Books

Toni Tennille on the Captain and how muskrats led to a White House disaster

Toni Tennille, the vocal half of the 1970s pop duo the Captain & Tennille, talks about a White House command performance that went hilariously wrong during the Ford administration in 1976. The Captain & Tennille book ended the second half of the ’70s with No. 1 singles “Love Will Keep Us Together” and the Tennille-written “Do That To Me One More Time.”
Toni Tennille, the vocal half of the 1970s pop duo the Captain & Tennille, talks about a White House command performance that went hilariously wrong during the Ford administration in 1976. The Captain & Tennille book ended the second half of the ’70s with No. 1 singles “Love Will Keep Us Together” and the Tennille-written “Do That To Me One More Time.” hcohen@miamiherald.com

During a book signing at Fort Lauderdale’s Barnes & Noble, Toni Tennille, the vocal half of the ’70s pop duo the Captain & Tennille, shared a sweet tale of revenge from the pages of her autobiography, “Toni Tennille: A Memoir” (Taylor Trade; $21.95). In the Bicentennial year, seems a pair of amorous muskrats rhapsodized in song sent Henry Kissinger, 93, then secretary of state to presidents Nixon and Ford, into a foul mood.

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford had invited the former couple, Tennille and ex-husband Daryl Dragon, to deliver a command performance at the White House in 1976 before an audience of dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip of England, the Fords and the Kissingers. Song selection had to be just right.

“Love Will Keep Us Together?” Check.

“The Way I Want to Touch You?” Might be a little too risque for the White House.

But the First Lady approached Tennille during soundcheck with a special request.

“Oh you must, that’s mine and Jerry’s favorite song!” Ford exclaimed to Tennille of “The Way I Want to Touch You,” a Top 5 pop hit in 1975. The singer seemed emboldened. “This is a pretty hip place,” she remembers telling Dragon, who was backstage working on his keyboards. Maybe “Muskrat Love,” a ballad about the love affair between Muskrat Suzy and Muskrat Sam, might pass muster after all before this bunch.

The pop duo added the song to the short setlist.

Tennille, in soothing voice and on electric piano, caught Kissinger’s eye halfway through her performance of “Muskrat Love.” He was glaring. She felt “flop sweat.” Had a three-minute pop song ever gone on for so long? What was he whispering to his wife, Nancy?

But Tennille, who fared much better with her laughing Barnes & Noble audience, exacted her revenge as she reveals in a video shot during her reading.

Tennille, 76, a Lake Mary, Florida resident, is on a book tour with her niece and co-author Caroline Tennille St. Clair. The pair have an appearance scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Palm Beach Gardens Barnes & Noble. After the discussion, Tennille will sign her memoir. She has also been signing memorabilia like LP covers and other Captain & Tennille artifacts. At a previous reading a fan delighted Tennille by bringing a pair of Captain & Tennille knee socks. Who knew?

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

If you go

What: Toni Tennille and Caroline Tennille St. Clair discussion and book signing

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, August 13

Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 11380 Legacy Ave., Palm Beach Gardens

Information: 561-625-3932

  Comments