Gut Check: The Night I Shared Dinner with Reagan
The week of the tenth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's death brings me to my only Reagan story—one I've told so many times that my fingers are pretty much on auto pilot here, while my brain is thinking about the fried chicken and rice I have in the fridge. Focus, Greg.
It occurred, in my role as an intern for the American Spectator, working to prepare the home of its editor, for the arrival of the President. Late '80s, toward the end, I think. I was broke but muscular.
Reagan made a practice of having dinner in private homes twice a year and chose R. Emmett Tyrrell's, a large Virginia manse whose windows I washed and lawns I mowed the morning of that dinner. As a reward, I got to meet the Prez, briefly, before being hustled off into the kitchen to sit with the Secret Service, all fine men—who almost beat the crap out of me a few hours before, when I accidentally interrupted a meeting. I saw a bomb dog urinate on my boss's briefcase, which brought a few of us a brief moment of joy.
It's a weird thing seeing someone that famous and iconic, like Reagan.
Especially, when seeing his likeness in person prior to this—it was always someone in a Reagan mask. That was the sensation here as well—the likeness is plastic. I stared out the living room window at the President's parade of blinking blue and red lights of cars heading to my boss's home, only to realize as I turned around that it was all a decoy. The real man was standing behind me doing the same thing—watching the cars. The man, who appears to be wearing a Reagan mask, was indeed, Reagan—sans Reagan mask. His mask was from birth; you couldn't pull it off, even with pliers. Not that I tried. I would have been killed. Famous, but killed.
I went to shake his hand and uttered the only sentence I have ever uttered to a President: "Blurggghaaa glur blur gluaaa blah gla blur." I can't say those are the exact words I used, but does it matter? It was pure blithering nonsense, and it was met with a polite, and very casual, "Nice to meet you." A hand was shook, a picture was taken, a photo I later lost in my move from Arlington to San Mateo, California. It's a bummer. I looked sweaty and terrified. I pray to meet another President, so at least I can say something that resembles anything beyond drunken Esperanto.
Later, after dinner, the President left—leaving a fairly drunk dinner party by the piano singing songs. I remember Andy Ferguson, Midge Dector, John O'Sullivan, and not much else—except for Reagan's dinner still sitting on the table, a chicken dish he had only half devoured.
Being in the kitchen, alone and agile, provided ample opportunity: the chicken—Reagan's chicken—was vulnerable. I knew it had to be mine. it seemed to look up at me and whisper, "What are you waiting for? Take me, now—you poor hungry thing."
So as it was about to be plucked from the table by a hired hand, I swung from another side, lifted it from a cart, and wolfed it down. It was like doing a shot of chicken.
It might have been delicious, but does it matter? Even in my early twenties, I knew a good story when I saw it flirting in front of me, and this was a good story.
Now, for the rest of my life, I can say, "I shared a meal with the greatest President ever."
Of course, that's a lie. I never met James Polk.
Greg Gutfeld is a mainstay on Fox News as co-host of The Five and the host of Red Eye. He's also the NY Times best-selling author of The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage. His new book Not Cool, also debuted in the top 10 of NY Times best seller list. For more from Greg check out his official site or follow him on Twitter.