Vic Gold: He Brought a Lot of Wit and Laughter to Politics and Journalism

Vic sometimes looked serious but inside he was smiling.

Vic Gold, who wrote often about the media and politics for the Washingtonian, died last night after a short illness. He was 88.

Here is Vic interviewing himself in a 2008 Washingtonian piece. An excerpt:

If you were teaching a course in Washington 101, what textbooks would you use?

Two come to mind, one fiction, one nonfiction. First, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, the best novel ever written about the dynamics of power in American politics. My other would be Safire’s Political Dictionary, the liveliest one-volume summary of American electoral history a political junkie could ask for.

There’ll be a lot of new people coming to town this winter. A new administration, a new Congress. Any advice?

For young staffers in the White House and on the Hill: Don’t get too impressed with yourself and your position. Most of the mistakes I’ve made in life came out of taking myself too seriously. I learned, sometimes the hard way, that the best way to show how smart you are is to keep it to yourself. In this town you make enough enemies in the natural flow of events. There’s no point in making any gratuitously.

Vic grew up in New Orleans, graduated from Tulane, worked as a reporter for the Birmingham News, then went to law school at the University of Alabama—one of his classmates was Harper Lee and one of his lifelong friends was Charles “Chuck” Morgan, a fellow Birmingham lawyer who was instrumental in the Supreme Court establishing the “one man, one vote” principle. He loved sports, especially Bear Bryant and Alabama football and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Here’s his Wikipedia entry for more details.

One of his first pieces for the Washingtonian, in June 1976, was “If Joe McGinniss Calls, Hang Up.” An excerpt:

In recent years the phrase the “New Journalism” has been applied to a variety of expanded reportorial forms. What I am talking about here is neither the investigative nor the interpretive/analytical variety as practiced by, say, Jerry Landauer or David Broder. What I refer is the illegitimate journaliterary form that offers readers a print version of the worst elements of the television documentary: distorted verbal closeups, zooms, dramatic splices. A minimum of genuine news content, a maximum of style and message. And, oh yes, bitter irony, especially as the story relates to the American Establishment.

The Editor’s Note on Vic that ran with that story:

Vic Gold’s reflections on the New Journalism as it slouches toward election day mark his second 1976 appearance in The Washingtonian—his Presidential scenario (“The Making of the President 1976”) appeared in March—and we hope you’ll be seeing more of him in issues to come. His wit always stings.

This month’s article represents a particularly happy bracketing of writer and material. Gold was assistant press secretary to Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign and press secretary to Vice President Spiro Agnew from 1970 to 1973—experiences that contributed to Gold’s book I Don’t Need You when I’m Right. He is now at work on a book dealing with the public relations aspects of the 1976 presidential campaign. Entitled Super Tuesday, it will be published by Doubleday next May.

Gold no longer wants to be called a conservative; he considers himself a political agnostic. “In 1976,” he says, “that means I don’t believe in Jimmy Carter.”

Gold, 48, attended secondary schools in New Orleans and received a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1951. He practiced law in Birmingham from 1952 to 1958, when he abandoned law for public relations, and he subsequently headed a PR firm.

He now writes a newspaper column that is distributed nationally and is a commentator on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” Married and the father of three, Gold lives in Falls Church.
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Vic’s daughter Paige says the funeral will be in Birmingham with a memorial service to follow in Washington. Updated information will be added as it becomes available.

Paige adds: The only additional thing you might include is that he served as speechwriter and political consultant to George H. W. Bush during his term as vice president, and co-wrote Bush’s autobiography Looking Forward.
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Vic was easily outraged and he wrote about many examples of what he saw as hypocrisy or stupidity in his blog, The Wayward Lemming.
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In March 2016, Vic was interviewed about the presidential race by Chuck Conconi for Focus: Washington. The video clip runs about 10 minutes.
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Vic’s obit in the June 8 Washington Post included this good description of him: “Short, intense and often irritable, he was once dubbed ‘the Mount Vesuvius of press secretaries’ for his outbursts, but he had a redeeming sense of humor and an appreciation of the theatricality of politics.”

 

 

Comments

  1. Richard Mattersdorff says

    As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

    Earlier today, I thought to myself, I have not seen a Wayward Lemming post for a while.

    A few minutes ago, I glanced at the WaPo home page and saw the headline that the DNI told others he was asked to block FBI investigations, and I thought, so it’s true, if you live long enough you see events recur (thinking of Nixon administration attempts to use CIA to block tracing of campaign funds used for Watergate and other similar projects). I wondered, did I read that saying in Vic Gold?

    Condolences to the family.

  2. Frank Van Riper says

    Vic always was a source of wisdom and great quotes. RIP, amico…FVR

  3. Bill Cotterell says

    In his book about political PR, Vic Gold told a story about the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He said he was working for a Washington PR firm that had the Brazilian coffee account. He wrote that everyone crowded around the TV and watched the news, then went to lunch. Gold said he asked one of his coworkers if he wanted to join the group for lunch, but the guy was typing rapidly on a press release that said, “What will a Johnson administration mean for the coffee business? Experts agree it means….”
    Gold said he told the guy, “They don’t pay you enough.”

  4. Neil Manson says

    I remember him vividly! We would always talk sports when I was an intern at the Washingtonian. He had all sorts of stories about the Redskins.

  5. Nancy Merrill says

    Dad and Mom loved his “zinger” commentary…but he was always sweet to me. What a loss of political insight and delicious satire.

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