I had found a new agent, and one of the first auditions he sent me on was for an HBO series. I would be reading for the part of a father. It was an older, more mature role than I was used to. My agent told me to dress conservatively, maybe wear a suit.
I flew to New York the next day and took a taxi over to HBO’s offices. I checked in at the main desk and rode an elevator up to the 11th floor. The elevator opened and a receptionist greeted me. She walked me into a small waiting area and told me to take a seat.
I was sitting alone in the waiting area when one of the show’s production assistants walked through. She was carrying a stack of scripts. She saw me sitting in a chair and stopped. “Hi, are you here for the audition?”
I stood up. “Yes.”
“Can I get you some coffee?”
I shook my head. “No, thanks. A beer, maybe…”
She laughed. “Right. I hear that.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m a little nervous…”
She started to walk away. “I’m sure you’ll be great.”
I smiled. “Okay. Thanks, baby.”
The girl stopped suddenly. She spun around. “What did you say?”
“Did you call me ‘baby?’”
“Oh…yeah. Is that bad?”
“You called me ‘baby?’”
“I call everybody baby.”
“You’re auditioning for GIRLS and you called me ‘baby?’”
“I didn’t know that—”
She dropped her pile of scripts on a coffee table. “Do you know who I am?”
“Are you one of the PA’s?”
“OH-MY-GOD.” She put her hand to her head. “I don’t believe it…”
I tried to get her attention. “Wait, listen—this is TV, right?”
She was rubbing her forehead and looking at the floor. I waved to get her attention. “This is TV, right? We say ‘baby’ all the—”
The girl stepped in front of me. She stuck out her hand to shake mine. “Hi. My name’s Lena. This is my show. You’re auditioning for my show. Do you know why I started this show?”
“Listen, I really thought you were a PA—”
“Let me tell you why. So that women wouldn’t have to be called ‘baby’ and take crap from guys like you.”
“I call everybody ‘baby.’ Men, too.”
“Well, you must be very proud.”
She was standing very close. Suddenly, I recognized her. “WAIT—you’re the girl who always takes her clothes off, right?”
She was rubbing her forehead. “Listen, just forget the audition. Just pack up your stuff and leave. Now.”
She waved her arms. “Please. Just go.”
I picked up my coat. “But you’re the girl who doesn’t wear any clothes, right?”
“I mean, that’s you, right? You do all the nude scenes?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
I smiled. “Wow, I’ve seen you…”
A man came running into the room. “YEAH?”
The girl pointed at me. “GET HIM OUT OF HERE. NOW.”
The guy stepped in front of me. “Sir, I need to ask you to leave.”
I already had my coat in my hand. “Sure thing.”
I started to walk to the elevator. I could hear the girl stomping her foot behind me. I pushed the elevator button and turned to look back. She was pointing her finger at me. “You will never work in New York again. Do you hear me? I can promise you that.”
The elevator opened. I stepped in, pressed ‘Lobby,’ and rode the elevator down to the street.
I was in Washington, DC for a few days of work on ‘Caddyshack 3’ when I got the chance to meet Vice President Al Gore. He wasn’t one of my Facebook friends, but I decided to say hello at a book signing he was holding in the Mayflower Hotel. I thought it might be good to catch the former VP before he started his next film project. I wanted to see if I could get in on the ground floor, maybe get a speaking role.
It was a hot, humid summer day in DC. As I walked down Connecticut Avenue to the Mayflower, sweat started dripping down my back.
By the time I made it to the hotel, my dress shirt had become soaked with sweat. But the giant air conditioning in the lobby quickly started to cool me off.
A line of people stood waiting to enter the ballroom where the Vice President was signing copies of his latest book, ‘The Future.’ I stepped through a metal detector and then followed a line of people waiting to buy a book. The line moved slowly around the room toward a table where the Vice President was sitting.
I waited in line to buy a book as the room’s air conditioning slowly dried me off. I turned to a woman standing next to me. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. I smiled at her. “Thank goodness for air conditioning, huh?”
She glanced at me. “What’s that?”
I wiped my forehead and gestured to the air conditioning. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just air-condition the whole planet?”
She looked at me vaguely and shifted her purse. I nodded. “I mean, it’s so scary how the earth is getting so hot. Every summer, it feels like we’re gonna burn up.”
She nodded quickly. “I know what you mean. But we’re finally doing something about it.” She pointed to all the people in the room. “We’re making a difference.”
She was blonde, pretty, wearing a skirt. I glanced down to check her ankles, then nodded. “Yeah. I mean, if every single person bought this book, just think how much better off the earth would be.”
She turned back to the line. I looked at her legs again. We moved slowly toward the VP’s table.
After a few more minutes, we stepped up to the book sales table. A woman said, “Hi, would you like to buy a copy of ‘The Future?’”
I smiled. “Yes, please.”
“It’s $16.98. We’re charging exactly what Amazon is charging.”
I handed her a credit card. “That’s great.”
She swiped my card, then handed me a book. “When you reach the Vice President, make sure to have your book open to the front so he can sign it.”
I took the book and started to follow the line again. The woman in front of me was holding her book and talking on a cell phone. I could hear her say, “I’m so excited…”
After a few more minutes, we reached the head of the line. The blonde woman finished her call and turned to me. “This is so exciting.”
A Secret Service man said to her. “Please open your book. You’ll hand the book to the Vice President and he’ll sign it. Please keep the line moving.”
The blonde woman nodded. She waited for her turn, then walked up to the Vice President. He reached up and took her book. “Hi. Thanks so much for being here today.”
“Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I’m really grateful for all that you’re doing.”
“Well, thank you so much. We really appreciate your support.” He signed the book with a blue sharpie pen and handed it back to her.
“Thanks.” She took the book and moved away.
The Secret Service man gestured to me. “Okay.”
I opened my book and walked up to the Vice President. There were circles under his eyes and he looked tired. But he smiled. “Hello.”
I handed him my book. “Hey, Mr. Vice President. It’s great to see you again.”
The Vice President squinted at me as he took my book. “Have we met?”
“Well, I saw your movie. I thought it was great. Really exciting.”
“Thank you so much.” He started to sign his name.
“You know, Mr. Vice President, you should make a sequel.”
He finished signing his name. “Thank you so much.”
I nodded. “But this time, you need to have more people. I mean the title is perfect, right? ‘The Future.’ Everyone can relate to that, right? But in the future, there will be more people, so you have to compensate for that, right?”
He handed me the book. “That’s absolutely right. That’s exactly why we have so many challenges. Thank you for being here.”
