The Story Behind that Richard Nixon-RoboCop Photo

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Billboard Magazine

I know I’m not the only one mesmerized by this phenomenally random photo of the retired 37th President of the United States palling around with The Future Of Law Enforcement.

Unfortunately, that’s all this image has been for some time—just another suspicious Hollywood tidbit that continues to zip across the Internet without credit or context. The photo is real, but digging up its historical background was more than a doozy.

Members of the cast and crew were scratching their heads over the origin of the photo: One of the screenwriters vaguely remembered the get-together, but he drew a blank on any details. Production coordinator Francine Taylor admitted she “honestly never heard about it until now.” The publicist of Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian satire, who might have had some answers, died more than 20 years ago.

After a little more sleuthing, the truth was eventually unearthed. The 1987 Nixon-RoboCop meetup, snapped by the late great rock n’ roll photographer Chuck Pulin, took place during a charity event to promote the film’s release on VHS. No news story accompanied the photo. This was simply a medium-sized publicity shot that made its way into the December 26 issue of Billboard magazine. Top-left corner, page 58.

The caption under the photo reads:

Richard M. Nixon is escorted by RoboCop at a national board meeting of the Boys Club of America. The RoboCop character was on hand to call attention to Orion Home Video’s RoboCop RubOut promotion. Sweepstakes tickets, packaged with each “RoboCop” cassette, offer a number of instant prizes for retailers as well as $25,000 in donations to the Boys Club. The sweepstakes is part of a $3 million promotional effort launched by Orion in conjunction with the action-adventure film’s video release. The cassette will be available in video stores beginning Jan. 28 for a suggested list price of $89.98.

Hopefully for Nixon, his appearance fee for the December event made up for the fact that he didn’t even get to meet the real RoboCop. When asked in a recent email if he ever shook (held?) hands with the president, actor Peter Weller confirmed that he “never met him.”

One month after the RoboCop RubOut, the New York Times ran a review of the film in a roundup of home video new releases. The January 31 item called the “frequently droll sci-fi thriller … the sleeper of last summer’s movie crop.” The story also mentioned the tape’s $89.98 price tag.

This post originally appeared last year.

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