"Did you hear the one about Pope John and the banker?" George Moore was saying at a reception last night for the newest laureates of the Business Hall of Fame. No one had, but as George Moore is a retired Citibank president, and a member of the business Hall of Fame, when George Moore talks, people listen.
"Well," said Moore, "Pope John went to heaven, and when he got there the angel in charge gave him a small single room in the back. The pope says, 'Why did you give me such a small room when the banker before me got the Heavenly Suite?'
"'Because,' said the angel, 'popes in heaven are a dime a dozen, and George Moore is the only banker we've got.' Ha!" whooped Moore.
Nobody knows how many bankers make it through the pearly gates, but last nighht at the Sheraton Washington, seven men, captains of industry all, were inducted into the ranks of free enterprises' immortals.
Four of them, Andrew Mellon, Willis Carrier, Owen Young and Pierre S. duPont, were inducted posthumously, but the other three, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, developer James Rouse, and Polaroid potentate Edwin Land, were alive and accounted for, as were Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown, his wife, Phyllis George, Florida Senator Paula Hawkins, AFL-CIO vice president John J. O'Donnell, and many a president or chief executive officer from Fortune 500 companies, like Xerox president David Kearns.
Circling them in eager throngs were a lobbyist or three and many highschool age Junior Achievers.
The mega-buck mingling began with a cocktail party.
"Our program looks very good," said the treasury secretary, who was actually being honored for his leadership at Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith. "We'll have to move it [through Congress], and see if I can't make the hall of fame for secretaries of the treasury."
"It's tough," said Gov. Brown moments later, speaking of the budget plan. "I met with Regan and Stockman last week. They're trying to get a handle on it." He paused. "I think everyone wishes them well," he said.
"Washington is treating us very well," said Regan's wife, Ann, glancing around the crowded room. "It's just so hard to remember all the names."
The reception began just a tad slowly, but perked up right away when awards dinner emcee Dinah Shore waltzed in with a small entourage that included actor Hugh O'Brian. He stood behind her, leaned in close, and nuzzled her face. Flashbulbs popped. "Oh warm!" Shore trilled. "I haven't been warm in so long! Don't stop!" But the photographers moved on, so eventually, he did.
The Business Hall of Fame is the 7-year-old brainchild of Junior Achievement Inc. Laureates are chosen each year by Fortune magazine's board of editors, and include Walt Disney, Conrad Hilton, John Heinz and J. C. Penney. There is no actual hall yet, although Disneyland was mentioned as a possible site a while back.
Dinner was consumed with gusto: lobster bisque, filet mignon and French bombe. As the waiters cleared away the remains from 1,800 place settings, the evening's program began.
"Tonight, in this room," said Gov. Brown from the podium, "we see what made this country great. It wasn't the fact that we were bigger, or stronger, or had more natural resources. It was the free enterprise system!. . .The dreaming of the American dream. The good old times are right now," said Brown, "and so is the future for those that want it!"
Brown introduced a group of high school students from Louisville who had formed a company, part of Junior Achievement Inc.'s nationwide youth program, and manufactured and marketed $15,400 worth of clocks. Then the laureates were introduced by Shore, who echoed what the others before her had said about the importance of "our young people," and said the evening had been one of the "most rewarding, wonderful" nights of her life. t
"I've learned a lot about our youth tonight," she said sunnily, "and a lot about myself, too."