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‘Enquirer’ capsule just held soggy news

Last week we told the history of the National Enquirer and Generoso Pope Jr.

Randy Hefelfinger, now of Kennesaw , Ga., recalled helping fill a time capsule buried at the tabloid’s Lantana complex around 1973.

Here’s the rest:

In 2000, the company broke Lantana’s heart by picking up and moving to gleaming new headquarters in Boca Raton.

Everything was rosy — until Oct. 5, 2001. Photo editor Bob Stevens, who had opened a letter containing a white powder, died of anthrax poisoning. Soon others had been exposed in other parts of the country.

Coming weeks after Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks generated a whole new round of terror. The building was sealed. And the Enquirer and sister publications at American Media Inc. eventually moved to New York.

But what of the time capsule?

The Post rarely wrote about the Enquirer — except about what was touted as the world’s largest decorated Christmas tree — and no mention of the capsule was found in Post archives.

A July 1980 article in the old Miami News did mention that it “contains the paper’s creed, a good-news gospel that has attracted millions of faithful readers.”

It said a plaque on the capsule read, “The National Enquirer newspaper on Feb. 28, 1974, buried here a sealed capsule containing good news items of 1973. When opened on Feb. 28, 2074, these items will prove that despite the many crises of the year 1973, Americans still showed the courage, kindness and strength that made this country great.”

AMI corporate folks in New York checked around, with no luck. So we started contacting current and former Enquirer staff, many still living in South Florida. Most didn’t want to be named but did pass along recollections.

“Time capsule was under the sundial right in the middle of the gardens to the west of the old main entrance,” one wrote. Another ended our mystery. He said that, weeks before the move to Boca in 2000, “the capsule was opened. Nothing but soggy newspapers. A non-happening.”


The American flag flies at half staff on Oct. 3, 1988, at the Lantana headquarters of the National Enquirer, in honor of Generoso Pope Jr., who died the day before. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg March 1, 2012 at 10:21 am.

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‘Enquirer’ mogul blazed trail for tabloids

Question: “Does anyone know what happened to the National Enquirer time capsule? When we were kids, we put stuff in it. I think it was in 1973.” — Randy Hefelfinger, Kennesaw Ga.

Answer: This gives us an opportunity to profile yet another person and business that came to South Florida and added to our wild and colorful narrative. It’s too good to limit to one column, so we’ll do two.

We start with Generoso Pope Jr. His father had come from Italy alone at 15 with $10 in lira in his pocket and become one of the most powerful men in New York.

After the senior Pope’s death, in 1950, his wife and two older sons voted Generoso Jr. out of the businesses of family construction supplies, publishing and broadcasting .

Gene Pope borrowed from gangster Frank Costello and bought the foundering New York Enquirer for $75,000.

Within a decade, he’d morphed it into the wildly successful — “UFOs!” “Elvis!” “Scandalized politicians!” — National Enquirer tabloid.

And he’d discovered a potential gold mine in a changing marketplace. Instead of newsstands — now pretty much extinct outside of big cities — he started selling his screaming headlines in the supermarket checkout line.

Like so many others, Gene Pope saw more streets of gold — in the tropics. In 1971, he moved his operation to a quiet settlement along Federal Highway known as Lantana.

“Generoso Pope was called a gossip monger, digging out the most sensational tidbits to be found about celebrities,” former

Post colleague Belinda Brockman wrote when he died in October 1988. “He was called a taskmaster, sharing the 60-hour workweeks of his employees. And he was called a humanitarian, quietly giving millions to the struggling and ailing. But most of all. Mr. Pope was the tabloid king — the man who gave the American public just exactly what ‘inquiring minds want to know.’ ”

Pope died young, at 61, like his father, who died at 59.

The family sold the properties for $412 million. It eventually became American Media and included other tabloids. The properties were sold again in 1999 for $835 million.

Next week: Time capsule.


Generoso Pope Jr. looks at a copy of the National Enquirer’s legendary 1977 front page photo of Elvis Presley in his coffin. Pope moved his tabloid operation from New York to Lantana in 1971. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg February 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm.

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This week in history: Perry buys Palm Beach newspapers

On Feb. 17, 1947 Palm Beach resident John H. Perry Sr. bought The Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Times and Palm Beach Daily News. Perry’s son, John H. Perry Jr., inherited the papers when his father died in 1952, and revolutionized newspaper production with new cold type, computer and engraving technologies. He owned the papers until 1969, when they were purchased by Cox Enterprises Inc. In his 2006 obituary the younger Perry was remembered as a man who “built submarines, invented pioneering newspaper technology, flew Army planes and worked to develop renewable energy — not exactly a dull life, but not enough to satisfy him. So he developed a national economic plan, helped prepare a national ocean program and invented a deep-sea recovery vehicle that became the center of a Smithsonian exhibit.”


