To understand this, why many people in Los Angeles are suspicious of Cooke, you must first understand one thing about the city itself. Los Angeles looks big from the air, but it is really just a cluster of small towns connected by cars parked bumper to bumper, and it is full of small-town worries. There are more than 75 communities in Los Angeles County besides L.A. proper, and the people in most of them generally look chic and talk hip: "Hello, sweetheart. Hiya, baby. Sure, lover." And you ought to hear the way they talk to girls.
Still, let just one stranger come to town wearing a $350 side-vent glen-plaid suit and a pair of bench-made shoes and Los Angeles is likely to yell, "City slicker, you guys," and watch his every move. It watches Cooke all the time.
Worse than that, Los Angeles is always wary of a man who uses three names. First initials with names are bad enough. (Several years ago at a lavish Hollywood premiere, an announcer introduced a famous movie producer by saying, "And now, Y. Frank Freeman." And one Los Angeleno turned to another and muttered, "Sounds like a good question.")
Then, in 1960, along came Jack Kent Cooke, using all three names, mind you, and he had that kind of big smile that made it look like his mouth had been lighted by an interior decorator. And the first thing he did was to plunge: He plunked down $20 million for a television-cable outfit that sells clear pictures. Then he paid $5,175,000 to buy a basketball team, more money than anybody had ever paid for five spindly men. No matter. Cooke pointed out that he had never seen a professional basketball game anyway and considered it a real bargain.
The third thing he did was to obtain the conditional franchise for a new National Hockey League team; fourth item was to shell out $500,000 for a soccer team, and before anybody knew it he was halfway to his goal: to own enough teams playing enough sports so that one of them is always in season—somewhere—so that every day or night he can watch. Now is that too much to ask? Not in Los Angeles, it isn't.
Jack Kent Cooke is a number of things. In quick order:
? A self-made man at 54, a millionaire and more, possibly a lot more.
? Owner of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. They are not winning games this year, but he makes the payroll every week.
? New franchise owner in the NHL, whose new hockey team will be the Los Angeles Kings.
? An organizer of and team-owner in the new North American Soccer League. This is not to be confused with the equally new National Professional Soccer League. Cooke's team will be called the Zorros. Top that, you Europeans.