Schulenberg’s Page: Bob goes to Washington

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November, 1972 and exactly a week earlier we learned that President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, had been responsible for a secret group attempting to sabotage the Democratic Party — enabling the Republicans to have an advantage in the upcoming national election.  We became aware of the phrase Dirty Tricks!

Richard Nixon had already been called “Tricky Dick,” but the nickname now returned to popular usage.  Mitchell’s group used tricks as simple and as devious as ordering quantities of pizzas to be delivered (and paid for) to the Democratic Party headquarters!  Simple, dumb but expensive tricks.

In the meantime, I was seeing a lot of Mary Milton.  She had a serious job with a major foundation and it entailed a lot of responsibilities along with accompanying pressures.  As a refreshing relief for both of us we had an ongoing regular Saturday afternoon stroll on Madison Avenue mostly window shopping accompanied with people watching.

One Saturday morning she called me saying that she’d seen a photograph of the model Lauren Hutton wearing a sort of variation of a man’s hat — the standard that every businessman wore before President Kennedy and his brother Bobby made them unfashionable and obsolete.  She wanted me to go with her to Bergdorf Goodman to see if we could find something similar.

Mary kind of reminded me of Constance Bennett!

I told her that I didn’t think that Bergdorf’s would have anything like that — but what the heck, Bergdorf’s was fun anyway!  So we went and she saw and tried on a lot of very expensive hats. Nothing came even close.

Instead, I had an idea and dragged her out of Bergdorf’s into one of the charity thrift shops that dotted Third Avenue just a few blocks away. We found a man’s hat for a dollar and I said “yes” and plopped it on her head pulling it down to a 1920’s cloche position just above her eyebrows!

She loved it and as we gave the woman at the cash register one dollar plus tax the woman smiled and asked if it was for a costume party?!

We just smiled and going back to Madison Avenue immediately ran into Billy Cunningham, who photographed Mary for The New York Times! (I hope the thrift shop woman saw the photo!)

That was one of the typical Saturday adventures! Now here we were chilling at The Theatrical Pub and talking about John Mitchell!

The next day I had an appointment at Fortune Magazine.  They had an assignment for me.

They wanted me to go to Washington and do some illustrations of Congress — formal and informal.

As they described the project, it sounded more and more elaborate.

With all the controversies and intrigues of the Nixon government they gave me certain guidelines and cautionary information.  We had to be as neutral and unjudgemental as possible — even in the illustrations!

Previously I had done a series of illustrations accompanying an article on Jack & Charlie’s 21 Club. And while this job sounded just a bit intimidating, so was the 21 Club project.

The powers at Fortune liked it enough to invite me back. So off I went! To Washington!

I landed at Washington International Airport and was checked into the Hay Adams Hotel.  My friend Craig Caswell had gone back to Georgetown to complete his education and introduced me to two friends of his, Dick Rudy, a childhood friend from his hometown of Rochester, NY; and Ken Adams, who was a descendant of the Presidents’ Adams.

They were also Georgetown students and while Craig was working at the local PBS station, they took me to dinner.

What I’d seen of Washington so far seemed a lot calmer than New York with not a sign of protest — but I’d only just arrived.

Coincidentally, I saw someone I’d seen in Manhattan just before leaving, Steve Markham, who was a popular model from the West Coast.  He was beyond movie star handsome, but somehow, even though he worked a lot, his amazing looks didn’t transfer to film.  In life though he always drew admiring looks, which embarrassed him.

There was even a rumor that a charismatic fictional character had been based on him.  A few years later he got out of modeling and I’d heard he’d gone into real estate.

So having met the people in Time-Life’s Fortune office in Washington and having gotten a very truncated tour of the Capitol, I flew back to Manhattan landing at LaGuardia Airport!

It was planned that I’d go back for a more detailed visit.

Back in Manhattan, I’d learned that William Woo, a Hong Kong tailor that Ben Bagley had told me about, had come back to town and was taking orders for inexpensive tailored suits.  He was staying at the Americana Hotel and I called and made an appointment.

I had an idea: in a hot, humid Manhattan summer the most comfortable thing to have is a soft terry cloth towel.  And what is the smartest-looking thing you can wear?  A white suit!

Ergo — why not a white terry cloth tailored suit?

I bought yards of the best softest terry cloth I could find and took it to my appointment with Mr. William Woo.  He started showing me books of beautiful English fabrics and I stopped him and explained that I wanted to order a white terry cloth suit.

William Woo stopped — and looked at me.

A long look.

Finally he told me that he couldn’t do that.  The way he said it made me think that either he thought I was kidding or that I was totally mad!

There was an embarrassing moment of silence but I couldn’t bring myself to order another suit so I gathered myself up as dignified as I could, thanked him and left the Americana Hotel with my yards and yards of very soft white terry cloth fabric.

I took my terry cloth to Yellowfingers while waiting for the bus home and started wondering what I was going to do with all the terry cloth.

A young woman stopped and asked me about the fabric — if I were selling it and I drew her picture.  No. I wasn’t selling it.

After a restful weekend at the farm, the following Monday I went with Bobby Waddell to Welcome Home, a benefit for The Arthur Mitchell Dance Theater of Harlem, an amazing evening with Cannonball Adderley, Josephine Premice, Carmen McRae and the almost mythical Lena Horne!

So I was going back to Washington for a more detailed visit to the Capitol. This time I was assigned a photographer who photographed details that I thought would be useful. I realized that the very rough notes I’d made previously were not at all helpful.

The only real dissenting thing I heard was Nixon being called “an  autocrat,“ which was a lot more polite than what he was being called in New York!

I invited Craig to dinner at The Statler Hilton Steakhouse and he told me about his classes at Georgetown.  At least his parents were happy that he’d gone back to finish.

I noticed that most of the men that I was seeing resembled a more conservative look than men in Manhattan.  I guess it was related to working in the government.

But finally, armed with a lot of photographic references, going to Washington National Airport waiting for the NY/Washington Shuttle, I flew back to Manhattan.

Now all I had to do was make sense of all the photo references and everything I’d seen and do the illustrations.

I’d stayed at The Hay Adams Hotel, gotten a very interesting tour of the Capitol, visited with Craig and his friends; and all of it with a generous expense account.  And after finishing the job I would be just as generously paid.

I had an enviable career and I was very aware of it!

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