A Washington Star radio commercial that seemed to be poking fun at the cocaine controversy involving White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan made a brief debut yesterday and then was yanked off the air.
The exact content of the ad -- which depicted Jordan with what some listeners described as a case of the sniffles called "Disco Fever" -- was in some dispute. All tapes of the commercial were said to have been erased by late afternoon.
"It's really nobody's business," said Washington Star promotion director James M. Lardner when asked for a brief summary of the commercial. "As far as I'm concerned, it no longer exists."
According to Carol Marchesano, executive vice president of the Star's advertising firm, the radio spot, one in the "Sam and Janet Evening" series promoting the Star, was prepared in the wake of allegations last month that Jordan had used cocaine at a New York discotheque. But Marchesano said it never was supposed to have been put on the air.
She said it was broadcast mistakenly three times yesterday on WMAL.
WMAL'S executive vice president, Andy Ockershausen, said his station took full responsibility for the mixup and dispatched a letter of apology yesterday to the Star. But he said he thought the commercial quite funny when he happened to hear it on his car radio yesterday morning.
"I almost fell out of the car laughing," he said. "Did you hear it? It was a scream."
As one listener recalled it, the ad opened with "Sam and Janet Evening" talking at the White House to "Yam," who kept sniffing until they finally asked him what was wrong. "Disco fever," he reportedly replied.
The Star's Lardner insisted that this brief summary was "not 100 percent accurate," but he refused to pinpoint the inaccuracies. So did Marchesano. "If you print that, you're going to be wrong," she said, "but I'm not going to tell you where."
Marchesano said the Star decided not to run the ad after a fresh burst of allegations this month that Jordan also had sniffed cocaine on a 1977 visit to California. "The day the news story on the California incident broke, that is the day the Star decided not to run the Hamilton Jordan commercial," she said.
Because it was deemed to be in bad taste?
"Exactly," said Lardner.