|Columnist Jack Andrerson, circa 1970. Anderson |
reached an average 40 million readers through his
"Washington Merry-Go Round" column, and had
a proud spot on President Nixon's "Enemies List."
In 1971, I was a young reporter in Washington, D.C. Eager to prove my investigative reporting chops in the big leagues, I had just transitioned to a position as a leg man for columnist and ABC TV personality Jack Anderson. Anderson had heard that President Richard Nixon wanted to replace the top G-man. So Anderson decided to put Hoover under surveillance using the same techniques that the FBI was then known to be using against Jane Fonda and others accused of no crimes but being harassed by the government for opposing its policies, especially the Vietnam War.
I was sent out to interview Hoover’s neighbors in his upscale Northwest Washington neighborhood, stake out his house, follow his chauffeured limo, watch him and his number two man, Clyde Tolson, as they ate lunch every day at that same corner table in the Rib Room at the Mayflower Hotel up on Connecticut, and pick up Hoover’s trash.
There is a reference in the film to the possibility of going to Tolson’s “house” for dinner. But I know firsthand that Tolson actually had a highrise apartment in 1971, not a house. I know because Anderson had heard that Tolson owned a collection of antique vehicles formerly belonging to major crime figures arrested by the FBI. So he sent me out to look. Tolson’s building had a parking structure underneath, I found, and there were, indeed, several antique black vehicles from the 1930s parked there.
The Eastwood film does not include any reference to Anderson or my work for him. But at least two major biographies of Hoover included an account of my escapades picking up Hoover’s trash. I did so on several occasions, the most notable being one morning with a reporter from Washingtonian Magazine riding along with me.
The L-shaped alley adjacent to Hoover’s two-story brick house ran behind to the west and then on the north to the street east of the house. When we pulled up to the trash cans in the alley beside the house, we noticed that Hoover’s limo was still at the curb out front, engine running, and a film crew from ABC was across the street. Apparently the film crew wanted to grab a quick interview with Hoover on the way to work, but Hoover was refusing to come out of the house until they left.
I also know Eastwood’s film got the entry hall of Hoover’s house all wrong, since I went to the door one morning and looked in through the screen while Hoover was away at work and a cleaning crew was in there with everything wide open. That entry way was sparse in the film, but the real one would have provided a telling indication of his character, since immediately to the right inside was a pedestal with an imposing, life-sized bust of J. Edgar Hoover. And the wall behind it was covered with such things as framed letters of commendation, plaques awarded for achievement and photos of Himself posing with presidents including Harding, Coolidge, Roosevelt, and Truman.
After his death, Hoover’s closed coffin was placed in the Rotunda of the Capitol, and more than 25,000 visitors passed by to pay their final respects. The coffin was kept closed. A camera was set up at the bier, and everyone who passed by was filmed. Someone was making a movie, checking to see who showed up. As I recall, I smiled into the camera. That time, too.
Chuck Elliott is a retired journalist who served as a featured daily columnist, investigative reporter and editor in local news and was managing editor of the nation's leading trade magazine for the propane industry. He has three published books on Southern California history, is a nationally published poet with more than 280 poems online at The Beautyseer Channel on YouTube, an award-winning fine art photographer, and freelances as a writer and marketing consultant. Visit him at Linked (http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=81992875&trk=tab_pro), read his Clarity Research blog, and check out his poetry on YouTube.