The man from ESPN, a cable television outfit, asked Georgia Rosenbloom who was going to win the Super Bowl and naturally she said the Rams, because she owns them and what would the boys think if their owner picked the Steelers.
Then, as interviewers sometimes do, and one thinks of Mike Wallace here, the ESPN man put a tough question to Mrs. Rosenbloom, asking it right there in the California sunshine and not a hundred yards away from where her boys were practicing for Sunday's Super Bowl.
"What," the ESPN man said, "will be the key to the game?"
You've seen Mike Wallace's poor victims go blank on camera, nailed on national television, caught with their answers down. They have this look of disbelief, this look of someone who has been asked to explain the inexplicable, to tell God, America and CBS just what they planned to do after they kidnapped the orphans.
That look came to Mrs. Rosenbloom's face while the ESPN man held his microphone there to catch whatever she might say the key would be, whether it would be the Rams' mighty defense, or Vince Ferragamo's long passes, or the way Cheryl Ladd will sing the national anthem.
"They key?" Mrs. Rosenbloom said. She went blank. These TV interviewers are guerrillas in the wars of journalism. They fire one shot, but it is always a good one. The ESPN man had ambushed the owner of a $30 million football team by asking her what the key to the Super Bowl would be.
Blankness prevailed for three, four, five seconds.
"The key? I don't understand," Mrs. Rosenbloom said.
And the ESPN man said, "What's the most important thing in the game?"
By now innocent bystanders were caught up in this searing cross-examination of the owner of one of the 28 National Football League teams. The most important thing in this Super Bowl? Would she say it was Jack Youngblood's courage playing on that broken leg? Maybe she had spotted a Steel Curtain weakness that could be exploited by her big tackle, Doug France.
The most important thing?
Three, four, five seconds of blanko-zero staring into the truth-machine lens, the dead air of stupefaction until, finally, Mrs. Rosenbloom patted the ESPN man on the arm and said, for the whole world and the Steelers to hear, she thought the most important thing was, "Keep the faith."
And she walked away quickly, entering the Rams' offices that her late husband had once declared off-limits to her.
Carroll Rosenbloom was 72 last winter when, swimming alone, he drowned in a riptide of the Atlantic. He left 70 percent of the Rams to his lover and wife of 20 years, Georgia. Now 52, she is a platinum blond pretty enough, slim enough and talented enough to have been (in order) a partner with her mother in a vaudeville singing act out of St. Louis, a chorus girl in Las Vegas and a stage-club-and-television singer whose work was not so steady she didn't find time to marry five men before she met Carroll at a country club in Florida.
It seemed common knowledge, around the NFL and in the Rams' organization, that Carroll had given Georgia the controlling interest in the football team only to escape huge death taxes.The football brain in the family was Carroll's son, Steve, who had picked up socks in the Baltimore Colts' locker room at 13 (his dad first owned that team) and was the obvious heir apparent as the Rams' boss. The Rosenbloom will even ordered such a succession.
How the ESPN man came to bludgeon Georgia with his tricky questions instead of putting them to Steve is the stuff of daytime television drama. In the last year, to give credit where credit is due, Georgia Rosenbloom has been a boffo act. She is the platinum blond star/heroine/villainess of a Hollywood real-life drama that is two touchdowns better than "Days of Our Lives" on that soap's most gold-digging, betraying, bizarrely gauche day of its life.
Here's the story line: A millionaire drowns while alone in the Atlantic and everyone asks what an old man, even a healthy and strong old man, is doing out there by himself. His beautiful wife, 20 years his junior, inherits an estate worth maybe $75 million, an estate including a surefire way to fame -- ownership of a pro football team.
For the millionaire's wake, the platinum blond arrives an hour late. The wake is in her backyard. The wake at her Bel Air mansion is all wine, dance and song. A famous comedian, in his gardening clothes, cracks one-liners for 600 guests of fame and wealth.
Appalled by the wake/roast, the millionaire's son leaves his father's backyard and gets roaring drunk at a bar. The son is to take over the football team. He knows it.His step-mother knows it. But when the son takes power away from another man in the office -- the general manager (Don Klosterman), a man whose photograph sits behind the widow's desk, right next to her late husband's picture -- the platinum blond widow tells her late husband's son to take a hike. Fires her stepson, who later says ol' stepmom is a football airhead.
By then, the Vegas chorus girl of 30 years ago is center stage in the great American sports show that sells for $476,000 a minute on TV. Her team is in the Super Bowl. She is on national television with the big talk-show hosts. She is, at last, a star.
