Pat Oliphant for December 27, 2006
Because of his perceived penchant, quite undeserved, for banging his head on helicopters and falling down stairs, I habitually depicted President Gerald Ford wearing a large Band-Aid across his forehead. In June of 1996, I was surprised to find myself providing the amusement at a heavily Republican gathering which was, in fact, the party regularly given in Washington D.D., by the ex-president for the alumni of his White House. They were a reassuringly relaxed group, and I was encouraged to draw and remark on people and incidents of the Nixon-Ford years, working in charcoal on paper under a TV camera while the image was projected on a huge screen behind me as I drew. With this setup in place, I caricatured, with varying degrees of politeness, such luminaries as Nixon, Kissinger, Schlesinger, Rumsfeld, Cheney and so on, and eventually (wait for it) Gerald Ford himself, complete with Band-Aid. The president joined in the reaction with great roars of laughter, and at that I quickly finished my presentation, relieved it was over. Some say you should not encourage cartoonists too much as they are given to overreacting to applause, which may be the explanation for what I did next, but whatever the case, I have a set of Kennerly photos to prove it. Leaving the podium, I crossed the room to President Ford and with the charcoal drew a large Band-Aid on his forehead. The photos show me in the act while the president stands perfectly still, his eyes rolled upward, wearing a huge, expectant smile. A Secret Service agent appeared at my shoulder just then and muttered, "You do that one more time and you'll never cartoon in this town again..." I was glad to note he was grinning when he said that. So I offer this drawing of President Gerald Ford, sans Band-Aid, as a farewell gesture of respect. He was a gentleman of generous good humor and one heck of a good sport. I have drawn many presidents, but he is the only one I ever drew on.