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Memoirist Ferraro in Hindsight: One Vote for Feinstein

Times Staff Writer

There was enough happening at the American Booksellers Assn. meeting this week to fill a--well, a book. Here are some highlights:

Only a little less than a year before, Geraldine Ferraro had journeyed to this city to accept the Democratic nomination as the first woman to run for vice president of the United States. She vowed then that she would return someday to the city by the Bay.

“I must admit, though, that I had envisioned my return somewhat differently,” Ferraro told a giant breakfast meeting of the American Booksellers Assn. here. “In my scenario, I was surrounded by Secret Service agents. . . .”

Instead, Ferraro was facing nearly 2,000 leaders of the industry that represents her in her new career as author. With her memoirs, “Ferraro,” scheduled for November publication by Bantam, Ferraro was offering a kind of preview of coming literary attractions of the book that earned her an advance estimated at somewhere between $700,000 and $900,000. Campaigning was one thing, Ferraro confided, losing a vice presidential election quite another, “but I honestly didn’t know that writing a book would be so terribly draining. I didn’t realize that I would actually relive those feelings--and some of them hurt just as much, and some even more.”

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In fact, in retrospect, Ferraro said that “if God had shown me a VCR of what was coming, if I had known what was ahead--for my husband, my 80-year-old mother and my three kids--I would have said, ‘God, can you do me a favor and pick Dianne (Feinstein)?’ ”

Still, Ferraro said, “Yes, we lost the election, but we won a victory of spirit that will help our future. What it means for all of us is that the ‘Men Only’ sign has been removed from the doors of the White House.”

Having broken the political sex barrier, women, Ferraro said, “know that we can walk in space, and we can teach our children to take their first steps. We can do all these things, or none of these things. We have widened the universe from which we pick the talent to lead the country.

“In fact,” Ferraro predicted, “I would venture that in 1988 you are going to see a couple of women running in the primaries.”

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Those women, however, probably will not have to contend with the petty issues that plagued Ferraro: “Things like clothes,” she said. “I mean, people told me I wasn’t supposed to wear beige.” Or body language: “How close should Fritz and I stand? Should we touch? The press had fun with that one.”

Not that Ferraro was without her own sense of the absurd. Before her debate with George Bush, she said she scandalized her staff by coming up with this plan for greeting the vice president: “I said how ‘bout if I come up, look him straight in the eye, then kiss him smack on the lips?

“My staff,” Ferraro said, “was not amused.”

Ferraro said she and co-writer Linda Bird Francke, co-author also of Rosalynn Carter’s widely acclaimed “First Lady From Plains,” had begun writing in December, 1984. Working four to five hours a day, five days a week, Ferraro said she and Francke reviewed tapes, diaries, press clippings, legal briefs from the real estate fraud proceedings that hounded husband John Zaccaro as a result of his wife’s high-profile politics and Ferraro’s own recollections of her history-making campaign.

A Unanimous ‘No Regrets’

Zaccaro himself has said publicly that he has no regrets about his wife’s vice presidential effort, and as for Ferraro, “when I said I don’t regret it, I meant it.” Her own political future is uncertain, Ferraro said, but as for her son John, “he has decided he’s going into politics, which I think is terrific.” Daughter Donna, Ferraro said, has been admitted to Harvard Business School, and youngest child Laura plans to study at Brown University. “She still wants to be an actress,” her mother said, “but thinks maybe she’ll be a lawyer on the side.”

Largely because he was such an “egomaniacal moron,” former automobile manufacturer-turned-author John Z. DeLorean told an ABA news conference announcing his forthcoming life story, “essentially my life has been destroyed--my company, my family is gone, my children are having serious emotional difficulties.”

He had become obsessed with saving his gull-wing car and his company, DeLorean said: “I was not going to let this car with my name on it go down.” His passion translated into arrogance, he said, so much so that “the ultimate test of my arrogance was that I thought I had humility.”

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At the time, DeLorean said, “I realize now that I was a pretty sick and strange guy. I was a walking disaster.” He was working “20 hours a day, seven days a week,” taking “two Seconals to get to sleep and 18 cups of coffee to wake up,” flying across the Atlantic so often that “I was walking jet lag” and consulting a New York spiritualist “who actually became the company’s primary adviser.”

Zondervan, the Michigan-based Christian publishing house, will publish “DeLorean” this fall, it announced, calling the author’s advance “sizable” and describing the book as “the first time John Z. DeLorean has told his own story.”

For example, DeLorean said of his actions as recorded on the controversial videotape that resulted in the federal government’s drug conspiracy lawsuit against him, “I was trying to save my life. My life was being threatened. My children’s lives were being threatened. I was convinced those men in that room were members of organized crime and I was never going to get out of there alive.”

DeLorean was acquitted of those charges in 1984.

No one said the world of television news wasn’t grueling and demanding. Certainly not Charles Kuralt, veteran CBS reporter and author of “On the Road With Charles Kuralt” (Putnam’s). Dan Rather and Mike Wallace have their jobs, Kuralt said, “Mine is to make sure that no swimming pig or car that runs on corn cobs goes unnoticed.” Therefore, he said, it should come as no surprise at all that “I have had to write a book about worm grunting.”

So comfortably does that activity fit into Kuralt’s non-news niche that when he wandered into the Florida worm-grunting capital of the world, “there was this guy just sitting there whittling--not chopping, just whittling--and as I walked by, he looked up and said, ‘I knew you guys were going to show up.’ ”

And of course who could forget Looking Glass, Ore., “the town that got a street light, and then figured it ought to have a parking meter. So it got a parking meter. Just one. And everybody sort of took turns parking.”

Kuralt smiled. “So you get the idea. It’s not a profound book, but it’s lovable.”

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