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Rogan's Recollections

(And Occasional Historical Observations)

Remembering Judge Kenneth W. Starr (1946-2022)

Ken and I pay a visit to the Richard Nixon Library for Ken's 70th birthday, 2016. 


When I think of my beloved friend Ken Starr, who died yesterday at age 76, I remember one of the kindest men—and one of the most brilliant lawyers—I have ever known. He and his wife Alice were dear friends of Christine's and mine for almost a quarter of a century, and we mourn his loss as we would that of a family member.


I have many memories of Ken over the years, and I shared some of them in my Clinton impeachment memoir "Catching Our Flag." But the one that came to mind when I heard the news yesterday goes back about 23 years ago when both of us were still quite recognizable because of constant media exposure over the preceding years.


Shortly after the impeachment trial, we went to lunch at one of our favorite hangouts, the Silver Diner café in Arlington, Virginia. The Silver Diner is a 1950s-style hamburger joint complete with vinyl booth seating and little tabletop juke boxes.


While we ate, I noticed an ample woman seated at the counter staring at us. I smiled and nodded. After she paid her check, she walked over.


"I know you two guys," she exclaimed. "You're those two impeachment guys. I recognize you from TV."


Ken, the former special counsel whose investigative report to the House Judiciary Committee led to Clinton's impeachment,  smiled and started to extend his hand to introduce himself. I brushed his arm aside and took it from there:


"Lady," I told her, "you've just made our day. Actually, we're not those guys. We're celebrity impersonators. The reason we're in suits and ties is because we're doing a gig this afternoon in front of the Northern Virginia Title Insurance Agents convention over in Tysons Corner."


"Oh!" she replied. "That's amazing. You really look like them. So what do you guys do?"


"Well, we tell some Clinton and impeachment jokes, we do a soft shoe dance, and then we sing a little song. No big deal."


"What do you sing?"


I turned to Ken, whose face looked blank.  The only song that came to mind at the moment was an old Irish ballad:


"We sing 'Danny Boy.'"


"I love that song! Sing it for me?"


And with that, Judge Ken Starr and I sang "Danny Boy" during the lunchtime rush at the Silver Diner. We must have been okay, because a short order cook behind the counter joined us.


A smattering of nearby patrons applauded our completion. The woman thanked us, and then she gave Ken a quizzical look.


"What's wrong?" Ken asked.


"Well," she said, "now that I get a better look at you two guys, I think he [pointing to me] really looks like the guy on TV." Then she turned back to Ken and shook her head dismissively. "You," she told him, "well, work on it. You don't quite have it down yet." With that, she turned and exited.


When she was beyond earshot, we all laughed—and nobody laughed harder than Judge Kenneth W. Starr.


Rest in our Lord and Savior's arms, Brother Ken. We'll meet again.


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