Suddenly (to Gore), TCI chief is terrific


January 19, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Who was that man in the white hat out in Los Angeles last week?

You know, the guy whose company Vice President Al Gore singled out for praise in a major telecommunications speech?

The man whose public commitment to extend the "information superhighway" into all the schools in his service area won vice presidential accolades for leadership?

It was none other than John C. Malone, president of Tele-Communications Inc., who has long been reviled by consumer advocates and competitors as the arch-monopolist Darth Vader of the cable-TV industry. So legendary are his hard-nosed business practices that he has been denounced by a U.S. senator as the "godfather" of a cable "Cosa Nostra."

That senator? Al Gore.

Credit for this image alchemy likely goes to Bell Atlantic Corp. and its chairman, Ray Smith, who seems to have taught his intended merger partner a few tricks when it comes to government relations. Certainly, the company's decision to stage pre-emptive announcement that it provide free connections to advanced data networks for one-quarter of the country's public schools was a public relations master stroke.

Now, if we could only merge Bell Atlantic and Iraq. . . .

And now for something completely different

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition on CD-ROM.

That, however, is precisely what you will get when 7th Level, a new multimedia-entertainment company, introduces its interactive version of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" for Windows later this year.

The program is the result of a recent agreement between the Dallas-based 7th Level and Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd., the corporate representative of the legendary British comedy troupe that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

7th Level's president, George Grayson, promised that the interactive Python would be every bit as "anarchic" as the group's celebrated BBC television series.

Mr. Grayson said the program would include some of the troupe's most familiar sketches, as well as previously unreleased film from the Python archives and some new material.

The 7th level president said his creative director is working with the Python veterans Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones to put together the material. The other living Pythons are Eric Idle and John Cleese.

Users of the program can expect to be periodically squashed. "We'll absolutely have The Foot," Mr. Grayson said. The program will be available in software outlets in May or June.

Mr. Grayson is the founder and former chief executive of Micrographics, a business graphics software publisher. He formed 7th Level along with two colleagues last year to create "a new wave of interactive products," drawing on the founders' Hollywood connections.

The company's first product, a children's "interactive cartoon" with comedian Howie Mandel called "Tune Land," will be on the market within a few weeks, he said.

"I used to joke I spent 10 years making people more productive," he said. "Now, I'm spending the next 10 years trying to take it all back. Monty Python is the first step."


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