Frank Holeman, the late founding director of the Tire Industry Safety Council, knew everything and everybody in Washington. That in itself is not remarkable; this town specializes in people who know everything and everybody. But unlike most of the other Beltway pundits, Frank shared his knowledge with others generously, self-effacingly, without any apparent need Holeman
to promote himself. Perhaps as a result of this-or perhaps just because he was a heckuva nice guy-Frank was beloved by everyone who knew him. This is extremely rare, in Washington or anywhere.
Frank was memorable enough to be the subject of a hundred ``Most Unforgettable Character'' profiles, yet he never traded on his singularity. Imposing both through size (he was 6 feet 7 inches tall) and force of character, he seemed to feel it was unmannerly to ever let on that he knew this.
Whenever he phoned me, he always said, ``Hi Miles, Frank Holeman-howarya?'' He never acknowledged that-with his rumbling, drawling bass voice like absolutely none other-he never had to identify himself.
Lunching with friends at the Palm or the old Chez Camille, Frank was the soul of hospitality. Over a Beefeater Gibson or two (or three), he would regale you with stories of all the notables he had met, from Averell Harriman to George Harrison.
These stories were remarkable for wit, geniality, and the utter indifference of the storyteller to aggrandizing himself. And, at the same time, Frank would tip you off to this or that interesting document on file at this or that agency.
He would tell you about it, even if it didn't necessarily support his own interests; he was that fair-minded.
The last time I saw Frank was three weeks before his death Sept. 23-ironically, at the memorial service for Dominic Olivieri (longtime RMA vice president of market information services). I knew he had written his memoirs, and I asked if he had found a publisher.
No, he said, with just a tinge of sadness. All the publishers he had contacted told him his name wasn't big enough to guarantee sales.
Those publishers don't know what they're missing. Frank Holeman could have been a big name, had he wanted that. He preferred to be a big man, and he was-in every conceivable sense of the term.