In December 1965, rolls of newsprint are inspected at the Port of Palm Beach by ship’s Capt. Harold Landless (left), John H. Perry Jr., president of Perry Publications, Inc., (center) and Cecil B. Kelley Sr., publisher of the Palm Beach Post-Times. The 750-ton shipment was the first newsprint received through the port. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Flashback blog February 13, 2012 at 11:01 am.

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100 years ago today: Thomas Edison predicted the e-book

Or something like it. The June 23, 1911 Miami Metropolis reported Thomas Edison’s “predictions of an amazing nature,” including books “so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume.” A book two inches thick would contain forty thousand lightweight “leaves of nickel.” Edison had produced such sheets from nickel, “more flexible than paper and ten times as durable.”

Edison’s other predictions included steel furniture “converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood or mahogany or any other wood her ladyship fancies” and colossal flying machines that would enable one to “breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside” (likely referring to the street in London).

Click on the image below to read the 1911 Miami Metropolis story.

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Posted in Flashback blog June 22, 2011 at 9:46 am.

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Camp Murphy Message spotlighted local female wrestlers

Last week we told you about the collection of the Camp Murphy Message from the World War II base, now Jonathan Dickinson State Park. We’ve made the issues of the newspaper available online here at HistoricPalmBeach.com.

The papers had been saved by Robert Maertz of West End, Wis., near Milwaukee, who’d done radar training at the camp.

The family recently came across them in a box as Maertz prepared to move, daughter Sally Wise said this month.

Sally said her dad, who later ran a family clothing and general store, also had taken many photographs and “kept really detailed information. All the names are on the back.” She said he sent the pictures to his childhood sweetheart, whom he’d later marry.

It was Sally, a retired schoolteacher, who contacted the Post after deciding the public should have access to these treasures.

In a Nov. 5, 1943 photo (below), a lady flexes her muscles. A caption reads: “Carmelita Mullis, ‘Amazon Bone Crusher,’ will wrestle here in the Camp Murphy Ring on November 16. This female flounderer of feminine pulchritude will appear in an exhibition match with another of her fair sex.”

Carmelita, an Oct. 29, 1943 story says, was 18 and “a commercial artist during working hours.” It said she wasn’t a pro but had wrestled in exhibitions at area military bases. It said she was willing to wrestle any soldier between 120 and 130 pounds, including officers. By the Nov. 5, 1943, story, that offer had been rescinded.

The Nov. 12, 1943 article identified her opponent as “Annette Henderson, also of West Palm Beach.”

Sadly, we don’t have the Nov. 19 issue, and the Nov. 26 edition makes no mention of the epic match. But we weren’t nearly as intrigued as 58-year-old Danny Waters of Lake Park, son of Carmelita, “My goodness. I never had a clue. I never heard of any of this growing up,” he said this month.

He said his mom died young, in 1957, when he was 3, and his dad in 1972, when he was a teen.

Records show Bonnie Carmelita Mullis married Charles Eddie Waters. Son James, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, was born in 1950.

“I hardly knew my mom,” older son James said. “Fond memories, from what I can remember.”

Special thanks to Post staff researcher Michelle Quigley.

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The sports page of the Nov. 5, 1943, edition of the Camp Murphy Message featured an upcoming wrestling match featuring ‘Amazon Bone Crusher’ Carmelita Mullis.

Photos courtesy of Robert Maertz

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The note on the back of this photo from Robert Maertz lists, left to right, Geiger, Major, Mandarish, Dunn, Cook, Sgt. Schefts, Ney, Rynders, Lee, Eklund, Hanfland, Kurtz, Owen, Kissin, Maertz, Malek, Blumquist, Cohen, Henry, Polkowski (a few men are not identified).

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Left to right, Hanson, Mainwaring, Cook (one of the men is not identified)

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Robert Maertz at Camp Murphy

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Mass at Lummus Park

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Jay Walker on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach

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Urinals at Camp Murphy

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Tents set during 13 mile trek

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Ione Jensch, Robert Maertz’s fiancee

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Ione Jensch on the road to Jackson Beach near Stuart

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg and Our history in photos May 19, 2011 at 8:08 am.

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