Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011

Richard Nixon's High-Class Hideaways

Give Richard Nixon credit for one thing: he never did anything halfway. The 37th President had two permanent vacation homes while in office. The "Florida White House" was a compound on Key Biscayne, Florida that Nixon visited more than 50 times while in office between 1969 and 1974 and where he reportedly spent time in seclusion as the Watergate scandal was developing. Never satisfied, in 1969, Nixon tasked a campaign aid to search the Southern California coast for another hideaway. Nixon dubbed the winning mansion "La Casa Pacifica" (The Pacific House), which overlooked the beach in San Clemente, California. Nixon was once photographed there strolling the beach in dress pants and black wingtip shoes — a photo that later became an iconic reminder of how out of touch Nixon could be with people. But those same people footed part of the bill for his estates. As TIME reported in 1973, $10.5 million in public money went into security and improvements at the two estates, including $400,000 for a floating helicopter pad in Biscayne Bay. The government money, however, wasn't all used in vain. In 1983, Brian De Palma filed part of the classic gangster film Scarface, at the Florida White House, further coloring the legacy of an already checkered destination.