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Honoring an Original Perfect Role Model

December 05, 1996|MARY LOU LOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gene Autry's Cowboy Code lists 10 credos. Among them are No. 1: "The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage." No. 3: "He must always tell the truth." No. 6: "He must help people in distress." No. 7: "He must be a good worker."

The perfect role model for youth, said Junior Achievement of Southern California. So, Tuesday evening at the Century Plaza, before 700 business leaders, the organization, with help from event chairman Michael Eisner, gave the original singing cowboy its Spirit of Achievement salute.

Autry, whose career spans movies, radio and television, Angels ownership, TV entrepreneurship and founding of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, rose and waved his white Stetson in gratitude, with his wife, Jackie, beside him. The audience stood in applause.

About 10 of the Junior Achievement youth in the audience watched the video (Eisner called it "spectacular") about Autry. Most of them were unfamiliar with Autry's 1933 gold record of "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" and his gold and platinum hits--"South of the Border," "Mexicali Rose" and "Back in the Saddle Again" (he has written 200 songs).

But, the young people could certainly identify with other recording hits--"Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Liam E. McGee, chairman of Junior Achievement; Lois R. Rice, head of the organizing committee; and Gary W. Hickman, president of Junior Achievement, were thrilled with the evening.

The organization reaches more than 90,000 local students each year, and, according to Hickman, will grow to 176,000 by 1999. "The goal is to inspire young people to value free enterprise, understand business and economics and be work force ready," Hickman said.

Sixteen-year-old Erica Costanzo of Mater Dei High School already is in business. She is president of a company that packages two sizes of first aid kits, and expects to sell 800 of them.

Hits of the night were twins Kevin and Keith Hamilton of LaSalle Avenue School, who spoke in unison: "Most young people who live in South Central will be gang members. We will not. We may be young, but we are not stupid. We are on our way to be future business leaders."

Country artist LeAnn Rimes, 14, flew in to do the finale and sing her debut record, "Blue."

Elsewhere on the Social Circuit

Mary Swanby, vice president, Tiffany & Co., has invited Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children friends to Breakfast at Tiffany's on Sunday to meet John Loring, Tiffany design director. They'll celebrate the publication of Loring's book, "A Tiffany Christmas."

* The UCLA College of Letters and Science's black-tie gala honoring UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young and his wife, Sue, raised $310,000.

* Albert Schweitzer Leadership Awards were presented Tuesday to Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor, Charles Young and Ken Dickerson, senior vice president of ARCO. The affair at the Beverly Hilton sponsored by the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation also announced Inspiration Awards for Tommy Lasorda and astronaut Shannon Lucid. The foundation mission is to seek out, develop and recognize leadership at the high school level.

* The Los Angeles Police Historical Society's third annual black-tie Jack Webb Awards at Century Plaza saluted "reel cops paying tribute to real cops." The Los Angeles Police Department's 127th anniversary also honored Bruce Karatz, Ricardo Montalban, Margie and Bob Petersen and, in memoriam, Linda Morimoto.

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