Critique of Nixon’s TV image up for auction

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Some advice for presidential candidates, culled from a 1967 critique of then-candidate Richard Nixon: Avoid greasy hair products. Don’t clench your fists. And for goodness sake, drop the zombie routine.

“Loose fingers, hanging downward from bent wrists moving toward the camera in a swimming motion are confusing, and have grotesque connotations,” a media consultant wrote to Nixon, who was still striving to improve his television image seven years after sweating his way through the nation’s first televised presidential debate.

That consultant’s 10-page report _ featuring dozens of passages underlined by Nixon _ was saved by the former president’s longtime joke writer, Paul Keyes, and is up for auction in New Hampshire.

Keyes was an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and producer for some of TV’s classic shows, including “The Jack Paar Show,” “The Dean Martin Comedy Hour” and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

He worked for Nixon’s failed 1962 gubernatorial campaign in California, and their relationship lasted through the rest of Nixon’s political career. In 1968, he cajoled Nixon to appear on “Laugh-In” where the presidential candidate delivered the show’s signature line, “Sock it to me.”

Some credit that appearance seven weeks before the 1968 presidential election with helping Nixon defeat Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

But a year earlier, Nixon faced plenty of challenges when it came to TV, according to the consultant’s report.

Consultant Jack Bynam praised Nixon’s breadth of knowledge and ability to speak at length without reading or rambling, but his report is also is piled with negative observations about Nixon’s appearance and manner. Ties? Too dark. Sleeves? Too long. Smiles? “More like an effort than a pleasure.”

“His frequently clenched fists indicate tension … even belligerency,” Bynam wrote.

The critique, commissioned by Nixon, notes that the candidate had recently begun using “a greasy preparation to keep his hair in place,” which, under television lights, “gives him a slick, foreign look … unbecoming in his role.”

As for Nixon’s voice and speaking style, the consultant said Nixon had a warm, easy approach when describing the merits of other individuals, but not when talking about himself and his own opinions.

“He soon becomes overly serious, hard driving and sometimes cold,” Bynum said. “He seems to have an all consuming need to prove himself.”

In a section titled “The Way He Acts,” Nixon underlined, “His direct approach to people is frequently brittle,” “He’s direct and alert and exudes capability,” “he rarely acts like someone you’d find it comfortable to be with,” and “To win approval you must gain their love as well as their admiration.”

The report ends with 10 recommendations ranging from “more pleasant facial expressions” to “elimination of tenseness and hard-sell approach.”

RR Auction in Amherst expects the collection of 81 documents that once belonged to Keyes to fetch $3,000-$4,000 in an online auction that ends Aug. 10.

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