Never did Los Angeles have another sports owner quite like Jack Kent Cooke, who died Sunday at 84.
A media favorite for his unpredictable interviews, he was a master quipster, often cantankerous and insulting, sometimes outrageous, always incisive . . . and never dull.
Today's Morning Briefing is dedicated solely to the best Jack Kent Cooke stories.
The vending machine: Early in the evening of Dec. 31, 1967, Cooke was nervously making a final inspection tour of his new Forum, which was about to open for a King game.
He stopped at a cigarette machine and decided to test it, dropping in some coins. Forty quarters cascaded out.
Said Cooke to a companion as he pocketed the coins: "That's the story of my life."
Trivia time: For what achievement was Cooke once listed in "The Guinness Book of World Records?"
The cemetery: At 1967 groundbreaking ceremonies for the Forum, Cooke was asked how he felt about his arena going up next to the Inglewood Park Cemetery.
"Dead people don't stick guns in the faces of your customers and say: 'Your money or your life,' " he said.
"And I know some arenas around the country where the dead bodies around them are still warm."
Magic and the fish: In 1979, shortly after Cooke and the Lakers drafted 19-year-old Magic Johnson from Michigan State, Johnson and his father arrived for a Cooke-hosted Forum luncheon, which was to be followed by a negotiating session.
After the salads, Cooke told the waiter, "All right, we'll have the fish now."
The waiters served fish to all but Cooke, who was given a steak.
Johnson declined the fish and Cooke said, "Oh, don't be ridiculous, Magic--this is wonderful, fresh fish."
Johnson replied, "If it's so wonderful, why aren't you eating it?"
Later, Cooke said to a reporter, "I knew then this was going to be a difficult negotiation."
The interview: Shortly after he acquired the Kings, Cooke was interviewed by sportswriter Rich Roberts.
"I'd typed out some questions I wanted to be sure to ask him, and they were on the front of my clipboard," Roberts recalled this week.
"Cooke saw that, and after the first question, he reached over and grabbed my clipboard.
" 'Let me see this,' " he said.
"Then he went down all the questions, and said: 'Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no, yes . . . ' and that was the end of the interview."
Trivia answer: The world's most expensive divorce. His 1979 settlement with Jeannie Cooke was for roughly $50 million, a record since surpassed.
And finally: When he was 53, Cooke called the year of his death. From an interview with The Times' Charles Maher in February, 1966: "I propose to live to 85. I've never been sick in my life."
Cooke would have turned 85 Oct. 25.