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Al Franken, innovative UCLA track and field promoter, dies at 96 – Los Angeles Times

The very bad news is that Los Angeles lost its own P.T. Barnum on Tuesday afternoon. Al Franken died at age 96.

(No, not that Al Franken. Not the comic who became a senator from Minnesota and was tossed out of that prestigious job because of doing some stupid stuff. Comics are supposed to do stupid stuff. Senators aren’t, but the jury remains out on that).

This was our Al Franken, a force of energy, innovation and craziness, a man who made gimmicks into staples and sports into fun. The current-day, politically correct, humorless internet typists would be pushed to the brink by Franken. If he saw an idea that was on the edge, maybe slightly unethical or even illegal, he wouldn’t even pause. If it sold tickets, or even it would just be fun, he’d try it.

Mostly, he was a track promoter. Mostly indoor track. Yes, they used to have such things. Much more on that later.

He grew up in Los Angeles, a child of the Depression. He helped the family with paper routes and side hustles that would put food on the table. He went to Fairfax High, then trained Navy troops after World War II, which created funding for college. He got accepted by Harvard and turned that down to go to UCLA. There, he became sports editor of the Daily Bruin, where he replaced a guy named Jim Healy.

(Who goofed?!!!! I’ve got to know!).

He became a prep editor at the Los Angeles Mirror, one of four papers in the city that was reduced to two when the Chandler family conned the Hearst Corporation into taking the afternoon market and leaving the morning for The Times. The Herald Examiner’s sister paper, The Herald Express, was folded. The Times took the morning market and folded its afternoon paper, The Mirror. That was January 1962.

Franken, already dabbling in things outside the newspaper business, landed some public relations work with the newly arrived Lakers and also took over, for many years, the job promoting the Los Angeles Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. He remained a member at Riviera until he stopped playing golf. At age 90. In that time, he established a new international golf leniency record by making every five-foot-and-closer putt a gimme for every player in his foursome.

“That’s good,” he’d chortle. “All’s well.”

Franken decided that a great way to make a living would be to promote indoor track meets. He did so in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. And he did so unlike any other promoter in any other sport. Others had rules. Franken had none, just instincts.

His Sunkist meet at the old L.A. Sports Arena was a smash hit. His son, Don, says that, of all the indoor meets he ran, well into the late 1990s and even a bit into the 2000’s, “only one failed to make money.” Usual attendance was between 10,000 and 13,000.

Al Franken, left, sits next to U.S. Olympic track and field champion Wilma Rudolph in an undated photo.

(Courtesy of Franken family)

The Sunkist meet ran in the winter and competed for fans and attention with the Los Angeles Times Invitational, a meet held at the Forum in Inglewood and also run in the winter. The Director of Special Events at The Times was Glenn Davis, also known to football fans …….

Source: https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2021-12-08/appreciation-al-franken-ucla-track-field-promoter-dies-obit

The very bad news is that Los Angeles lost its own P.T. Barnum on Tuesday afternoon. Al Franken died at age 96.

(No, not that Al Franken. Not the comic who became a senator from Minnesota and was tossed out of that prestigious job because of doing some stupid stuff. Comics are supposed to do stupid stuff. Senators aren’t, but the jury remains out on that).

This was our Al Franken, a force of energy, innovation and craziness, a man who made gimmicks into staples and sports into fun. The current-day, politically correct, humorless internet typists would be pushed to the brink by Franken. If he saw an idea that was on the edge, maybe slightly unethical or even illegal, he would…….

The very bad news is that Los Angeles lost its own P.T. Barnum on Tuesday afternoon. Al Franken died at age 96.

(No, not that Al Franken. Not the comic who became a senator from Minnesota and was tossed out of that prestigious job because of doing some stupid stuff. Comics are supposed to do stupid stuff. Senators aren’t, but the jury remains out on that).

This was our Al Franken, a force of energy, innovation and craziness, a man who made gimmicks into staples and sports into fun. The current-day, politically correct, humorless internet typists would be pushed to the brink by Franken. If he saw an idea that was on the edge, maybe slightly unethical or even illegal, he would…….

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