The Gipper and His Friends at Dirty Dick's

by Mike Walsh

I don't know if I should be letting this out, but seeing as how the guy doesn't come around here anymore, I don't know how it can hurt any.

My name is Richard P. McIntyre, born in the year of 1933 in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and I am owner and proprietor of Dirty Dick's Downtown Tavern where I now sit writing this divulgence. In case you don't know, Dirty Dick's is located in Washington, DC, not more than a couple hundred yards from the backdoor of the White House.

Now what happened was this: every other night or so from about his third month in office till quite recently, the Gipper, 40th President of the United States, came into my establishment disguised as a regular person and boozed it up until closing time. He even adopted a weird voice, like he was from Alabama or somewhere.

Despite the phony mustache and sunglasses, I knew from the first night that I had seen him somewhere before. I even said as much, but he told me I must be thinking of somebody else. That whole night I found myself staring at him, but he kept looking away, trying to avoid eye contact. There was an unmistakable presence in the air around him that told me he was someone more important than myself, someone who inspired awe in others. It was what you might call an "aura."

By the second or third visit we, meaning myself and Sid, one of the regulars who also happens to be my best friend and one of the smartest people I know common sense-wise, had figured out who he was. But we didn't ask any questions. If the President of the whole darn country wants to come to my bar and drink in privacy, who am I to stop him? By God, he's got the right, and that's a right I'll do my damnedest to protect.

After about a week of him coming in every night and not saying more than a few words, he spits out, "Ahh, it's Mommy's time of the month again."

Well, Sid and I looked at each other in utter astonishment. I mean you could've knocked us over with a feather. Flabbergasted is what we were. Here was the President talking about the First Lady, the beautiful ex-movie star Nancy, in that way. "Here's to the old bitch," he added as he threw down a shot of bourbon. You can imagine our surprise.

Well, it wasn't long before we got to like the Gipper (that's what he liked to be called), and he became just like one of the regulars. He even used to wear bowling shirts and brag about his bowling scores along with the other guys. Neither Sid nor I said a word to anybody concerning his real identity, not with the national security at stake. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if the American public knew that the President was sneaking out at night and getting sloshed instead of working on matters of international importance? Jumping-Jesus, all hell would break loose, that's what would happen.

Now don't get me wrong. I was honored by his very presence, but we kept an eye on him, making sure he didn't get himself into any trouble. And there was more than one time that he needed our help, especially during the famous binges he went on every month or so. I mean, I can see why it's desirable that the Commander-in-Chief be brave and fearless (sets a good example for the rest of us), but when the Gipper was drunk he would go out of his way to start trouble. Inevitably he'd insult somebody for no reason at all, and we'd have to jump in so he wouldn't get his head bashed in.

There were times when I found myself thinking that we should let him get himself beat up, just to teach him a lesson. Nevertheless, we knew it was our patriotic duty to protect the President, and I have no doubt that Sid and I would've laid down our lives to defend him. It was something nobody had to ask us to do.

On one particular night he got himself so drunk he passed out on the bar, and we couldn't wake him up no how. I mean we tried slapping him and smelling salts and water in the face and shouting and everything. When 6 am rolled around, we figured that as citizens we had to take action. Well, you should've seen that security guard's face when we dragged him out of Sid's station wagon at the front gate of the White House. Sid told the guard to keep his mouth shut and get the President inside or he would be out of a job. And that's exactly what he did. We laughed like hell all the way back to Dirty Dick's.

On another night the Gipper came in and cried his eyes out for more than three straight hours. I mean he wept with his head in his arms like a baby. In most cases I would've asked the guy to desist or vacate the premises, especially if he was bawling as loud as the Gipper was, but this was not most cases, you follow me?

Sid and I stayed at the other end of the bar trying to get a handle on the problem. We figured it must've been the deficit or unemployment or the recession or maybe the Russians were starting to get on his nerves. I mean being the President and having all that responsibility riding on your shoulders and people expecting you to make important decisions every day-well, it must take its toll. So we left him alone and locked the doors to make sure nobody bothered him. A man has a right to his grief, right? And being the President, he didn't need everybody and their second cousin down here watching him bawl his eyes out. If there's a guy who needs a little privacy when he's in a bad way, it's the President of the United States of America.

Despite all the tension commensurate with having the Gipper in Dirty Dick's almost every night, it was damned entertaining to see the Gipper's disguises improve. At first there were slips in the southern accent, but by the end he could've fooled anybody with it. The clothes too became more and more refined, like he had a fashion designer pick a different outfit for him every night. Sometimes he even dressed in a leather jacket and spikes like a motorcycle gang member. He greased his hair back in a DA, and I noticed various tattoos, such as an eagle or MOMMY, that looked like they had been drawn with a ball point pen.

