As most of you know, I was director of information for the Nixon for President campaign nationally. That fact is strange on many levels, the most basic of which is that I am a conservative and consider anyone from the West Coast an alien. If I had my way, California would be returned to Mexico. But that is just one of life’s little ironies.
Here’s how I got connected with a presidential campaign. The Nixon people, in an attempt to make themselves acceptable to more voters, hired a trendy campaign planner.
They wanted to make a movie and were impressed with my “National Drivers’ Test,” which had become the highest rated public affairs program in the history of television. This led to their trying to pirate someone for the campaign, which left them with an oft-repeated response: “We don’t know anybody good who isn’t a liberal.”
Finally, they came to the producer of the “National Drivers’ Test” film, who was himself a liberal. He told them “I know this guy out in the Midwest who does all of these wild and crazy things, yet is a conservative.”
That led me to Leonard Garment at Nixon, Rose, Mudge, Alexander, Mitchell, and Guthrie and probably a few other heady names.
Len was head of the litigation department and he never lost a case. He was also a liberal. So I flew to New York and met with Len, who tipped off John Mitchell that we were out reducing the local steak population by two, and flew back to Chicago.
After a few dust-ups, I was stamped okay. I returned to New York and made the rounds. Buchanan and Price wrote - to use the term loosely - speeches, and I handled everything else.
One afternoon, Len said he’d like to have me out for a party at his house with his New York friends. A little while later, he asked me if I would mind bringing Jo Guthrie to the event and generally watching over her. It was a costume party, so I just came as myself – a conservative on the East Coast.
All went well until a sudden lurch caused Jo to lose one of her famous headlights, which sort of rolled around and flattened out. That was the beginning of a series of events each more bizarre than the preceding one.
Another night, Len invited me over to his house in Brooklyn Heights to meet a couple of members of the group that surrounded comedian Dick Gregory. That afternoon, I picked up a loose football I found in Len’s house and threw it to him. He caught it nicely, and it was only after that that I discovered Len fancied himself a potential All-American.
I had just come off a year in Colorado where I, too, had developed my pass-catching skills to a point where I thought of myself as the next Don Hudson. That night, the Gregory people came to Len’s house. Among them was a woman named Barbette, who seemed to be in charge, and a character about four feet tall.
After an exhausting evening, during which I had to keep my tongue at the ready, we went to a Gregory event where, I must say, he was superb. More later.