25 Years of Dick
Art by Mike LeeTHE FIRST SOUND FILE I EVER DOWNloaded was Richard Nixon's "I'm not a crook" -- possibly his most famous work, and for three good reasons: It's quick, it's a lie, and it defines a distinctly American relationship between representative and represented. Given how much good-natured fun Nixon had with the surveillance devices available during his reign, imagine the time he'd be having if he were president today. With 1999-style satellite-communications systems, 128-bit pop encryption and hi-res proctological fiber optics, for example, the man would never have to leave the loo.
But then, one must argue, look at all he did in terms of China and Russia and Martin Luther King.
Twenty-five years ago, around lunchtime on August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned, becoming the first courteous American president.
"Do you hate Nixon?" I asked my father sometime during the Vietnam War. We'd been having another squabble over Nixon's character: I was arguing 80 percent evil, 20 percent sick; Dad tended more toward 5050.
"No, I don't hate him," he replied. "I just disagree with pretty much everything he says or does."
MY ONGOING FASCINATION WITH NIXON is minor compared to that of my friend Jeffrey Vallance, whose Nixonian artwork has made him famous in certain circles. (Obviously not that famous -- for example, you haven't heard of him -- but famous enough that eventually I had to call the Nixon Library public-relations department for him because they knew his voice and would hang up.) My affliction is generally dormant, with minor flare-ups: I drew nonstop Nixon caricatures between 1968 and 1974, feature him prominently on my living-room wall (genuine August 8, 1974, Champaign-Urbana Courier: "Pres. Nixon to resign") and devote a chapter to him in my as-yet-unpublished Disturbing Life Forms of the Cenozoic, but that's about it. Jeffrey's the one with the serious Nixon infection. (Cultures available: NIXCO at www.aloha.net/~eldon/nixco1.htm; Nixonland at www.homestead.com/nixco/.)
In honor of this, the 25th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation, I've cooked up a portable multimedia altar which I hope is worthy of half an hour of your attention. Webcorp Multimedia (http://webcorp.com/video/) maintains a lovely library of historic audio and video clips, from Trotsky to McCarthy to Spiro Agnew on Kent State ("Had the rocks not been thrown, there would have been no chance of the killings"). My recipe, which requires a registered QuickTime player for simultaneous playback of multiple files, includes three Webcorp clips plus a surprise-guest MP3 file from student Peter Abelsson's Lilla Lya På Nätet (http://snabel.ava.taby.se/).
THE PORTABLE NIXON MULTIMEDIA ALTAR RECIPE
Preparation time: 20 min. @ 56K
(A) Download the following three video clips from Webcorp's free archive.
(1) "Just think how much you're gonna be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore." (http://webcorp.com/video/nixon/kikarou1.avi)
(2) "I should say this: Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat." (http://webcorp.com/video/nixon/patcoata.avi)
(3) "I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination. Because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." (http://webcorp.com/video/nixon/notcrooa.avi)
(B) Download an MP3 of Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun" (http://snabel.ava.taby.se/mp3/70ies/season.mp3), chart-bustin' AM-radio hit at the time of Nixon's resignation.
(C) Open all four files in your registered QuickTime player (QuickTime4 supports MP3). Left to right, resize (1), (2) and (3) to fill the top of your screen, then stretch (B) below them. Set the Nixon clips to Loop (command- or control-L, generally). Turn the volume down about halfway on (1), (3) and (B); leave it cranked on (2) and season to taste.
(D) From the Movie menu, select Play All Movies. Sit and pray for possible entertainment value.
"REMEMBER ONCE WHEN I WAS ABOUT 10 we were talking about Nixon and hatred and stuff like that?" (I call my father to warn him that I'm going to quote him, July 1999.)
"I asked you if you hated him, and you said no, and then we talked about the extent to which he was evil or sick and stuff like that. Do you remember what you said?"
"I probably said something like, 'No, I don't hate him. I just disagree with pretty much everything he says or does.'"
"That sounds pretty close."
"Although actually, I really did hate Nixon. I just didn't want to say that to my son."
"Yeah. At this point, I could definitely say that I hated Nixon. Not only because he was such a rotten bastard, but because he never would have been president if Bobby Kennedy hadn't been assassinated -- whether or not Nixon had something to do with that. I didn't hate Gerald Ford. Or Eisenhower. They were just bland, probably well-meaning people with different politics from me.
"And I don't know if this helps your story, but I also hated Ronald Reagan. Just hated that guy."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.