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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

THE PRINTING MERCHANTS OF VENICE

Carol and I made our first trip to Italy in April 1983, arrived in Venice, cabbed to Lido, and checked into our hotel.  Before our nap to adjust to the jet lag, we journeyed to Piazzo San Marco (St. Mark's Square as Americans might say) We fed the pigeons and admired the Basilica, while taking photos of the other tourists. Back to the hotel for a snooze and we were ready for the opening cocktail party. Rod Borum introduced us to a number of Americans on hand, including the chairman of PIA, Bob Jocham, a printer from Albany, NY. We chatted with him and his wife, after which I began to "work the room", meeting as many people I could. One guy had a crowd around him, so I meandered over to a rather rotund man with the bushy eyebrows, and introduced myself. "Robert Maxwell", he boomed back. At the time I had no idea who he was. "You can call me Captain Bob", he added in a demanding manner. Then he added, "I'll call you Dickie."  only one I've ever met who has created that appellation, which might have been used by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  But, as far as I was concerned Captain Bob was the highlight of the conference.

For the most part, speakers rambled and there was no interaction on the audience's part. Maxwell's story, on the other  hand was intriguing.  He was Czechoslovakian born and fought for the British, during WWII. He had been a member of Parliament for six years, and he had then turned bankrupt British Printing into a publishing empire I estimated he was about 10 years older than I was, and he was quick as a flash. His arch rival was Rupert Murdoch , battling for title "Media Mogul". The next year at Graph Expo, he told me he was one of the largest shareholders in both Scitex and  Crosfield, rival CEPS vendors. His mysterious death off his yacht in the Atlantic near the Canary islands uncovered financial fraud, but he was given a state funeral in Israel.

Our dinner with Dennis and Hillary Nick was a great evening at a restaurant adjacent to one of the canals in Venice. Both were born in England, divorced and had four children each. "Once a year the whole mishpacha (family in Yiddish) gets together", Dennis  remarked.. I was surprised, positive that he was Irish, based on his name and drinking ability. So I asked, "How do you know that word?" He answered, "I'm Jewish." I told him I was sure he was Irish. "How do you know it?" he countered. "So am I",  "I thought you were Italian." For a number of years Carol and I would meet the Nicks and holiday at another exotic  locations somewhere in the world.

When the conference ended the Jochams asked if we wold like to visit Florence and Rome. We rented a car and drove south. After a day in Florence, we made reservations at the Cipriani in Rome. Not knowing the city, we hired a car and driver. The driver had just spent a week with comedian Buddy Hackett and his wife Sherry. "He sat in the car telling me jokes and she shopped," the driver explained, proceeding to screw up some of Buddy's funniest routines. Remember this jaunt. Three years later I'd get a very interesting proposal from Bob Jocham. (In tomorrow's post, my relationship with Regis Delmontagne sours.)