I took the book. “Do you have a script yet? Would it be more of an action movie?…”
A Secret Service woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Please keep the line moving.”
“Oh sure.” I shouldered the book and smiled at the Vice President. “Thanks so much. Keep in touch.”
I took my book and walked away.
It’s been more than sixty years since Richard Nixon pulled off one of the most amazing performances in American political history. It was an act that restored his career and led to his tenure as Vice President and, ultimately, to the Presidency of the United States. It was also an event that demonstrated the emotional resonance of the emerging television medium. And, regardless of one’s final estimation of the late President, it served as an astonishing display of grace under pressure.
In July, 1952, Richard Nixon had reached an early, startling zenith in his political career. First elected to the U.S. Congress a mere six years before, and the Senate three years later, he had rapidly climbed the ladder of GOP politics on the strength of his staunch anti-Communist platform. As an unknown second-term Congressman, he had made riveting front-page headlines with a zealous pursuit of communist infiltration in the State Department. His prosecution of the Alger Hiss case, and the blanket paranoia it helped to foment, simultaneously led to the rise of Joe McCarthy and the “Red Scare.”
Such a heady rise caught many by surprise, and yielded the first serious hint of Nixon’s win-at-all-costs tactics. But it also made him the favorite son of GOP conservatives and, during the bitter intra-party fighting of the 1952 Republican convention, positioned him as a necessary, compromise Vice Presidential candidate. Thus, six years after entering Congress, Nixon became Eisenhower’s running mate.
The exhilaration that Nixon and his wife, Pat, experienced following the 1952 Convention was short-lived. Just two months later, and mere days into a formal whistle-stop campaign tour, Nixon was suddenly confronted with accusations of financial impropriety. A disgruntled Republican rival had tipped off members of the press to vague rumors of Nixon’s “questionable finances.” A subsequent investigation had uncovered ‘The Fund,’ a pool of donations by high-powered businessman designed to cover Nixon’s speaking, travel, and mailing expenses. Though the fund had never been deliberately obscured, its sudden appearance gave an immediate impression of impropriety, with Republican leaders questioning why its existence had not been divulged at the national convention.
Early press rumblings of a “slush fund” seemed innocuous though, and Nixon’s campaign manager, Murray Chotiner, dismissed the reports as “ridiculous.” Nixon himself explained to GOP cohorts that the roughly $16,000 fund had been established at the suggestion of his colleague Dana Smith, and all concerned had been “scrupulously careful” to “avoid any charges of improper collection or use”—a plausible, initial refutation of the story.
The allegation suddenly became a bombshell, however, on Friday, September 18, when the NEW YORK POST trumpeted a front-page headline of “Nixon Scandal Fund.” Campaign aide Keith McCormac witnessed the beginning of Nixon’s nightmare, following a triumphant campaign stop in Bakersfield, California. As the candidate climbed aboard his train in the effusive afterglow of a cheering throng, McCormac showed him the POST cover story. Nixon was so staggered by the sight of a banner front-page headline that he collapsed into a chair. The sudden, national scandal seemed so unexpected, so lethal, that a shaken Nixon needed help to reach his train compartment. McCormac later commented: “When I handed him that paper, he almost needed intensive care. They almost had to take him off the train.”
Almost instantly, concerned GOP stalwarts demanded Nixon’s resignation. It was the beginning of a four-day, round-the-clock denunciation of Nixon by almost every major newspaper. Even those in favor of Nixon suggested his resignation would be necessary to save the Eisenhower candidacy.
Eisenhower, who had thought highly of Nixon, quickly grew apprehensive. Though he admitted his reluctance to “prejudge any man,” he listened as his advisors made clear the case for Nixon’s dismissal. As Nixon later commented, the Eisenhower team was split between “those who thought I should be dropped immediately, and those who wanted to wait and see how public reaction developed.” In response, Eisenhower publicly advised Nixon to release all pertinent records in an effort to establish his innocence or guilt.
As aides began to assemble the necessary documentation, Nixon reluctantly continued his campaign schedule. But the scandal had shattered his composure. Campaign speeches became a grim scene, filled with mocking, jeering crowds. In Marysville, California, Nixon finally flashed his trademark temper. As the 20-minute stop was coming to a close, someone in the crowd yelled “Tell them about the $16,000.” At that moment the train began to pull out of the station. Nixon pointed into the crowd and yelled, “Now I heard a question over there. Stop the train, stop the train.” After a frantic signaling to the conductor, the train was stopped 100 yards down the tracks. The crowd of spectators ran up to catch the train and Nixon launched into a tirade, pointing his finger at the questioning heckler and “letting him have it.” Invoking his efforts to tackle the communist menace, he blamed the scandal on smear tactics by his opponents and explained that he had done nothing illegal in utilizing the fund for political communications.
The Marysville speech had little effect on what became an ever-gathering storm. A consensus of eastern newspapers declared Nixon a clear liability to the ticket. A majority of the GOP was cabling Eisenhower that Nixon had demonstrated an unforgivable lapse of judgment. Nixon’s close friends were advising him to resign quickly, for the sake of his career.
The pressure mounted with each day. Nixon’s father, Frank Nixon, had become so heartsick that he was reportedly bedridden. His mother, Hannah, later wrote: “I watched every moment on television and I felt I could hardly carry on.” Both Nixon and his wife began to suffer severe neck pains and insomnia, what Nixon remembered as “excruciating” pain in a time when he was “edgy and short-tempered…can’t eat…can’t sleep.” And, as each day led to further calls for his resignation, one of his closest friends, Harold Stassen, telegrammed the text of a resignation speech that he recommended Nixon deliver right away.
In the midst of the crisis, a close GOP colleague, Bob Humphreys, offered a startling suggestion. He begged Nixon and party to undertake an immediate national television broadcast to present Nixon’s case to the American people. Nixon should follow through on Eisenhower’s suggestion of complete financial disclosure and, on live TV, make the case for his own innocence. Several campaign members agreed that Nixon deserved the chance to clear his name and, with party approval, immediately set about collecting the roughly $75,000 in donations needed to cover a 30-minute broadcast. They quickly reserved an NBC primetime Tuesday night slot of 9:30 – 10:00 eastern time, following the Milton Berle show.
Exhausted and physically debilitated, Nixon and his entourage flew into Los Angeles on Monday morning and checked into a group of suites at the Ambassador Hotel. There, Nixon began writing and re-writing the notes for what he knew was a desperate final gamble. He later recounted, “I had been deserted by so many I had thought were friends…I knew I had to go for broke. This broadcast…had to be a smash hit.”
