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Bob Dole--a Tough and Witty Loner

March 20, 1987|BILL STEIGERWALD

No one's ever confused Robert Dole with Mr. Nice Guy. Combative, partisan and known for his biting wit and deadpan humor, the Republican senator from Kansas is "a loner who can't stand to be alone," Gail Sheehy says in her investigation of Dole's character and psyche in Vanity Fair.

Much of his toughness, Sheehy says, stems from his battle to overcome the severe wounds he suffered in World War II that left him a complete invalid for three years and rendered his right arm permanently useless. He is intuitively intelligent, hard working, self-controlled, a master deal-maker and very independent, says Sheehy, who was told by Dole's first wife that she learned very quickly that "you don't help him unless he asks you."

His current wife, Elizabeth, the Reagan Administration's secretary of transportation, "is a perfect complement to his acerbic stiffness," Sheehy says. Dole's politics? Conservative but pragmatic. Though not "a true believer," which Sheehy sees as a virtue, he has consistently voted with the Reagan Administration on defense and aid to the contras .

The moderate Republicans and the Democrats, liberals and media people that Sheehy has asked all say they could live with Dole as President, she says. But conservatives whose ideologies are more in tune with President Reagan's--including such Dole rivals as Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Vice President George Bush--might not be so submissive.

Star Stuff

Sure, in the great scheme of cosmic things, the exploding supernova on Time's cover this week is infinitely more important than all those movie stars pictured in Life's special issue celebrating Hollywood's 100th birthday.

Time's text and photos and drawings do a swell job of explaining the scientific significance of the brightest exploding star in 383 years. It's just that it's hard to get too excited about an event that actually happened 170,000 years ago a billion billion miles away. Life's star gazing has a more local angle, is much more fun, and doesn't leave any new nagging questions about the true nature of the universe. Seven stars are on its cover and photos, of course, are the main attraction inside: For "First Families of Film," Theo Westenberger took portraits of 18 famous parents (with names like Peck, Lemmon, Douglas, Robards, Sheen, Dern, Carradine and Bridges) who posed with their children who've followed them into the film biz. Some of the pictures are too cute or contrived. But John and Anjelica Huston's is great.

The grand finale is a group shot of 62 Paramount film stars--from Danny Di Vito and Robert De Niro to Molly Ringwald and Rhonda Fleming--who answered the studio's call for a photo to mark its 75th birthday and also managed to pose for some interesting intergenerational star schmoozing.

Life in the Ghetto

Sylvester Monroe didn't know what he'd find when--as a reporter for Newsweek--he returned to his roots in the housing projects of Chicago to trace the lives of 11 of his boyhood buddies who are now in their mid-30s.

Black men like them are "almost an endangered species," he says in "Brothers." They are six times more likely than white men to be murdered, 2 1/2 times more likely to be unemployed. But behind the grim statistics of black urban life are individuals with hopes and dreams, like Honk Johnson and Pee Wee and Billy, whose lives range from successful to tragic. Their stories and eight others--each told in knowing detail, enhanced by excellent black-and-white photographs and beautifully written by Newsweek senior editor Peter Goldman--provide a compelling look at what it's like growing up black and poor in urban America.

Bits and Pieces

In a report on the commercial airline of the future, Popular Science says that planes will be safer, cheaper to operate and more comfortable than ever. Except for fuel-efficient propeller blades on rear engines, they'll look like today's models. . . . And the Investment Management Institute is planning a new monthly for the big money boys. Trillion will cost $25 a copy.

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