For more than 10 years one of the world's most recognizable spokesman, Dave Thomas of Wendy's, had been waging a battle against a slow growing tumor. Now, according to the fast food chain he founded, Thomas has lost that battle. In many ways he was the last of the old-time salesman. Like Colonel Sanders before him -- by the way, Thomas once worked for KFC -- Thomas became the man who put his reputation on the line, personally representing the "square burger chain" in thousands of TV and radio commercials. His was one of the most famous faces in the country. With the deaths of Sanders and Thomas and the retirement of Herb Kellerer at Southwest Airlines there are few if any hands-on salesmen anymore. Sadly, regulars at Wendy's restaurants have recently seen Thomas age quickly. The photographs used in the stores, some years old, have showed the once round-faced, smiling Thomas becoming more gaunt and tired. According to the company -- which provided the media with a loving, expansive six-page obituary for our use -- over the years the chain he started in 1969 (in Columbus, Ohio, and named for one of his daughters) has grown to more than 5,000 stores around the world. He because a crusader for free enterprise, noting in many speeches that only in America could a boy from New Jersey, adopted when he was six weeks old by a family in Michigan, rise to become that well known. The fact that he was an adopted child led him to work tirelessly to help other kids find homes. Dave Thomas was only 69. He leaves a wife of 47 years and five children ... including Wendy.
ROYAL SIBLINGS IN ROYAL SPAT
Several publications are reporting that when energetic young Prince Edward approached older brother Prince Charles about taking part in an upcoming TV documentary Charles was quick to accept. That is until Edward insisted that Charles come clean, on camera, about his romantic relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. For years the younger royal has been a TV producer, running Ardent Productions. You may have seen him narrating a series of documentaries about previous royal families. If you didn't know he was in line to be king you might just assume that he was a handsome, unassuming TV reporter with great eye contact and a wonderful smile. Well, it would seem that Edward has let the probing mantel of the journalist cause him to go a little too far in asking favors of the man likely to be king first. Published reports indicate that Charles was so appalled that Edward would suggest he talk about Parker Bowles that he was "speechless."
MUSICIAN'S WORK "CLEAR AS A BELL"
There's nothing wrong with Leonard Bernstein's 1954 work "Serenade for Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion" that a little modern-day tweaking won't fix. And, according to the Houston Chronicle, violinist Joshua Bell gave the work just the tweaking it needed a few days ago at Jones Hall. If you listen to some of the more strident tones of Bernstein's "West Side Story" you can hear how virulent some of his violin passages are. Not quite what Bernard Hermann wrote for the "stabbing scene" in "Psycho," but still not the kind of thing you'd like to listen to if you have a migraine ... unless you want to get one. But the kind of "gentle enthusiasm" that Bell brought to the work has made the seldom-performed work palatable. By the way, the work was originally written for violinist extraordinaire Isaac Stern, who died just last year.
GRAY: I WON'T BE AS NASTY AS ANNE ROBINSON
The new host of the daily version of "The Weakest Link" says he won't be as nasty as dominatrix-styled inquisitor-become-put-down-artist Anne Robinson is on the show's hour-long weekly version. According to published reports, 34-year-old George Gray says he plans on being acerbic, witty, sharp-tongued and quick, but not at the personal expense of guests. No more slanderous jibes. "Calling someone stupid to their face is out," Gray says. But, you might hear some euphemisms, such as "one taco short of a combination platter." At best, according to reviewer Mike McDaniel, viewers will see a "kindlier, gentler version of the show" with less of the bile of Robinson and more of the charm of the sandy-haired Gray in his dark-framed glasses on the new half-hour version of "Link."