While ensconced in the hotel, news reports anxiously confirmed Nixon’s speech, to be given the next night. A UPI bulletin announced that Nixon would resign within the next 24 hours. The United Press quoted a Nixon staffer as saying the Vice Presidential candidate had “been thrown to the wolves.” Aides privately acknowledged that Nixon was red-eyed and drawn, on the verge of collapse. Room-service hamburgers were left uneaten as he hastily tried to cobble together a speech that would account for all his finances and expenditures for the previous six years.
As Nixon continued to work on his speech, a private audit by Price Waterhouse concluded that all money disbursed by the Fund had been properly accounted for as campaign contributions, an assessment Nixon would use as pivotal evidence in his speech. Remembering his solitary work on the speech, locked in his hotel room and unable to rest, Nixon recalled: “Only when I could deliver a speech without memorizing it, and if possible without notes, did it have the spark of spontaneity so essential to a television audience.” But already pushed beyond the breaking point, he felt there were “not enough hours in the day for me to get the ideas firmly enough in my mind.” It was a condition that writer Roger Morris, in his landmark Nixon biography, would describe as “utterly alone…pushed beyond the boundary of mental and physical tension.”
In writing the speech, Nixon knew he would have to “lay out for everyone to see my entire personal financial history,” a prospect that further demoralized his stricken wife. By Tuesday evening, though, he had assembled five pages of notes, the framework of the speech he would attempt to give.
Shortly before leaving the Ambassador for NBC studios, Nixon received a frantic call from Eisenhower aide and New York Governor, Thomas Dewey. It was Dewey’s task to call and report that Eisenhower had finally requested Nixon’s formal resignation. At the conclusion of the speech, Nixon was to resign his candidacy, and Dewey added, resign from the Senate, so as to possibly rescue the remains of his future career. Nixon was stunned and “dumbfounded,” looking, as aide Chris Hillings recalled, “like someone had smashed him.” Dewey breathlessly demanded to know what Nixon would do. But shattered by the additional blow, and not having slept in days, Nixon could only mumble, “Just tell them that I haven’t the slightest idea what I am going to do.”
The telephone conversation ended abruptly as Nixon was urged to a waiting motorcade for the ride to NBC. He hurriedly changed into a suit, “almost in a daze,” and then walked slowly down the hotel corridor, escorted by several aides. All of his staff and friends lined the corridor in a silent, solemn vigil. Some were crying. As Nixon later recounted, “It seemed like the last mile.”
At the studio, Nixon finally succumbed to nervous exhaustion. Shortly before the broadcast, he turned to his wife and said weakly, “I don’t think I can do this.” His wife, whom aides remembered as standing around, “nervously clasping a handkerchief,” simply responded, “Of course you can.” Shortly before 9:30 he took his place on the set, a “flimsy-looking, non-descript room,” complete with a desk, armchair, and bookcase, and was quickly briefed on where to sit and stand, so as to remain in view of the camera. He arranged his notes in preparation and glanced out at the empty, 750-seat soundstage.
At precisely 9:30 p.m., he launched into what was an almost entirely extemporaneous speech. In front of an audience of 60 million people, approximately 48.9 percent of possible viewers, he began, “My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity have been questioned.” The purpose of the speech would be “to tell my side of the case.” He quickly outlined the charge of roughly $18,000 that allegedly was “secretly given and secretly handled.” Then, beginning a favored personal theme, he explained: “Not one cent of the $18,000…went to me for my personal use…every cent of it was used to pay political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States.”
Not content to simply refute the charges, Nixon then moved into a chronology of his own expenses. He pointed out that, unlike many politicians, he had never placed his wife on a staff payroll, had never accepted legal fees while in office, and had eked out a living on his modest public salary. He mentioned the Price Waterhouse audit’s findings, and then moved into what was to become an unprecedented disclosure of personal detail, his own history, and his family’s particular finances.
By this point in the speech, Nixon had begun to relax. Sitting in the darkened studio, with only the camera in front of him, and his wife sitting to his left, he “began to feel that surge of confidence that comes when a good speech has been well prepared…I opened up and spoke freely and emotionally…as if only Pat were in the room and no one else were listening.”
He began to recite his early history, working in his family’s store, his work in high school and college. How he’d worked his way through law school. Then he listed all of his and Pat’s worldly possessions: his salary; some speaking fees; the rent on his and Pat’s Washington apartment; the mortgage on their house, “which cost us $41,000 and on which we owe $20,000; a “1950 Oldsmobile…our furniture”; no stocks or bonds. Then he commented, in what was to become a famous line, “Well, that’s about it. That’s what we have and that’s what we owe…Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable cloth coat. And I always tell her that she’d look good in anything.”
The personal details had become so intimate that his mother watched the speech uncomfortably, later commenting, “I didn’t think I could take it.” But Nixon seized on the frankness of his disclosure to challenge both his opponents and Eisenhower to make the same frank accounting: “…because folks, remember, a man that’s to be President of the United States, a man that’s to be Vice President of the United States, must have the confidence of all the people.” Eisenhower, watching the speech, was so struck by Nixon’s insolence and apparently personal challenge that aides noted him stabbing his pencil into a notepad.
Toward the end of the speech, Nixon moved into one last, candid admission, the one that would give name to the speech itself. He paused for a moment, as if deciding something, then said: “One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election…It was a little cocker spaniel dog…[we] named it Checkers. And you know the kids love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say, we’re gonna keep it.”
At the conclusion of the speech, which Nixon had intuitively timed to an almost exact 30 minutes, he told the audience, “It isn’t easy to come before a nationwide audience and air your life as I’ve done…Let me say this: I don’t believe I ought to quit because I’m not a quitter.” He then explained how he was submitting the decision on his candidacy to the GOP. “I am going to ask you to help them decide…write the Republican National Committee whether you think I should stay on or whether I should get off. And whatever their decision, I will abide by it.”
With mere seconds to go, Nixon reminded the audience that, regardless, a “vote for Eisenhower is a vote for what’s good for America.” Then, suddenly, at 10 p.m., the camera went off the air.
Immediately upon finishing the speech, Nixon collapsed. Aide Ted Rogers remembered him in a “complete emotional daze,” so lost in the moment that he walked “head-on” into the camera. But on the set, the cameraman had tears running down his face, visibly moved by the depth of Nixon’s effort. Nixon himself was so drained that he threw his notes to the floor, staggering out in anguish, believing, as he told Rogers, “I loused it up.”
