While out in Brooklyn with Matt I saw this Wollensak tape deck at the flea market.
So old. So outmoded. So close to getting me wrestled to the ground by Secret Service agents!
It was October 27, 1970 at the Palm Beach Auditorium and Richard Nixon was speaking. I was working at WMUM, what was then called an ‘underground station,’ located on Palm Beach Island.
There was no real purpose for me going to see Richard Nixon, a man I reviled, speak. I thought it might be fun, especially as a member of the working press.
OK, I was pretending to be a member of the press–but the ruse worked!
I packed up our Wollensak recorder, threw it in my Volkswagen and headed to the venue. As I remember the White House staff set up a ‘mult box’ which provided a clean podium feed to all who needed to record it. I plugged in a cable I’d brought and waited.
When Nixon finally came out to speak I pushed the play and record buttons simultaneously (that’s how you recorded) and watched the reels begin to turn.
A few seconds later there was noise–lots of noise. The Wolly had slipped a belt and was complaining loudly about its state. People were turning to see what was causing the ruckus.
Three tall men in suits with identical abstract buttons on their lapels walked toward me. Two turned their backs while standing between me and the podium. The third asked what was wrong?
“I think it’s a belt,” is what I remember saying as the whir grew louder.
He looked at me and my long hair. He was not happy.
I took my hand, clenched it in a fist and hit the tape recorder hard a little left of center where the counter was. The bigger the problem the bigger the hammer, right?
Silence. All it needed was a zetz!
The Secret Service agents turned and without a word quickly faded into the crowd. I began to breath again.