Get ready, big wheels. Five years have passed since the debut edition of Who's Who in Arizona hit the streets. Now Scottsdale's tiny Success Publishing Company has swung back into action, collecting the names of the heaviest hitters in the state. Sort of.
If the last volume of the local star sheet is any indication, the new book, due out this fall, should cover a dizzying spectrum of social strata. The local Who's Who issue in 1984 featured such glitzy luminaries as a "golf superintendent" from Tucson, a mobile home park owner-operator from the East Valley, and dairy farmer Norman Hale, whose self-penned bio noted that in 1969 he'd appeared in Ford truck commercials "portraying a country farmer."
Also sprinkled among the usual politicians, lawyers and insurance sellers were such unsung overachievers as a cosmetologist who listed among her honors "1984 Arizona State Hairstyling Team, Second Place" and a retired schoolteacher whose entry proudly noted that she'd taken the mail-order "Famous Artist Painting Course" back in 1963.
Publisher Richard R. Reidy says he tries to reward accomplishment, no matter what form it takes. His brochure stresses that "an individual's desire, wealth or social standing is not adequate reason for inclusion."
Reidy claims to have four full-time researchers scouring the local landscape for big shots. Of course, that's not to say that he's done this very often. In fact, the forthcoming 1989 edition of his laudatory laundry list will be the second edition. Reidy, whose phone number is connected to an answering service ("he doesn't pick up his messages very often," notes a secretary), says he does most of his business with schools and public libraries. Those institutions, he says, buy the book as a reference guide.
The book is indeed a hot item, confirms a reference clerk at the Phoenix Public Library. "A lot of people ask for it, and that's why the library will keep buying it," she says. But many of those data hounds go away empty-handed, she says. "What people have told me is most of the major people are not in there," she says. "A lot of minor people are in there who paid."
Reidy, however, insists that there is no fee for inclusion in his tome. Instead, he makes his money by selling the book; after all, any proud mother would want a copy. And mom better be prepared to pay for the thrill: Last time the book went for "around $68," says Reidy. He says he's not sure how much he'll charge this time.
Why the five-year wait between editions? "It takes a while to do research on everyone you want to have in the book," he says. "When you do one every year, you have basically the same people in the book each year."
Reidy's already started mailing out application forms to lucky souls for the new edition. And he's bolstering his campaign with a letterhead touting a "Board of Advisers" made up of such Arizonans as Governor Rose Mofford, C. Van Haaften (former president of the Better Business Bureau), Channel 5 newscaster Roger Downey, and Senator Dennis DeConcini (whose name Reidy misspells).
Mofford helped Reidy think up names of public officials for the last book, says gubernatorial press aide Vada Manager. And the governor okayed the use of her name in the latest pitch. Van Haaften, though, says he's surprised to see his name being used to promote the project.
For one thing, he's no longer president of the BBB, having retired some weeks ago. When a Who's Who spokesman contacted him, "I must not have listened close enough," says Van Haaften, who says he got the impression he was simply being asked to brainstorm for possible nominees. "They said they wanted to use me as an adviser, and I said fine. When people called me and said my name was [on the letterhead], I was a little embarrassed by that."
But Reidy's board of advisers doesn't decide who ultimately gets in the book anyway. Instead, he says, it makes things easier if he and editor Edward H. Meier decide. Of course, Meier and Reidy themselves don't write the snippets of data that accompany each entry. And any celebrity handbook that lets its subjects keep their own stats can run into trouble. There were about 3,200 people listed in the first local Who's Who, says Reidy. Among them was former Republic/Gazette publisher Duke Tully, who at the time was still one of the most-decorated war heroes of his time--in his mind. Prominent among Tully's listed achievements were a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross--the latter complete with oak-leaf cluster. All of it, of course, was a lie. Tully, who never was in the military, was forced to slink out of town a few years ago when his charade was exposed. "We can check just so far," shrugs Reidy, who by way of explanation claims that somebody once managed to sneak a dog into a national Who's Who volume.
The Tully episode aside, Reidy says he refuses to believe that his illustrious clientele would engage in biographical amplification. But one Phoenix attorney whose name appeared in the first Who's Who in Arizona guesses that Tully wasn't the only one who may have fudged a little. His data were on the level, the lawyer says, but he finds it hard to believe anybody spent much time confirming his membership in assorted legal societies. And who's to say the cosmetologist didn't really finish third in the hairstyling contest?