I lost a good friend this week and Washington lost a good man. Jack Valenti, once Lyndon Johnson's closest advisor and for nearly forty years after that, the man who spoke for the movie industry in Washington, died of a stroke.
He was 85 so it was a good run. He would have called it "a grand run" because he never spared the superlatives, and who could really argue? He could point to dozens of accomplishments, had a wonderful wife and kids, and at 85 had just finished a book, had dozens of irons in the fire, worked out every day and still played golf every Saturday.
Jack knew everybody and a little about everything — most of all human nature — and he once gave me a tip on tipping: "Give a guy a little extra and he'll say 'thanks,' double the usual tip and he'll remember your name."
That was Jack, king of over-the-top, a tiny man, maybe 5'5", but everything about him was large, almost operatic. He was the best example I know of the influential Washington insider because he understood that influence was based on long-term integrity — mislead on one issue and you'll have less influence on the next. And he recognized the cycles of Washington — that today's backbencher may be tomorrow's powerful chairman. He remembered people when they were down. They remembered him when they were up. So he got things done, his counsel was constantly sought, and he forged hundreds of lasting friendships along the way.
Jack Valenti did have a grand run. He was a grand man.
By Bob Schieffer