Thursday, December 04, 2008

Strange basement

In his memoir Witness to Power, Nixon White House counsel John Ehrlichman describes FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover's rumpus room. Stupefying:
After dinner we were led down the narrowest of basement stairs to "the recreation room" for an after-dinner drink. Again, every inch of wall space held some framed memento. In this room the prevailing motif was horse racing. There were pictures of Hoover with winning horses; Hoover with jockeys; Hoover in his box at Del Mar with movie stars, heavyset men, even a child.

Near the door was a small bar. All the walls over and near this counter were decorated with girlie pinups of the old Esquire vintage. Even the lampshade of a small lamp on the bar had naked women pasted on it. The effect of this display was to engender disbelief -- it seemed totally contrived. That impression was reinforced when Hoover deliberately called our attention to his naughty gallery, as if it were something he wanted us to know about J. Edgar Hoover.

Nixon had enjoyed the dinner conversation, but he was not comfortable in this strange basement. After one drink, he exercised the Presidential prerogative; he said good night and we left.

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