October 04, 1976 12:00 PM

Ron Kauffman was a sophomore film student at Harvard when he decided he’d rather make movies than study them. He had won awards with homemade films as a youngster and found they gave him “all of the things I love in one package.” An admirer of Kurt Vonnegut, he phoned the author’s attorney and asked if the screen rights for any Vonnegut novels were available. “Would you be interested in Breakfast of Champions?” the lawyer replied. Kauffman said yes immediately, despite the fact he didn’t have the necessary $150,000. Drawing on his life savings, Kauffman made a $10,000 down payment and launched a two-year project to raise the rest, which he borrowed mostly from friends. Then he persuaded Robert (Nashville) Altman to direct. “I can’t believe that I got him,” Kauffman says happily. Shooting begins next spring with Peter Falk, Lily Tomlin, Flip Wilson and Ruth Gordon. Now a senior at Harvard, Kauffman, 23, rushes from Cambridge to his home/office in Cherry Hill, N.J. for meetings with attorneys and agents. His phone bill is more than $500 a month, and he spends virtually every waking hour thinking about his film (which is about an Indiana car salesman whose “bad chemicals” are driving him crazy). “The only other thing that I’ve thought about during the last six months,” says Kauffman, “is girls.”

Susan Dacy, 17, was delighted when her father gave her the metal frame of a 1942 Stearman fuselage. For years she had wanted to rebuild one of the WW II training planes. Working after school at the private airport her dad owns in Harvard, Ill., Susan spent $8,000 of her savings (earned helping at the airport since she was 10) to buy or build the 10,000 pieces needed to make the plane flyable. The job took two years and a total investment of $12,000, but the green biplane was recently assessed at $25,000. “Once you have the fuselage and the crankshaft, you’re all set,” says Susan modestly. A licensed private pilot with over 400 hours (140 of them in her Stearman), Susan found high school a distraction: “I would rather have been working on the plane.” Last month she entered Southern Illinois University where she will devote her first two years to learning the science and mechanics of airplanes. She admits to being dumbfounded by auto engines. “I don’t ever monkey with cars because I don’t know a thing about them.”

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