"Someone...thought he had a yellow cast to his make-up"
July 30, 2007 - 9:00pm ET
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My über-nerdy contribution to Falafel Day: the backstory on this dude Roger Ailes, the 26-year-old whiz-kid producer of the Mike Douglas Show, every housewife's favorite back in the day.
Dick Nixon chatted him up in the makeup chair in 1967 about how silly it was that it took gimmicks like going on daytime talk shows to get elected. Ailes had the balls to lecture him: if Nixon still thought talk shows were a gimmick, he'd never become President of the United States. He then reeled off a litany of Nixon's TV mistakes in 1960, when Ailes had then been in high school--and before he knew it, he was whisked to New York and invited to join Nixon's media team.
I love this detail from Joe McGinniss's classic book The Selling of the President. Ailes did yeoman service for Nixon in 1968: he invented the fake "town hall meeting," in which a hand-picked panel and audience asked the candidate "tough" question. He also hired the makeup man from the Tonight show. In Chicago the set sported turquoise curtains. "Nixon wouldn't look right unless he was carrying a pocketbook," Ailes grumbled, ordering them replaced with wood panels with "clean, solid, masculine lines." Republicans are nothing without their set-dressers and makeup men. Simply: nothing.
In Philadelphia, Ailes proposed adding "a good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver" to the panel. "Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about these niggers?'" Nixon then could abhor the incivility of the words, while endorsing a "moderate" version of the opinion. Ailes walked up and down a nearby taxi stand until he found one who fit the bill.
Great American, Roger Ailes.
Ailes continued on with President Nixon in a consulting role, as The New York Times noted in 1969, on standby to advise the President on makeup, lighting, and camera angles. "But he said he didn't have to teach the President much," they observed.
Among the latest batch of documents released by the Nixon Library is a memo full of image tips from Ailes to Bob Hadleman. Riddle me this: does this sound like the musings of the proprietor of a "news" channel?
TO: H.R. Haldeman
FROM: Roger Ailes
DATE: May 4, 1970
SUBJECT: WHITE HOUSE TELEVISION
(1) Arrival of cars in Houston was good, exciting but a little loud...
(2) There was an audio lag after the announcer introduced President and Mrs. Nixon. The networks don't seem to mike for crowd reaction so it might be good to ask the director to do a cut-away shot in these instances.
(3) At an outdoor even the President must assume he is on camera at all times. There was one bad shot of him sneaking a look at his notes after he got to the platform in Houston.
(4) I think it is important for the President to show a little more conern for Mrs. Nixon as he moves through the crowd. At one point he walked off in a different direction. Mrs. Nixon wasn't looking and had to run to catch up. From time to time he should talk to her and smile at her. Women voters are particularly sensitive to how a man treats his wife in public. The more attention she gets, the happier they are.
...(2) Someone said they though perhaps he had a yellow cast to his makeup...
[ed. note: this would be the address that set off the greatest civil insurrection in American history, including the shooting deaths of Kent State students. Dig Ailes' noble priorities.]
(1) I hope that we can set up a more effective way of informing me of upcoming major speeches. I learned about the Cambodia address after the press, and only learned of it because I overheard a secretary talking. This did not allow me adequate time to clear my decks and be in the White House much before the speech...
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