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Ueberroth Faces Off at Coro Dinner : Commissioner of Baseball Scores as the Guest of Honor

May 06, 1985|ELIZABETH MEHREN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — This is what Californians talk about when they get together in New York: The beach. The gym. The weather, and how brave they were to make it through a bitter Eastern winter. The car, and how liberated they feel to have lived without it ever since they moved to a city where garages cost more than most private schools.

Missing Their Sweats

They also talk comparative pasta, as in how to replicate that celestial capelli d'angelo they left behind in Santa Monica. They talk wine and how, reluctantly, they guess it's time to start exploring the wines of France, since restaurants here do not fully understand the mystique of California's magical essences. They talk fashion and admit, when pressed, that they really do miss running around in sweats, that it truly is boring to be mistaken for a bag person when wearing Esprit jeans in the lobby of their fancy apartment building.

But mostly, and certainly in the case of the 410 guests at the Coro Foundation's Commitment to Leadership dinner at the Tavern on the Green last week, they talk substance.

"If you were an adviser to the President," transplanted Californian Peter Ueberroth was asked by Coro Eastern Center fellow Howard Sherman, "what would you tell him about Bitburg?"

"I would advise him that there was a time he could have backed away, and should have," the celebrated former head of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, now commissioner of baseball, replied. "If I had to advise him today, I think the damage has already been done. I think backing away wouldn't serve anybody's good. I think he should make the visit to Bitburg, but I think the visit should be about 11 seconds."

As guest of honor, Time magazine's 1984 Man of the Year found himself faced off with three fellows of this 43-year-old educational foundation dedicated to training men and women for leadership in public affairs. Poring over her notes and interview cards, 29-year-old Cristina Valentino of L.A.'s Silver Lake district suddenly looked up when the raspberries and cream appeared. "Dessert," she said, and headed for a platform that looked like a cross between "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" and "This Week With David Brinkley." "That's our cue."

Pressed Into Service

Moderator Tom Brokaw had been pressed into service by his wife, Meredith, co-chair with third-year-Fordham law student and former L.A. school board member Kathleen Brown of Coro's first major fund-and-awareness-raising function in New York.

"The crowded conditions you see here tonight are the price of success," NBC Nightly News anchor Brokaw announced. "It's cash up front; there are no junk bonds."

And, smiling wryly, Brokaw gave notice to the fact that the corporate star-studded audience not only included RCA chairman Thornton F. Bradshaw, CBS chairman Thomas Wyman, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, ABC Sports president Roone Arledge, Gannett chief Al Neuharth and international media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, but was assembled largely through the efforts of Meredith Brokaw and Kathleen Brown, wife of Van Gordon Sauter, executive vice president of CBS and head of the network's news operations.

"Some of you may have been told by Meredith or Kathleen that if you made a significant contribution tonight you would receive favorable news coverage from NBC and CBS," Brokaw said.

"I have an announcement. Meredith lied. Kathleen didn't, and Dan Rather is sitting at that table in the back."

One notable non-Californian, former or otherwise, was New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. "In a moment of boredom recently in Albany, I looked up the word governor in the dictionary," Cuomo quipped, "and it said 'something that is attached to a machine to assure that it operates efficiently.' " And Cuomo drew laughs as he recounted the tale of politician Fish Hooks McCarthy, who fell to his knees each Sunday in church and prayed, "Oh Lord, give us strength and guidance; we'll steal the rest."

But Cuomo also was loaded with advice for the Coro fellows contemplating a career in public service. "I have one caveat," Cuomo said. "If you want to be leaders, you ought to have a direction. You have to know where you're going.

"And if you want to lead, you ought to pick a side, have a philosophy, something you can scrawl on a sign. We need to know there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans other than one wears a donkey and one wears an elephant.

"There is nothing we need more than belief and passion," Cuomo said, "and if you can marry those two, we'll all be better off."

But Ueberroth, when asked by Coro fellow Valentino about ongoing speculation about his own political future, continued to discount such suggestions.

"I am registered in the state of California," he said. "I am commissioner of baseball, and I do not intend to run.

"The truth is," Ueberroth said, "neither party do I have a connection with. I am basically socially a liberal and fiscally a conservative, and that doesn't fit anywhere."

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