Scene In Passing: Love me tender; I pledge I’m not a crook

On my desk at the Nevada Appeal sits a copy of a photograph of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley when they met on Dec. 21, 1970.

Taken in the Oval Office at the White House, it serves as a reminder regarding many things: the potential efficacy and usual lack thereof in public-private partnerships or relationships; the entertaining nature of virtually everything, from politics and government to the other and truer entertainment arts; the pitfalls of ego, the pratfalls of the rich and famous, the downfalls time often will render.

The photo, snapped 43 years and eight days ago when the president and king met briefly, is the most requested item from the U.S. National Archives. More people have asked for it than have sought the U.S. Constitution, perhaps because a picture is worth a thousand words and this picture seems more worthy than thousands of others.

A news colleague and friend gave it to me a quarter century ago. It never ceases to remind me that visualizing those who think they are powerful are naked behind their conventional suits or gaudy costumes, vulnerable behind their smiles, and often after something dubious or foolish.

The king was after a badge designating him a federal agent-at-large of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Presumably the president was after a photo opportunity, as we in the news business refer to such grip & grin silliness.

By now, readers wonder what the point of this end-of-year rambling might be. Discerning readers may even wonder if there is a point that relates to local politics, government and business, the arenas of interest for the writer in this space. Indeed there is. Return for a moment to that point about the efficacy, or lack thereof, stemming from public-private partnerships and relationships. Now think Carson City.

Forgetting the pitfalls of ego and the pratfalls of the rich and famous for the moment, let’s move to the downfalls of time and inadequate due diligence. Nixon gave Presley his badge, a laughing stock move given Presley’s predilections for overdoing “legal” drugs. Presley gave Nixon a photo opp moment, which Nixon needed like another bungled Watergate break-in.

In the next couple of months, city government will debate a public-private confluence of efforts on city-scape improvements in business corridors and regarding an animal shelter. Nothing wrong with that, but proceeding with smart due diligence to pin down what everyone gets, within reason, would be smart.

Posterity is more than a grip & grin photo. And it outlasts presidents, even kings.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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