The ‘quaiching' of a President

The ‘quaiching' of a President

Michael Jackson recalls his part in Ron's downfall
Michael Jackson

16 July 2004

Publication: Issue 41

Fulsome though they were, the tributes to President Reagan omitted one of his greatest services to humanity. He was a Keeper of the Quaich. Not many people know that.I played a small part in this but am not sure what, how or why. I suspect my contribution was comparable to that of Spike Milligan in the winning of World War II. Historians deconstructing Whisky Magazine in search of the Real Reagan will nonetheless wish to know about his quaich.Aquaich is a silver saucer, with two handles. It is used to serve whisky, in places like Morningside. The Keepers are people held in especially high regard by the whisky industry. They are charged with the care of whisky, as symbolised by the quaich.I was made a Keeper some years ago, and elevated more recently to become a Master of the Quaich. These honours mean a great deal to me in that they recognise my efforts to explain the joys of whisky to a wider world.I was nominated as a keeper by Pernod Ricard. It seems that President Reagan was proposed by the whole industry. I wonder which whisky he preferred?I am going to guess Chivas Regal. Everyone in the film industry drinks Chivas. I first noticed this during my own Hollywood years. Well, months. Actually, weeks.Agreat Scot was indirectly responsible for my being in Hollywood – David Ogilvy, the world's most famous advertising man.His agency had hired me to work on a radio campaign for a beer. I was told that the commercials would be recorded in Los Angeles.The recording went very well and it seemed likely that more commercials might be required.The agency decided I should stay in Los Angeles, and arranged an apartment. It had a deck, on which I set up a chair and a table for my typewriter.There I sat, writing radio commercials but imagining that I was creating a screenplay. On the deck next door, a veteran of the film industry really was writing a screenplay. As we took our places each morning, she would brandish the Los Angeles Times and fulminate at the latest foolishness – or wickedness – committed by Ronald Reagan, newly elected for his first term."He was a decent liberal when he ran the movie actors' union," she would growl. Or: “He was such a nice boy when he was with Jane Wyman. Then along came Nancy."Around 6pm, her husband summoned her, and shortly afterwards I was invited for large glasses of Chivas. By the second week, it was Royal Salute. When the commercials were finished, a vintage Glenlivet was fetched out and we gave Reagan a tremendous bashing. We Hollywood liberals never seemed to bother Ronnie Reagan, but I had something to do with that quaich business a decade later.The Scottish advertising figure in this episode was Vincent Taylor, and the assignment was a 20 page advertorial for Forbes Magazine. This necessitated the somewhat intimidating prospect of a lunch with Forbes' chairman Casper Weinberger, who had been defence secretary under President Reagan.On leaving the lunch, I was not sure how it had gone. There had been some oblique reference to the likelihood of the former President being made a Keeper of the Quaich, and it seemed there was some link between the advertorial and his visit.The advertorial went ahead. The President received his quaich at dinner in Blair Castle. Nancy Reagan expressed surprise that the haggis, having been stabbed and eulogised, was then to be eaten. She apparently thought the more theatrical preliminaries should be performed by a body double or stunt haggis, but I am assured she ate her share.

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