It was almost too poetic, what happened that December in our nation’s capital. It was the Sunday night before Christmas of 1970, and all through the White House, not a creature was stirring . . . except for Richard Nixon.
He was tossing and turning right out of his bed
as visions of protesters danced in his head
all those dope-addled hippies
and draft-dodging Yippies
Black Panthers and rock stars and Hollywood Jews
and the pinko purveyors of scurrilous news
Spiro's “effete corps of impudent snobs”
the Washington Post with their Carls and their Bobs
on the enemies list, they all hated his guts
those radical perverts and wackos and nuts
it all added up to an unholy band
corrupting the innocent youth of our land . . .
It was getting to the point where a decent Quaker couldn't drop a few bombs on Cambodia in peace.
But Christmas is the time for miracles. And something akin to a miracle was about to occur. The King of Rock and Roll was coming to town – to see Nixon.
On a flight from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C., the King’s mood, like the jet, appeared to be cruising at 30,000 feet. Filling six pages of airline stationery, Elvis poured out his heart in a rambling handwritten letter to the President of the United States.
He wrote how much he admired Nixon. He planned to check into the Washington Hotel under a fake name – “Jon Burrows” – and then drop by the White House to see Nixon and deliver a “personal gift.” (The present turned out to be a Colt 45 revolver with six silver bullets.) He asked the President to give him a special badge and make him a “Federal Agent at Large.”
With this secret government credential, Elvis Presley hoped to infiltrate the youth culture of America undetected, and thus help Nixon fight the scourge of drugs. This was his idea. (Never mind that the King of Rock and Roll was pretty conspicuous already . . . not to mention a tad habituated to prescription narcotics.)
It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. On Mars.
After seeing the King’s letter on the morrow, one of Nixon’s aides, Dwight Chapin, dashed off a memo to White House Chief of Staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, suggesting they let Elvis in to see the Leader of the Free World forthwith.
Haldeman scrawled in the margin of Chapin’s memo: “You must be kidding.”
The meeting happened anyway. Nixon aide Bud Krogh described the scene:
“Presley immediately began showing the President his law enforcement paraphernalia including badges from police departments in California, Colorado and Tennessee. . . Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit. . . The President nodded in agreement . . . then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest. Violence, drug usage, dissent, protest all seem to merge in generally the same group of young people. . . Presley indicated to the President in a very emotional manner that he was “on your side.” . . . He mentioned that he was just a poor boy from Tennessee who had gotten a lot from his country, which in some way he wanted to repay. He also mentioned that he is studying communist brainwashing and the drug culture . . . knew a lot about this and was accepted by the hippies. He said he could go right into a group of young people or hippies and be accepted which he felt could be helpful to him in his [anti]drug drive. . . At the conclusion of the meeting, Presley again told the President how much he supported him, and then, in a surprising, spontaneous gesture, put his left arm around the President and hugged him.”
[Memorandum for the President's File from Egil "Bud" Krogh, Re: Meeting with Elvis Presley, 21 December 1970; National Security Archives. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/elvis/elnix.html]
They took a bunch of pictures together. They parted ways. They kept in touch, even long after Nixon resigned. Bud Krogh later reported that Elvis fretted about Nixon’s failing health - called him up during his bouts of phlebitis, and so on. For his part, Nixon defended Elvis in private. He actually liked the guy. And for Richard M. Nixon, that was really saying something.
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[DISCLAIMER FOR READERS BORN AFTER 1974: THE REST OF THIS STORY IS MOSTLY MADE UP. IT IS NOT SERIOUS. IT IS JUST FOR FUN. I AM KIDDING.]
If you’re the oldest child in your family and your birthday happens to fall in January, there’s a fair chance you were conceived over Spring Break. (Just do the math.)
It was the spring of 1934 and Dick Nixon was about to graduate with honors – second in his class – from Whittier College in southern California. He had just gotten an offer of admission to Duke Law School in North Carolina, with a full scholarship.
Dick had some other prospects and hadn't settled on Duke. It was an upstart law school on a new campus with a new dean. It was also a very long way from California and Dick’s clingy Quaker mother. Dick decided he would visit Durham in April, meet the Duke people and size things up. He boarded a Pullman in Los Angeles and headed east towards destiny.
On the third day of his journey, Dick got off in Memphis and fell asleep for a few minutes in the rail station lounge. He missed his train.
What happened next was a random twist of fate that would change the history of music in the Western world – not to mention the course of civilization in the twentieth century.
Dick walked into a diner near the Memphis train station and noticed a lovely young brunette, about his own age, sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee. The woman looked a little sad.
He sat at the counter beside the lady and introduced himself. She said her name was Gladys. She was up from Tupelo, a town about a hundred miles southeast across the border into Mississippi. And she was alone, staying in a nearby hotel. (Gladys didn't mention a small, irrelevant detail about being already married to a certain ne’er-do-well named Vernon who was indisposed at the time – in the county jail for bootlegging and forging a few checks.)
In short, Gladys was a poor Southern girl down on her luck, looking for a little understanding and comfort and relaxation. Dick was a handsome dude headed for law school, stuck in a strange town two-thousand miles from home. He wanted to take a hot shower. In a few hours, he’d be back on a train bound for North Carolina.
Whether or not Gladys and Dick left that restaurant together – and what exactly may have transpired between the two of them thereafter – remains a matter of some dispute between a couple of phalanxes of lawyers representing the King's and the President's estates, but they can't talk about it.
What no one denies is that exactly nine months later, on January 8, 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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To any of you hardboiled skeptics: I urge you to check out this story for yourself. In what follows, I offer a series of startling photographs, which I am confident will put to rest any lingering doubt with respect to the truth of what I have alluded to above.
(Or just Google the terms “Nixon [and] bastard [or] love child” and you’ll get approximately 180,000 hits -- I do research for a living, so this is like shooting fish in a barrel.)
Any questions? To the pictorial evidence, then:
Exhibit B. Elvis and Nixon both had remarkable charisma, and a certain same way of waving to a crowd.
Exhibit C. Both men suffered from a mild seizure disorder. Hereditary? You tell me, I'm no doctor.
Exhibit D. Both men played the piano (not very well.) Pure coincidence? I don't think so.
Exhibit E. Both men wore hats. How weird is that?
Exhibit F. Nixon and Elvis were both gifted with extraordinary physical grace and natural rhythm.
Exhibit G. Both men went for statuesque blond bombshells. You can't fake that.
Exhibit H. Sammy Davis, Jr., was inexplicably attracted to both men. What does that tell you?
Exhibit I. Finally, Nixon loved dogs more than people. He gave a famous speech about his cocker spaniel named Checkers. And Elvis had a love-hate relationship with dogs! One of Elvis's most famous recordings was "Hound Dog," with the lyric, "You ain't no friend of mind." There's a beagle on the cover of his album . . . And who does Elvis's beagle look like? Anyone? (Hint -- see Exhibit J.) You couldn't make this stuff up for a textbook on psychoanalysis. Obviously the dog on the album is an Oedipal symbol.
Exhibit J. Nixon and Elvis's beagle. (I am not sure which is which.) I rest my case.
* * *
All of us have some family we might not choose as friends. Whatever these two characters meant to each other, if they were friends, there is hope for the world.