Friday, March 22, 2013

Changes of Perception: Part One

Allow me to tell you a story.

It was a story that I was told many years ago.

It is pure hearsay. Some of the details are a little fuzzy in my memory. I can prove none of it. I don't even remember the name of the person who told it to me.

I want to tell you this for two reasons.

One, A couple nights ago, a friend mentioned something that reminded me of it and I promised I would tell the story because I think he will find it interesting.

Two, it ties in nicely with something that I realized, recently. Something that completely changed a belief that I had long held.

An epiphany that I would like to share with you.

I am going to split this post into two parts.

Part one, the story that I was told, tonight.

Part Two, tomorrow night.

Tonight's post will probably seem to you, my blogglitts, to be politically motivated.

I assure you that it is not.

It will all be clear, tomorrow night.


A number of years ago, somewhere around 1990, I was working on a film production on location at a nice house in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. The location's owner was a retired LAPD detective.

Throughout the house were photos of the owner (and sometimes his family) posing with former President Ronald Reagan. They were the sort of presidential "grip and grins" that are usually purchased with generous campaign donations.

Every time my eyes landed on one of these photos, I couldn't help but roll my eyes and sigh.

One day, the location owner caught one of my eye-rolls and read my mind.

"Oh, I've never voted for him, if that's what you are thinking. I am a lifelong Democrat for one thing. And I couldn't vote for him during his re-election, knowing what I knew."

He began to explain how a president is protected when he travels to various cities.

Everyone knows that protecting the president is the main job of the Secret Service. But, what most of us may not realize is, wherever he goes, the local police provides a security detail, as well. 

The person in charge of that detail is usually a long time officer or detective who is on his way to retirement. It is a prestige position. A reward for a job well done.

And this man was the LAPD's liaison to the president for Reagan's first term in office.

He told me that whenever Reagan came to L.A. he liked to stay at the Bonaventure Hotel, downtown. Partly because it was the place to stay in L.A. in the '80s. But mostly because his favorite barber had a shop in the hotel's basement.

To clarify...

The basement of the Bonaventure is not a creepy storage area and furnace, but rather a well appointed shopping mall.

One morning, during the second year of Reagan's first term, the detective and the Secret Service agent arrived at the Presidential Suite and told the president that it was time for his haircut appointment.

They got in the elevator and headed down.

As they stepped out of the elevator, the president turned to his two escorts and said, "So boys... Where to?"

"At that moment," the detective told me, "My stomach fell. In the minute or so that it took to travel from the top floor to the basement, the President of the United States forgot where he was going."

This man was a detective. He immediately grasped the implication.

Over the next three years, the detective told me, Reagan showed increasing short term memory loss, difficulty tracking and confusion. And, unless he had a written speech or was regaling listeners with anecdotes of his days in Hollywood, he had difficulty stringing complete sentences together.

The detective retired at the end of Reagan's first term. He did not personally witness Reagan's second four years. But, he had been told by his successor that the president continued to decline, rallying only when speaking to the public or reminiscing about the old days.

So, it came as no surprise to the detective when, just a few months before our conversation, well after Reagan had left office, the public announcement about the former president's decline was made.

A chilling thought.

And, as I said earlier, one that could be construed as a politically motivated story.

But, tomorrow night, I will tell you another story. One that changed my perception of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

See you tomorrow.

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