A new 'tune 'tude

SOCIAL ISSUES: Warner Bros.' tolerance campaign is a personal victory for one O.C. advocate.

The Orange County Register-June 13, 1997
From San Juan Capistrano

Demons haunt Ira Zimmerman. Schoolyard demons, some of them 5 decades old.

Zimmerman vividly remembers his childhood days in Brooklyn's P.S. 196, when juvenile tormentors taunted him for his stutter and his weight, calling him P-P-Porky Pig -- or worse. Those demons drove Zimmerman, 56, to court national ridicule. He was the guy who two years ago stood up at a Time Warner Inc. annual meeting and demanded the conglomerate retire its stammering, animated pig.

Today the retired aerospace worker is claiming victory -- sort of. Porky isn't on the endangered species list, but Warner Bros. agreed to use the pig on a Web-site poster promoting tolerance.

The poster, which can be downloaded from wbanimation. com/cmp/kidspstr.htm shows cartoons and children, some with handicaps, above the caption, "Everyone's Unique & Th-Th-That's Good Folks!"

In Zimmerman's eyes, corporations have a moral obligation to combat schoolyard taunting. He says the poster was worth enduring the rolled eyes of entertainment executives, a national ribbing on Howard Stern's talk show, ridicule from critics of political correctness and the embarrassed shushing of stutterers' advocacy groups, including the National Stuttering Project, where he was a board member

"They need money from the public and have to worry about their image, " Zimmerman said. "I, on the other hand, wasn't exactly worried about that."

The poster idea was born during a heated discussion this spring with Warner's Barbara Brogliatti, an entertainment-industry veteran who cut her teeth with producer Norman Lear and his controversial 1970s sitcom "All in the Family."

"I always question the motives of people who go to the press first and then go to the network" demanding change, said Brogliatti, although she credits Zimmerman for "planting the seed" for a tolerance campaign.

Zimmerman said he sold his Time Warner shares Monday for a tidy profit.

His next target? General Electric, because its network, NBC, aired a news segment about a stuttering therapy that Zimmerman thinks is bogus. This time he's going straight to the top: GE Chairman John F. Welch Jr.

"I think we should meet," Zimmerman said.

added June 15, 1997