Victor Gold died quietly last week. His passing was both unexpected and uncharacteristic for in his 88 years no one who knew him or encountered him would have expected him to do anything quietly. Vic was one of a kind; to say that he was passionate about life, his beliefs, football; his friends and life in general hardly begins to describe the man.
Vic Gold was a force of nature. He began his political life as an Alabama young Democrat who morphed into an unreconstructed conservative who served as Barry Goldwater’s deputy press secretary in 1964, wrote for National Review, established a successful public relations consultancy, signed on as press secretary to Vice President Spiro Agnew during the Nixon years and eschewed politics after Agnew’s fall. He wrote books and toiled as a writer for Washingtonian magazine until lured back into politics to help George H.W. Bush in his quest for the White House.
His relationships with politicians who employed him from time to time, the journalists with whom he worked and all who knew him was fiery. As the Goldwater campaign wound down, the press corps presented Mr. Gold with a straitjacket in commemoration of his devotion to his candidate and no-holds-barred defense of his candidate. He once announced as Goldwater’s campaign plane prepared to land that the plane would be landing in 20 minutes after the reporters on board had left through the rear door of the aircraft in 10.
We worked together for Vice President Agnew and when Vic got exasperated by his boss he would announce loudly that he had had enough and was quitting. His office in the Old Executive Office Building was unique in that while everyone else on the staff accepted the government issued faux colonial office furniture, Vic moved in his own Sixties PR firm furniture and when he got really mad would announce to all and sundry that he was calling a moving company to move it out.
One of my jobs was to persuade the vice president that Vic was too valuable to let go, and to persuade the vice president of the United States that there was only one way to quiet the storm; he would have to go down to Vic’s office, admit that he was right about whatever it was that resulted in the latest blow-up and, well, apologize. Agnew would invariably object on the grounds that he was the vice president and that Vic worked for him rather than he for Vic, but in the end, he would do what he had to do to calm things down. He did it because he knew and loved him and because Vic was much too valuable to lose.
A decade later when he came out of political retirement to help George Bush in his quest for the presidency Vic was a fiery as ever and Mr. Bush like Mr. Agnew learned that Vic’s passing had to be managed rather than resisted. They became close personal as well as political friends once he realized that Vic Gold held nothing back, was a truth-teller and an invaluable friend. All who knew him shared that assessment, valued his friendship and craved the honest advice and counsel that came with it.
Vic Gold loved and was devoted to politics and to his friends, but worshipped Alabama’s legendary Bear Bryant and shared the coach’s insistence that those with whom he worked give their all to the challenges they faced. If Bryant served as a role model for Vic, Vic himself was a pretty good role model for those with whom he worked. He was not just fiery and dedicated, he was smart, witty and only a fool would ignore his advice.
Some years ago, Vic was racing between Alabama and Louisiana football games when he was involved in a near fatal accident careening through rural Mississippi. He was taken unconscious to a Mississippi hospital where upon waking and wondering just where he was, he looked up to discover that he was in the Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial Hospital.
His first thought he told me later was that he’s died and gone to Hell. This time after passing quietly in the night those who knew and loved him can be certain that he’s in a far better place today.
• David A. Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.
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