SUPREME COURT INVITES STOOGES IN
The concept of the Three Stooges being discussed in the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court seems more like a plot twist in a Stooge movie from the 40s, but it's actually happened. Court records show that the heirs of Curly, Larry and Moe will get legal protection and will be able to get profits from the depictions of their famous family members. In effect, the court let stand a California ruling that a photographer who used images of the knock-about trio, without getting consent from the family, violated existing laws and must pay $75,000 in damages. The rights to the images of some deceased stars are held by well-known entities. For example, the images of Laurel and Hardy are covetously guarded by Larry Harmon, the original Bozo the Clown. Harmon once told me that he befriended Stan Laurel a few years before the comedian's death and became his "son." He convinced Laurel to give his production company the rights to Laurel and Hardy instead of selling them to Disney or a better-known company. Harmon noted he constantly receives reports that the images are being used without permission, as if they are public domain.
REMEMBERING FORREST BOYD
Obituaries are tough to write. As you know, I have often talked about the sense of loss many of us have when a star dies. Roy Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Alice Faye, for example. We think of those people as if we actually knew them. For reporters it's worse. Along the way many of us got to interview our real heroes. When they die, the loss is even greater. Now comes word that one of the true gentlemen of broadcasting, Forrest Boyd, has died of a massive heart attack. Though his name was not a household word, he was "where the action was" for decades. For a long time he was heard daily doing on-the-hour newscasts for the Mutual Broadcasting System, also reporting from The White House as one of the network's most respected correspondents. After his days at Mutual he was the director of communications for longtime friend Billy Graham. He put together a network of more than 500 radio stations, the majority Christian-owned, sending them news and feature material. He invented the concept. Later it would be used by other, better-funded entrepreneurs and Boyd's affiliate list would dwindle. A son of the Midwest, he spent part of his early career in the nurturing studios of WLW radio and TV in Cincinnati. He once gave me a photo of himself with broadcast pioneer Ruth Lyons when I mentioned that as a boy, visiting an aunt and uncle in Cincinnati, I used to admire her work. I first met him when I was religion editor for the old UPI Radio Network. Forrest sent in daily commentaries. I often just closed my eyes and listened to the authority in his voice. I looked forward to our daily telephone and face-to-face meetings. His writing and grammar were impeccable. His delivery flawless. Smooth. Reserved. The way radio used to be. In his final years he was still doing daily radio commentaries for stations from studios in his home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. His legacy in broadcasting is in the form of a concept, one now accepted, but one for which he fought for years. "Religion and ethics," he once told me, "are news ... pure and simple. They should not be relegated to special sections of newspapers or found only in religious publications." Forrest Boyd thought that broadcasters and publications should never shy away from talking about people's beliefs on their air and in their pages. He caused more than a few people in broadcasting to realize that over the years. As you see the number of stories about all forms of religion increase in print and on the air, know that Forrest Boyd was in the trenches, pushing for that kind of reporting decades ago. Forrest Boyd was 80.
UPI SURVEY QUESTION NO. 242
As I mentioned in reporting the death of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, there are few if any owners of companies who personally represent their products anymore -- as did Thomas, Colonel Sanders and Herb Kellerer. Can you think of any other person whose image is still used in advertising who is as closely connected to the company or product they created? Put THOMAS in the subject line and send to email@example.com.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 237 (CALENDAR)
Last week we asked how you spent your New Year's Eve. Here are some of the replies: Tina says that her usual plans of spending the celebration with other family members were switched this year when the usual venue was undergoing renovation. Pam had the rare treat of spending the midnight hour with her boyfriend who had flown in from London. Unfortunately, his stay was a brief one. Karen visited a spa and then had lobster. Wow! Now that's doing it right. Iris says that she and her husband were sick and spent the witching hour at home. Mike P, in Chicago, opened his door to hear the fireworks and the usual gunshots and then went to bed. Bev, saying that being with family is more important than partying, spent the celebration at home -- with husband and 18-year-old son before the fireplace. Many respondents mentioned watching Dick Clark and the New Year's Eve celebration from Times Square. Pat went to church then enjoyed some great deserts. Me? I played bingo at an American Legion in Vancouver, Wash., and watched a woman at the next table win $10,000. GBA.