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Monday, 26 March 2012

He’ll Be Baaaak (1962)

By Terry Hamburg of Baby Boomer Daily

I loved to hate Richard Nixon. My opinion mellowed over the years. Today, I see him as a capable but flawed soul. In 1960, I savored his presidential defeat like hot pastrami on rye.

When he threw his hat in the ring for the ‘62 gubernatorial election, everyone knew the score. California was Republican territory back then. Tricky Dick wanted this prize as a launching pad to challenge my hero JFK again in ‘64.

He lost in 1960 by a whisker, probably because Chicago Mayor Richard Daley shaved some votes from corpses to deliver Illinois to the Democrats.

Political pundits picked Nixon to beat Governor Pat Brown (Jerry Brown’s father). On election night, I mixed with the crowd at Brown headquarters. When the upset victory was clear, the governor emerged to give a speech.

He welcomed the “great big crowd” in this “great big hall” and thanked his supporters for the “great big victory.” I wasn’t a Pat Brown fan. He never looked or sounded real - more like an automaton rolled out for public events. He had one indisputable attribute - he wasn’t Nixon. I decided to make a “great big exit” and shoot to rival headquarters to revel in a concession speech.

Traffic was heavy. Nixon will bug out early, I thought. Just like him. And I’ll miss it. I held my breath and ran a red light.

The Beverly Hilton was packed. I parked in front of a fireplug and dashed in. The man of the hour was nowhere to be seen. I wanted to slip into the press section close to the stairs and elevators. I flashed on an old Three Stooges movie where the boys steal “Press” knobs from the men’s room toilets and walk past security flashing them with a “yuk-yuk-yuk.”

I was not above filching a reporter’s ID packet. After all, this was History. Motivation, means, but not opportunity.

Reporters and hangers-on hung on.

“Are we sure he’s still here?” I wondered.

“Gotta be,” said an old-timer. “The back exits are all covered including the service elevator. I guess he could hide inside the laundry and get wheeled out – I wouldn’t put it past him, but he’s I think he’s holed up on the tenth floor.”

“Anybody spotted him?”

“Naw, he’s too cagy for that. Drapes are drawn. And he probably moved to a new room. Let me tell ya, son. He’d make a good criminal.”

By 3AM, all but the stalwarts were gone – a handful of reporters plus Nixon lovers and haters. We slept on lobby couches and nibbled stale pizza. The place looked like a fraternity house.

My patience was rewarded. As the sun rose, Nixon tried to escape without facing the music. The press corralled him. It was then and there that he uttered those famous words to reporters whom he accused of favoring his opponent - a phrase that became an American idiom: “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more…”

The rest of the quote: “...because gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

He was wrong. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the politician gave us a generation of kicking. That night on ABC News, Howard K. Smith did a commentary entitled, “The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon.”

Borrowing from Mark Twain: “Reports of his early demise were greatly exaggerated.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a cool story! Now it can be told (-;

I certainly shared your sentiments back then, and was very disappointed to see him turn up again later like a bad penny -- er, are there ANY good pennies, at this point? I guess I have to leave that rant for some future time.....

Yes,Terry, that election of 1962 was one to remember.By the time Nixon conceded he had a five o'clock shadow,all right,but it was a five A.M. shadow.

It was only 2 A.M. in Pennsylvania where I was waiting for him to concede but it seemed like an eternity until he appeared, and he did not exactly concede, he just made that famous statement about not being kicked around anymore that you cited.

Like you, I never expected to see him again and then he returned to run for President in 1968.

I suppose we will always wonder if he would have ever become President if Robert Kennedy had not been killed.

I do not think he would have had a chance against RFK....

So many of us remember those years. Funny how they almost defined our generation in ways that young people today can't understand. Thanks for bringing back memories.

A very clever and well-written piece. Brought back memories and made me smile.

Agree with all of the other commenters..always hard to try and decide if in defining our generation, we come out better and ahead of prior ones or just different..every once in a while, I am reading something or listening to someone talk about good old days and I remember as though it just happened, waking up at 6 am on a sunny day, celebrating my good life, young mom, 3 little ones, about to celebrate my first year in my own little house in Brooklyn and hearing that Robert Kennedy had been murdered the night before..tears come to my eyes even as I am writing this..it was as if my mother and father had died again and I felt like, there is no peace, what is going to happen to us all? Thank heaven Richard Nixon wasn't even in my picture at that awful moment..I never would have gotten up to start the day...

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