Page 22


putting in a bad word about him to any cop or reporter who would listen. But causing trouble for Flanagan was a just a pastimeEd’s work, his calling, was promotion, and he was an absolute genius in the field. His number one project in those early days of our acquaintance was a refrigerator the size of a pack of cigarettes, the practical purpose of which would be to keep insulin cool for diabetics. Persuasive and persistent, he had more gumption than anybody else I have ever known. He was like a guy who propositions every woman who walks byhe gets slapped a lot, but sometimes gets his way. Ed asked people for money, though. Over and over again. He wasn’t far on the upper side of illiteracy, but he eventually managed to hobnob and cut business deals with directors of national TV networks and a former director of the Internal Revenue Service, to name a few. Ed was broke in the years when I first knew him, but not our kind of broke. He always drove big cars, lived in luxury apartments, dated flashy women with expensive tastes. He’d borrow a couple of hundred from a friend and take my lady and me out on the town to try to impress us. He collected people the way some people save moneyfor a rainy day. He almost never became discouraged, and when he did, he got over it fast. He came to me one day, needing money to fly to Atlanta to promote his tiny refrigerator. He spent two hours trying in vain to talk me out of my paycheck. Finally he gave up, had a drink, and lamented, “I envy you because you have a profession. I have never had a job a day in my life and I don’t know how to do anything.” I didn’t take Ed very seriously in those days, but he told me, “Son”he called everybody son “this is the start of a friendship that will last for many years.” During his roller-coaster career, Ed was no stranger to violence. He’d tell stories about the zany, bloody underworld wars in Fort Worth. Once, he drove into the driveway of Frank Cates’s gambling joint on the Jacksboro Highway, at the very moment the place blew up, with Cates in it. Along with the debris from the dynamite blast, it rained paper money for a while. He had been involved in a couple of shooting scrapes more directly, but wasn’t convicted of anything. In 1968 I went to see him in the hospital in Cleburne. Ex-wife Johnnie Faye had shot him several times and Ed looked bad, strung up in traction, tubes sticking in his veins. \(The reason Johnnie Faye shot him was that she had a gun handy. Ed was so exasperating his best friends would have killed him many times if they’d had told me, “I’m the best salesman in the world. When I got out of the hospital in Cleburne, my arm was in a sling. I had $20 to my name. I took it and went to New York. A year later, I had a million dollars.” In New York he got money to drill oil wells in Texas. The deal evidently was not supposed to produce anything but a tax write-off for the investors, but with what an associate called “pure dumb luck,” Ed managed to revive the dormant Dyersdale Field in Harris County. By 1972, when Ed looked me up again at the Dallas Times Herald, he had homes in Corpus Christi, Dallas, New York and Hollywood, offices in Corpus and New York, limousines and chauffeurs in Corpus and New York, and he was spending as much as $697,000 in a single year included, according to the Caller Times: John Backe, president of CBS Inc.; 14 others from the top echelons at CBS, including a former president, former finance executives, and CBS Columbia Group president John Phillips, his son and his secretary; a half-dozen current and former executives of RCA Inc., including RCA comptroller Charles Ellis and an executive vice presiformer executive from each of of the followingXerox Corporation, International Paper Company, Pepsico Inc., NortonSimon Inc. and American Home Products. The next George Parr Ed Driscoll had a plan to take over the world, or at least the South Texas portion of it. He had wealth and he wanted power. So he started building fronts to achieve it. He bought an old house on Ocean Drive, the nesting ground for the very rich of Corpus Christi, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars turning it into a mansion. \(He never stayed in it, preferring instead to live in a $30-a-day room at the Sheraton Marina Inn on Corpus Christi’s bayfront. The place on Ocean Drive, with marble driveways and a swimming-pool-sized bathtub on the second office decorated with photos of himself in the company of the broadcasting executives who were among his investors. He was borne around town in a $19,000 limousine by a chauffeur named Henry who had previously jockeyed cars up and down the ramp at the Sheraton. And he kept a fleet of white Cadillacs for family and friends. He intended to become the next patron of the MexicanAmericans of South Texas. He wanted to help them realize their vote potentialand then influence the way they would vote. “The Mexican-Americans will be controlling Texas in five years,” he said. George Parr, the Duke of Duval, was dead by his own hand, and Ed believed he could acquire as much power as Parr had held in South Texas. At one point, Ed told me he was trying to buy the old white building, across from the courthouse in San Diego, that had been Parr’s headquarters for many years. Ed was never very subtle. Ed also wanted a newspaper to help him achieve his goal. Prominent Mexican-Americans in Nueces County felt the brown race had never received a fair shake from the Caller Times, and Ed got encouragement for the project from Mexican-American leaders such as Dr. Hector Garcia, founder of the American GI Forum, Ruben Bonilla, state director of LULAC, State Sen. Carlos Truan, and Reps. Arnold Gonzales and Hugo Berlanga. Ed summoned me to start his newspaper, and told me to pattern it after the old sensational, muckraking Fort Worth Press . He had a heart attack that almost killed him before I could get to Corpus Christi, but a few days later he was issuing instructions from his hospital room to his lawyer, editor, accountant and others to get the newspaper started. Ed swore he wouldn’t interfere with newspaper operations. But as soon as the publishing machinery was in place, he marched in and did everything possible to push the Sun into the “In another era, he would have been one of the great newspapermen that you read about. He had the great instinct of newspapermen, a sixth sense about injustice. He just seemed to know when things weren’t right.” David McHam, chairman, Southern Methodist University journalism department realm of the absurd. Though I was listed on the masthead as editor and publisher, Ed was running the Sun. It was a disaster. As he learned each department’s function, he tried to control it personally. He’d fly into nerve-shattering rages. Shortly before the first issue was published, Ed’s meddling became so intolerable that we all resigned. He backed off briefly, the staff returned to work, and the Sun printed its first 48-page weekly edition on January 12, 1978, with 100,000 copies delivered throughout Nueces County. With the Sun as his vehicle, Ed moved into the limelight, and there was no stopping him. About the only previous local publicity Ed had received had been a Caller Times story in which he denied rumors that the house he was refurbishing on Ocean Drive would be the future home of Corpus native Farrah Fawcett-Majors”If the Six Million Dollar Man wants to buy 12 MARCH 2, 1979