."
After I finished talking to Walter I got to thinking about what would have happened if I had sent in my $94,125, and had invited all our neighbors over for a Christmas party to meet this convey of overachievers.
This is what I envision might have happened:
The doorbell rings. There is a man with sandy hair and a mustache standing there.
"Hi there, Is this where the party is?"
"Who are you?"
"I'm like Walter Cronkite."
"You mean Walter isn't coming to my party?"
"If you read your catalogue carefully, Sakowitz did not promise you Walter Cronkite but only somebody like him."
"Why are you like Walter Cronkite?"
"Because I'm an excellent sailor a 'C' tennis player, a well-dressed man, and I anchor the evening news in Waco, Texas. Your guests will really flip out when I say, 'And that's the way it is.'"
Just then a woman arrives. She has long, brownish hair and smoldering eyes.
"And pray tell," I say, "who are you?"
"I'm like Gloria Steinem, and if you light my cigarette I'll knock your teeth out."
"You're not the real Gloria, then?"
"That's a terribly sexist thing to say. You wouldn't ask that question of a man." Another chap comes up and joins us. "Is this the Sakowitz gift party?"
"Who are you?"
"I'm like Neil Armstong."
Then you're not the fellow who got to the moon first?"
"I'm glider pilot from Galveston, and I've taken one small step for man."
I get angry and decide to take the 21 "celebrities" down to Sakowitz to get my $94,125 back.
The lady behind the Christmas exchange counter says, "We're sorry, but there are no cash refunds on people like Arthur Ashe, F. Lee Bailey, Joyce Brothers, Minnesota Fats or Ruth Gordon. Once they leave the store they're all considered used merchandise."