The scene in the soundstage, however, was repeated throughout the country, with many viewers visibly moved to tears. In Cleveland, Eisenhower’s campaign team watched the speech, transfixed. By the conclusion, many of them were openly weeping. The response across the country was electric, with Western Union’s telegraph lines instantly jammed. The national response was overwhelmingly pro-Nixon, running an estimated 75 to 1 in favor of keeping him. Front-page headlines heralded the speech as “Extraordinary,” “Magnificent,” “Eloquent.” An overnight shift saw Nixon’s, and Eisenhower’s, popularity skyrocket. An obvious consensus emerged that Nixon should remain on the ticket.
The entire emotional odyssey climaxed a day later in Wheeling, West Virginia, when Nixon was reunited with Eisenhower. Though the President-to-be had fumed at Nixon’s upstart effort, vowing to the press in a post-speech comment that ultimately it was his “judgment as to whether [Nixon]…should be saved,” all turned out triumphant in Wheeling. When Nixon’s plane landed, Eisenhower bounded up the steps to meet him. A stunned Nixon said, “You didn’t have to come down here to meet me.” Eisenhower smilingly replied, “You’re my boy.” With that, Nixon finally broke down. All the exhaustion and emotion of the previous five days overwhelmed him, and tears rolled down his face. Reporters recalled him looking haggard as he struggled to regain his composure.
In the end, the Eisenhower-Nixon team swept to victory by a margin of more than 6.5 million votes. It capped the early portion of Nixon’s stellar rise to power, prefiguring his later run for the Presidency in 1960 and California governor in 1962. But more curiously, the “Checkers” speech that turned him into a national hero yielded the Nixon who assumed full battle mode whenever a crisis emerged. His tenacity in riding out the debacle of ‘The Fund’ may well have proved the crucial element that led to the downward spiral of Watergate. Having snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat in 1952, it’s quite possible he believed he could do so again, when under siege in 1974. Regardless of such failings, Nixon remains a fascinating political figure, and one of the few to achieve such an astonishing resurrection as was wrought in his crucial speech on live TV in the early portion of his career.
I was at Natalie Merchant’s house in Los Feliz. She was throwing a big vegetarian bash to celebrate her new album ‘Intercontinental Holistic Missile.’ I made sure to fuel up on a big steak before the party.
When I got to Natalie’s place, I ran into Shannon Doherty at the bar. I ordered a glass of wine and gave Shannon my tough-guy-with-a-heart smile. “Hi, baby.”
Shannon turned to the bartender. “Un vodka con hielo, por favor.” She turned back to me. “You’re looking good.”
“So are you.”
The bartender poured Shannon a drink. She thanked him and put a $20 bill in his tip jar. I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to tip the bartender. I quickly stuffed a $5 bill in his jar.
I picked up my wine and followed Shannon toward the living room. “So what’s new with you?”
Shannon was balancing her vodka carefully. The bartender had filled her glass to the brim. “Umm…just some auditions…What about you?”
Shannon stopped and took a sip of her vodka. Then she smiled at me. “Mmm…Yum.”
Suddenly Chickie Vaughn burst into the room. “Hey everybody. Come quick. Moby’s on the roof. He says he’s gonna jump.”
“OH MY GOD.”
A herd of people suddenly rushed out to the backyard. I found myself being swept along by the crowd. I saw the producer Vin Blunno race past me. David Schwimmer bumped into me. Some of my wine spilled on David’s shirtsleeve; he didn’t seem to notice.
We hurried out to the backyard and looked up at Moby. He was barefoot and wearing jeans, but no shirt. I could see his toes poking over the edge of the patio roof, just above my head. I heard Sally Field say to Vin Blunno, “Does anyone know where Natalie is? Maybe we should get her?…”
Everyone was looking up at Moby. He seemed greatly upset. David Schwimmer called up to him. “Come on down, Moby. Please come down. We love you.”
Several other people nodded. “Yeah, we love you. Come on down.”
Moby looked down at us and screamed. “NO…Nobody understands me. I can’t stand it anymore.”
I looked up at Moby. “But, Moby, you’re the voice of rock ‘n roll. We need you—”
Moby gestured angrily with his hand. “I hate rock ‘n roll. I hate it. I don’t want any part of it.” Saliva dribbled out of his mouth. He wiped his lips with the back of his wrist. “See. No one understands me.”
I tried again. “But baby—”
Suddenly Shannon Doherty grabbed me by the collar. She yanked me backward. “Hey, you’re not helping.”
I turned to her quickly. “I’m sorry, baby. Moby needs me.”
I turned back to Moby. He was pointing down at us. “I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna jump.”
William Shatner was standing directly under Moby. He turned to the crowd and waved his arms. “For God’s sake, give him room. Give him room.”
Moby wiped more saliva from his chin. “I can’t stand it anymore. I’m gonna jump. I’m gonna jump.”
Suddenly he made a piercing shriek and lifted his arms. He began flapping them and jumped off the roof.
He landed next to William Shatner. Almost instantly he screamed. “My foot. My foot. Oh my God. My foot.”
Shatner looked at him. “What’s wrong, man? What’s wrong?”
Moby pointed to his right foot. “My toe. My toe.” He screamed again.
Shatner squinted at Moby. “Your toe?…””
The crowd watched for a moment longer, then began to drift away. I heard Sally Field mutter, “I could use a martini.”
I looked over at Shannon Doherty. She’d finished her vodka. I gave her my full-muscle smile, the one where I clench up my neck to show off my upper body tone. “Want another drink?”
We walked back into the house and headed for the bar.
Whoopi and I were hanging out at Oprah’s party up in the hills, and we were sitting on a couch in the sunroom. We were sipping Blundetto champagne, laughing and talking. Whoopi had her hand on my knee. I took a sip of champagne and said, “You know what, baby, let’s see how long we can go without talking.”
Whoopi exploded with an incredulous laugh. “WHAT?”
“No really, baby, let’s see how long we can sit here and not talk.”
“I dunno. Just to do it.”
“Well, let’s see if we can do it. I’ll bet you can’t sit here for ten minutes without saying a word.”
“Oh come on.”
“But we’re at a party. We’re supposed to be talking.”
Whoopi shook her head. Her bracelets clicked around her wrists. She kissed me on the cheek. “You are so crazy–you know that?”
She took a sip of her champagne. “All right.”
