No, I wasn’t being called back to active Navy duty–after 62 years–Mike Mullen, on the phone, was just returning my call. He warmly apologized for the two-week delay–he too, gets phone messages lost on his cell phone. I’d originally called to congratulate Admiral Mullen, Chief Of Naval Operations, when I learned it was expected he’d be appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Oct. 1. I first knew Mullen as the teenage son (he’s 61) of Hollywood press agents Jane and Jack Mullen. We were neighbors in the San Fernando Valley. The five Mullen children and the Archerd duo were contemporaries. And my daughter Mandy, who lives in Annapolis, attended his swearing-in ceremonies as CNO two years ago at the Naval Academy.
The Mullen name headed a unique story in Daily Variety on September 28, 1972. The Admiral’s father, Jack, had died two days earlier at age 54 after suffering a heart attack at Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport. He’d been in Vegas with clients Rip Taylor and the Establishment. At the funeral, Variety noted, “Ancient tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and modern rock melded together at the requiem Mass of the Resurrection for publicist Jack Mullen at the mausoleum chapel of Holy Cross.” The Establishment sang numbers from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” who were clients of McFadden, Straus and Irwin, the praisery of which Mullen was senior vice president. “Applause echoed through the marble halls of hallowed ground” and afterward, as the Mullens’ four sons carried the casket to its interment, they sang “Day by Day,” son Kevin recalled for me. After the service, Mike, then a Navy Lieutenant, left for his second tour of duty in Vietnam.
Press agent Jack Mullen was loved by all in the biz, many of his surviving press agent friends relate to me. And their praise is equaled for Jack’s wife Jane, who took on press agentery after his death and rose to Vice President of Frank Liberman’s also highly-respected pubbery. She died Jan. 12, 1993, a cancer victim at 73. The Mullens first met when both worked at Republic Studios. The five Mullen children were no strangers to names like Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Carol Burnett, Dennis Weaver, Peter Graves and Rip Torn, a few of their clients. “They cared about the people they represented,” one veteran publicist reminds me. Admiral Mullen, who got an appointment to the Naval Academy at age 17 and rose to its highest rank, told me of the love he received from his parents. “I wouldn’t be here it if weren’t for both of them.” As for the next chapter in his official duties, he said, “I consider it a great privilege and I hope we can make a difference.” Among Mullen’s recent brushes with Hollywood was his appearance at the last D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) convention’s 116th Congress where Bo Derek was an honoree for her work with wounded veterans. Derek had also grown up in the San Fernando Valley near the Mullens. Admiral Mullen had also visited the set of CBS’ “NCIS” (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) on a sound stage in Chatsworth. Mike Mullen and wife Deborah have two sons, Michael and John, both Naval officers. John just returned from Iraq. For Deborah’s birthday, Admiral Mullen is taking his wife to see “Jersey Boys” on B’way. Mullen’s brothers are Sean, Kevin, Peter, and sister Marykate. Jane and Jack Mullen’s house in the Valley is still owned by son Kevin who is President of KGMullen Inc. while younger brother Peter heads the technical and mechanical department of the specialized building company which includes among current clients, the in-construction 14,000 square foot home of Armyan Bernstein.