The last time we saw Dr. Armand Hammer he was in the middle of an African folk-dance line, winding its way conga-like through a former Jesuit seminary secluded in the New Mexico highlands.
None of this should surprise anyone.
Hammer, the chairman of Occidental Petroleum, was celebrating International Day earlier this week at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West--the two-year international school for 16- to 19-year-olds that he established in 1982 in Montezuma at the request of the late Lord Mountbatten and at the suggestion of Britain's Prince Charles.
The ubiquitous industrialist and his wife, Frances, had private-jetted in that morning from L.A.--"the doctor," as he is called, reading the papers and chatting with such friends as Occidental Petroleum board member Rosemary Tomich, developer Nathan and Lilly Shapell and Joan Irani, the wife of Occidental's president, Ray R. Irani. Hammer talked about a Russian summit and compared the pragmatism of two of the Russian leaders he's known personally--Gorbachev and Lenin--while a steward served up sweet rolls and fruit. His 85-year-old wife, Frances--youthful as is the 88-year-old Hammer--talked with Anna Bing Arnold about the rest of the week's travel plans: "You never know with Armand. We're supposed to get back from Boston tomorrow, but I might wind up in Russia again," as they had for an overnight visit the week before.
Hammer effused about the success of his educational venture--telling anecdotes about the son of a former king of Greece pitching in as a fireman with the school's volunteer brigade, relishing the personal peace established after an Arab student was fished out of a stream by an Israeli classmate.
Just as Hammer documents his school's success with stories, there is constant documentation of his life, his place in history. Well-known are the leather-bound photo albums that are presented to other guests after they attend a lunch with Hammer and any one of a slew of foreign dignitaries. This day a TV crew traveled with him, preparing a fund-raiser for the college, shooting him as cheering students greeted his entrance into the refectory in "the castle," the imposing, almost New England-style centerpiece of the campus set in the middle of a stark, mesa-dotted landscape.
After lunch, a short address from Hammer, interrupted by cheers and shouts that he admitted later surprised even him. The point of joyous takeoff: his announcement that two students and a teacher from the Soviet Union would be joining the campus.
Hammer also squeezed in a news conference with local reporters, letting media types from Albuquerque and Las Vegas, N.M., get firsthand information about the release of Jewish dissidents and the status of East-West relations.
As a finale to the celebration, costumed students put on a talent show--dances from the Netherlands, from Indonesia, a Bach fugue played on a harpsichord, the African folk dance with beating drums.
A Native American woman, part of a news team from a local TV station, wore a ski vest and seemed almost distracted as she shot some footage.
Everyone wears name identification tags--and the imprinted statement "The Armand Hammer United World College of the American West." Armand and Frances Hammer--on their way to Boston, to Russia, to somewhere later--danced by in a crowd of young students.
KUDOS--To Margaret Brock, Mrs. Republican, caught by surprise when the GOP "Victory Dinner" here turned into a tribute to her. Michigan Rep. Guy Vander Jagt read a telegram from the President and many elected officials queued up with praise--as Brock has always lined up with support . . . To that stalwart group of Santa Monica and Venice restaurateurs who kicked off their support of the Santa Monica Arts Foundation with a benefit Tuesday night. Michael McCarty (of Michael's) said that more than $30,000 was raised, which would "basically go to arts in public places . . . art for the park and the beach." And in the future, an international arts festival. "We have the venues. The water, beaches, mountains, cliffs" . . . To the 19 women honored with the Bullock's Portfolio Award, including Hollywood Park's Marje Everett, the Downtown Women's Center's Jill Halverson, Giorgio's co-founder Gale Hayman, Blue Ribbon President Keith Kieschnick, and UC Regent Vilma Martinez.