Fear And Loathing In Washington

It Was A Nice Place. They Were Principled People, Generally*

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Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 164 from July 4, 1974. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone’s premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

For reasons that will never be clear to anyone — and especially not to the management and other guests in this place — the National Affairs Desk is operating once again at the Royal Biscayne Hotel, about 900 crooked meters from the Nixon/ Rebozo compound on the other side of the island. The desk itself is a round slab of what appears to be low-grade jacaranda wood.

The centerpiece is a bright orange electric typewriter that I rented several days ago from a business-machine store on 125th Street in North Miami. It is a Swedish "Facit" — a deceptively sharp-looking machine about five times slower in both directions than the IBM Selectric and totally useless for any kind of speed-lashed gonzo work. For all its style and voltage, the Facit is about as quick in the hands as one of those 1929-model Underwoods that used to be standard equipment in the city room of the New York Mirror. Nobody knows exactly what happened to all those old Underwoods when the Mirror died of bad age, but one rumor in the trade says they were snapped up at a dime on the dollar by Norman Cousins and then resold at a tidy profit to the Columbia Journalism Review.

Which is interesting, but it is not the kind of thing you normally want to develop fully in your classic Pyramid Lead. . . and that's what I was trying to deal with, when I suddenly realized that my typewriter was as worthless as tits on a boar hog.

Besides that, there were other mechanical problems: no water, no ice, no phone service, and finally the discovery of two Secret Service men in the room right next to me.

I was getting a little paranoid about the phone situation. It followed a series of unsettling events that caused me to think seriously about going back to Washington when Nixon left the next day, rather than staying on in order to open a special account in Bebe Rebozo's bank over in the shopping center across Ocean Drive. The Key Biscayne Bank seems like as good a place as any to do business, primarily because of the unusual investment opportunities available to special clients.

I have applied for "special" status, but recent developments have made me less than optimistic. Several days ago, on my first visit to the Nixon compound, I got no further than the heavily guarded gatehouse on Harbor Drive. "Are they expecting you?" the state trooper asked me.

"Probably not," I said. "I thought I'd just drop by for a drink or two, then have a look around. I've never seen the place, you know. What goes on in there?"

The trooper seemed to stiffen. His eyes narrowed and he stared intently at the black coral fist hanging on a chain around my neck. "Say. . . ah. . . I'd like to see your identification, fella. You carrying any?"

"Of course," I said. "But it's out there in the car. I don't have any pockets in these trunks." I walked across the hot asphalt road, feeling my bare feet stick to the tar with every step, and vaulted into the big bronze convertible without opening the door. Looking back at the gatehouse, I noticed that the trooper had been joined by two gentlemen in dark business suits with wires coming out of their ears. They were all waiting for me to come back with my wallet.

To hell with this, I thought, suddenly starting the engine. I waved to the trooper. "It's not here," I shouted. "I guess I left it back at the hotel." Without waiting for an answer, I eased the car into gear and drove off very slowly.

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