In his forthcoming book, former Ambassador to Iran William Sullivan tells this tale of tangled tongues that dates back to 1977: The late Shah of Iran was in Washington discussing Soviet operations in Ethiopia and Somalia with then President Jimmy Carter. The President said he thought the matter should be dealt with by the Organization of African Unity. The Shah, whose English vocabulary was extensive but not always pronounced in accordance with Webster, disagreed, saying the OAU was impotent, pronounced "im-PO-tent." Carter, given his Southern accent, thought the Shah was saying "important," and nodded vigorously, saying, "We consider the OAU to be im-PO-tant, too." Wryly, Sullivan notes that nobody leaped in to straighten out the misspeak.
Mothers of Invention
As coinage, they bombed. Nobody wanted to carry around Susan B. Anthony dollar coins when paper money was lighter and folded up tight. But the Bureau of the Mint, using a marketing theory previously thought limited to Madison Avenue, has found a way to get rid of the coins. They have been done up, three to a nifty plastic package—one each from the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints—and the three bucks are selling, swiftly, for $5.
The Tight Apple
Real People went to New York recently to film several segments on the Big Apple, including one at the only fully operating Automat left in New York. A grateful Mayor Ed Koch, happy for the boost, stopped by to say thanks to co-host John Barbour. Hizzoner presented Barbour with a plaque, apologizing that it cost only $5. (The federally aided city cannot afford to look extravagant, after all.) Barbour reciprocated with a Real People T-shirt for the mayor, noting, "That's okay, this only cost $3.50."
Shopping on the French Riviera, talk show host John Davidson left his wallet in a store and didn't realize it until he'd driven on to Monte Carlo, where he begged a quick loan from the next man he saw. That happened to be Prince Rainier, whom Davidson was interviewing for his show. The Prince happily handed over two francs (about 40 cents). The next day Davidson went back to the shop and recovered the wallet, its treasures intact. And is Davidson going to return the Prince's two francs? No way. "I'm going to frame them," he said. Is this why they call Americans ugly?
The Leary-Liddy Show
Time has a way of mellowing even the quirkiest of men. Take, for example, the odd debate held in Boulder, Colo. last week. Watergate break-in mastermind G. Gordon Liddy and hallucinogenic druggie Timothy Leary locked horns, kind of, over "Freedom vs. Authority." Neither won, but both enjoyed the applause and a chance—rarely offered to ex-cons—"to turn the audience on to ideas," as Liddy put it. "We are diametrically opposed in every way," he added. The men first met in 1966. At the time Liddy was an assistant district attorney in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and even then had a taste for gunfire and cloak-and-dagger operations. He burst into Leary's Dutchess County home to arrest him on drug charges. "The door opened and in walked James Bond," recalls Leary. In the years since, they've grown to appreciate what they have in common: a great American flamboyance. Says Liddy of Leary, "He's smart and has a good sense of humor." Says Leary of Liddy, a little bit giddily, "He's a closet high-flyer."
At the end of her appearance at a benefit concert in New York, Washington-raised Roberta Flack explained why she was going to do her final number posthaste, without further ado: "I was thinking of trotting offstage and hoping you'd clap me back for an encore, but after living in this city for seven years, I'm not taking any chances."