Saturday, June 21, 2014

VET STORY 5 | Jerry Goodman ("Adam Smith")

George J. W. ("Jerry") Goodman, aka
"Adam Smith", Rhodes Scholar 1952
Jerry Goodman was a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, and then became a soldier.

Ann Medlock just told me that Goodman talked with her once before he died about his basic training in the army around the time of the end of the Korean War.

He said he "hated what they did, and thought it was stupid at the time," but then added that when he finished the training, “I was a soldier.”

The April 30 memorial service in New York City for George Jerome Waldo ("Jerry") Goodman will stick with me as a reminder of how such events should be conducted. Goodman died on January 3 this year at the University of Miami Hospital, after a long effort to fend off the bone-marrow disorder myelofibrosis.

Goodman was elected a Rhodes Scholar from Missouri in 1952, but resigned from residence at Oxford University because of plumbing and padlocks at Brasenose College.

His moniker "Adam Smith" was reportedly given to him by Clay Felker when he was editing New York Magazine, to preserve Goodman's anonymity as he tried to stay in the business while pillorying it. Goodman said others have also claimed credit. Later, Goodman used the nom-de-plume for his wildly popular books about Wall Street and then as a trademark for a widely praised show on economics for the general public.

Goodman was born in St. Louis on August 10, 1930. He was the son of Alexander Mark Goodman, an attorney, and Viona Cremer Goodman. Jerry Goodman's officemate and friend, Craig Drill, has written a testimony to the public-spiritedness of Alexander Goodman in the attached comments at the memorial service.

Jerry Goodman attended Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude in 1952, and was an editor of The Harvard Crimson. Goodman won a Rhodes Scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied political economy. However, he quit the college before the end of the first year of his scholarship. As his son Mark told in April:
He liked the people at Oxford, but he did not like the facilities. He also didn't like the fact that the college gates were locked every night and he had to climb over to walls to get back in.
Instead of a thesis at Oxford, he spent his time writing a novel, The Bubble Makers, published in 1955, about a Harvard student in conflict with his grandfather. He wrote several other novels and a book for children.

Then, in 1954, he joined the US Army First Special Forces (later called the "Green Berets") in the Intelligence Group known as Psywar (psychological warfare). Although there was a cease-fire in Korea, the Cold War was very much alive.

In 1961, Goodman married an actress from Phoenix, Sally Cullen Brophy, who had a full Broadway and television acting career in the 1950s and 1960s. When she retired from acting, they moved to Princeton. She taught theater arts at local universities. She died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2007. Their two children, Susannah and Mark, both spoke at the memorial service, with warm words for Goodman's participation in their childhood activities, and an emphasis on the music that they shared a love for.

Goodman pioneered a style of financial writing that made the language and concepts of Wall Street more understandable and accessible to the typical investor. He was founding editor of Institutional Investor in the second half of the 1960s, and in the process transformed financial writing. Michael Lewis at his best is channeling Goodman. The first non-fiction book that Goodman wrote, The Money Game, was published in 1968 when he was at Institutional Investor and was soon Number 1 on the bestseller list. A colleague who was at the Harvard Business School at the time told me after the memorial service yesterday:
It is hard to imagine the impact that Adam Smith and the book had on B School students at the time. When the first piece about "Red-Dogged Motorola" came out in New York Magazine, we rushed out to get on the phone. We got early copies of The Money Game and we couldn't get enough of Scarsdale Fats and the other characters.
In the book he memorably introduced the joke that ends with an economist on a desert island proposing to two fellow storm survivors faced with cans they can't open: "Assume a can opener". His point was to make fun of economists who make unwarranted assumptions.

His love of music, and especially opera, led him to interview Placido Domingo, during a period when Domingo was singing in Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Met. Jerry showed him why so many Americans know the "Ride of the Valkyries" theme. He played a clip of Elmer Fudd in a Warner Brothers cartoon, bedecked in a Teutonic helmet and plunging a spear in the ground as he goes, singing as he chases Bugs Bunny from hole to hole:
Kill Da Waabbit, Kill Da WAAAbbit, Kill Da WAAABit... etc. (see video clip here)
After they watch the clip, Jerry sings the theme again, and Placido Domingo lustily joins in. A cartoonist celebrated Jerry's 70th birthday with a picture of Lincoln Center lights advertising the duet - "Placido Domingo/Adam Smith sing KILL DA WABBIT".

