Valenti dons beret, monocle

Honorary Lifetime Membership

This just in: Jack Valenti has no plans to direct a picture. At least not yet.

In a long and varied career, Valenti has done everything from piloting a bomber in World War II to running an ad agency to serving as an adviser to President Johnson. There’s also the matter of heading the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Hollywood’s lobbying arm, for the past 34 years.

But aside from writing four books — no mean feat — Valenti’s creative side has been somewhat suppressed, as he readily admits, which is why he particularly liked the decision by the Directors Guild of America to give him an honorary lifetime membership.

“It’s seldom given to people who are not part of the creative community,” says Valenti, speaking by phone from Berlin before boarding a plane for Madrid, Spain. “In my own modest and clumsy way I like to believe I’m on the outer edge of the creative community.”

Now that he’ll be carrying a DGA member’s card in his wallet, Valenti ‘s career options ostensibly would widen.

“There’s not a single member of the DGA who’s worried that I’m going to take their job from them — none of them are shivering with envy,” says Valenti.

Valenti did consider writing a screenplay based on his political novel “Protect and Defend” (edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and not to be confused with Richard North Patterson’s legal thriller of the same name).

“My novel’s been optioned three times,” he says. “The last time, it was suggested that I work with the director on writing the screenplay. In the end, I declined. I’d rather have a professional screenwriter do that.”

Valenti, when not traveling the globe advocating copyright protection or signing cultural exchange agreements — the purpose of his recent European trip — has been urging Hollywood players to avoid a walkout by actors and writers this summer.

“The idea of a strike is so calamitous and so full of potential devastation that I think wise people on both sides of that table will find common ground for an agreement,” he says. “A strike is unthinkable.”

Valenti, who will officially receive his life membership at the DGA Awards banquet March 10, is the 37th recipient of the honor since it was first presented in 1938. Prior recipients of the lifetime membership award include Barry Diller, Sidney Jay Sheinberg, Charles Champlin, Jack L. Warner and Walt Disney.

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