And get this: he even started bringing his wife and members of the administration along with him, all dressed up, just like he was. They seemed to enjoy the costume party as much as he did.

I'll never forget the first night he brought Nancy to Dirty Dick's. She was dressed in dark pointy shades, a miniskirt, knee-high boots, and the thick, deep red lipstick. They sat at a table in the back and drank like no tomorrow. After a while she sat up on his lap, and they started messing around in a manner unsuited for public display. It wasn't long before he had his hand up her dress, and it just got worse when they started ordering doubles.

The highlight of the evening came when she yelled right into his face, "If you do that one more time, Gippie-Poo, I'll grab your you-know-what, and I won't let go till your eyes pop out."

Well, he must've done it again because the next thing you know the two of them was tussling on the floor, laughing and giggling and grabbing at each other, and she was yelling, "Mommy spank," and I never saw anything like it in my life. They were shit-faced, plain and simple.

And I didn't like it neither. Sure, it's a free country. A person's got the right to do anything he or she wants, as long as he or she don't hurt anybody else. But in my opinion a person shouldn't act like a complete fool in public, especially if that person happens to be the President. Maybe it's not my place to be saying this, but the Gipper was just plain immature at times. I know Sid felt the same way.

Eventually they both passed out, she in such a way that her under things were exposed. I wouldn't let any of the fellas look, and I would've knocked them up side the head if any of them tried. So I called a cab. He staggered out carrying her, trying to tip me with five dollar bills (which I refused), and swearing that he would never forget me.

He brought George Bush, the Vice president, in plenty of times too, called him "Dennis," and the two of them always had one whale of a time. Nothing against the Gipper, but I never cared for that Bush guy. He was loud, obnoxious, and usually drunk before he even got here. And if that weren't enough, he couldn't keep his hands off my waitresses.

He was a bad influence on the Gipper too. the Gipper believed everything the Vice President told him and really seemed to respect that squeaky-voiced creep. Bush would tell tall tale after tall tale of carousing and whoring, and the Gipper, the President of the greatest country on earth, would hang onto every word like it was gospel. Every time Mr. Bush told one of his dumb jokes, the Gipper would laugh till he cried, like he just heard the funniest thing in the whole world. It was a pathetic sight.

He brought a couple cabinet member, Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz, with him once in a while too. I don't remember the names he used for them, but those two guys rubbed me the wrong way from day one. They were a couple of shysters if there ever were any. I guess they thought Sid and I were real dumb, a couple of farmers. That attitude took a 180 degree turn the night Sid caught them in the men's room with some drugs and a woman of questionable repute. They became two of the most nervous people you'd ever want to meet. We didn't tell the Gipper because, well, we just thought the nation was unstable enough without a scandal within the presidential administration.

And the fighting they did! You'd of thought the whole administration was trying to kill each other. They screamed and cursed for hours at a time, even going so far as to throw punches. Nancy was no different. She would spit and scratch like an alley cat. More than once I had to pull George Bush and the Gipper apart, or Weinberger and Schultz would gang up on Bush. That guy could take a punch, let me tell you. Then the next thing you know, there they are, hugging and crying on one another's shoulders, swearing to never fight again. More than once Nancy held an ice pack on the Vice President's head where the Gipper had just coco-butted him not more than five minutes before.

The Gipper started to change once everybody realized that he would be re-elected. It was almost like the popularity was too much to handle. I could understand a celebration party or two, but this guy just wouldn't stop. The more he drank, the more erratic he became. People were afraid to talk to him, afraid he'd fly off the handle. Sometimes he laughed so hard we thought he would choke to death, and the next thing you knew he was crying like a baby. It was a strange time for all of us. Eventually I couldn't help but feel sorry for the Gipper even though he was about to win the Electoral College by one of the largest margins ever.

Things got real quiet after the re-election. The Gipper and his clan haven't even back since. He must've figured he didn't need little people like Sid and me anymore -- you know, the mandate and all that. Sid figured the Iran-Contra mess has got him pretty busy. I guess that pretty much changed everything.

Now maybe I had too much faith in my fellow man, but I figured that we'd eventually hear from the Gipper-personally, I mean. I thought that the Gipper and Sid and I had become friends, especially after all we did for him. But we have not received so much as a card or phone call. I don't care who you are, that kind of rudeness goes against my grain. Makes a guy wonder what this country is coming to. Sid is equally disappointed.

Whatever his faults, I've got to give the Gipper credit: he knew how to get away from it all, to let loose, so to speak. And he must've been pretty damn smart to get his wife and half the administration down here without the Secret Service or the press catching on. I have nothing but respect for that man's mind. Nobody short of a genius could've pulled it off.

Other pieces by Mike Walsh.

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