When the journalistic pros of "Washington Week in Review" assemble Friday, July 6, to assess whatever good or bad news the preceding seven days may have brought, it will be under the discreet aegis of the Ford Motor Co.
A party to mark this change - Ford's first major venture into public television progamming and "WWR's" first corporate support - was held last night by Ford President Philip Caldwell at Decatur House.
Among the guests were Judge John Sirica, Rep. Paul N. McCloskey (R-Calif.), presidential aide Greg Schneiders and Sol Linowitz, a former head of Xerox and now chairman of the President's Commission on World Hunger. But the large crowd gathered under tents in the elegant garden was dominated by lions of the city's journalistic establishment who had appeared on the show during its first 13 years.
Repeatedly they remarked that their first claims to celebrity had turned out not to be their positions in the press, but their exposure on "WWR."
Jack Nelson of The Los Angeles Times remarked, "Hell, nobody ever recognized me until I got on this show." The Star's assistant managing editor, Eileen Shanahan, recalled being "introduced to the bishop of Sante Fe once and he replied, 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?,' and I asked if he ever watched public television and he replied, 'Oh, you're the one who went after Mr. Nixon so hard.'"
It was, of course, Nixon who went after public television's public affairs shows so hard, trying to cut back their budgets. In 1973 "WWR" seemed not long for this video world, but its listeners rallied to the cause and the show is now public television's oldest and most popular such undertaking ranking consistently cmong the top PBS programs in audience surveys. There are few spots under U.S. domain where it is not available.
"I was in the Virgin Islands," said Nelson, "and watched it a week late down there."
This steadily growing audience for "WWR" was a factor in Ford's involvement. "We felt that we had something here that was firmly established," Caldwell observed.
William Sheenhan, formerly of ABC here, said that he had his eye on this grant ($399,000 for the coming year with an option on the next) when he joined Ford recently as executive director-public relations staff. "Fortunately, I found I had a president who already watched it regularly," sheehan reported.
The program has been produced by already watched it regularly," Shee-WETA with money from the 200-odd participating stations.
Asked what he would do when Ford came in for its share of hard knocks on the program. Caldwell said, "If it's fair, that's all right and if it's not fair, I'll grin and bear it. But I get your point and if you have any doubts just keep in mind that we sponsor '60 Minutes,' too."
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"And then all these people want to come to my park in St. Louis, want to see where I live. It's just a big old house in a park with some big old tree - not an amusement park like so many people think, not a farm with 'matoes and 'tatoes. Just a place where I lay my head. So why should some guy come there and watch me change my dirty socks?"
A jogger whizzed by and said, "Hey, Chuck," and Berry sat down and searched for his Kools and couldn't find them. So he headed for the People's drug store up the block. The cashier looked at him for a few minutes, and asked him to autograph her yellow pay stub.
And Berry said, "Maybe we ought to get something to eat, but nothing with a guy saying what is our pleasure and no chandliers. I like when you can walk in the kitchen and say, 'I'll eat that one.'"
A few minutes later he was in the Omelette Room of the Old Ebbitt Grill. The waitress asked very stiffly, "May I take your order," and Berry asked for a plain orange juice.
He stared out the window silently for a full 10 minutes. He mentioned that he had a wife in St. Louis, and four children, the oldest 28. He said that Muddy Waters had brought him to Chicago to make his first record. He said he rarely reads fiction and he drives a Cadillac.
Berry started staring out the window again. And staring at the walls. And then without touching his orange juice, he stood up and told his dinner companions, "I'll meet you guys outside when you're through. I don't like this place."
Ten minutes later he was discovered next door to the Ebbitt, sitting alone at the counter of the Blue Mirror Diner, eating a fried-fish sandwich and talking with the Turkish waitress who had absolutely no idea of who this man in the brown suit was.