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A Willing Successor to Poet Laureate

February 28, 1986

Although Robert Penn Warren has just been named this country's first Poet Laureate, a willing successor is already waiting in the wings.

"I'll do it next year," said Richard E. Lewis, president of Accountants Overload, who has a letter from Malcolm Forbes Jr., president of Forbes Magazine, suggesting Lewis be named to the position. Having written 1,000 poems, he recently published the latest of five books of poetry. He gives most of them away to people he likes, mailing copies around the world to the famous and powerful.

"It's fun getting letters from people," he said. "I write poetry that makes people feel good. It's simple, easy to understand. I write a poem in minutes."

Coming to Los Angeles from Chicago as a young man, Lewis began his career "peddling candy on the highway." The resourceful poet has not only never taken a course in poetry writing, he has never taken a course in accounting, either. He simply got an idea that during income tax season, accountants were overloaded, so he hired the right people and began the company.

"I want people to know you can be a successful businessman and still care about people," he said. All the proceeds from the books goes to Meals on Wheels.

"I never even read poetry before," he said. "But it is an avocation with me, a way of life."

Most of his poems celebrate love, "the purity that love can be." In fact, Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed Valentine's Day "Thoughts of Love Day," in honor of Lewis' books. He wrote a poem to memorialize the space shuttle crew, entitled "Reflections on Those Lost in Space":

How important life finds us In the world God created. And He taketh away in the blink ofan eye And we know not. So see each moment as your lifeforever And live again counting not tomorrow, But only those you love. Got Their Number

Finally, a solution for people who are afraid they'll forget to remember. It's Dial-A-Wake-Up and its little sister, Dial-A-Reminder. The magic number is (213) or (818) 976-WAKE. Tap it out on your touch-tone phone and hear a soft and soothing voice, asking whether you want to be awakened or reminded, then telling you how to program the hour and your phone number.

The system is as reliable as your phone bill--which, incidentally, is where you'll see the 95-cent-per-jingle charge.

Dial-A-Wake-Up is the inspiration of Partical Corp., a California-based trade consulting corporation. Its vice president, Tony Torab, is the promotional voice behind Dial-A-Wake-Up and, as you'd expect, he's convinced this is an idea whose time has come. In fact, he says, "we were just waiting for technology to catch up with our idea."

Answering services, of course, have been waking people up for years. And secretaries have been reminding people of their appointments. But Tony Torab is undeterred by such traditional competition.

He points out that at 95 cents a call (compared to answering-service fees generally ranging between $45 to $65 a month, with wake-up and reminder calls extra), 976-WAKE is a bargain.

Torab even shrugs off the suggestion that a computerized wake-up service is yet another electronic nail in the coffin of services featuring the human touch. He says that such a loss might even become Dial-A-Wake-Up's greatest gain.

Not that Torab wants to offend answering services. As a matter of fact, he subscribes to one. But he contends that sometimes they're unreliable, or the operator's voice is a bit harsh, and this can be especially bad on a wake-up call.

Computers, he says, always come through. And though the computer voice won't engage in small talk, she never has a bad day either.

Aiding Cancer Survivors

Susan Amy Weintraub needed help, searched Southern California, but couldn't find an organization dedicated to assisting people with her problem.

So she started her own: Cancervive, a nonprofit self-help group for people who have survived cancer but who may now face job, insurance and social discrimination because of their medical histories.

"There is a stigma of having had cancer," Weintraub said. "It hit me after I had lost four jobs."

Doctors discovered she had the disease when she was an 18-year-old student at the University of Colorado 10 years ago. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments knocked it out but left her with a slight limp in her right leg.

When asked by employers and co-workers about the limp, Weintraub told the truth. She lost jobs. Then she lied, blaming her bad leg on a skiing accident, "and I kept my job."

She began hearing stories of young dreams snuffed out. One involved a 17-year-old boy refused a college ROTC scholarship because he'd had cancer when he was 7. Others concerned single persons whose relationships ended when they'd tell a lover about an earlier cancer.

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