Monday, January 31, 2011

"...but stay away from the liquor cabinet"

"Broadcast House"
It was a Saturday afternoon sometime in 1966 and I was working my announcer shift at WTOP-TV in Washington, which consisted mostly of doing station breaks, which meant that every half hour, between network programs, I would turn on the microphone and say, “Channel 9, Washington.”

It was tough work, but someone had to do it.

I got a call from the receptionist downstairs who informed me that there was a gentleman and his son in the lobby who wanted to “tour the station”....and did I want to take the time to show them around.

As you know, I’m a sucker for that kind of thing because not too many years before, I had been the one asking stations in Charlotte to let me look around. And they had all been very kind to me.

Duke Struck (later NFL director)
The man turned out to be a minister and he and his son were both as nice as they could be. I gave them the full tour of all the studios that afternoon and they seemed very grateful. The crew happened to be taping a show that day, so they were able to observe more than just darkened studios.

I had forgotten all about that when one day a year or so later, I got a call from downstairs informing me that there was a man in the lobby asking to see me.

My visitor turned out to be the minister to whom I had given the station tour that Saturday afternoon.

He asked if we could talk privately, so I took him up to my office, where he showed me a matchbook with the President of the United States’ Seal on it.

White House Matchbook
He said his specialty was working with alcoholics and that he had been spending a lot of time at the White House.

(This was getting weirder and weirder!)

He said that for the past year he had been working with the President's brother who was also living in the White House.

I said that I didn’t know that the President had a brother!

And certainly not one who was living in the White House.

“Very few people do,” he said.

“His name is Sam Houston Johnson and he is Lyndon Johnson’s younger brother.......and I have been working with him daily...helping him to overcome his alcohol addiction.”

President Johnson and brother

He went on the tell me that the brother had made great progress; so much so that the President felt that it was time for his brother to be introduced to the public.

My minister friend had suggested that the morning TV show that I was hosting at the time would be a good place to do it.......and he said the President had agreed.

Of course, I said yes.

But the show never happened. Apparently, another reporter discovered the secret brother and broke the story, which forced the White House to respond sooner than they wanted, which negated the need for the planned introduction on my show.

Frankly, I was relieved.

The national “exposure” would have been a nice feather in my cap (unless I had asked really dumb questions) but there was at least a 50/50 chance that Lyndon Johnson might not be pleased with the way I handled the interview and little old Eddie Myers, former Elizabeth School patrol boy and CHS graduate, could very easily have found himself on the President of the United States' enemies list.


Another close call.   -Ed

(Samuel Houston Johnson (January 31, 1914-December 11, 1978) was the younger brother of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
According to the internet, he was notorious for getting drunk and then talking to the press. Eventually, the Secret Service put him under surveillance. He died of lung cancer at 64, at the same age his brother was at his death. Sam wrote the book My Brother Lyndon after LBJ left the White House.)