Tall, craggy and rail-thin, Deseret News wire clerk Jim Cole has about him a Lincolnesque reserve. Yet as those who work with him discovered long ago, he is as capable of spewing forth information as quickly and comprehensively as the copy printers he is responsible for.
As with those machines, it's simply a matter of pressing the right buttons."He's a walking encyclopedia!" a date of his once marveled in my presence. On that occasion I think the button she had inadvertently pressed was movies. But it could just as easily have been music - especially that of the big-band era - or mechanics. For years now he has performed most of his own auto repairs. And that's just the M volume.
The subsections are no less impressive. Under movies, for example, comes animation, as in animated cartoons, nearly 700 of which he currently possesses on videotape. And he can tell you what percentage that represents of Warner Bros.' total output between 1930 and 1969 - 671/2 percent of all the theatrical Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Road Runner cartoons ever made.
"It may be oversimplifying," Cole says, "but for me the Disney cartoons are cute and the Warner Bros. cartoons are funny." No wonder it was he who ended up doing our books-page review of Mel Blanc's autobiography.
Over the years he has also written a number of our swing-era concert and record reviews (at one time he could lay claim to owning every commercially issued Glenn Miller recording, including the rare "Limited Edition" sets from the mid-'50s), interviewed the likes of Count Basie and Artie Shaw and broadened his collecting skills to include the classics. (Another enthusiasm we share is old-time radio, particularly Jack Benny.)
Cole came to the Deseret News in 1961 as a copy boy, and except for a two-year break for an LDS mission (begun, appropriately enough, in Hollywood) has been here ever since.
Currently, he estimates, he sifts through around 2,000 to 3,000 wire stories a day, routing them to the proper departments and people. He says it gives him a good overview of what's going on in the world, and by extension, the office.
In addition he presides over the copy printers, the wire-photo machines and, most recently, the company's new FAX machine.
And although they do not fall directly under his purview, he says he often finds himself clearing out the copy machines when they jam up, "not because I'm a wizard or anything - it's more a matter of being in the right place at the wrong time."
Sometimes, though, he's there at the right time. Like the day James Stewart dropped by the office and Cole took the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much he admired his work. One of his favorite films is "It's a Wonderful Life."
He still vacations from time to time in Hollywood and last summer took out a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times wishing a favorite actress happy birthday. He generally passes up things like the amusement-parky Universal Studio tour, though, in favor of the more production-oriented trips some of the other studios offer. (Reportedly the last time he was on the Warner lot in Burbank he knew more about who had had what offices in the old days than the tour guide.)
In short, he is a buff, of the gentle and likable variety. And should you require obscure information on anything from Glenn Miller's first recording session (down to who sat behind the mikes) to a complete list of Lisa Jane Persky films (do you even know the name?) he's the man to go to. But you'd better be prepared for an answer.