There are a lot of Stuart Stiller stories. This column will only give you a few of them.
The real repository of Stu Stiller stories is in the group of friends he left after his death in an automobile accident here last August at the age of 35. About 150 of them gathered the other night at the Palm Restaurant to donate money to the Stuart Stiller Memorial Foundation, to remember him fondly, and -- as he would have liked most of all -- to have a good time.
Although he had been practicing law for only 10 years, Stiller had already earned a reputation for his courtroom skills, his legal mind, and, perhaps his greatest talent, his lecturing ability. He had become one of the finest instructors -- and certainly the most memorable -- in a bar review course he taught throughout the country.
He represented clients ranging from former White House aide John Ehrlichman and former Senate aide Daniel Minchew to assorted addicts, robbers and assailants. More than many other attorneys, he gave his best to all of them.
But this town is full of good courtroom lawyers. What it is not full of are courtroom lawyers built like a 1947 Norge refrigerator (in the words of one friend) who have dishes named after them in restaurants and who can put law graduates at ease as they take courses to prepare for the profession's feared entrance barrier: the bar exam.
He would tell law students that they should follow the "Stiller Kiss My A-- Rule" when they faced the exam:
"You just want to pass by one point . . . Panic is your worst enemy. There will be times on the exam -- the first or second question maybe -- where . . . you will get a lump in your stomach and a knot in your throat.
"And you can fall apart and you can fail the exam, or you can use my first rule . . . You can look at that question and say 'kiss my a--' and you can move on to the next one because you've got 50 or 60 more questions to miss. . . ."
Stiller had been free with his advice since his first legal job as an investigator with the Georgetown Prettyman Fellow program, in which he prepared a memo to help orient an incoming group of fellows who knew nothing about Washington.
The heading of the second paragraph of the memo was "The Washington Seven Elevens, Highs and all Supermarkets."
"It would be well to visit a representative sampling of the above," Stiller wrote. "Their layouts are identical in all respects in order to allow unimaginative thiefs (some of whom may become your clients . . .) to flit from one to the other like bees to wisteria, rhododendrum and gladioli at will, looting and pillaging."
He also advised the incoming investigators how to select music on jukeboxes in obscure 14th Street bars as they searched for witnesses.
"When you first encounter the local Seaburg jukebox you may be tempted to play that old Temptations' hit you first heard at the Sigma Chi spring weekend party . . . RESIST IT. It is a dead giveaway. Such a song shows you really are a honky and of no use. Vintage LaVerne Baker, Jimmy Reed, anything by Curtis Mayfield, and any instrumental on the Tamala label shows you have class. Stay clear of anything on MoTown, Ray Charles singing country and western, and, for God's sake, Leslie Uggams."
Stiller's friends say his sometimes brash outward appearance -- he was, after all, a hulk of a man who quickly became the focus of attention in any gathering and, especially any courtroom, he entered -- sometimes hid another side of him. As they went through his belongings after his death, they found examples of philanthrophy -- a gift here, a loan there, a donation someplace else -- that he had kept from them.
The Stiller foundation was set up to carry on the Stiller memory in a way his friends believe he would have liked it. It is, among other acts, funding a graduate legal intern for the Georgetown law school program in which Stiller once participated, hoping to make some funds available for emergency loans for D.C. law students, providing financial support for friend-of-the-court briefs, and giving an annual humanitarian award to persons who fit the Stiller attributes (this year's award went to U.S. District Chief Judge William B. Bryant).
It is fitting that the first annual Stiller dinner was at the Palm, a restaurant he frequented regularly, which honors celebrities by having an artist paint his or her picture on the wall.
Two weeks before Stiller's death, he and a friend were eating there when Stiller noticed a couple nearby. The man was ignoring his date to pay attention to two women sitting at the next table, and the date looked sad, the story goes.
Stiller asked the waiter to send a glass of wine to her table with his compliments, and it was delivered to her smile and her escort's astonishment. The man turned to see who would have the audacity to flatter a lady at his own table and Stiller called out across the crowded restaurant:
"I did it. Now pay attention to her, you're supposed to be here with her."
The man took one look at Stiller's arms and bulging neck muscles (he had been a high school football star) and smiled a weak, apologetic smile, a friend recalled later. For the rest of the dinner, the man only had eyes for his date.
The Palm added a new drawing to its walls last week: that of Stuart Stiller, attorney-at-law.
Former Michigan law professor Harry T. Edwards is not U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards here. His formal swearing-in was performed Friday afternoon, but he has been sitting on the court since being quietly sworn in last month.
Judah Best has left the firm of Dickstein, Shapiro and Morin to join the firm of Steptoe and Johnson . . . William E. Bucknam, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the District, has joined the firm of Seifman and Lechner here . . . Stuart B. Kaplan, formerly associated with the Montgomery County office of consumer affairs and the Federal Pay Board, has opened a law office in Silver Spring . . . Three Federal Communications Commission attorneys -- Sam Cooper, assistant counsel for legislative liaison; Jim Watson, assistant to an FCC commissioner, and Booker T. Wade, assistant to an FCC commissioner -- have formed a communication company.