A tree memorializes the late Socks

February 27, 2009|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Betty Currie got a cat for her troubles, and, so now, Maryland gets a tree.

Socks, America's first feline in Bill Clinton's White House, died last week at the age of 20.

The cat expired right here in Maryland, since the 42nd president famously dumped the family pet on Currie, the personal secretary who got caught up in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and who lives in the St. Mary's County town of Hollywood.

The upscale kennel where Socks spent a week last summer has arranged to have a tree planted in his name through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' "Gift of Trees" program.

Chesapeake Pet Resort and Day Spa owner Susan Pearce-Ditch paid $40 for Socks' tree.

To earn that back, Pearce-Ditch will have to sell two pet owners on her Resort Combo Package #3, which includes a 15-minute pet massage, a nature walk and a Kong Treat, whatever that is. (Socks, considerably less frisky than his first owner, did not indulge in any of those extras during his stay. "Because of his age, he liked to nap a lot," Pearce-Ditch said.)

Currie apparently appreciated the gesture.

"She was very touched," Pearce-Ditch said. "Mrs. Currie just called me to say she got the certificate and she was going to tell President Clinton."

I imagine the former president will tear up, too.

Critics called Clinton callous when he took up with the young brunette Buddy and unloaded Socks on his secretary.

He'd already gotten Currie knee deep in something worse than used kitty litter.

"We were never alone, right?" and "Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?" Clinton asked Currie. Refreshing his memory, the president claimed. Suborning perjury, Ken Starr concluded.

"The Clintons didn't abandon Socks," Barry Landau, a presidential historian and Friend of Betty, told People.com. "Betty had lost a close family member and a dog, and they wanted to do something nice for her."

There was a bit in the Starr Report about Currie's brother dying in a car accident. Phoning Lewinsky in the wee hours of Dec. 17, 1997, the report said, "The President gave Ms. Lewinsky two items of news: Ms. Currie's brother had died in a car accident, and Ms. Lewinsky's name had appeared on the witness list in the Jones case."

The part worth remembering: "Later in the conversation, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President said he would try to get Ms. Currie to come in over the weekend so that Ms. Lewinsky could visit and he could give her several Christmas presents."

Currie was Lewinsky's conduit to the Oval Office, since it wouldn't do for the young intern to say she was there to see the president.

The report continued: "Ms. Lewinsky replied that, since Ms. Currie's brother had just died, perhaps they should 'let Betty be.' "

Lewinsky, at least, felt Currie's pain. Maybe she'll have a tree planted for old Socks, too.

Connect the dots

Breakfasting at the Center Club yesterday: Cal Ripken and Sheila Dixon. The baseball Hall of Famer and the Baltimore mayor talked about the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation's efforts to raise money for five new sports fields around the city. ... An American Affair, an indie movie that opens today, co-stars Gretchen Mo l as JFK's lover and Baltimore as the nation's capital. Mount Vernon and Bolton Hill stand in for Georgetown in the movie, filmed here in November 2006 under the working title Boy of Pigs. Carol Flaisher, a producer, found Charm City "less expensive and easier" than Washington. ... Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown attended Barack Obama's speech this week as the guest of Steny Hoyer. He sat right next to the section with Michelle Obama.

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