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Q&A: UAW chief flew coach to Washington meeting on aid

Betty Hutton made 19 movies from 1942 to 1952.

Associated Press (1952)

Betty Hutton made 19 movies from 1942 to 1952.

UAW chief flew coach

Recently, the automobile executives had to admit they flew on their private jets to Washington to ask for money from the government. How did the labor leader travel to Washington for that hearing?

As you point out, the chief executives of Detroit's Big 3 auto manufacturers — GM's Rick Wagoner, Ford's Alan Mulally and Chrysler's Robert Nardelli — each flew to the hearings in their private corporate jets. They were there to plead for $25-billion from the government to help the ailing U.S. auto industry. The estimated cost of the private jet flights? About $20,000 for GM's, according to ABC News. A round-trip commercial flight between Detroit and Washington sold for about $300 coach, and about $850 first class.

Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., had this to say about the travel arrangements: "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at a soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. I mean, couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled?"

Also testifying at the hearing was Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. While he supports the aid to the industry, he also had this to say at the end of the hearing:

"I got a plane to catch," he said to reporters as he was leaving. "You know what I mean?" He flew coach on US Airways.

After fame, sad downward spiral

Can you tell me anything about Betty Hutton, the "blond bombshell" of the Big Band era?

Betty Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg on Feb. 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Mich. Her father abandoned the family, and Betty was brought up singing in the family's speakeasy.

In 1937 she was discovered and began her career, appearing in some musical shorts for Warner Brothers and on Broadway. She moved into motion pictures in 1942, appearing in secondary roles until her big break as the female lead for Bob Hope in 1943's Let's Face It. She made 19 movies between 1942 and 1952, the most successful being Annie Get Your Gun in 1950.

Along the way Hutton began to get the reputation of being difficult to work with. By 1952, after a couple of flops, she was out of the movie business. She moved on to radio and TV and had no better success. By 1970 she was battling alcohol and substance abuse, attempted suicide, divorced for a fourth time and declared bankruptcy.

In the late 1970s she went through rehab, converted to Roman Catholicism and took a job as a cook in a rectory in Rhode Island. She later went back to school for a degree in psychology, and she worked as a casino hostess, charity counselor and an acting teacher.

She returned to Palm Springs, Calif., in 1999, hoping to reconcile with her children and grandchildren. She died of colon cancer on March 11, 2007, at the age of 86. None of her three daughters attended the funeral.

Q&A: UAW chief flew coach to Washington meeting on aid 12/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:30am]
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