I took a sip of my champagne. “Okay, ten minutes. We’ll use my watch–”
“No, not ten minutes. That’s too long.”
“All right–but we can drink champagne while we do it.”
“Okay.” Whoopi took another sip of her champagne. “But what are we betting?”
“Oh, right…umm… If I win, you have to go up to Aaron Spelling and kiss him on the lips and say, “Baby, I’ve got a Melrose Place that’s just waiting for your big 90210.’”
“Yup, that’s what you gotta do.”
Whoopi took another sip of champagne. She paused. “All right. I can do that.” She nodded to herself and giggled. She took another sip of champagne. “But if I win, you gotta go over to Sylvester Stallone and say, ‘Sly, you have the brains of a twinkie.’”
“ARE YOU KIDDING?”
“Nope. If I win, you gotta walk right up to him and say, ‘Sly, you make cheesy movies and you got the brain of a twinkie.’”
“I have to say all that?”
“`Cause you were complaining about him, like five minutes ago.”
“But that’s ‘cause he started talkin’ trash about Roseanne.”
“Yeah…all right.” I raised my champagne glass. We clinked our champagne glasses. “Here, I’ll count us in and we’ll look at my watch.”
“But you be ready to kiss Aaron Spelling.”
“We’ll see.” I rolled up my sleeve and straightened my Rolex. “Ready?”
I waited till the second hand reached the 12. “Okay… NOW.”
I sat back on the couch, holding my champagne glass. Whoopi sat back against the couch. She exhaled softly.
A moment later, Heather Graham drifted into the room. Her lips glistened with red lipstick. She paused to adjust her mini-skirt. I took a long sip of my champagne and watched her. Heather smiled at us. “Hey, where’d you guys get the champagne? What I wouldn’t give for some champagne right now.”
I bolted out of my seat. “You can have mine.” I handed her my champagne glass. “It’s only about half-full. But mmm-hmm, it’s delicious.”
Whoopi jumped up from the couch. “AH-HAH–you talked.”
I spun around. “Huh?”
Whoopi poked me in the chest. “You talked. You couldn’t even wait thirty seconds.”
“Oh.” I shook my head. “No, no–that doesn’t count. The bet was that I wouldn’t talk to you.”
“No, no–you said we couldn’t TALK for five minutes.”
“Right. We couldn’t talk to each other.”
Heather looked from me to Whoopi. “What the hell are you guys talking about?”
Whoopi stepped in front of me. “Sister, what you see here is a man who can’t keep his word. We had a bet that–”
I shook my head. “No, wait, wait–”
Whoopi pushed me away. “Check this out. We had a bet that we wouldn’t talk for five minutes and if I won he would go–”
“No, no, no, the bet was, we couldn’t talk to each other.”
“No, no.” Whoopi pushed me away again. She looked at Heather. “It’s like this. He lost the bet and now he’s trying to talk his way out of it.”
Heather frowned. “What a pig.”
“Oh, come on.”
Whoopi nodded. “It’s true. He can’t keep his word.”
I tried to grab her arm. “I always keep my word.”
“Not this time.”
“Oh come on…”
Heather turned to Whoopi. “What’d he bet?”
“Shoot, girl. You wanna know what he has to do?”
“Yeah.” Heather smiled. Her lips were wet and shiny. “What’s he gotta do?”
“Well…” Whoopi paused and downed the rest of her champagne. “He’s gotta go up to Sly and say, ‘Boy, you make cheesy movies `cause you’re dumb as a twinkie.’”
“No, no–it wasn’t exactly that…”
Heather squinted at me. “You have to walk up to Sylvester Stallone and say that?”
I shook my head. “No, it’s not like that.”
Whoopi threw up her hands. “See what I’m talkin’ `bout, sister? He’s just a boy–he’s a scared boy. He can’t keep his word.”
Heather frowned. “God, I hate men. They’re so weak. I like guys with strong you-know-whats.”
Whoopi laughed. “I hear that.”
I took back my glass of champagne from Heather. I knocked back the little bit that was left. “I’ve got guts.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t.”
I looked from Whoopi to Heather. “So what are you beautiful ladies telling me–I gotta go tell Sly he’s an idiot?”
They both nodded, “Yup.”
“Jesus.” I kicked the toe of my shoe against the floor. “He’ll twist me into little pretzel bits.”
Whoopi waved her hands in the air. “Then you should pray to the Lord for some good luck.”
“God…” I put my hand to my head. “I’m a condemned man.” I stared at the floor.
Heather put her arm around me. “Oh, don’t be sad. I’ll go and visit you in the hospital.”
“Sure.” She looked at Whoopi for a moment. “We both will–won’t we?”
Whoopi nodded. “Yup.”
I looked at Heather. She had beautiful, sparkling eyes. “Really?”
“Yes. I’ll come and see you. I’ll read to you. I’ll give you sponge baths.”
My hands began to tremble. “Wait, wait, I’m starting to have palpitations. Could you repeat that last bit?”
Heather laughed. She poked my arm. “Oh, stop. You’re gonna be fine.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that the sponge bath thing–my God…”
Whoopi threw up her hands. “The boy is just so helpless.”
Heather smiled. I raised my empty champagne glass. “Let’s get more champagne. Then we’ll go talk to Sly.”
We started to walk out to the back veranda. We passed David Lane and Drew Barrymore. They were deep in private conversation. Whoopi grabbed my arm. “By the way, sailor boy, you’re talking to Sly by yourself. Don’t you mention my name.”
I nodded my head. “All right…”
We stepped out onto the veranda and crossed over to the bar. My friend Joe Guerriero was leaning against the bar, sipping a glass of wine. He saw me and grinned. “Hey, man…let me tell you something…it’s all about timing, baby.”
I nodded. “I hear that, Joe-Joe.”
Joe picked up his glass of wine and drifted away. Heather looked at me. “Who the hell was that?”
“I think I did an audition with him once.”
I turned to the bartender. “Three champagnes, please–two for these lovely ladies, of course.” Whoopi rolled her eyes. The bartender poured us each a champagne. I tipped him a $10 bill. Then we walked down the back steps to the courtyard.
Heather took my arm. “You know, you’ve got a lot of guts.”
I squeezed her shoulder. “Baby, I’ve got lots of things.”
She laughed. “You are such a cheeseball, you know that?”
“But you love me.”
“Come on? I don’t even know you.”
“Of course. I just met you.”
“All right, then. I’m gonna give you two days.” I held up two fingers.
“Two days for what?”
