Thomas DeFrank’s book Write It When I’m Gone is, as you’d expect, focused on the author’s off-the-record conversations with Gerald Ford during his vice presidency, presidency, and post-presidency. And there are a few gems that reveal a little something about the man and his political life. Me, of course, I go for the offbeat stuff too. And there were two items worth passing on here:
1) DeFrank writes about Ford’s first state dinner as president. He marks the change in tone between the gruff Nixon years and the bubbly, sociable Fords this way: “I’m confident in predicting that Jerry Ford will be the first, last and only president of the United States to dance at the White House to Jim Croce’s street-dude ballad ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.'”
2) DeFrank was the target of the weirdest presidential prank I’ve heard yet: campaigning in Peoria in March 1976, Ford’s press secretary, Ron Nessen, lured DeFrank out of his hotel room late at night so as to give him a hot piece of news, or so he said. The real reason he wanted to get DeFrank out of bed was because chief of staff Dick Cheney, with Ford’s blessing, had smuggled a sheep into his hotel room – and a dozen of his fellow reporters into the bathroom to see what happened. You can probably guess: DeFrank was surprised as hell and, as he puts it, “the sheep [was] so terrified that she kept depositing remembrances of her visit on the carpet.”
One final note that doesn’t come from the book – President Ford once had lunch with George Harrison, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar. Cause, yeah.