What I was wearing in a blackout with G. Gordon Liddy

May 25, 2021

…were seersucker trousers, crisp summer wear, and a pair of platform wedgies so I’d look tall and authoritative for the job interview I was going to that day.  

G. Gordon Liddy, in case you’ve forgotten, was one of the Watergate co-conspirators. He was head of the so-called Plumbers Unit under President Richard Nixon and the man who organised the burglary of the Democratic National Committee HQ in Washington D.C.

He and his buddies were caught, convicted and sent to prison.

Nixon, disgraced, resigned his presidency. 

It was incredible stuff, the political scandal of the century and it makes the Trump impeachment hearings look like a morning in traffic court. 

G. Gordon Liddy – it’s always the full name, like a Superman villain – was the self-styled hard man of the Watergate group. He liked to say of himself, “I’m virile, vigorous and potent,” and his signature party trick was to hold his hand over a lit candle. 

Physically, he was stocky, with a big, shiny head and one of those oversized moustaches that suggests a furry rodent. (Ironically, he claimed to have trapped and eaten a rat to overcome his fear of rodents.) 

He died a few months ago and there were obituaries and think pieces but to my surprise none of them acknowledged the telling event we — G. Gordon Liddy and I — experienced as a twosome. 

It was a hot summer day in New York City. I had just finished an interview with a publishing company in midtown. I was standing by the elevators, not caring if I’d gotten the job (it was too hot to care and so humid my trousers were sticking to my legs). A military looking man with a bushy moustache came and stood beside me. Even before the receptionist mouthed his name, I recognized him: G. Gordon Liddy. Released from prison, he’d written an autobiography and this was the company that had published it. 

We exchanged here-we-are-both-waiting-for-the-elevator nods and then all the lights went out. 

The elevator, several floors below us, ground to a halt. 

It was the third blackout of the summer and someone popped his head out of an office and yelled,  “What, another? Fuck me!” 

G. Gordon Liddy and I stood there for a few moments staring at the bank of elevators. And then he, ex-con, ex-FBI, former henchman to the (then) most hated leader in the western world, looked at me, gestured politely at the door leading to the emergency stairs, and said,  “Shall we?”  Just as politely, he ushered me into the stairwell. 

It was pitch black. He lit a match – for one wild moment I thought he was going to hold his hand over the flame – but no, he was getting his bearings.  “Watch your step,” he advised and that’s pretty much all he said.

Because for 17 flights of stairs, 17 double flights of unlit stairs we were almost completely silent. Once, when I stumbled — the wedgies were lethal in the dark – he put out an arm to steady me, but this too was in silence.

The only communication in the course of our eight-minute descent (and believe me, eight minutes is a long time in the dark, with a stranger breathing heavily at your side) concerned the heavy fire door situated on every other landing and that had to be wrestled open to gain access to the next double flight of stairs.  Together we would navigate the first set of stairs and then he would whoosh past me in order to wrench the door open, and say in his deep and ominous voice, ”After you.”  I would say, in tones of polite surprise, “Why, thank you,” to which he would respond with, “My pleasure.”

Over and over, the same three-line exchange and then silence until it was time to repeat the ritual. 

By the tenth floor, a note of almost demented courtesy was informing our dialogue. My thank yous had gone up several octaves and his final two words had taken on the benign joviality of Santa Claus in the Coke commercials. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. This was the man who had fired a gun into the ceiling of a courthouse when he didn’t like the way a trial was going.  At what point had that man morphed in to the Dalai Lama? 

When he wrenched open the last fire door we stepped out into the lobby. Blinking a little in the daylight we exchanged nods and, wordlessly, as per the nature of our relationship, went our separate ways.

This happened.

(I didn’t get the job.)

3 Responses toWhat I was wearing in a blackout with G. Gordon Liddy

  1. jenlkjenlk Says:

    I mean, it’s brilliant and hilarious. Thank you. Xx

    On Tue, 25 May 2021 at 14:02, What I was wearing wrote:

    > whatiwaswearing posted: ” …were seersucker trousers, crisp summer wear, > and a pair of platform wedgies so I’d look tall and authoritative for the > job interview I was going to that day. He and his buddies were caught, > convicted and sent to prison. Nixon” >

  2. Linty Moffatt Says:

    Good to get another W I W W again. and what an excellent story. We both enjoyed it v. much. Thanks so much. Linty & Keith. P.S. Better to have taken off your shoes?

    >

  3. Simone Castello Says:

    Nice to hear from you again… really good and intriguing.

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