default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

The night a big shot came to dinner

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 12:00 am

“Guess who’s coming to dinner?” my mother asked me. How would I know? At the time, I was just a goofy ninth-grade kid living with my folks in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“Herb Klein!” she proudly announced.

“Who’s Herb Klein?” I ignorantly inquired.

“He’s Vice President Nixon’s press secretary. He was also the publicity director for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s two presidential campaigns.”

Herb and Mom were friends and classmates at the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism. She had not seen him on a social basis since the early 1940s. It was now 1959.

I trotted off to my room thinking about this one. Yes, my parents were quite the party-goers, but they usually didn’t mingle with people in politics. Their friends were mostly doctors and dentists from my father’s place of business — the National Naval Medical Center, which happened to be less than a mile from our home in Bethesda.

The only other celebrity who had crossed our doorstep was my mom’s cousin, Johnny Wilcox. He had a popular morning show on Washington’s WMAL radio. He came to dinner once, but I don’t think it went that smoothly. I think he saw us as a bit nerdy — especially when I pulled out a reel-to-reel tape recorder and demonstrated my amateur radio commercials. Well, Mom thought they were cool, anyway.

I thought that maybe Herbert Klein would be our ticket to dining with the Washington elites. He might introduce us to the vice president. Maybe that would lead to President Eisenhower. Who knows? Perhaps we would be rubbing elbows with the world of big-wigs at Camp David!

The doorbell rang. Back then, it was my habit to look out an upstairs window and check our guests’ “rides.” But this time, there was nothing. Klein must have been brought by limousine. That was pretty impressive to a 14-year-old!

I wasn’t invited to the table, but I could overhear the conversations. It began with a lot of catch-up small talk and then progressed to “remember when?” Of course, politics of the day were discussed. Even as a teenager, I could tell that Klein did not have his heart or mind into it. He seemed silently focused on his work. This was the age before cellphones, and the press secretary made several calls from our landline — ranging from shortly after his arrival until the final call for his transportation.

Klein thanked my parents for a lovely evening and then departed. My folks didn’t say much about the event. But this wasn’t the typical backslapping, joking and joyful occasion that I was used to hearing whenever they entertained friends.

As far as I know, that was the end of their social contact with Herbert Klein. He had been making preparations for Nixon’s upcoming presidential campaign, and later would be involved in the vice president’s run for California governor in 1962.

I think I learned something about friendships that night. It seemed to me that people who are at the top of their game generally choose friends and social occasions for enhancement of their occupational goals. That might explain the lack of intimacy I felt. It appeared that my father had no shared interests with Mr. Klein.

My folks didn’t have a lot of close friends. But the ones they did have were genuine and cordial. Career advancement was not really a factor.

I guess you could say that I’ve followed in my parents’ footsteps when it comes to the same social objective.

With that in mind, whom do you suppose is coming to dinner at my house tonight? It’s my blue-collar buddy, Tony, who’s bringing a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don’t pretend you’re someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don’t threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don’t insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the ‘Report’ link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.
  • 9 Don’t be a troll.
  • 10 Don’t reveal personal information about other commenters. You may reveal your own personal information, but we advise you not to do so.
  • 11 We reserve the right, at our discretion, to monitor, delete or choose not to post any comment. This may include removing or monitoring posts that we believe violate the spirit or letter of these rules, or that we otherwise determine at our discretion needs to be monitored, not posted, or deleted.

Welcome to the discussion.

Recent Comments

Posted 2 hours ago by robert maurer.

article: Steve Hansen: Funding, researcher bias …

47 to 63% more ice in Antarctica last year. Heat passes through co2, it does not trap it. Co2 is used industrially as a coolant. Dry ice is…


Posted 2 hours ago by robert maurer.

article: JoAnne Mounce: California gas tax is a …

Faking English problems again, Walter? Name 5 people you love besides the liberals who post here. Then name 5 people who love you( besides …


Posted 2 hours ago by Thomas Heuer.

article: Letter: Our leaders need to be better r…

Mike You made my day with your 6:16 am post this morning. Thanks. However your struggle to correct Kevin's hyperbolic and exaggerated respo…


Posted 3 hours ago by robert maurer.

article: Letter: Our leaders need to be better r…

Yes , Mike , what culture war is that? Plan on turning Islamic soon? You and the any old geezer older than 63 won't see it. Check out bare …


Posted 3 hours ago by robert maurer.

article: Letter: Our leaders need to be better r…

You should, you should , you should... Yeah , maybe YOU should...



Popular Stories



Your News

News for the community, by the community.

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists