Inherit the Windbag: Whos's Who and What's What
By Shirley Serotsky, Production Dramaturg
The Richard Nixon Library
Located near Anaheim, CA, the Richard Nixon Library features exhibits such as a replica of Nixon’s Oval Office (decorated by Pat Nixon in gold and deep blue) and an interactive station where visitors can role play as one of Nixon’s political advisors, making recommendations on significant issues like whether he should end the draft or offer assistance to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Richard Nixon served as the 37th President of the United States (1969-1974) after previously holding office as a US Representative and a US Senator from California. While his presidency was riddled with a great deal of scandal and controversy, Nixon did successfully pull America out of combat in Vietnam and improve international relations with the USSR and China. To this date, he is the only President to resign from office, as a result of the Watergate scandal.
Pat Nixon and Checkers
This reference most vividly brings to mind Nixon’s famous “Checker’s Speech”; delivered in September 1952 in response to charges that he had misused funds in a political expense account set up by supporters to help fund his campaign. In the speech he outlined in great detail his family’s financial holdings and revealed that the one gift he claims that they received was, “a little cocker spaniel dog ... black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers.” Some commentators believe that the address marked the emergence of a new conservative populism in America, one that appealed to social and cultural identity rather than economic interests.
ABC Buckley and Vidal Debates
In August 1968 ABC hired public figures Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. to engage in a series of political debates during the Republican National Convention in Miami and the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Considered one of the most famous debates of modern history, the network event attracted millions of viewers, and marked a shift where, some historians believe, television news producers started the trend of pitting liberals against conservatives to spark contentious disputes.
Buckley and the John Birch Society
In 1961, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote and published an editorial speaking out against the John Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch for their embrace of what he deemed radical conspiracy theories, a direction which he believed would harm the conservative party and damage its credibility.
Buckley was, in fact, a trained harpsichordist, and was said to have a harpsichord in each of his three residencies (NY, Connecticut, and Switzerland) as well as a portable, electric model. Over the years, Buckley appeared as an honorary soloist with a number of musical organizations, including the Phoenix Symphony and Opera Antica in Palm Beach, Florida.
In December 1971, Vidal appeared with Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show. Mailer was still outraged that months earlier, Vidal had compared him to Charles Manson in an essay he wrote for The New York Review of Books (he seemed less outraged that Vidal accused him of being anti-women’s lib) and he attacked him physically backstage, and verbally while on air. For the record, Mailer was married six times; it was his second wife, Adele Morales, whom he stabbed twice, nearly killing her.
1968 Democratic Convention Riots
In August of 1968, Chicago became the setting of both the Democratic Convention (at which Vice President Herbert Humphrey received the presidential nomination) and a series of protests and clashes between police and tens of thousands of protestors rallying for politicians and delegates to end the Vietnam War and to re-imagine the political and social status quo. Over 650 protestors were arrested, at least 100 were treated at local hospitals, and 49 police officers required medical treatment.
Buckley and peanut butter
Indeed, Buckley loved peanut butter. After publicly proclaiming his passion in his column in the National Review in 1981, he was sent a jar of peanut butter by Red Wing brand, a small manufacturer based in Western NY, near Buffalo. He was won over, and Red Wing peanut butter remained his favorite brand until his death.
Standing six feet tall, Pat Buckley was a noted fashion plate and an icon of Manhattan’s social and charity benefit circuit. A Canadian by birth and a lifelong smoker, she did, in fact, say, ““Life is very difficult and everything kills you…the only thing you can do nowadays is sit fully clothed in the woods and eat fruit.”
Buckley and James Baldwin
In February 1965 Buckley and Baldwin engaged in a debate at the University of Cambridge. Baldwin argued that the American dream existed at the expense of black Americans; Buckley came out in defense of segregation, claiming that forcing the American South to abandon its way of life and accept government-mandated integration would itself be immoral. In the end, the audience disagreed with Buckley, and Baldwin won the debate, 540 to 160
From 1955 to 1966, Jim Clark was the sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama, which includes Selma. During his time as sheriff, Clark made numerous decisions and gave frequent orders that instigated acts of violence against civil rights demonstrators, especially black Americans registering to vote.
Helen Gahagan Douglas
An actress and opera singer turned politician, Gahagan was elected to congress in 1944, a platform which she used to speak out about topics ranging from equal rights for women to civil rights for African Americans and protections for the American working class.
Gore Vidal, Lee Radziwill, and Truman Capote
Gore Vidal and Truman Capote were involved in a vicious and ugly lawsuit for many years, that started in the mid-1970s when Vidal sued Capote for publicly claiming that he had been banished from the White House after behaving poorly at a party thrown by John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy for Lee and Stash Radziwill.