Some years back I was sent to cover the funeral of a noted Houstonian.  As I entered the funeral home, there sat the one and only Liz Carpenter.  Mrs. Carpenter had served as press secretary to  Lyndon Johnson until he died, then she served as press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson. 

I introduced myself to her and she could not have been more friendly. She was a true Texan and great story teller.  Right off the bat, she told me about taking Lady Bird to New York City for a media tour. She said they were having breakfast at the Plaza Hotel on the first floor, surrounded by Secret Service Agents, as all former First Ladies are. 

She said they had just sat down for coffee and toast when their Secret Service agent turned and said there was a police officer who wanted Mrs. Johnson’s autograph.  Mrs. Johnson obliged and they went on with breakfast.  Shortly thereafter, the agent said there was a sailor in uniform who wanted Mrs. Johnson’s autograph. The First Lady was flattered and thanked the officer for his service to our country and signed her name.  

In between all this, the cafe waiters were bringing out toast and such so Liz Carpenter said she and Lady Bird paid no attention to the number of people who wanted to say hello to the former First Lady, after all they were having breakfast on the first floor of the Plaza Hotel in New York. 

Next the Secret Service agent said a construction worker wanted an autograph.  

If you have been to New York and stayed in an old hotel, you know you will see workers all over the place, keeping the hotel spruced up. 

It was when the agent said a man dressed as an Indian Chief in full head feathers wanted an autograph that Lady Bird stood up and asked who this Indian Chief was.  Turns out, it was the Village People.  They had been interviewed on Good Morning America and were coming in to go to bed for the day when they spotted the former First Lady. 

Liz Carpenter laughed and laughed well telling me that story but said Lady Bird never understood why a group of men would dress up as characters to sing music as a form of entertainment.  

Carpenter tried her best to get Lady Bird to go along with the gag, but said the First Lady just shook her head.  

 Lanny Griffith is an REL graduate and media mogul. Contact him at  


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