Thoughts on Armstrong's determination to have a private life
How does a writer crank out a 1,000-word piece on an individual without interviewing him? In 1976, UC's director of information Al Kuettner admirably pulled it off for the Birmingham, Ala., Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber wanted an article on Neil Armstrong, who was a UC engineering professor at the time. The feature would be placed in Birmingham Magazine to draw attention to the chamber presenting the first man on the moon with an award of some kind.
Kuettner received the request, but he was keenly aware of Armstrong's aversion to interviews and public attention. In fact, later that year, the UC director would mention to the professor, "I have spent a good deal of my time at UC trying to insure that exploiters and nuts — in the press and elsewhere — do not harass you."
"Exploiters" included hordes of people seeking Armstrong's endorsement for products, and "nuts" included Armstrong's long-time barber, who actually gathered his customer's newly shorn hair and sold it for a reported $3,000.
Of course, the quantity of time Kuettner had spent trying to shield Armstrong provided the writer with a clear understanding of the celebrity's "other side." And his resulting piece is quite insightful.
Kuettner gave the final piece to Armstrong for approval, and it was only sent to that single publication. So here is the article — for the first time printed outside of Birmingham.
(First-man-on-the-moon and former UC professor Neil Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at 82 years of age.)