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Jack Gordon




The Washington Teamster

February 1, 1984


Ed Donohoe, Tilting the Windmill from The Washington Teamster



Down but never out

JACK GORDON, head waiter and check-grabber for the Washington State Restaurant Association, has his personal disasters down to a science. Stung by the heat of an insoluble business problem, he wrote his own news release with this rather prosaic heading: "Jack Gordon Resigns As State Hotel-Motel Chieftain," made note that a search is now on for his replacement, adding that he was "the victim of an accident recently" without explaining what hit him and where, and then checked into Providence Hospital a day later.

Jack has been in Providence so often, the story goes, he's eligible to have his name painted on the door next to "Bath". He first approached the Styxx littoral when he was pulverized by the late Ted Bell, Seattle U's first radio announcer, in a half-time basketball game at the old Civic Auditorium. Jack woke up staring into the probing eyes of the team doctor, one Huber Grimm, who himself wasn't above the use of hypnotism in an effort to cure steel elbows at the foul line. Gordon's condition was an open and shut case against games that people don't know how to play - and, physically, it has been all down hill for this high priest of hype. When I called him at the hospital, we didn't get into his resignation. "Ever since Jack headed special days at the fair, he has had this thing about resigning for the smallest excuse," Victor Rosellini recalled. "Don't ask me what this one is all about." I didn't.

Apparently Gordon was "victimized" by a chair at home which he sat in wrong, inflaming an old injury in his back. He was in great pain when I called him by phone which is no time to talk about accidents or business affairs anyway.

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If the news release didn't say what went wrong between Jack and part of the hospitality industry, it made up in spades about the life and times of Jack Gordon, impressario. Since World War II he has done everything from greeting warships to astronauts, from being a human relations commissioner for the 'olice Department to an Employment Security Commissioner for Gov. Al Rosellini. He has served the last four governors in some capacity or another. What isn't mentioned, other than an Alumnus of the Year award, is the great job he did for the Seattle U. Chiefs as their press agent during the Brightman Years. Somehow these events get lost in the shuffle — they don't fit Rotary's list of achievements that move the member upward and outward.

It is generally believed that Gordon concocted the slogan "Light a candle to Yandle," which backlashed when the Jesuits actually tied a can to Len and hired Al Brightman, then a star for a local pro basketball team.

Jack's promotions got All-American status for Johnny O'Brien, unprecedented rankings in AP and UPI basketball polls (not being above vote-swapping across the country) and one of the great headline putdowns in the New York Daily News after the Chiefs lost to St. Bonaventure in the first round of the 1957 NIT tourney: "Baylor Flops in Garden Debut". Big Elg only got 21 points and 20 rebounds. Some flop.

Jack was a frustrated Busby Berkely in any event that required an orchestra, a gazebo to parade civic hotshots to a head table, and the Ivan Novikoff Dancers to show the way with their Can-Can kicks. Some of his greatest hits (which almost broke the poor but honest Sportswriters and Sportscasters) involved the dancers, a dead dog from the window of the Reliable Bonding Company, and Vodka splattered all over the stage and front row viewers at the annual sports banquet.

Jack had also used the dancers at dockside when Army and Navy troop transports arrived in Seattle throughout the Korean War. In fact, City Councilman Al Rochester, who fancied himself as the skinny Grover Whalen during this greeting business, always felt that Gordon failed him by not being able to produce a ship in his tight re- election fight which he lost to Floyd Miller.

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Although his positions with Greater Seattle, a world fair and official public demonstrations threw him in consort with various politicians, Jack wasn't the institutional type and didn't have much belly for the political double-dealing that goes to elect and govern people. While serving as the Employment Security Commissioner, he was given a real horsing around by Sen. Augie Mardesich and his buddies for not knuckling under on a real estate deal that Augie wanted in Everett. It was one of those four hankie nose bleeds yet he stood his ground.

Setbacks like being replaced as the P-I's favorite banquet M.C by the pudgy Wayne Cody, or, as they say in the hotel trade, running into the Westin's Jim Treadway going up on a down escalator, may have left their mark on Gordon for the time being.

But once he's out of the medico's clutches he will be back at the old station with a lot of yuk-yuks "and let's hear it for the Novikoff Dancers and the crew of the U.S. Nimitz and her four destroyer escorts."

In the immortal words of Sister Superior: "Places everyone!"






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