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Nixon Wrote of His Own Elvis Sighting

July 29, 1994|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES: Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday

It turns out Richard M. Nixon's posthumously released "Beyond Peace" (Random House) was not his last published word. Eight days before his death in April, he wrote a playful letter to Egil (Bud) Krogh for inclusion in "The Day Elvis Met Nixon," his former aide's firsthand account of the strange White House encounter in 1970 between the King and the Prez.

"It remains to be seen," Nixon wrote, "whether the author of 'The Day Elvis Met Nixon' will be resourceful enough to be able to arrange for Elvis to appear at a book-signing."

Krogh's amusing paperback describes how Elvis Presley requested the meeting in a long-winded, hand-scrawled note to Nixon that he handed to a White House guard only hours before being ushered into the Oval Office.

"I will be here in Washington for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent," Presley wrote on American Airlines note paper. "I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good."

Later, with Krogh looking on, a cape-wearing Presley showed Nixon some of the badges he had received from police departments around the country and baffled the President by unexpectedly accusing the Beatles of being "anti-American." (See the August issue of Los Angeles magazine for an account of the Beatles' painfully awkward meeting with Presley at the singer's Bel-Air mansion six years earlier.)

After the White House drop-by, Nixon arranged for Presley to receive a badge as a "special assistant" of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. And the historic summit remained a secret--until syndicated columnist Jack Anderson broke the story a long 13 months later.

Krogh, who headed the infamous "Plumbers" unit in the Nixon White House and served four months in jail for conspiracy, now practices law in Seattle. He established Pejama Press, which has printed 15,000 copies of "The Day Elvis Met Nixon."

The Publicity Trek: Like the Rolling Stones and other acts on summer tours across the land, mystery writer Walter Mosley has been bouncing from here to there. His 22-city trek, reading from "Black Betty" and signing copies of the book, has lasted weeks longer than what most novelists ever experience.

Mosley's long road, which was to end last night with a reading in New York City at Central Park's SummerStage, has been greased by sterling reviews for his latest caper about Los Angeles private eye Easy Rawlins and by numerous welcomes on national radio and TV.

The payoff: After taking root on regional bestseller lists, "Black Betty" landed on Publishers Weekly's national list five weeks ago and has since risen into the New York Times' top 15. The book's publisher, W.W. Norton & Co., reports that the number of copies in print has well exceeded 100,000. In addition, reports about the filming of Mosley's first mystery, "Devil in a Blue Dress," which will star Denzel Washington, have spurred sales of that book in paperback.

"On a tour like this, you're in a different place every other day and you really don't know the people you meet," Mosley said after landing in Seattle on Tuesday. "It's a completely alienating experience on one level. On the other hand, I just did four readings in Los Angeles and had more than a hundred people at each of them, having a good time and talking, so it's really wonderful and exciting."

According to Louise Brockett, Norton's director of publicity, "Black Betty" has sold well around the country in line with a marketing plan that targeted mystery shops, independent bookstores, the chains and black-oriented outlets.

James Fugate, a co-owner of Esowon Books in Inglewood, says his mostly black clientele has responded enthusiastically to Mosley, who did a reading at the store last weekend, and other black authors mainly because customers in recent years have been able to learn more about these writers from print coverage and talk shows.

On the Racks: A further blurring of the line between journalism and celebrity puffery can be found in the August issue of In Style, the new Time Inc. magazine. None other than Bob Woodward, the Watergate sleuth and author of "The Agenda" (Simon & Schuster), helps hype his new book about the Clinton Administration by allowing an inquiring reporter, hairstylist and photographer to visit him at his weekend home on the Maryland shore. Woodward and his wife, Washington Post reporter Elsa Walsh, smooch for the lens, coo their love for each other and even share a favorite pasta recipe--all the while emphasizing how important their weekend privacy is.

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