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Reebok Diplomacy : Allan Affeldt of Newport Beach, the Activist : Behind the Peace March on Moscow

July 05, 1987|JAMIE SIMONS and JON LAPIDESE | Jamie Simons and Jon Lapidese are writers based in Los Angeles.

ONE A.M., MONDAY, April 27. There's a chill in the air outside radio station KABC. Inside, the Cold War is raging. Guest Allan Affeldt is trading terse comments with host Bill Pearl and telephone callers about his plan for an American-Soviet peace walk. A caller comes on the line.

"Mr. Affeldt, you're an obvious propagandist," he says. "Take your big, brave 450-mile walk in Russia, and then you'll understand what propaganda really is. Where's your common sense?"

"Does common sense tell you that we can win an arms race?" Affeldt replies.

"The arms race?" says the caller. "If I was going to be allied with the likes of you advocating peace I'd just as soon be blasted off the planet!"

During the next hour, callers denounce Affeldt as a Marxist, a Communist and a dupe.

Who is Allan Affeldt, and why is he the target of all this invective? Currently on leave from his doctoral studies at the University of California, Irvine, he is president of International Peace Walk Inc., the driving force behind the American Soviet Walk, a 450-mile trek from Leningrad to Moscow that began June 15 and was planned to culminate yesterday in a joint U.S.-Soviet rock concert.

Although some may label him a Commie dupe, the 28-year-old Affeldt says the philosophy that lies behind the walk has been expressed by conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. "Reagan repeatedly says: 'Wouldn't it be great if Americans and Soviets got to know each other as people because it would remove so much international tension?' " Affeldt maintains. Then he cites Nixon's "Ping-Pong" diplomacy: "We're trying to emulate the model Nixon used in China. You don't need a lot of technological agreements; if you improve relations in general, everything else will follow." Breaking into a grin, he adds: "We're just doing our patriotic duty."

IT'S MEMORIAL DAY,and Affeldt is halfway through his usual 14-hour shift at the walk's national headquarters--an abandoned yacht clubhouse in Newport Beach. In the marina, sailors are out for one last day of leisure before the holiday ends. Inside the cavernous room it is business as usual. Staff members study computer readouts, complete last-minute reports and talk on the phone. In one corner, Affeldt sits hunched over a bowl of cold chili, a telephone to his ear.

Affeldt is working on his latest challenge--arranging the Moscow rock concert. Bill Graham, the producer of both the Live Aid and Amnesty International concerts, has agreed to produce the show. Graham will be responsible for the technical side of the concert; Affeldt, with help from Graham and walk supporters, has only a few days to come up with $1 million and procure bankable stars. For a man who has pulled together in five months what many skeptics said would never happen, anything may be possible.

Indeed, the accomplishments of Affeldt and his crew of 10, most of them under 28 years of age, read like a Kissinger wish list for detente: permission for 220 Americans and 200 Soviets to walk together through the countryside of five oblasts, or Soviet states; authorization for the Americans to stay in Soviet homes; no censorship of the American press; 100 speaking engagements for the Americans in Soviet factories, town halls and schools; freedom to show videos of American movies, including "Dr. Strangelove," "Dumbo," "A Night at the Opera" and "Gone With the Wind"; potlucks with entire Soviet villages; a tent city in Moscow of Soviet and American citizens that anyone can visit--all culminating in the largest American-Soviet cultural exchange ever: a concert on the Fourth of July.

Affeldt is quick to point out that these are not his accomplishments but the joint efforts of many. He says he's just a regular guy. With his dreamy academic look, rangy build and uniform of T-shirt, jeans and hiking boots, one is inclined to believe him. Still, this is the same man who bought a white 1950 Bentley at age 19 with profits from his real-estate business. Raised in an upper-middle-class Orange County Republican home, Affeldt began underwriting trust deeds at age 15, starting with $2,000 he inherited from his father. The profits from the business paid for his college education and hobbies like the Bentley. He even joined a car club for Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners, but now speaks of those days almost apologetically. "We'd all drive around, go to meetings, things like that. But it wasn't very satisfying. The people in this club were very, very wealthy. But they weren't any happier than anybody else; they just had more money. Those early experiences helped me a lot, giving me perspective."

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