NEW YORK (January 6, 2007) — Comedian Chevy Chase depicted the late Gerald Ford as a bumbling and accident-prone president 30 years ago on “Saturday Night Live,” but he says the two shared a more serious link.
Former First Lady Betty Ford’s courageous decision to talk publicly about her problems with alcohol inspired him to get treated for his own drinking habits, Chase wrote in an essay published in Saturday’s editions of The New York Times.
Chase sought rehabilitation at the Betty Ford clinic in the 1980s, and while there his bond with the Ford family grew. The facility was located near the Fords’ residence near Palm Springs, Calif., and Betty Ford often stopped to talk to the patients, Chase wrote.
He also noted that the president apparently had a sense of humor about his reputation for klutziness, which Chase exploited in “Saturday Night Live” skits.
During one lunch date between the Ford and Chase families, the former president suggested the couples watch videotape of actors being considered for roles in a TV biopic about his wife.
The hookup for the tape machine was a puzzle, and Betty Ford and Chase’s wife, Jayni, got down on their hands and knees trying to figure out the connections.
When Chase suggested the men help out, Ford said: “No, no Chevy. Don’t even think about it. I’ll probably get electrocuted, and you’ll be picked up and arrested for murder.”
“I’ll never forget that moment,” Chase wrote.