Bill Regardie always wanted to be, first, rich and, second, funny. The two were often incompatible.
When he was Washington area marketing director for the giant Levitt home building company, for example, he made a film presentation to the corporate president on the feasibility of Levitt's entering the Norfolk housing market. In the middle of the movie he spliced in 150 feet of his two sons playing; no one laughed. When he went to Corning Glass in upstate New York for a job interview, an exec asked him why he wanted to work there. Said Regardie, who really didn't want to live in that part of the country: "Because of your big, blue eyes." He wasn't offered the chance to live in that part of the country.
But out of work in mid-1972, with an MBA from American University and a history of jobs in the housing field, Regardie found a way to get rich by publishing a housing industry date service that tells in blunt language (for $1200 a year) what Washington area builders are building. For public consumption he started a guide to new homes, whose pages (and even covers) are almost all paid-for advertising. Available every two months in banks and drug stores, the New Homes Guide enjoys a press run of 105,000 copies.
Now Regardie wants to be funny. Full-page ads in hte newspaper trade magazine Editor & publisher announce "the first syndicated business column with a sense of humor." It's called "Giving You the Business." The Seattle Times signed up last month and Regardie has budgeted $20,000 to enlist 200 newspapers and a magazine.
"Once I get something going and it works and is profitable. I don't want anything to do with it," says Regardie, whose wife runs the data service for builders while New Homes Guide is managed by staffers. "More than anything else. I wanted to be a comedian." He thinks business pages could be his forum.
Sample columns include a facetious interview with an out-of-work corporate bagman who "in just twenty years climbed from bribing zoning inspectors" to presidents of the United States and a profile of a shrewd accountant who got a draft of a tax bill to eliminate loopholes, compared it with the weakened final bill, and used th eunclosed loopholes to save his clients millions.
Regardie's one bet in his attempt to become the Art Buchwald of the nation's financial pages: that the business executives of America have a sense of humor.