Good Old Days of the Secret Service
Amid a furor about misbehaving morons in Colombia, a citizen who once worked closely with them is moved to share his fondness for those who protect Presidents and their families, including the time they almost shot me in a restaurant that serves drinks with tiny umbrellas on top.
In 1966, with her father in the White House, Lynda Bird Johnson came to work for me at McCalls, bringing with her agents who were only too happy to spend their time in an office populated mostly by young women.
One night I went to dinner at Trader Vic’s in Manhattan with our company’s chairman of the board. As we were being seated, the maitre d’ whispered, “The President’s daughter is going to be at the next table.”
Lynda had told me that afternoon about having dinner with the son of a campaign contributor. As they went past, I called her name softly, and she stopped, apparently happy to see a familiar face. I got up and we hugged.
Later, on the way out, the head of her Secret Service detail rose from a stool at the bar where he and another agent had been sitting, screened by a beaded curtain. He was shaking his head.
“I was pretty sure it was you,” he said, “but this other guy is new to the detail and he’s never seen you. When someone got up and grabbed Lynda Bird, he was ready to react.”
My dinner companion was thrilled. “You mean,” he whispered, “we could have been plugged?”
The Secret Service man was still shaking his head. “When somebody makes a move, we don’t have time for questions,” he said.
During Lynda Bird’s tenure at the office, I had the same reaction as Dr. Benjamin Spock, the baby doctor who ran for president several years later, when he qualified for protection and was surrounded by three shifts of eight agents each.