Walter Cronkite’s kiss unforgettable

Not many aspiring journalists have had a more memorable 21st birthday than Marina Nicola.

Then known as Marina Hansen and a junior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she was among a group being honored at the annual scholarship luncheon on Nov. 15, 1996.

As an ASU sophomore, she had won the Walter Cronkite award as an outstanding student, in part for her grade-point average and because she was already the morning assignment editor at KTVK-TV in Phoenix.

A special day got more interesting when the 1993 Valley High School graduate approached the legendary CBS anchor and brought up the names of her grandfather, Napoleon Valeriano and family friend Edward Lansdale.

Cronkite, a former CBS war correspondent, immediately recognized the names.

Valeriano, a distinguished World War II veteran, had managed to escape from a Japanese internment camp and hook up with Gen. Douglas MacArthur‘s forces in Australia.

Landsdale was a public relations/advertising executive on Wall Street before joining the CIA. He was said to be Graham Greene‘s inspiration for his 1955 novel “The Quiet American” and the model for the 1958 novel “The Ugly American” by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

At the end of her chat, Hansen mentioned it was her 21st birthday.

“Well,” said Cronkite, in that famous voice, “you need to get yourself a cocktail.”

He summoned a photographer and gave her a birthday kiss.

A couple months later, when he visited KTVK, she got him to sign the photograph.

One of her most prized possessions, it’s framed and front and center in her home.

“He was very involved in the school,” she said. “He often made appearances in classes and gave impromptu speeches about the importance of striving to have the most integrity possible as a journalist. The professors and staff loved working with him, because he was so involved, not a name on the door.”

After earning her bachelor of arts degree in less than four years, Hansen returned to Las Vegas to pursue public relations. She now is director of public relations for Wagner/Junker Agency, primarily working with Caesars Palace.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Film legend Tony Curtis discusses Hollywood’s golden era and his playboy days with wingmen like Hugh Hefner and Marlon Brando during our sitdown today at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road. He’ll be signing his book, “American Prince,” after I interview him about an oh-so-juicy career that spanned 122 films. Starts at 2 p.m. Hey, Hef, since you’re in town, stop by and share a bunny tale or two. …

The 11 p.m. newcast at KVBC-TV, Channel 3 got off to a red-faced start Friday. The opening tease was mispelled: “Walter Kronkite Dies.”

SIGHTINGS

Ozzy, Sharon and Jack Osbourne, doing their best impersonations of Superman while filming a UK reality show called “Jack Osbourne: Adrenalin Junky” on Saturday at Zero Gravity Corporation. After reaching weighlessness in a plane over Las Vegas, Jack pursued floating M&M’s like Pacman and his parents slurped water droplets dancing in front of their faces. … John Mayer, signing chef Barry Dakake‘s Wall of Fame on Friday at N9NE Steakhouse (Palms). Mayer made a point of signing his name next to blues legend Buddy Guy.

THE PUNCH LINE

“After two years of marriage, Amy Winehouse got divorced. … Toward the end, they were sleeping in separate gutters.” — Jimmy Fallon

Norm Clarke can be reached at 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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