Magazine article The New Yorker

TRICKY DICK; PUBLIC LIFE Series: 2/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

TRICKY DICK; PUBLIC LIFE Series: 2/5

Article excerpt

A political prank, according to a mock dictionary entry on Dick Tuck's business card, is "a political activity, characterized by humor, devised to unmask, ventilate, bring to light, debunk, hold up to view, etc., the comical, ludicrous, or ridiculous, etc., incongruities, follies, abuses, and stupidities, etc., esp. of a candidate for office." Tuck, best known for tormenting Richard Nixon, was the twentieth century's premier political prankster. He is eighty now, with ruddy skin and a full head of white hair. He lives in a studio on the top floor of a two-story concrete-block student apartment house near the University of Arizona in Tucson. On a recent afternoon, a visitor had to walk gingerly through the place to avoid stepping on all the names that Tuck dropped: "I saw Jack Kennedy two weeks before he died. . . . Cesar Chavez . . . Dick Goodwin . . . Marquis Childs . . . Bobby Kennedy and I became very good friends. . . . Justice Douglas's second wife, Mercedes . . . Frank Mankiewicz and Pierre Salinger . . . John Chancellor and I used to go up to the Rainbow Room. . . . Michael Dukakis and Jerry Brown came to my eightieth-birthday party. . . . Hunter Thompson shot a pistol at my wedding." As for personages still in the game, Tuck related that he had run into John Kerry at a campaign rally in Tucson earlier this year. "Kerry said, 'What are you doing? Come with me.' So I flew to Phoenix with him on his campaign plane."

Tuck can name the host cities of both parties' conventions for the past half century, and is armed with an anecdote about each of them. He was underwhelmed by his experience in Boston last month, but he's still planning to come to New York. "The only thing that saved me at the Democratic Convention was staying in Cambridge. I ran into Bill Clinton and Vernon Jordan at the Charles Hotel. Clinton was eating. Hillary stuck her head in. It was one-thirty in the morning."

In New York, Tuck will be staying at a friend's Park Avenue apartment, and he'll stake out a table at O'Neal's, near Lincoln Center. "It's near ABC. It's the last of the press bars. It was the place in the Clinton '92 Convention. It's where all the stories were leaked."

At the Republican gathering, Tuck intends to post daily updates on his Convention Web site. (He also maintains a couple of other political Web sites, including one called Le Fouille-Merde--roughly, "The Shit-Stirrer. …

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