Ignore the pink tea title: this memoir by the former Chief Usher (i.e. majordomo) of the White House is several...

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UPSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE: My Life with the First Ladies

Ignore the pink tea title: this memoir by the former Chief Usher (i.e. majordomo) of the White House is several Truman-balconies above all those others. Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has written of Mr. West: ""With infinite calm, humor, a passion for anonymity and the steel of a Napoleon he ran the White House. . . . I think he is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met."" Even without Mrs. O's reference, one is inclined to agree. Mr. West not only evidences exemplary standards of service but he has that shrewd ability to perceive and limn character with intelligence -- and a discretion which leaves wide spaces between the lines. As an apprentice he was in awe of Mrs. Roosevelt during those guest-laden ""Grand Hotel"" days of the White House. The subtle gritty humor of Mrs. Truman comes through in West's admiring portrait as do the frills and ruffles of that ""uninhibited belle,"" Mamie Eisenhower. West was obviously bewitched by Mrs. Kennedy, whose sparkle found an appreciative audience. ""She was imaginative, inventive, intelligent -- and sometimes silly."" Then there was ""gentle, feminine, earnest and studious Mrs. Johnson,"" who ran the White House like a chairman of the board. West retired soon after the Nixons arrived and he admits to seeing only Pat's ""First Lady Face,"" which may, he guessed, have covered a lot of psychic scar tissue. There are throughout inside reports on crises and tragedies, triumphs and parties, domestic scenes and silences. In all, a diverting document by an unusual chronicler who says of his subjects, ""To me each is indeed the First Lady, and will ever hold my greatest respect.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1973