I took a sip of my champagne. “In two days you’re gonna be begging everyone you know for my phone number.”
“Oh… right…Of course I will.”
Whoopi tapped us on the shoulder. “Look, there’s Sly.”
I looked. Sly was standing near the swimming pool, talking with Bruce Willis, James Coburn, and James Caan. He was wearing a black suit, black pants, a white shirt. Instead of a tie, he had a bolo cinched around his neck.
“Come on, don’t back down on us now. This is gonna be funny.”
“Who’s gonna be laughing?”
Heather squeezed my arm. She smiled and looked into my eyes. “Come on. Be my big strong man.”
“Oh, jeez.” I gulped down my champagne. “This is like…”
“Here, give me your champagne glass.”
I gulped down the last of my champagne. Then I handed my glass to Whoopi. I glanced at Sly. “All right. See you on the other side.”
Whoopi pushed me. “Oh, stop. You’ll be fine.”
Whoopi patted me on the back. I set off for Sly and his friends.
I rounded the swimming pool and walked up to Sly and his gang. They were standing in a narrow circle, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. James Caan was saying, “…Yeah, but Randy Newman speaks to the common man. That Reilly guy–he’s more of a hippie. I can’t dig his stuff. I wouldn’t want my kids hearing that crap.”
“Damn right,” said James Coburn.
“Yeah,” said Bruce Willis.
I stepped up to Sly. His back was toward me. All I could see was the enormous, tight girth of his broad sport coat. I tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey, Sly–if you have a second…”
He turned around and faced me. He clenched his jaw and stared at me. “Yeah?”
“I was hoping you’d have a moment. I’m supposed to pass a message to you.”
“Make it quick.”
“Well, if you have a second, maybe we could step over there…”
“No. What’s the message?”
“Well, there’s no need to interrupt your whole conversation. We could talk over there.”
“Look pal, speak your peace already.”
Bruce Willis pointed at me. “Yeah. Whatever you gotta say to him, you can say to us.”
Sly nodded. “Right.”
“Well then…it goes like this…it seems I agreed to make the following observation and pass it along to you.”
I paused. They were all staring at me. I glanced around quickly. Whoopi and Heather were watching nearby.
“Okay, here goes. You see, Sly, you make cheesy movies and you have the brain of a twinkie.”
I held my breath. Sly squinted at me.
“What did you say?”
“Well, I can repeat the message if you want–”
Sly pushed me hard in the chest. I stumbled backward. He pointed at me. “You got some kind of problem, pal? You wanna start something in front of my friends?”
I pointed at Sly. “Hey, soul brother, don’t push me. It’s just a joke.”
“What the hell do you–”
Bruce Willis pointed at me. “What’s your problem, man?”
Sly never took his eyes off me. “You wanna go right now, pal–right here?”
“Actually Sly, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I’m pretty much a bad-ass dude myself. I dunno if we need to start fighting, `cause I’ll get some shots in, I’ll tell you that. But let’s talk about it. If I say, ‘You make cheesy movies,’ I’m just–”
Suddenly James Caan stepped in front of me. He pointed his cigar. “You’re friends with Burt, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
He shook his head. “Then why are you pissing off Sly?”
“It was a joke. I was supposed to walk up to Sly and tell him–”
Sly poked my chest. “Who told you?”
“Who told me what?”
Sly grabbed the front of my sport jacket. “Who told you I make cheesy movies?”
“Well, no one–I mean, anyone who goes to the movies can tell–”
Sly raised his fist. “I oughta pound you–”
James Caan grabbed Sly’s arm. “Hey, Sly–easy. Take it easy.”
“You hear what he said to me?”
James Caan pushed Sly away from me. “Look, Sly, back off. It’s not worth it.”
Sly pushed me, then stepped back. He pointed at me. “You better watch it, pal.”
A crowd had begun to gather. James Coburn stumbled between us. He took a swig of his whiskey. “You know what, guys? There’s only one way to settle this. I got gloves in the trunk. You guys’re gonna put `em on. You’re gonna box.” He took another swig of his whiskey. “Only way to settle this thing.”
Bruce Willis nodded. “Yup.”
Just then, Oprah ran up to us. She was livid. “Hey–what the hell’s going on here?” She glanced quickly from me to Sly to Bruce. “This is supposed to be a party. What the hell are you doing?”
Sly pointed at me. “He started it. He came over here and started making fun of me.”
Oprah squinted at Sly. “What?”
“He did it. He started the whole thing.”
“Well, so what?”
“He said I make cheesy movies.”
“You do make cheesy movies.”
“Yeah, but Oprah–I mean, I don’t give a shit if you say that–”
Oprah glared at Sly. Her eyes narrowed. She pointed a finger in Sly’s face. “Don’t-you-ever-use-profanity-with-me. You hear me?”
Sly looked down at the ground. “No, no, I’m sorry. I just meant–”
“I know what you meant.” She turned and stared at me. “So what’s your problem?”
I put up my hands in a gesture of innocence. “Look, Oprah, baby, it’s not what you–”
Oprah squinted at me. “What’d you call me?”
“Oprah–I mean, that’s your name, right?”
“You called me ‘baby.’”
“I call everybody ‘baby.’” I looked around, searching for agreement from the crowd.
Oprah pointed a finger in my face. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll never call me `baby’ again. Is that clear?”
“Sure thing, ba–” I had to stop myself. I nodded. “Sure. Anything you say.”
Bruce Willis gestured at Oprah. “Hey, Oprah, if I can just say something. I mean, this guy came up to us and–”
Oprah pointed at Bruce Willis. “Don’t open your mouth again.”
“I’m just trying to–”
“I don’t want to hear it.” Oprah looked around at the assembled crowd. “All right, everybody. Let’s go back to having a party. Just forget about this. Let’s all have a good time.” She put her hands on her hips. “And somebody find Steadman. Tell him I want a glass of wine. I’ll be in my office.” She walked off.
I glanced around at everyone. Heather and Whoopi were watching me. I glanced at Sly and then walked away.
I started to walk back to the bar. After a moment, Heather caught up with me. She grabbed my arm. “You were so brave. I couldn’t believe it.”
I nodded. “That’s how you gotta be, baby. It’s a tough world out there. You can’t let–”
Heather squeezed my shoulder. “Let’s go hang out with Whoopi. We’ll get some drinks.”
“Sure thing, baby.”
We headed off to the bar.
Whoopi called me at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. She said that she needed a date for Sally Struthers’ Annual Hungerthon Dinner that night. Would I go with her? She promised that there’d be a full dinner and lots of wine. I said, “I’ll be there, baby.”
