Jerry and me
I moved out west from New Jersey in 1975 to attend law school at Stanford. It was a turning point in my life, and it was a fairly important time in history for the law school as well. The school's new buildings opened just as we arrived, and if I previously had any doubt that I had made it to the big time, well... the Leader of the Free World was flying in to dedicate the complex. As Stanford law students, we all were invited to attend and sit in the reserved section.
The President at the time was Gerald Ford, the former congressman from Michigan who became vice president and wound up in the White House after Nixon and Agnew were disgraced. He was a decent guy, but dull, and something of a klutz. Chevy Chase would later make a name for himself goofing on the guy. Rather than cut the ribbon on the law school, some suggested, Ford would probably cut his tie by mistake.
For a week or so leading up to the presidential visit, the school and the nearby dorms (of which I was a new resident) were crawling with Secret Service guys. The dark suits, the ear pieces, the funny-fitting jackets that concealed the guns -- there was no mistaking them. Of course, they had good reason to be concerned -- earlier that month one of the Manson harpies, Squeaky Fromme, had tried to take a shot at Ford in Sacramento; fortunately, she didn't know how to handle the handgun she was packing, and it didn't go off. Needless to say, everybody involved with the President's return to the Bay Area was more than a little uptight. The nation didn't need any more drama with White House vacancies.
Anyway, the big day arrived, and we all got there early. Ford showed, made a nice speech warning that government was encroaching on our privacy (if we had only known where that was heading), and managed to stay upright, with tie intact. Here are some of the official Stanford photos:
Now, some of my schoolmates were singled out for a private audience with the President. Here you can see my buddy Rob Biniaz, just behind Ford; Rob's the one with the glasses and the chin hair:
As for me, however, I was left in the cheap seats outside. Here's how it looked to my el cheapo camera. As you can see, although we students had reserved seats, we all had to squint against the late September sun, which can be pretty powerful in those parts:
It was a lovely day, and I'm sure we all adjourned to the Oasis Beer Garden for burgers and suds afterward. As for Ford, the next day, up at the St. Francis Hotel in San Fran, a gal named Sara Jane Moore tried to shoot him. Her shot was deflected, and a bystander was wounded.
After Jerry and I parted ways, I became a homesick, scared basket case in the Stanford counseling center for a while, but then I got good grades and I stabilized somewhat. Meanwhile, he struggled with runaway inflation and the bad rap he had earned by pardoning Nixon, and he lost his bid for re-election to a peanut farmer. But for 20 minutes or so on the Farm, there we were together.
The next month, I had a much better seat for a much better show.