'Quite a Few Martinis Were Consumed'

Ron Nessen, the press secretary for President Ford, tells the San Francisco Chronicle about the 1975 assassination attempt on Ford by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco:

Nessen recalls that as the shots rang out, he looked for a car in the waiting motorcade that already had its doors open. He jumped into a car with Donald Rumsfeld, who was then Ford's White House chief of staff.

After racing from downtown, the Ford motorcade drove onto the tarmac at the airport, and the presidential party hurried aboard Air Force One. Before it could leave, however, the plane had to wait for first lady Betty Ford, who had been carrying out her own schedule of events on the Peninsula.

Nessen, who now lives in suburban Maryland, said the first lady had no idea that her husband had been attacked. "She said something like, 'How are you, dear? How did your day go?'"

"I think it was Rumsfeld who finally told her that someone took a shot at the president. ... We took off and what had happened sunk in. I can tell you that quite a few martinis were consumed on the flight back," Nessen added.

A few years later, Betty Ford became the nation's most prominent alcoholic and painkiller addict, admitting her problems, the family's staged intervention and her subsequent trip to rehab. Considering all of the things she discussed openly -- psychiatric treatment, substance abuse and a mastectomy to treat breast cancer -- one of the things that ought to be remembered today about President Ford is his wife's willingness to talk candidly about her travails.


Betty Ford wasn't the only person associated with the assassination attempt who developed alcohol dependency.

According to that Chronicle article:

Sara Jane "Moore's gun hand had initially been deflected by...Marine veteran Oliver "Bill" Sipple...

...The Chronicle ran a story saying that one reason the White House had yet to thank Sipple for his potentially lifesaving gesture was that he was a gay man.

It turned out that Sipple's family had not known he was gay, and the disclosure resulted in his being alienated from his relatives...

He slid into alcoholism and died in 1989 in his Van Ness apartment at age 47..."

Sipple eventually got his thank you letter--too late for him, though.

This society has made some progress in shedding its hypocritical attitudes toward homosexuality, and alcoholism, since then, but we still have a way to go.

"Gerald Ford Nearly Assassinated: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit"

Merry Whatsit to all, and if you're lucky you'll never have to carry the memory of Rogers uttering the words "purple-helmeted soldier of love" like I do.

I guess it depends on whose "soldier" he was talking about. You guys must be getting old--you're already creating this mythology of your misspent youth.

I think it was a rhetorical soldier, and may have sprung from the inevitable Dick Armey train of comedy.

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