I was supposed to meet her at 7 p.m. at The Regency Hotel. That left me time to cram in a full workout at Biceptual, the new gym that Richard Gere had opened with Tom Cruise. I drove over to the gym and spent an hour on the bike. Then I lifted weights for about 30 minutes. By the time I finished my last set of free weights, I was feeling incredibly weak. I was ravenous with hunger and my arms felt like lead. As I showered, my legs began to stiffen from the exercise bike. I dressed as quickly as I could, then squeezed into my Hyundai and raced over to The Regency.
I was running late by the time I arrived at the hotel. I ran inside and found Whoopi waiting for me at the bar. She was talking to Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher. They were debating whether or not Winona Ryder looked exactly like the kid in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Whoopi jumped up as I greeted her. She gave me a big kiss on the cheek, then quickly introduced me to Brad and Ashton.
Whoopi handed me a glass of wine. We said a hurried goodbye to Brad and Ashton, then walked quickly to the ballroom.
As we stepped into the hall, Whoopi nudged my shoulder. “You look all buff.”
“Yeah, I just got through working out. But listen, I’m starving. When do we eat?”
“Soon. We just have to wait for Sally to make a speech. Then they’ll serve dinner.”
“All right. I hope she makes it quick, though. I’m starting to get lightheaded.”
Whoopi poked my arm. “God. You’re always such a baby.”
We walked to our table and took our seats. I noticed Drew Barrymoore and David Lane sitting next to us. They had their chairs turned toward the podium. We sat down.
Just at that moment, the whole room stood up and began applauding as Sally Struthers stepped up to the podium. There was a long round of clapping. Then everyone sat down.
Sally looked out at the audience and paused. The room fell absolutely quiet. Someone coughed at a nearby table.
Sally looked down at her speech for a moment. She cleared her throat. “Eight million,” she said. She paused for a moment as her voice echoed through the large hall. She repeated herself: “Eight million.” Then she looked out at the audience and said, “Eight million children will die of hunger this year.”
I turned to Whoopi and whispered, “Eight million and one if I don’t eat something soon.”
Whoopi put a finger to her lips. “Shhh…”
Sally began to launch into her speech. It was something about hunger in Africa and Asia and a lack of running water. I took a sip of my wine. It went immediately to my head. I felt a sudden tightening in the front of my skull. I knew that I needed water.
There was a glass of water set in front of me on the table. I grabbed the glass and drank the whole thing down. Then I looked around for a waiter to pour a refill. I couldn’t spot one. But I noticed a large metal waiter’s tray resting on a fold-up stand next to our table. It was holding a half-empty pitcher of water. I leaned over and grabbed the pitcher. I poured myself another glass of water.
Sally talked on. She was mentioning something about the United Nations. I began to feel light-headed. My blood sugar was getting too low. My head and neck felt uncomfortably warm. I turned to Whoopi.
“Hey…I gotta eat something…I’m getting lightheaded.”
Whoopi waved me away with her hand. I leaned toward her and whispered, “But I’m really feeling faint.”
Whoopi whispered back. “Why didn’t you eat before you got here?”
“I didn’t have time. I had to get to the gym. And you said they’d be serving dinner.”
“Why didn’t you eat a power bar or something?”
“I forgot to.”
“Well then, that’s your problem.”
Whoopi sat back in her chair. I took a deep breath. I leaned back in my chair and slowly exhaled. I began to massage my forehead.
Sally’s speech continued. She passed the 10-minute mark. Little parts of her speech filtered in and out of my consciousness: “World Health Organization…50,000 rations per day…if we sit idly by…vaccination teams…hookworm and ringworm…agriculture department…wheat and grain surplus…”
After a few more minutes I turned to Whoopi. “I think I’m digesting my spleen right now.”
“Oh hush up.”
“But I feel faint.”
“She’ll be done soon.”
“Yeah, but when?”
“I don’t know.”
I sat back in my chair and began to glance around the room. I spotted Lindsay Wagner and Andy Garcia sitting at a nearby table; Lindsay was yawning. I turned back to Whoopi. “I’ll bet everybody’s just waiting to eat.”
Whoopi looked at me. “Yeah, but they’re behaving like adults.”
“But I’m really feeling faint…I gotta do something…”
I looked around the room. At various tables, I could see people fidgeting and yawning. I noticed Lee Majors sitting at a side table. He was holding his head in his hands. He looked exhausted.
Sally’s voice droned on: “a concerted effort…political involvement…for just pennies a day…”
A wave of nausea rippled through me. I felt close to fainting. I looked around at another table, then noticed the waiter’s stand parked next to our table. It held a large silver tray almost two feet in diameter.
With the last of my strength, I lifted myself out of my chair and stepped over to the tray. I could feel my heart pounding mightily in my chest. All the blood seemed to drain out of my head. I began to see gray.
I picked up the tray with my left hand. My arm trembled from workout fatigue. I held the tray up in the air like a mirror. Then, with a quick punch of my right fist, I gonged the tray as loudly as I could. It sent an enormous metal boom reverberating through the hall.
Instantly the whole room jumped. Everyone turned to look.
People stared at me. I nodded at them and quickly replaced the tray on its stand. Then I sat down next to Whoopi; she was covering her face with her hands.
At the podium, Sally stumbled for something to say. For a moment she looked down at her speech. But then she interrupted herself. “I think…uhhh…we’ll, uhh…we’ll finish here and…just…thank you…”
The audience stood up and began to applaud. I turned to Whoopi. “See, now we’ll get to eat.”
I sat back in my chair and waited for dinner to be served.
There was one time when I got stuck in an elevator with Michael Bolton and Richard Nixon. It was during the Annual Breast Cancer Benefit at the L.A. Hyatt. I was there escorting Sheena Easton. My agent had arranged for Sheena to sing a medley during the night’s show; he thought it would be nice if Sheena and I were photographed together.
We had arrived at the benefit at 8 p.m. During Bea Arthur’s keynote speech, I gave Sheena a quick kiss on the cheek and drifted downstairs to the Fairmont Room. I ordered a scotch-on-the-rocks and then strolled through the south wing, sipping my drink and studying some of the photographs on the Wall of Fame. Then I hopped into an elevator to return to the ballroom. When I stepped into the elevator, I noticed an older man, dressed in a charcoal suit, staring at the elevator wall and muttering to himself. Next to him stood a younger man in a navy blue suit. The door closed and the elevator started climbing.