I met Jerry through a fellow alum of Trinity College, Oxford -  Ham Richardson, the late Louisiana-born top-ranked tennis great who moved to New York City after his tennis career was over to participate in venture capital and other Wall Street deals. We got talking about the British Empire, Rudyard Kipling, The Just-So Stories that we both loved (done up by Disney as The Jungle Book) and then the "great grey-green greasy banks of the Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees." Jerry said the Limpopo River was in the Congo, and I said that didn't make sense, Kipling was writing about South Africa, and I said the my recollection was that the Limpopo ran through the top of the eastern end of South Africa. He was interested, and bet me $10 that I was wrong. So we Googled it on our iPhones (actually, no - it took a while for us to get an Atlas in Ham's library, and find the river), and when he saw I was right he immediately handed over a $10 bill with no hesitation. Not as exciting a betting amount as the one that starts Liar's Poker, but Jerry got something he seemed always willing to pay something for - good information. I saw him many time after that and we always updated each other in a bantering tone.

During a stint in Hollywood, he wrote screenplays, including an adaption from one of his novels,  The Wheeler Dealers (still a good flick), starring James Garner and Lee Remick.

He was a member of the Editorial Board of The New York Times, an editor of Esquire Magazine, a writer for Fortune, and a founding member of New York magazine.  In 1984, PBS television launched him as the anchor and editor-in-chief of Adam Smith's Money World, which won eight Emmy nominations and five of its Awards. The program was aired in more than 40 countries and the Soviet Union ran a Russian-language-dubbed edition, doubtless watched by a young Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who was born the year that Goodman was elected a Rhodes Scholar.  Goodman interviewed, among others, Warren Buffett and (in Moscow) Mikhail Gorbachev.

Here are links to some memorable obituaries of Jerry Goodman:
Jason Zweig, in the Wall Street Journal, who provides some of the original comments that Goodman was most famous for.
Douglas Martin, New York Times.
Martin Sosnoff, Forbes


Jerry entered his early teens during World War II and always had a special interest in military history.  He rarely spoke about his time as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, but told many stories about his time in the US Army First Special Forces Group.  His favorite World War II hero was Ernest Evans, a mixed-blood Cherokee, who, as Captain of a destroyer in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, repeatedly attacked, against all odds, the Imperial Japanese Fleet.  

Of his time at Harvard, Jerry talked mostly about writing for The Crimson. Moreover, he was thrilled to have been accepted into a small seminar on modern poetry led by Pulitzer Prize winner Archibald MacLeish. 

He enjoyed singing in the Glee Club and had a solo in one Christmas concert, which he later sang out to our office with gusto.  But he truly “sang his song” as a writer.  

Through the prism of humor, he helped us to better understand ourselves (sort of), as well as this sport -- and addiction -- called the modern stock market.  He had an uncanny ability to tell the real from the phony, even though the phony for many of us has glittering attractions.  

Jerry was proud to have coined some memorable words and phrases.  “Gunslingers,” a term for aggressive money managers from his classic, The Money Game, was one of his favorites. Some of his unforgettable phrases have found a permanent place in Wall Street vernacular, among these: “The stock doesn’t know you own it” and “If you don’t know who you are, the stock market is an expensive place to find out.”  

And he was proud of some of the images he created, among them the partygoers at the Masque of the Red Death ball -- money managers in the frothy “go-go” years -- asking, “What time is it?  What time is it?  But the clocks had no hands.”  

And he was gratified that his pioneering “Adam Smith’s Money World” -- which ran for 13 years on PBS -- won five coveted Emmy Awards and that his popular Goodman Lectures at Princeton on Media and Global Affairs had to be moved to larger auditoriums.  At the tail end of the dot-com bubble, Jerry, Mark, and I started, which was a tremendous success in terms of fun and for father and son to work together.

Jerry was a polymath, a Renaissance man. He would take our lunch discussions from the Coptic-language Gospel of Thomas to his meeting with G√ľnter Schabowski, the portly spokesman for the East German Politburo whose comments on TV -- inadvertently -- helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. 

Invariably, at our lunches, Jerry could not refrain from talking about investing and stocks. “Why is John Hancock so cheap?” “Is Continental Airlines going bankrupt again?” Jerry did his homework, and to better understand the biotech stocks, he actually went back to Princeton and audited two courses.

Despite many financial successes and fame, he never changed homes. He certainly never behaved ostentatiously or arrogantly. Jerry was destined to become a carrier of our culture, not just a passive observer, articulating with grace and wit the voice within us that knows what is right… as his father had done.

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