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News obituary for Cedar Rapids native who successfully sued two tobacco companies for $3.26 million; 1964 article on John Eastman May 9, 2008

Posted by John in Biography, Deaths, Entertainers, Jobs.
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From The Tampa Tribune:

TAMPA – John Eastman, a former Tampa radio and TV personality who successfully sued two tobacco companies for contributing to his nicotine addiction, died Sunday at age 79. …

In 2005, he collected more than $3.2 million from Philip Morris USA and the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. …

Eastman was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in August 1928. He once told the Tribune that he started smoking at age 12.

He started his broadcast career in the early 1950s as an announcer at a Sioux City, Iowa, radio station. He worked at radio stations in Cedar Rapids; Jacksonville; Mobile, Ala.; Los Angeles; and Pittsburgh. …

From St. Petersburg Times:

He got his first taste of Hollywood as an usher at a CBS theater in Los Angeles. Mr. Eastman, a boy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, knew he wanted to write scripts.

He co-wrote a 1965 episode of The Fugitive television show and did voiceover work. In the 1970s, he wrote a low-budget movie called Rooster. It was about cockfighting, but really, it was about “the conflict of mid-America’s system of values and attitude,” he once said. …

MUCH additional information about John Eastman from Cedar Rapids Gazette archives: It hasn’t been easy but — John Eastman Writes About Iowa and “The Fugitive” (August 23, 1964):

WHO’S John Eastman?

If you saw the Cedar Rapids Community Theater’s production of “Macbeth” last season, you undoubtedly noticed him in an outstanding performance as Macduff. If you listen to “The Iowa Story” on KCRG radio each weekday morning, you just may realize that he writes the scripts. …

This is a man who tried life in Hollywood and Miami and now has returned to the Cedar Rapids area where was born — to the home of his mother, Mrs. Hazle Gowans, in Marion — and who figures the ideal life would be at Stone City or somewhere else along the Wapsipinicon.

This is also a man who was admittedly foundering until a couple of years ago and then found himself when he found he had lymphatic cancer…

John Eastman was born in Cedar Rapids — the son of a well-known veterinarian, the late Dr. D. A. Eastman. The son intended to be a veterinarian, too, and went to Iowa State university at Ames to that end — “but then I found chemistry made me sick, actually and literally.”

So after he’d flunked out of Iowa State he went to the University of Florida to study journalism. And while he was there he wrote and produced a campus musical comedy.

Comedian Jerry Colonna was guest star and “He said he’d give me a job if I ever got to Hollywood. So I quit school the next day.”

Next chapter finds our young ex-student knocking at Colonna’s door and coming away empty-handed and so, like thousands of eager young hopefuls before and after him, he settled for something that would bring a regular paycheck until the pot o’gold.

Specifically, this was a job as a CBS usher—and Eastman recalls the glorious days when he dispensed free tickets… “I was also in charge of seat cushions under the proper people for the first ‘I Love Lucy’ show ever made,” he says gleefully now.

Then, “luckily,” he was drafted and put into air force security as a Russian linguist— fighting the good battle, of New York. His Russian now? “I could say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and maybe ‘Can I have a cigaret?’ “

After service it was back to Iowa and the University of Iowa campus, where he studied in the Ford Foundation project headed by that vastly successful play and movie writer, Richard Maibaum — and worked at KXIC in Iowa City and WMT in Cedar Rapids simultaneously with his
campus activities.

Of these days he recalls mostly sleepless nights and the fact that, during a short stint in the WMT weather tower, he once finger-painted the weather map on a pretty girl’s back. Fired? “No, but let us say that the relationship between the station and me was a little strained thereafter.” …

He is living and breathing Iowa history these days by reason of his “The Iowa Story” series, which is now being aired over 22 stations under auspices of the Iowa Electric Light and Power Company and the Iowa State Education Association (on KCRG each weekday morning for five minutes starting at 8:50). …

“Iowa Story” has been on the air for about a year. It has been the Eastman family’s bread and butter and allowed Eastman to proceed simultaneously with that great gamble that Is free-lance writing. He also hopes to put it on television, and he and Ken Butcher of Miami have been filming it in recent weeks.

The radio series, not so incidentally, was a prize-winner in a competition amid all advertising agencies handling public utility accounts in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. “Iowa Story” is not an academic history of the state. It’s a journalistic one says Eastman, dealing with a Lillian Russell, a Bob Feller, the Indians . . .

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