I graduated from college during the economic downturn of the early 1990s. Determined to land a job in my chosen field, I answered an ad in the Washington Post for a ghostwriter. The man seeking a ghostwriter turned out to be my first client, a seriously connected elderly retiree interested in writing a book on the importance of spiritual awareness.
My new client resided at The Watergate, and when he gave me a tour of his penthouse, I couldn’t help but notice and be impressed by the many framed photos of him shaking hands with everyone from Henry Kissinger to Ronald Reagan.
Going from unemployed to working out of a client’s home office at The Watergate changed my life overnight. Suddenly, being employed meant affording groceries and not needing to rely on the complimentary fruit, coffee, and bagels The National Press Club kindly provided the many unemployed writers with each morning. A well paying ghostwriting project with such a well-connected individual had me thinking I landed my dream job.
I started the project with great hope, as my client had lofty goals and the funds to turn his ideas into a published manuscript. There were immediate red flags too - that he was prone to losing his thought process, and at times his temper was not lost on me. When his eldest daughter slipped me her phone number and told me to call if “Dad gets too bad,” I quietly nodded and tucked her contact information into my notebook.
A couple of weeks on the job and my client tells me we are going to lunch with his old friend to hopefully secure support for the book. As we walked into the Capitol Grille downtown, I was shocked to discover his old friend was none other than General Alexander Haig! This man was legendary in Washington, and I felt humbled by his larger than life presence.
The two men exchanged pleasantries and caught up on things as old friends are prone to do. We ordered lunch, and I sipped my coffee and marveled at my incredible good fortune. Lunch with General Alexander Haig - now this should impress my not easily moved WWII fighter pilot father!
Unfortunately, my mental happy dance did not last long. For it turned out that the book was nothing more than promotional hype for Scientology. News to me, and even bigger news to General Haig, who clearly was not a fan of L. Ron Hubbard.
Not only would he not support the book, but he also wanted no further conversation on the “Scientologist Kooks.” How my client ever thought that he would earn the backing of a former Secretary of State for a book endorsing Scientology is beyond me. And just like the times I witnessed him doing so in the privacy of his luxurious penthouse, my client proceeded to lose both his composure and temper.
A lunch that started with so much promise ended with my once again being on the market. For like General Haig, I had no interest in promoting Scientology.
Fortunately, within weeks I applied to another help wanted ad in The Washington Post. I landed a correspondent role with a small newspaper, and funny enough, one of my first assignments was covering a political roundtable with General Alexander Haig among the participants.