When Nixon Resigned, Only His Dog Stopped Him Crying
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This week marks the anniversary of Richard Nixon resigning from office. You might say it was a low point in American history, with the presidency so corrupted. Or maybe it was a high point, since it showed it's possible to force a corrupt president to resign. It was definitely a personal low for Nixon personally, though. And so, shortly before giving his resignation speech, the man started crying.
We have a lot of different accounts of Nixon's last days, not all of them reliable. For this story, we turn to an extremely nonpartisan source: Lillian Brown, Nixon's makeup artist. Actually, she served as makeup artist to nine different presidents, and she had stories about all of them.
With JFK, she knew more about his poor health than almost anyone did, and she was aware that he secretly wore a back brace. LBJ, she convinced to grow sideburns. Ronald Reagan came from Hollywood and had plenty of experience with makeup, and Lilian actually had to remove some of the rouge he put on himself, to suit public settings rather than movie cameras.
It was Lillian's job to get Nixon ready on August 8, 1974. The man started sobbing soon before giving his televised address, and though he'd probably get himself together before the time came for his speech, the tears would ruin his makeup in the meantime. Lillian needed to stop them, fast.
So she reminded him about a story about the two of them and his dog. Not his dog Checkers, a pet very much associated with Nixon's scandals, but an Irish setter named King Timahoe, which his staff had gifted him to warm up his public image.
One Christmas, King Timahoe kept running into the Christmas tree and knocking down ornaments. Lillian was on hand, maybe to get everyone ready for photos, and she took charge by picking up the puppy and taking him into the bathroom, safely away from all things fragile. Then Nixon entered the bathroom (it's unclear if he knew she and the dog were in there beforehand). Then, for some reason not recorded by history, the Secret Service locked the door from the outside, sealing the three of them in together.
The memory got Nixon laughing instead of crying, and his makeup was saved. As for Lillian, she continued fixing politicians for a couple decades, taught for a few decades more, and died just last year at the age of 106. Thanks to makeup, she looked not a day over 84.
For more on Tricky Dick, see also:
Top image: Oliver Atkins