Installment 12: Audio and Video Transcripts
Audio Clip 1: Mike Kirst: “Wendy: That was really the contact.”
Nancy Mancini: What was your contact, or when did you meet up with him again out here?
Mike Kirst: I think there were some White House Fellows’ functions where I saw him, but that was pretty casual…and in 1975 I married Wendy Burdsall…Wendy Burdsall Kirst…and she knew the Gardners. They had been very close, and she had a very close tie with Mrs. Gardner…. After he moved here and we became neighbors, then it really gelled and we saw each other frequently—I’d say at least once every two months we had dinner at one place or the other…. Wendy—that was really the contact.
So Aida called on Wendy for many things. She’s new. She’s getting there…well, we would take care of the house when they were away. We had the key. They had our key. They would pick up our papers. It was that kind of a deal.
So, we were their main contact in the neighborhood. Then we would go over for functions. I think we went to Thanksgiving. So, it was very close, but that was really through Wendy, and pretty much Wendy and Aida’s establishment.
Audio Clip 2: Mike Kirst: Playing the “broker” role for John Gardner’s transition to Stanford
We had a dinner party here with John and Mike Smith. And that was to connect Mike Smith, who I don’t really think knew John Gardner at all. He would have processed this appointment.
They had a sort of discussion at our house about what kind of appointment Gardner should have. You know, he’s not going to be a line professor.
And so, they worked out this thing called a “consulting professor,” which was his title here. He needed an academic appointment to teach at Stanford—which he did. It was an appointment which was not in the research line.
Audio Clip 3: Wendy Kirst on advising John Gardner of the purchase of his Stanford home
Wendy Kirst: We were living at Stanford because of Mike’s appointment, and we had a lovely house there, which we’re still in. Then all of a sudden one day, we hear that John Gardner is coming out to Stanford, and I thought, “Well, that’s fabulous.”
Yes, he came, and while he was here we reconnected and talked.
Then we had some extended conversations about how John and Aida could and should get their house. He, I guess, had been invited to come back to Stanford, but the living situation—real estate wasn’t John’s forte, and he was a little uncertain about how to get the right house.
Aida was at home in Washington, and she didn’t seem to be really ready anxious to move out to California. She wasn’t around. But John was trying to figure this housing thing out, so we talked, and he wanted to know, how did we buy the house, and how does the housing thing work on campus?
Mancini: Were you still working in real estate at this time?
Mike Kirst: Yes. So, we briefed him on that, and he said, “Well, how do I know what price to set? How did you do that? We talked through that, and then I said, “Well, as it turned out, there were a lot of people interested in the house, and so we had to do a bidding thing to be fair.”
He said, “That’s a great idea. That’s what we’re going to do.” So that’s what John Gardner did. He said, “Do you mind telling me about how much the house actually sold for?”
I said, “No.” Whatever it was, I told him.
He said, “Okay, so we’re right across the park from each other.” So, he said, “I’ll just make that the price of the house, and we’ll do a bidding thing, if necessary. Thank you very much, Wendy. That was great.”
Audio Clip 4: Mike Kirst: On Wendy Being in Gardner’s “Lifetime Protection Program”
Mike Kirst: Gardner stayed close. People that worked closely with him, he kept in touch with. I know he contacted Wendy just to meet with him. “How are you doing?” It was sort of like you were in a lifetime protectorate program. And he would consult with you about these things. I never had that relationship because I never worked directly for him, other than that White House Fellows stint, but he was really very interested in people, and gave them advice and so on….
Audio Clip 5: Wendy Kirst: On hosting Gardner’s 80th birthday party in the Kirst’s backyard
Wendy Kirst: The clearest memory I have is that in the backyard, we have a big cement patio. And we wanted to have John make some remarks during the event. And so, I got this big, square piece of wood—heavy, about six feet. It actually became the thing we put our Christmas tree on. But this little pedestal was placed in the center because we wanted John to stand on that and then be able to address, I don’t know, 50 people or whatever it was.
So, we come to the day of the birthday. Everything that’s set up is fine. But his daughter Checka is looking at this pedestal in the middle of this concrete thing, and she said, “Wendy, we have to do something. There’s a chance he’ll fall off this pedestal. We have to do something. I don’t know that the pedestal is a good idea.”
But anyway, what we did was, he had to be elevated, but when the time came, we got him on the pedestal, and then all his granddaughters stood…
Mancini: Stood around?
Mike Kirst: Right there [Mancini laughs] because he was still ahead of the crowd, but everyone was most concerned that he would fall off this pedestal and injure himself.
Mancini: Which happily he did not.
Mike Kirst: Which happily he did not. And it was a great day and a lot of fun.
Audio Clip 6: Mike Kirst: On his social interactions with the Gardners
Mike Kirst: Then right away we began to see them socially for dinner. And we went up to the children’s house…Checka Gardner, the late Francesca Gardner [Francesca Marroquin Gardner]. We became friends with her and her husband.
So, I had all these occasions where we’d have cocktails before the dinner. We went to their place a fair amount, and we’d sit by the fireplace, and he and I would sit next to each other and we would talk shop.
So, I had a lot of conversations about the state of the world, and so on, and what he was thinking.