Journalist Lester Ziffren dead at 101

Nov. 14, 2007 at 12:21 AM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Lester Ziffren, a resourceful globe-trotting journalist, diplomat, and Hollywood writer and agent, has died of congestive heart failure at age 101.

As a young United Press reporter, Ziffren came up with a clever way to break the story that civil war had erupted in Spain in 1936.

In a recounting of his career on the Downhold Wire, a Web site for former employees of the news wire service that announced his Monday death, Ziffren fooled government censors by sending a seemingly nonsensical message to the UP bureau in London. It took a while, but his editors figured out the first letter in each word spelled out "MELILLA (a Spanish seaport in Morocco) FOREIGN LEGION REVOLTED MARTIAL LAW DECLARED."

The Rock Island, Ill., native, who also had covered revolutions in South America before Spain's civil war, eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he became a movie scriptwriter for the Charlie Chan detective series.

Sandwiched between diplomatic stints in South America, he ran a Hollywood agency, representing director John Ford, among others.

He later moved into public relations in Chile and New York, where he worked until his retirement.

Survivors include his daughter, Didi Hunter, and her husband Andrew.

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