With President Richard M. Nixon’s 109th birthday on Monday this week, I thought I’d share this story about the time I met up with him in Philadelphia.
He was still in The White House at the time and reporters like me, and The Senate Watergate Committee, were hot on his tail.
I trace acquiring my resilience as a news reporter and later as a PR guy from that time I was chasing Nixon while he was in Philadelphia one dramatic day.
My editors at The Philadelphia Inquirer would send me out to do stories requiring interviews with persons who didn’t want to talk to me, so I had to push my way past their resistance. In some instances, I’d be literally knocked down, like one time I was an ambitious young reporter trying to get to President Nixon.
I would do almost anything to get the story. Particularly from a President!
First, I greeted the President when he arrived at the railroad station along with a horde of other reporters. Nixon and Secretary Kissinger had taken one of the first rides on the new high-speed rail line between Washington, DC and Philadelphia.
I was the only reporter who asked him if he liked the ride. He turned to me and said how impressed he was with how quickly he got to Philadelphia. Then he was whisked away.
When I called the front desk, my editor said to follow him wherever he goes, including to a concert he was scheduled to attend that evening at the Academy of Music. And there I went to wait for him.
When he arrived, I interviewed him briefly again before he was ushered off to his private balcony seat. Nixon was in that private booth when the concert began.
Suddenly there were shots fired, several of them. OMG!
They came from the direction where the President of the United States (OMG) was seated in a balcony overlooking the stage that starkly reminded me of President Lincoln at the Ford’s Theater (OMG).
I instantly started running toward there when I was tackled by two giants who told me they were secret service agents protecting the President.
Trying to pry myself loose from their tight grips, with images of Ford’s Theater blazing in my mind, I screamed “let me go, I’m a reporter. I heard shots fired.”
One of the officers yelled back: “You Jerk, that was the 1812 Overture. It starts with cannon fire!”
Oh! But to show you how resilient is Tom Madden, I recovered from that embarrassing incident. I got to write a front-page story about Nixon’s exciting and memorable visit to the City of Brotherly Love.
Still to this day Tom Madden thinks like a journalist, which is one of the reasons his PR firm, TransMedia Group, excels in generating publicity for its many clients. He writes about it in his latest book WORDSHINE MAN, full of tips on how to make your writing inviting . . . and exciting.