He was this close!
Minus the hand gesture and the helicopter
This is a story about me and Dick.
No, it has nothing to do with sex. Not directly anyway.
It is rather a story about me and former President of the United States Richard M. Nixon and the evening we had dinner together at a restaurant in Philadelphia in the mid 198o's. Those of you who regularly watch Fox News can stop salivating. I didn't get to meet the man, share ripostes, or lovingly wipe his chin of butter sauce, although I was close enough to profoundly admire his bridgework.
I am somewhat of an autograph hound. That is, I am interested in celebrities (at least those born before 1970) and possessed of a keen desire to feel in some way connected to them. Unfortunately I am not overly blessed with THE GUTS TO APPROACH THEM! And therein lies the tale.
"That's Richard Nixon!" said my date Ellen as a familiar foursome walked into the restaurant in which we were seated in the midst of our second date that evening. Looking up, I recognized the former President of the United States, his wife Pat, his daughter Julie, and her husband David Eisenhower being led to a table not 15 feet from us.
"Let's get his autograph!" Ellen cried. "C'mon, Perry let's go!"
"No, no, no, no!" I shot back. "He's a crook and cheat and we don't want or need his autograph!" I said firmly, lying my ass off --- not about Mr. Nixon ---but about my reason for keeping said ass planted securely in my restaurant seat.
"Perry, he is a major world leader of the twentieth century!"
"Ellen, he's probably surrounded by secret service men. We'll be grabbed and whisked away for exhaustive interrogation by two sadistic cops straight out of central casting! Trust me, they won't let anyone get near him!"
Now I've used this excuse many times before, including the time I failed to pursue the autograph of Rupert G, the guy who runs the deli next to The David Letterman Show. But it seemed to quiet down Ellen, who thereupon settled into her French Onion Soup and our dinner conversation, the former hopefully a bit warmer than the latter.
An hour and a half later as we received the check and Mr. Nixon and his entourage rose to leave, two sweet little blond girls, about four and six years old respectively, ran up to the former President and asked for his autograph.
They were not grabbed.
They were not whisked away for exhaustive interrogation by two sadistic cops straight out of central casting.
They didn't even look like Republicans.
Mr. Nixon flashed his jowly smile so broadly it appeared he was about to shoot his arms into the air and make the patented victory sign so often dispensed during his Presidency. He seemed truly delighted, almost as if he now felt vindicated at long last in the eyes of history, his fellow man, and the two little girls, for whom he graciously signed autographs. They beamed with happiness.
My dinner date was not beaming so happily.
"Well, Ellen," I stammered, "it ... uh ... looks like maybe we ...um .... did squander a bit of an opportunity here."
"That's not the only opportunity you've squandered here, jerk!" she said.
And that's the story about my dinner with Dick. And though I didn't actually get to meet the 37th President of the United States, I do have this to say about him:
Damn you, Richard Nixon!
On that particular evening, you really were a crook!
A shorter version of this piece was published in the Broad Street Review under the title Foiled by Tricky Dick. And I was.