At 11 am, Jim Pugash,
Armand Hammer's personal assistant, ushered me into
the executive suite on the top floor of the Occidental
headquarters in Westwood. Pugash, a Yale Law School
graduate, explained sheepishly that he himself had just
begun working for Hammer, and was not yet of when Hammer
planned to see me. I had time. I had come to LA to write
a profile of Hammer for the New York Times Magazine.
Ten minutes later, Hammer bounded
into the office. For a man approaching eighty, he moved
with great speed. His vision was another matter. The
thick glasses he wore made him seem like the Mr. Magoo
character in the cartoon series--especially he initially
mistook his newly-hired assistant for me. But he seemed
affable enough once he got us straightened out, and
very unpretentious, speaking more like a country doctor
than a corporate magnate.
At the outset, he explained that
he was in line for the Nobel Peace Prize, and that he
assumed that I would present him favorably, since he
was on friendly terms with Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger,
the chairman and publisher of the Times. He immediately
asked if I knew Punch and when I said I did not, he
offered to take me to dinner with him. He also told
me that he assumed that the story would be featured
on the cover of the magazine, and he suggested that
if I had "any problems" with my editor at the magazine,
he would "call Punch" in my behalf. He clearly liked
to believe he was in control. I did nothing to disillusion
"Why don't you come with us
to Chicago," he suggested, and, without waiting
for an answer, bounded out the door, carrying his own
suitcase. Pugash and I followed.
We went by limo to Hughes Airport
where his private jetliner, Oxy One, waiting. He told
me he had it specially designed for intercontinental
flight. It had a 100-foot-long cabin configured as a
personal salon, with twin beds and a shower and an office.
Once airborne, he told me of his
life, achievements and business strategies. I found
it difficult to interrupt his prepared verbal cassettes.
He was slightly hard of hearing, and he used this infirmity
to great effect. When I asked Hammer questions he did
not expect, he simply ignored them, as if he didn't
When we landed in Chicago, we drove
to the Ritz for a speech Hammer was giving on the international
Two hours later, we were flying
back to LA. Hammer retired to his bedroom for a nap,
and Pugash and I talked about mutual friends in Washington.
Up to a few ago, I learned, Pugash had been working
for Senator Scoop Jackson. The offer from Hammer was
sudden and lucrative. His theory was that Hammer hired
him as some sort of back channel to Senator Jackson.
Hammer dropped me off that evening
at the Westwood Marquis. He said he was flying to London
to pick up the Leonardo Di Vinci codex he had bought
and renamed the Hammer Codex. "Why don't you come
along," he suggested.