One last deep, throaty chuckle and he was gone

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The Independent Online
From Arthur Nugent Esq

Sir: May I add to your tributes to the late Richard Nixon by reminding your readers what an excellent sense of humour he had?

I well remember meeting him some while ago and asking him if he knew that back in England we also had a famous man called Nixon. I was referring to David Nixon, who was still well remembered in Britain as a TV conjuror and magician.

'I don't believe I knew that,' said the ex-President. 'What does he do?'

'He talks a lot and makes money magically disappear.'

'Then he is in the same line of business as myself,' said Nixon, with the suspicion of a twinkle.

Yours etc.

From Sir Walter Winchelsea

Sir: During my short tenure as ambassador in Washington, I sometimes came into touch with Richard Milhous Nixon, and I found him more approachable and genial than the general tenor of tributes would have you believe.

I remember saying to him one day, 'Tell me, Mr Nixon, has anyone ever asked you if you remember where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?'

'No, I don't believe they have,' said Nixon.

'And can you remember?'

'I certainly can,' said Nixon. 'I was fixing an alibi in New York.'

'I don't quite understand . . .'

He smiled.

'You have to remember that Kennedy and I were deadly rivals during the first presidential campaign we shared. I was always portrayed as a man who hated Kennedy. I realised on hearing of his death that I would be a prime suspect. So I had to make sure I had a firm alibi.'

'And . . . did you have a alibi?'

'I think I could have proved I was not in Dallas that day,' said Nixon shortly.

I asked him how he really viewed John F Kennedy.

'With some irony,' said Nixon. 'He started the Viet-

nam war and is thought of as a world statesman. I ended the Vietnam war and am seen as a villain.'

Yours etc.

From Joe Lognano

Sir: You won't know me but I did a lot of business for the Italian community vis-a-vis President Kennedy, and I had a nodding acquaintance later on with Mr Nixon, and people said he had no sense of humour, but that ain't so, because once I asked him what would have happened if he, and not John Kennedy, had been shot in the car that day in Dallas, and he said, 'I imagine Mrs Kennedy would have got one hell of a shock' and we all cracked up.

Yours etc.

From Joe Harbinger Jr

Sir: I wonder if you remember the dirty campaign they ran against Nixon, with the slogan 'Would you buy a used car from this man?'? Right? And a picture of Nixon with that five o'clock shadow? Right? Well, it's probably never occurred to anyone, but Mr Nixon did have cars, and he did sell them, so someone must have bought a used car from that man. I know that's so, because I did.

That's right. I once bought a used car from Richard Nixon] How about that] I didn't buy it from him personally, but through a car dealer, but it was definitely his. Many years later I met him in an elevator, and I told him this story of how I had bought a used car from him, even though I hadn't voted for him. And he said, 'Well, I hate to tell you this, but the Russian Embassy probably has a record of every word you ever spoke in that car, because it was bugged and we forgot to take the bug out]' So I think you could say that he had a sense of humour all right.

Yours etc.

From Sue Lightwood

Sir: For many years I worked as a make-up girl with one of the big TV companies and one day it was my task to make up Mr Nixon before he appeared on some big political programme.

'What kind of questions will they ask you?' I asked him.

'The same old questions,' he said. 'They never ask the questions that people really want the answers to, like why did I tape all those incriminating Watergate discussions. And do you know who Deep Throat was?'

Well, I was only a make-up girl, but I went right ahead and asked him straight. Why had he made all those tapes and why had he kept them?

'I was sick and tired of being President and wanted out,' he said. 'Next question.'

'Who was Deep Throat?'

'Someone who wanted the President out,' he said.

'You mean . . . you?'

He smiled and said nothing. But I have often wondered if he was joking or not.

Yours etc.

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