Saturday, January 05, 2013

Paparazzi Note: the Ickes Wedding

Quick now, who is secretary of interior?  Ah, got you there now, didn't I?  In the Roosevelt administration, you would have known: he  was Harold L. Ickes and he was one of the most powerful and visible members of the Roosevelt inner circle, responsible, inter alia, for a large chunk of the public works program that  played so central a role on the Roosevelt New Deal.

This post is nominally about Ickes but it's really about paparazzi.  Here's the deal: Ickes' wife was killed in an auto accident in 1935.  Three years later, he remarried. He was 64; his bride, 25. Certainly in a sheltered age, the disparity was more than enough to attract attention but Ickes did all he knew how to keep the matter private.  Jane went to Ireland to stay with an uncle.  Harold followed her separately, traveling under an assumed name.  They reunited and married in a Presbyterian church in Dublin before just three witnesses.  The officiating clergyman, Ickes recounts, "did not know whom he was marrying and continued in ignorance until the newspaper correspondents descended on him later that afternoon."   Ickes cabled a press officer back at Interior to announce the wedding. The press began a chase.  "When we got to Waterloo Station in London," Ickes recalls, "we were met by a small army of newspaper photographers and reporters."  But here is the fun part:
When they got through with us at Waterloo, we got into our cab an I told the driver to take us to Grosvenor House.  After going a few blocks our driver leaned back top tell us that we were being followed.  Shortly thereafter we drove into a quiet street, just off Hyde Park, and I told the driver to stop.  Getting out of the cab at the curb i found that six cars were following filled with photographers and reporters.  I signaled them to stop and alight.  Then I told them that we had tried to be as considerate as possible. We had permitted them to interview us and take all the pictures that they waned, but now we were entitled to our privacy.  I informed them that, if necessary, we would sit in the taxicab, at that particular spot, all night long.  Then they wanted to take one or two more shots and I told them I would permit this if they would make a gentleman's agreement that they would not follow us or bother us any further. This agreement they carried out so that we had no more trouble in London.
From The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes, vol. 2, page 404, entry of June 26, 1938.  Ickes died in 1952.  Jane lived on and supervised the publication of the diaries thereafter; vol. 2 appeared in 1952.  Ickes bore--and seemed to enjoy--the reputation of being a curmudgeon, but the marriage seems to have been happy.  As to the press, does anyone--can anyone--make any such agreement today?  The thought of the secretary and his new bride sitting all night in a cab off Hyde Park is enough to make the mind reel. 

Oh, and the current secretary:  Ken Salazar, formerly a Democratic senator from Colorado, a job in which he was probably a lot  more visible.  Okay, maybe you did know,  but in his time, a lot more people would have been able to identify Ickes.

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