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May, 2006


The pioneer financial show host, Louis Rukeyser, died early this month, on 5/2/06, at the age of 73, following a battle of several years with multiple myeloma. Also a lecturer, columnist, financial newsletter editor, and writer, Lou was the original source of popular information on the economy and investing, first with an approximately 32 years' weekly PBS program, "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser," and later with a CNBC show, which he then moderated until cancer intervened. Lou's entertaining, stylish, charming, funny (or "punny"), smart, personality-plus but down-to-earth approach, yet almost always looking like he was just sitting down each week for an unrehearsed conversation with a few intelligent friends, proved to be a winning formula that catapulted him from being simply a political correspondent to America's favorite investment guru, so popular and steady that several have said he reminded them of the image of George Washington on a dollar bill. In the course of a long, distinguished television career, he would win many honors and awards.

Several also have noted that watching his shows was better than college courses for informing viewers in a common sense way of the otherwise mysterious and often disconcerting obscurities or ups and downs of investing.

For me, one of his programs' best features was the audience exposure he provided to some of the very finest minds extant in the investment field, the likes of John Templeton, Peter Lynch, Martin Zweig, or his own economics columnist father, Merryle S. Rukeyser, Sr.

Another plus from regularly watching Lou's show was that before long one gained a calmer, more optimistic perspective on the fluctuations of the stock market than seemed to prevail on either Wall or Main Street.

Lou was born on 1/30/33, in the midst of the Great Depression. In his life he would see not just his personal fortunes mushroom but the rise of the entire country from a place of breadlines to the most wealthy and vital economy in the world.

He graduated from Princeton in 1954, having specialized in the public aspects of business. From this background he began his career with work as a political and foreign correspondent. Later, he was a senior correspondent and commentator for ABC News.

On the Charlie Rose Show, he summed up his PBS program's success by pointing out, to paraphrase, that there were three essential elements: people's natural interest in having more money; knowing a little something about the subject; and presenting it with a certain flair, since "you have to get them into the tent!"

Louis Rukeyser was not without a clay foot or two. Though never to the point it seriously cracked his charming facade, Lou had an obvious ego, liked to be completely in change of his show, and could occasionally get testy if a panel member did not express things to suit his own point of view. And when long time panelist, Gail Dudak, one of the program's technical "elves" in the late 1990s repeatedly failed to go along with his official bullish line, instead giving a rational defense for the more cautious, bearish stance she felt appropriate as the dot-com bubble was in full exuberance, he publicly belittled her and then forced her off the show. Once, only months later, the severe bear market of which she had so often warned began, in early 2000, Lou was far less than gracious in admitting an error, still rationalizing his prior castigation and firing of her, even implying she had only gotten it right by chance.

Notwithstanding such evidence of a little hubris, as an investments cheerleader, communicator, and entertainer, Lou was a giant and broke the mold. Many have followed him into financial show host chairs, but for me nobody has done the job better.

On a more personal note, I grew up in a large family of eight children. Both in youth and well into our adulthood, there was a large emphasis at my folks' place on the virtues and wisdom of saving or investing. There was no more eloquent spokesperson for this point of view in our acquaintance than Lou as seen on "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser," a show to which the television was invariably tuned for over thirty years every Friday evening when folks were home.

Whether we were old enough to follow the programs carefully or absorbed it more by osmosis, as some say unborn kids can learn to appreciate music from hearing it while still in the womb, Lou had an influence on most of us.

Who knows? He may even have had a part to play in my brother, Frank, becoming a financial consultant and later running an office branch for the Raymond James brokerage company, or in my brother, John, having developed a keen interest in stocks and investing, which later inspired me to give this craft a try.

Thanks to both parents being devoted to the merits of buying stocks or stock mutual funds and to regularly imbibing Lou's witty, sanguine approach to popularizing the hobby, when growing up or visiting at our folks' house, a love of equities came almost as naturally as breathing the air or enjoying fresh, homegrown veggies.

My mom, Julia, put it this way:

"I think we first started watching the financial news with Lou Rukeyser in Austin after Leon retired. We had already begun an investment program years before in Falls Church, VA, and at that time did not have a television set. When we moved to Austin and discovered the Friday night program with Lou, we were immediately thrilled to find this urbane individual who, with a varied panel of experts, would try to be make the watching public more knowledgeable of the ins and outs of the stock market. We especially found it interesting that he would have predictions from each of the panelists and check on them at six month intervals. At the end of the year there was always a black tie and tuxedo program when the new year would be toasted in, and an announcement would be made of the best on down to the worst predictions.

I recall the frequent visits of Julia Walsh, the first woman I had known of who was recognized for her expertise in stock investing. Since I had become acquainted with her on the "Wall Street Week," I made a point of going to hear her speak when she came to Austin--sometime in the 1970s as I recall. I still remember the story she told of how, when she was widowed with four small boys to provide for, she enlisted the help of her mother-in-law to care for the boys and began to learn how to invest in stocks. But that is another story.

Of Lou, Leon and I never tired of looking forward to our Friday evenings with his program. I was dismayed that public television dropped him and never found, to this day, another of similar caliber to replace him. For awhile he did come to another channel. Yet all too soon he was gone. Later we learned he was battling cancer. I wonder whether the stress and sadness he felt at having his program taken away contributed to the breakdown of his body. It was a long time from the beginning to the end and I fear that his last few years were dreadful. Not a good reward for all the years of proving to be of such service to his listening audience.

I watched as several times Lou had his father on his program, giving sage advice, and perhaps basking in the approbation his son displayed.

I think I would find it interesting to walk memory lane and see again some of those programs. I am sorry that I never wrote a fan letter to let Lou know how much he meant to us. I suppose I thought that other more important people would do that. Anyway, I did appreciate him, and he was so unique that I am afraid I will never see his equal again. It was one thing that Leon and I could share every week and that was good."

Lou's many fans are sorry to have to say "Goodbye." He will be very much missed. Our heartfelt sympathies to his family.

Longtime TV Host Lou Rukeyser Dead at 73.
Available at; May 3, 2006.

(Note: We shall resume normal investment ideas and recommendations in next month's issue.)


Larry is not a professional. Don't take him seriously!

Actually, the investment article provided here is for general information only and should not be considered as professional advice, a solicitation to buy or sell any security, or the Word of God. Investors are encouraged to do their own research while considering their personal goals and circumstances, or consult their own professional financial advisors, before making investment decisions. Neither Larry nor LARVALBUG will be liable for any losses sustained by any visitor to this site.

(Disclosure statement: Larry and Val have holdings in some of the suggested assets but do not "make a market" in any of them and do not derive any direct benefit from recommending them, except perhaps for a bit of smug self-satisfaction.)

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