By J. Michael Willard
When I grow up, I want to be a David Dorsen.
Who’s Dorsen? We’ll get to that in a moment.
I was faced with another birthday a couple of days ago. Most think I’m not only grown and semi-mature; but, I’m also in the autumn of a — if not star-spangled — an adequate career.
Careers are relative as to what other people have done, and also what you want to have done. It’s a subjective yardstick measured in time gulps.
My career being adequate is like the color vanilla. After interviewing Dolly Parton when we were both in our early 20s, I described her as having a vanilla ice cream beauty. I like vanilla.
Certainly, my own meager accomplishments pale when placed against those of our Mr Dorsen. Most of us live those oft-quoted “lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau put it in “Walden”.
Mine has been a globe-trotting, topsy-turvy, rollercoaster journey of often flickering, nearly dying, neon — only to burst out brightly on sporadic occasions.
I never won a lottery, though I did win a Miller Lite satin jacket at a Byrds’ performance. Then there were the times I ran into Ringo Starr in the restroom at the Grammys and met cowboy Roy Rogers in a recording studio sound booth.
Yes, for what it’s worth, I can casually name and place drop with the best of them, though I realized old war stories have less currency than stale beer. All were brush-by acquaintances. Few would suggest these for a career highlight reel.
I have lunched with guerrillas in El Salvador and dined with folks who chased them hours later. I palavered with Nicaraguan Contras at a safe house in Tegucigalpa. That same week I met with the Sandinista leadership fighting the US-backed Contras.
My wife and I trained Vladimir Putin’s main nemesis, Alexey Navalny, how best to stay on message. We participated in two revolutions in Ukraine. For understandable reasons, we stay away from Moscow these days.
I was a spokesman for John D. Rockefeller — no, not the founder of Standard Oil but Roman Numeral IV. I grabbed on to the coattails of the Senate Democratic Leader, Robert Byrd, for seven years. It was an incredible ride.
On the lighter side, I have surreptitiously snatched matches emblazed with 10 Downing Street. This, within eyesight of the Prime Minister at that same address.
Jet lag made my eyes sag in a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, so I nodded off. I committed a faux pas of crossing my legs with clearly exposed heel with the king of Saudi Arabia.
I shook hands with the Shah of Iran in Tehran and with President Anwar Sadat in Egypt, not knowing that within months one would be overthrown and 24 months later the other assassinated.
Once, in the Kremlin, I sat across the table and eye-balled the steely Andrei Gromyko, a historic Soviet apparatchik and a participant at the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
But, laying cards on the table, I have rarely lit up life’s pinball machine, and am reasonably comfortable living in the obscure, brackish backwaters of the famous and semi-famous.
For the most part, I was an expendable aide, carrying a clipboard, and dispensing political and PR advice to bosses who probably knew more than I on both subjects.
Life has not brought riches, though I read where wealthy people blow their brains out with regularity. I have never given that a thought. Guns make too much noise and cause a mess.
In my novels, I use more poison than the House of Borgia during the murderous Italian renaissance. But, frankly, I Google or fake my expertise. I was lousy at chemistry.
So, that’s who I am in a nutshell as I search for a cruising gear in my yellow leaf years.
I am a somewhat klutzy, but well-intentioned chap of middling talent who has the kinetic ability to be in the right place at certain times. The “Moscow Times” called me Forrest Gump. They were wrong. I’m not nearly as smart as Gump.
But who the Sam Hill is this fellow David Dorsen.
At 84, he’s still a largely unknown superstar outside lawyerly and some media circles. He’s a legal scholar who writes erudite books, including a novel about Trump with an O’Henry ending.
He’s represented Watergate figure John Dean, as well as Vietnam era Gen. William Westmoreland. He’s also penned a libretto and has a play about the famous Saturday Night Massacre, which is right down his alley as the former chief assistant counsel for the Watergate Committee.
His eyes and mind are continually scanning the horizon.
When we last talked, he was heading off on a cruise and contemplating several new books, both fiction and non-fiction. He had just come off a CNN appearance. Fact is, we older folks do surprise from time-to-time.
More than 25 per cent of us remains in the labor force after age 65. The word retirement is an anathema.
So, I want to be David Dorsen when I grow up, and keep both legs and mind churning, if not like a thoroughbred, at least like a determined mule with furrows to plow.