The Public Eye

Tell-all books and insider stories flourish, not because we need justification for liking or disliking the high-profile subjects they cover, but because what we really want to know is whether these people are as screwed up as we are.

If, for instance, it were to be reported that Elvis once downed 50 cheeseburgers while wearing a see-through Col. Sanders suit and a hair net, we would feel less guilty about eating the occasional Big Mac. Moreover, we could eat a Big Mac while wearing a Speed-O and still feel a little bit normal.

Just so we’re clear, I have no desire to be anywhere near a Speed-O, much less wear one. I feel strongly that time, gravity and too much good food would conspire to make me look like an aging Russian oligarch on a Black Sea vacation.

The point, however, is that when we read about notables doing crazy, strange, peculiar or even normal things, it makes us feel better about ourselves, just as I did when a book about President Nixon revealed that he once was spotted in the Oval Office trying to gnaw the top off a child-proof aspirin bottle.

There was the most powerful man in the world, a titan of the American military/industrial complex, and in charge of the most sophisticated tools in the history of the planet, rendered so helpless by a child-proof cap that he tried to bite it off.

That scene, I suppose, was included to embarrass him, but what it did was make me feel less embarrassed about getting caught trying to do the same thing, but with a hacksaw.

“What in the world are you doing?”

“Ummm, uh …”

But now I could say, “I’m like the president, but with tools.”

On the other hand, his replacement, Gerald Ford, was so normal that the best insider information anyone could come up with was, “President Ford Fixes Own Breakfast!”

It’s a fact. This startling expose went on to say that Ford, whose house staff included one of the best kitchen crews on the planet, always fixed himself not one, but two, English muffins. Whoa! Stop the Presses!

Still, it was good to know the Leader of the Free World, the man with his finger on the button, knew his way around a toaster.

This revelation also gave me a sense of his humanity, although I did wonder briefly if he might say, once handed the nuclear football at some insanely critical time, “Okay, what do we want here, lightly toasted or dark?”

This startling piece of muffin news had other ramifications as well.

“Hey, what’s for breakfast?” I asked not long after this enlightening tidbit hit the stands.

“You’re having the Presidential Breakfast today, i.e. fix your own!”

As for the current crop of insider books, I’m not even going there, because no matter what I say, and freedom of speech notwithstanding, threats against my person will ensue: “I’m for free speech, just not your free speech.”

Besides, threatwise, I have enough of that at home, thanks.

“Hey, what’s for breakfast?”

“You say that one more time and I’ll …”

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