The guest of Aspen's Montgomery Chitty---a longtime political pundit, former consultant to the Democratic National Committee and assistant manager in 1980 at age 28 of the Democratic convention in New York City--85-year-old Tuck was clad in suspenders, a blazer and bow tie when he met with Aspen Daily's Troy Hooper, who writes that his interviewee "looks more like a professor than the hellion who relished knocking Nixon down a few notches."
In an interview at Chitty's home, Tuck, a longtime and frequent Aspen visitor, recalled intercepting excerpts from the Nixon tapes in the 1970s--supposedly from a British intelligence officer--of which even the White House was unaware. Some edited transcripts had already been released, but Tuck helped introduce the world to Nixon's profane rants and snarling political threats.
That doesn't tell the half of it of Tuck's long, strange relationship with Nixon. Tuck was a Cal State Santa Barbara student when he first met Nixon, and Tuck pulled his first prank on the then-candidate for Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas' seat in 1950 by renting a big auditorium for a Nixon appearance, inviting a small crowd and asking Nixon to speak on the International Monetary Fund.
Tuck's most famous prank came in Nixon's 1962 race for governor, when a visit to LA's Chinatown was set amid a backdrop of children holding welcome signs in English and Chinese. As Nixon spoke, an elder from the community whispered that one of the signs in Chinese said, "What about the Hughes loan?"--a reference to an unsecured $205,000 loan that Howard Hughes made to Nixon's brother Donald Nixon. The chagrined candidate grabbed a sign and, on camera, ripped it up. Tuck was later upset to learn the sign in question translated to "What about the huge loan?"
When Tuck ran unsuccessfully for the California State Senate in 1964, Nixon sent him a congratulatory note and even offered to campaign for the Democrat. So how did Tuck repay this unexpected graciousness four years later? He put a tee-shirt saying "Nixon's the One!"--the Republican presidential nominee's campaign slogan in 1968--on a pregnant black woman who wandered around a Nixon rally in a predominently white area.
Nixon's presidential tapes show him at times admiring Tuck and other times being obsessive toward him. After the Watergate scandal broke, H.R. Haldeman reportedly saw Tuck at the Capitol and supposedly said, "You started all of this." Tuck is said to have replied, "Yeah, Bob but you guys ran it into the ground."
TheNewNixon.org's Jack Pitney, the Roy P. Crocker professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, did not exactly welcome Tuck's reemergence with glee, blogging, "You may have thought Dick Tuck was dead, but he is alive and the guest of honor at an Aspen party." While you're trying to recall how that W.C. Fields premature demise line goes, Pitney seizes on the occasion to drag out patented foundation Nixon victimology, courtesy of a quote Dick (Nixon, not Tuck) gave to fellow NewNixonian Frank Gannon:
I've been the victim of dirty tricks, including bugging--in 1962. There was no question about that. There's a very famous character, a real professional, delightful fellow, as a matter of fact, named Dick Tuck, and he used to sabotage our campaign schedules and send people the wrong way and disrupt our meetings and so forth. He did it in 1962, in that campaign, and he did it again in-of course, he had done it als-he-no--strike that. He did it in 1960 in the presidential campaign, and then he did it in spades in 1962, when I was running against Pat Brown. But the media being, shall we say, not particularly in my corner, just called that fun and games. And then when Segretti, our so-called "dirty tricks man," whom I frankly had never had the opportunity of even meeting--when he tried to practice some of these things on our Democratic opponents, they became high crimes and misdemeanors.
To drive home his message of hypocrisy in Nixonland, Pitney concludes with a quick search of Nexis articles mentioning Tuck that shows references to "pranks" outnumbering references to "dirty tricks" by more than two to one. One would imagine a quick search of Nexis articles mentioning Nixon would show references to "constitutional crisis" outnumbering references to "pity parties" by an even larger margin.
By the way, look for this and other amazing posts on the all-new, new-look, ever-evolving TheNewDick.org.