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NAMESAKE PASSES ON, BUT THE AURA LINGERS

I WAS HONESTLY sentimental to learn that my namesake, Dennis Morgan, the incomparable Irish tenor, passed away at the age of 85.

My mother idolized him. Her favorite Dennis Morgan song was "My Wild, Irish Rose," and when I was growing up, she used to say that not only did I sing tenor, but I had wavy hair like his.Well, the hair is gone, my voice has lowered to the point that I mostly sing bass - and I never even came close to his commanding height of 6 feet 2 inches.

But I always liked Morgan as an ingratiating actor who often teamed with the wacky Jack Carson in movies. They were an alternative version to crooner Bing Crosby and comedian Bob Hope.

Probably because I was a kid, the movie I remember most was "God is My Co-Pilot," in which Morgan played a non-singing Pacific flier.

But mostly he played in light musical comedies, like "It's a Great Feeling," with Doris Day. He looked great, sang beautifully and always got the girl.

What more could you ask?

I'm happy to have his name.

Ironically, his real name was not even Dennis. He was born Stanley Morner, and lived in the days when movie magnates changed names to ones they thought would strike the public.

Unfortunately, he retired early - in his 50s - to be a rancher. Anyone with a true, lilting tenor like his should never retire unless the voice gives up first.

- Now that Robert Redford has released his much publicized movie, "Quiz Show," taken straight from the 1950s, I've been struck with another memory, this one painful.

I vividly remember Charles Van Doren as the star contestant on the riveting Revlon-sponsored show, "The $64,000 Question," emceed by Hal March.

I thought Van Doren was warm and charismatic, and I accepted him at face value.

The movie emphasizes the contrasting roles of the agitated, nerdy Herbert Stempel and Van Doren, the smooth, more patrician Columbia English instructor.

Of course, it turned out the show, along with "Twenty-One," was a fraud, and that both Van Doren and Stempel were given the answers to those tough questions they perspired over in the so-called "isolation booth."

It ruined Van Doren, who has been pretty well isolated in his Connecticut home ever since.

But only someone who lived through the era could really appreciate what a big deal it was.

Like millions of Americans, I never missed one of Van Doren's appearances. He seemed so erudite, so articulate, and yet so unaffected. There was essentially no ego evident in his appearances.

He seemed to be employing his intellect in the best possible way, and really deserved the fame and money.

The suspense was overpowering. I could see the wheels of his magnificent brain working. Although a huge TV audience admired him, he disappointed them by exhibiting hypocrisy instead of knowledge.

Stempel, who did what he was told, blew the whistle on Van Doren when he was forced to lose to him.

Now he is giving interviews - providing the money is tempting enough, while Van Doren stays at home in Connecticut. This has got to be the worst year for him since 1957.

I was only one of millions watching on a TV screen, but the experience helped make me a skeptic, one who watches and listens to people very carefully in all situations.

Over the years I have seen many different Charles Van Dorens, who have turned out to be someone other than who they said they were.

I have never been as surprised as I was the first time.