At the next floor, Michael Bolton stepped into the elevator. I recognized his distinctive, shoulder-length blonde hair immediately. I jumped toward him, almost spilling my drink.
“Michael, baby–man, how cool to run into you. How’ya doing?”
Michael looked down at the floor. “Hey…”
I patted him on the shoulder. “Mike, you are just awesome. Just awesome. I love your stuff.”
He nodded and looked at the floor. “Uhh, thanks.”
I had a huge smile on my face. “I have to tell you, your song, ‘When A Man’s Got A Good Woman’–that song just slays me. It just kills me. I love it. Did you write that?”
Michael kept staring at the floor of the elevator. He didn’t answer. I poked him in the arm. “Hey, you wrote that, right?”
He glanced at me quickly, then looked away. He shook his head softly. “No, I didn’t write it.”
I nodded. “Well, it’s great. It just tears me up inside. ‘When A Man Needs A Good Woman.’ Yeah, I can really dig where you’re coming fr–”
“It’s called ‘When A Man Loves A Woman.'”
I paused. “You know, Mike, there was this period of time not too long ago when I wasn’t working. And that song came out and I heard it on the radio, and it was just–your voice was so right on. I mean, you have more soul than anybody, man. You’re really great. Has anybody ever told you how much soul you have? I mean, you’re fantastic.”
Michael was looking at the floor. “Thanks.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
Suddenly the lights in the elevator blinked off for a moment. And then they blinked on again. And then, the elevator suddenly lurched to a stop. I stumbled sideways, bumping into the old man in the charcoal suit. Some of my drink splashed onto the sleeve of my sport jacket.
“Hey–” The guy in the navy blue suit pushed me away from the old man. “Step back, please.”
“Huh?” I stepped away from the old man. The guy in the navy suit steadied the old man. “Mr. President, are you okay, sir?”
The old man raised his head. It was Richard Nixon. I was startled. Nixon nodded his head. “Just fine, son.”
The young guy glanced up at the ceiling of the elevator. “We seem to have stopped, sir. Possibly the elevator has malfunctioned. I’ll radio for help.”
Nixon nodded. “All right.”
The young guy pulled a walkie-talkie out of his suit jacket. “Lone Wolf to Silver Bird, Lone Wolf to Silver Bird, do you copy, over?”
I poked Michael Bolton. “Hot damn, it’s Richard Nixon. Can you believe it?”
The young guy put an arm in front of me. “Take it easy. Step back, please.”
I smiled. “No problem here.” I shook my head. “But wow, Richard Nixon–what are you doing here?”
The young guy pointed at me. “Look, sir, please just step back. You’re interfering with official business.”
“Hey, man, I’m cool.”
He clicked the radio again. “Lone Wolf to Silver Bird, do you copy, over?…”
The radio crackled with static. After a moment a voice answered faintly, “Roger, Lone Wolf.”
The young guy nodded to himself and spoke into the radio. “Uhh, Jim… Mother Goose needs help in the south elevator.”
The radio voice crackled, “That’s a roger, Lone Wolf.”
I turned to Michael Bolton, who was looking at Richard Nixon. “Pretty cool, huh?”
I turned to Nixon, who was standing quietly in a corner of the elevator. “So, Mr. President… how are you doing? How’s retirement treating you?”
Nixon nodded. “Pretty good–as long as this elevator gets going.”
I laughed. “Right, right.” I turned and indicated Michael Bolton. “Mr. President, do you know Michael Bolton?”
“No, I don’t.”
“He’s great. A famous singer. He’s got a couple of gold albums.”
Michael flashed a beaming smile at Nixon. “Platinum albums, actually.”
I nodded. “Yeah, he’s an amazing singer.”
Nixon reached to shake Michael Bolton’s hand. The secret service guy paused. He glanced from Nixon to Michael Bolton to Nixon. “Uhh, Mr. President?…”
Nixon turned to him. “It’s okay, son.” He reached out and shook Michael Bolton’s hand.
Michael Bolton grinned. “It’s a pleasure.”
I turned to Nixon. “So what are you doing here?”
“Pat insisted we do the benefit this year.”
“Well…what do you think?”
Nixon frowned. “A huge fuss. All these jackasses making speeches. I can’t get a drink to save my life.”
I glanced at my half-finished scotch-on-the-rocks. “Hey, I’m drinking scotch if you want some.”
I held out my glass to Nixon. He started to reach for it. Suddenly, the secret service guy, who’d been talking on his walkie-talkie, reached out and grabbed my drink. He turned to Nixon. “Mr. President, I really must insist…”
Nixon exploded. “God-damnit, son–gimme that scotch.”
The secret service guy handed over the glass. Nixon slugged it down. Then he exhaled. “Whoo–good stuff. Wish I had another.”
I smiled. “I hear that. Believe me, if we weren’t stuck in this elevator, I think I’d turn right around and head back to the bar.”
Nixon nodded. “You’re my kind of man.”
Michael Bolton gestured to Nixon. “I love a good Sauvignon Blanc myself.”
Nixon squinted at Michael Bolton. “What?”
Michael smiled a beaming smile. “I always love a good white wine. Nothing too tart. But anything French’ll work for me. What about you?”
Nixon shook his head. He turned to me. “What’s wrong with this guy?”
I chuckled. “I hear you, Dick.”
Nixon elbowed me. “I mean, I thought he had a sissy boy haircut. But what’s all this wine crap?”
I nodded my head solemnly. “I know it.”
The secret service guy clicked off his walkie-talkie. “Good news, gentleman. The elevator should come back any sec–”
Just at that moment the elevator lurched forward again. I stumbled sideways, but Nixon grabbed my arm to steady me. I looked up at him.
The secret service guy gestured with his walkie-talkie. “They were just switching the power downstairs or something.”
We all nodded. “Uh-huh.”
Nixon turned to me. “Listen, I’m sure this whole show’s gonna be a piss-poor bore, but why don’t you join me at my table. We’ll knock back a couple more glasses.”
“Thanks, man. That’d be swell–that is, just as long as there’s room for my lady friend…”
Nixon pointed at Michael Bolton. “You mean blondie, there?”
I laughed. “Right, right.” I chuckled. “No, seriously, I’m here with a lovely redhead. She’s a singer. Her name’s Sheena Easton.”
Nixon nodded. “Oh, right. Terrific girl. Did the James Bond song.”
“She’s the one.”
“Great. She and Pat will get along fabulously.”
We rode the elevator up to the ballroom.