Several weeks ago, Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. and several aides travelled from Upper Marlboro to a production studio Connecticut Avenue for a private screening of a six-minute color film about Kelly and the county he governs.
Kelly, who had begun his campaign for re-election, was so taken by the way the film presented his push for a "new quality" image in the oft-maligned county that he decided to buy a print of the film to present at political gatherings, such as his political fundraiser tonight at Sheraton Lanham Motor Inn.
The film's producers had one condition: Kelly could not use the film as a television commercial. The film had not been intended for use as propaganda touting him or his county. It had been conceived and produced as a news report by the news department of WJLA-TV (Channel 7). It had already appeared on the stations nightly news program and is currently scheduled to run again on the Wednesday night "People" show hosted by Chris Curle.
No matter, say Kelly aides. "The film is exactly what we want people to think about when they think about Prince George's," said John A. Lally, one of Kelly's closest aides. "It presents the image we want. If you create the (right) image, reality follows."
"Andy Warhol once said that, in these times, everyone is famous for 15 minutes," said Len Deibert, a public affairs officer for Channel 7 in explaining the station's motive for producing the film. "This is the time for Kelly."
Deibert denied that the film was slanted in Kelly's favor, saying that it showed Kelly for what he is - ambitious, aggressive, a showman."
With the musical score from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" providing intermittent background music the film visual images jump from Kelly (the narrator calls him "Win Kelly") attending class at the University of Maryland, meeting with his aides, being interviewed by WJLA reporter Jim Clarke at Channel 7 studios for the "Headliner" show, ansering questions at a town meeting, dancing with elderly women at a picnic and playing softball, among other things.
The script begins with a capsule history of Kelly's rise from mobile lunch wagon owner to millionaire to county executive.He is quoted saying that the county is "pulling itself up from its bootstraps," just as he did.
When the camera moves on to the town meeting, Clarke is heard saying: "Win Kelly fields them all (tough questions). He's never short on energy or answers."
Then at the picnic, while Kelly does the polka and the bump on screen, Clarke notes, "A successful politician must loosen his tie, roll up his sleeves ... that's the part of it most politicians hate. The backslapping, the handshaking. Win Kelly not only does it, he thrives on it."
Finally, the report comes around to the question about whether all of Kelly's campaign for a new image for his country, for what he calls "a New Quality", is anything more than a campaign for himself, for the advancement of Kelly the politician.
"I think," responds Kelly, "at this time they are synonymous."
The profile, longest report of the main news show when it ran last week, was produced by Kathy Cunningham and edited by Holly Fine, both employees of Channel 7 news. Both declined comment yesterday. Reporter Clarke narrated the report, but he claimed no further involvement.
"I was just standing in the hallway one day and they came up and asked me if I would do the voice for it," explained Clarke. "That was the first and only time I did something like that. When I read the first draft of the script, I thought it was a tad uncritical.
"But visually, it's beautiful."