Entry dated :: February 21, 1981
Los Angeles  
Armand Hammer:
The Occidental Traveler

At 11 am, Jim Pugash, Armand Hammer's personal assistant, ushered me into the executive suite on the top floor of the Occidental headquarters in Westwood. Pugash, a Yale Law School graduate, explained sheepishly that he himself had just begun working for Hammer, and was not yet of when Hammer planned to see me. I had time. I had come to LA to write a profile of Hammer for the New York Times Magazine.

Ten minutes later, Hammer bounded into the office. For a man approaching eighty, he moved with great speed. His vision was another matter. The thick glasses he wore made him seem like the Mr. Magoo character in the cartoon series--especially he initially mistook his newly-hired assistant for me. But he seemed affable enough once he got us straightened out, and very unpretentious, speaking more like a country doctor than a corporate magnate.

At the outset, he explained that he was in line for the Nobel Peace Prize, and that he assumed that I would present him favorably, since he was on friendly terms with Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger, the chairman and publisher of the Times. He immediately asked if I knew Punch and when I said I did not, he offered to take me to dinner with him. He also told me that he assumed that the story would be featured on the cover of the magazine, and he suggested that if I had "any problems" with my editor at the magazine, he would "call Punch" in my behalf. He clearly liked to believe he was in control. I did nothing to disillusion him.

"Why don't you come with us to Chicago," he suggested, and, without waiting for an answer, bounded out the door, carrying his own suitcase. Pugash and I followed.

We went by limo to Hughes Airport where his private jetliner, Oxy One, waiting. He told me he had it specially designed for intercontinental flight. It had a 100-foot-long cabin configured as a personal salon, with twin beds and a shower and an office.

Once airborne, he told me of his life, achievements and business strategies. I found it difficult to interrupt his prepared verbal cassettes. He was slightly hard of hearing, and he used this infirmity to great effect. When I asked Hammer questions he did not expect, he simply ignored them, as if he didn't hear them.

When we landed in Chicago, we drove to the Ritz for a speech Hammer was giving on the international oil crises.

Two hours later, we were flying back to LA. Hammer retired to his bedroom for a nap, and Pugash and I talked about mutual friends in Washington. Up to a few ago, I learned, Pugash had been working for Senator Scoop Jackson. The offer from Hammer was sudden and lucrative. His theory was that Hammer hired him as some sort of back channel to Senator Jackson.

Hammer dropped me off that evening at the Westwood Marquis. He said he was flying to London to pick up the Leonardo Di Vinci codex he had bought and renamed the Hammer Codex. "Why don't you come along," he suggested.

Questions? Email me at edepstein@worldnet.att.net
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