One reason New York Sen. Pat Moynihan got so much press coverage for using the word “floccipaucinihilipilification” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary it means “the action or habit of estimating as worthless”) in a press conference recently is that the sesquipedalian statesman promised a bottle of wine to any journalist who got the word into his or her paper—and spelled it correctly. Only trouble is, Moynihan got a letter from the Oxford people informing him that the “etymologically correct” spelling of the word is, of course, “floccinaucinihilipilification,” with a change in the seventh letter. Moynihan passed out the vino anyway.
Last year members of England’s Workers Revolutionary Party—to which actress Vanessa Redgrave and her brother, Corin, belong—lost a libel suit against The Observer of London and were ordered to pay $140,000 in court costs. With bright hopes of erasing the debt, Vanessa helped organize what was to have been a gala benefit featuring all five of the performing Redgrave clan. Alas, ’twas not to be. Not only did the audience of some 700 come up with only about $2,400 in donations, but Vanessa’s dad, Sir Michael, canceled due to illness, and avowedly capitalist sister Lynn opted to spend the evening rehearsing with Kermit the Frog for a Muppet TV special. But Lynn did chip in $1,000 to sister’s cause.
“Many men won’t admit it,” asserts Tony Curtis. “They talk about their great moments as when they were accepted into medical school or closed some big deal.” But what makes 53-year-old Curtis happiest, he says, is the satisfaction of knowing that “I’ve made love to some of the most beautiful women in the world, at a time when they were the most beautiful [presumably, the list includes earlier wives Janet Leigh and Christine Kaufmann and current spouse Leslie]. There’s nothing better—no Ferraris, no $400,000 tax-free bonds, no big contracts. Maybe it’s this feeling that really drives me on, really motivates me.”
A legal battle brewing between rock’s Electric Light Orchestra and Brass Ring Productions, Detroit promoters who produced two ELO concerts last August, is pretty routine contract bickering—except for one intriguing point. Brass Ring is charging, bluntly, that the British rock group faked their Detroit concerts by miming the performance to a tape recording. “You can’t run around the stage and do spins, playing a viola, and get the great sound they had,” asserts Brass Ring president Bob Fox. Adds his lawyer, “The group played two concerts on different nights which were each exactly 82 minutes long. Given that kind of precision, their performances were either canned or uncanny.” Reports an ELO spokesman, in rebuttal, “If we were going to sit about and play tapes all night, we wouldn’t need to haul millions of dollars worth of equipment around with us.”
Come Fly with Me
A continuing debate in the SALT talks has been whether the Soviet Backfire bomber is an intercontinental weapon and thus subject to the treaty. U.S. Joint Chiefs representative Lt. Gen. Edward Rowny says yes and badgered his Russian counterpart, Marshal Nikolay Vasilyevich Ogarkov, about it during a tea break. The exasperated marshal replied: “All right! If you’re so certain we can fly from Soviet territory to the U.S. [and then land safely in Havana], we’ll try it. And we’ll invite you to go along. Just tell us what kind of flowers to give your prospective widow while she’s waiting at the Havana airport.”
•Bantam Books has sent out copies of the late Jacqueline Susann’s just-published novel Yargo, which it calls her “newly discovered and most extraordinary novel.” In copies mailed to Susann’s old friends, Bantam enclosed a card reading, “compliments of the author.”
•Her blockbuster hit, in 1930, was I Got Rhythm. Now Ethel Merman may have a chance to prove it again, to a ’70s beat. She’s negotiating with A&M records to cut an LP of her old hits—in disco. Noting that disco music often drowns out singers—along with other ambient sounds, such as fire sirens—the stentorian Merman shrugs, “I don’t think that will be possible with me.”