And wouldn't you know? Stardom is not all it's cracked up to be. Carroll was a world-class male chauvinist who not only forbade his wife from entering his office, he wouldn't let her sit with him at games. And now, she says, the men sportwriters "probably are not ready for a woman owner. Most of the sportswriters were pals of mine. On planes, I talked to them. They came to parties at our house. I was shocked to find out they weren't my friends."
Like the ESPN man, sportswriters did Mike Wallace guerrilla tricks such as asking Mrs. Rosenbloom if she would help them tell the story of her life. She wouldn't. So the Los Angeles Times set two reporters to work to find out, if she wouldn't tell them, who this Georgia Rosenbloom was.
They found Georgia's mother, who sang at used-car-lot openings and bowling alleys. The mother and daughter were "The Pamels Sisters" playing roadhouses and hotels. Georgia Hayes, to use her show name, moved to light opera and musical comedy, playing the lead in "Oklahoma!" in theaters in the round back East. For two weeks, The Times said, Georgia worked the "Today" television show with Dave Garroway. She sang in nice places in London and Montreal.
The Times reported her first marriage was annulled at age 15 1/2. Her fifth ended after she met Rosenbloom in 1957. Rosenbloom divorced his wife of 25 years on June 7, 1966, and married Georgia three weeks later. They are the parents of children 18 and 15 years old.
After Rosenbloom's death, reports of the wake made news.
"It was the most vulgar, ostentatious display of star reaching I have ever seen," said a man whose business often puts him next to stars of entertainment. "She had thousands of flowers and had orchestras playing all the songs poor Carroll liked -- 'Three Coins in a Fountain' and the like.
"We were all gathered under a circus tent for services to begin at 3. She made her appearance shortly after 4. They had a few of these Hollywood people batting eulogies about. They had commandeered Jonathan Winters out of his garden to tell jokes about Carroll.
"Oh, God, it was terrible."
These are not the notices a boffo act expects, of course, and neither did Mrs. Rosenbloom impress the critics with her firing of her late husband's son. The firing was done the day after Steve Rosenbloom took some power away from General Manager Klosterman.
Suddenly, but not unexpectedly to Georgia-watchers who judged her as ruthlessly ambitious as Carroll had been, Georgia Rosenbloom was in charge of an NFL team, the only owner in the league who believes victory comes if you wash your hair the morning of a game.
Those men sportswriters went to their typewriters and one of them, Frank Mazzeo of the San Fernando Vally News, printed a list of what he considered Georgia's qualifications for running the Rams. The Mazzeo list:
"1. Her husband dictated that she would receive 70 percent of the team.
When the ESPN man withdrew his microphone in stunned silence at the simple beauty of Mrs. Rosenbloom's analysis of what's important Sunday, the Rams' blonde boss invited five men sportswriters into her office.
All of this stuff is a lie, she said. No, she wouldn't get specific. "A lot of sportswriters didn't say very nice things," she said. Then she added, "I don't have to prove they are lies. If I start, were does it end?"
But wouldn't she like to answer the charges made by Steve Rosenbloom?
"She wouldn't know a play-action pass from a fuzzy tennis ball," the banished stepson said, also saying that Georgia's mind is so free of football clutter that she could say the Colts once won a game because Tom Matte, the quarterback, had the plays written on his helmet.
"Tom Matte called me and said 'Do you want me to refute that?'" Mrs. Rosenbloom said with a large smile. She laughed. "How can anybody write plays on their helmet? You have to have ultra-peripheral vision."
But, no, she isn't bothered by Steve's opinions.
"Not one bit. I have nothing to prove. I have nothing to hide. Time has a way of proving what the truth is. And I'm going to be here a long time, I hope."
What is the most difficult decision she has had to make in the five months of her supremacy?
Blanko. She writes sentimental poetry, meditates while hanging upside down in her bedroom, cuts labels out of her clothes so as not to flaunt it and practices astrology and numerology. Blanko, though, on her most difficult decision with the Rams.
"Whether to have lunch or whether to give an interview," she said.
"Decisions aren't difficult. It's just making up your mind to make them that's difficult."
Well, then, what decision did she have the most difficult time of making up her mind to make?
"It's hard to say."
One thing she is certain of. She will wash her hair Sunday morning, in deference to superstition (Carroll once bought an airplane ticket for his lucky hat and had it flown to Miami as his surrogate; his team won). And for the game, she will again wear her lucky outfit of a blue turtleneck sweater, plaid skirt, maroon boots and blue jacket.