You Don't Need A Speedo Or A Credo To Succeed -- Become Fascinate With Other People


At the curious age of 10, I read in the Herald, "If you want to be popular, pay three honest compliments a day."

You have to meander the macadam to find strangers to compliment. I would take long walks to find new bodies. I would say, "Like that tie!" Or "That color is great on you." Waiting at the bus stop, I would compliment whoever walked by.

Going downtown I would ride elevators to find new people. It became built-in. It never occurred to me that I was speaking to strangers who might not like my comment. I didn't linger, just would say my piece and keep moving.

It was good preparation for my journalism career. I was unafraid of strangers. Strangers are only people you haven't met yet. And I never had one person "harrumph!" and give me a wide berth to get away. What I would learn from a shrink years later was "People like being noticed."

Daddy always said with his Danish accent, "If you think good, you get good." My friends were fascinated with his accent. Juliann (Mrs. Linwood) Anderson would say, "Keep talking, Mr. Nielsen. We love to hear how you talk." Daddy's voice sounded like Jean Hersholt (also Danish-born), an actor who played the very popular "Dr. Christian" on radio.

Polly Lux, whose Miami beach oceanfront home Daddy decorated, would be loath to see him depart at the end of his work day. She loved the sound of his voice. He painted ivy leaves around her fireplace, she told me years later, after she had married banker Baron de Hirsch Meyer and became a leading socialite. (She was the first woman in the U.S. to hold a building contractor's license.)

Liberace, during his appearance at the Fontainebleau also told my daddy he loved to hear him talk. Ben Novack had hired my dad to be painting contractor for his Fontainebleau Hotel. And he kept him on with a crew of 14 painters to maintain the hotel's pristine beauty.

Daddy was a member of the Painters local (union shop) and was very particular about the quality of his painters. One day he came home from work and told Mom and me the Business Agent for the Local was pressuring Daddy to hire his brother-in-law, who was a "bean picker" and no way a painter. My father forbid the "bean picker" to come on the job. The business agent put the heat on and my dad had to quit the union rather than let "that foolishness" take place.

That subject was never brought up again. When the Cuban exodus exploded onto Miami, refugees would work for $2 an hour to do painting jobs. So I became the breadwinner, and the folks were my chief babysitters. I would pick up Dr. and Mrs. Jack Camp's three youngsters in the morning and drive all seven of them to Riviera Day School.

Mrs. Loren Coppock, who had sponsored me to join her sorority (Delta Zeta) owned the school, and gave my children free tuition. I did her typing at night and wrote my daily column for the Miami Daily News; the Coppocks got good publicity by having school activities photographed. When I was beauty editor at the newspaper, I would get all kinds of samples and used that makeup for our summer camp theatricals.