POWER AT PLAY by Betty Beale


A Memoir of Parties, Politics and the Presidents in My Bedroom
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 A breathy memoir of eight Administrations' worth of parties, by a former Washington-society syndicated columnist. Beale started chronicling the D.C. social circuit during the Truman era, attending an estimated 15,000 parties before retiring in January 1989. Her capsule portraits of the entertaining styles of the various Presidents, however, hold few surprises. The Kennedys were elegant, although things sometimes got a little raucous in private (Beale cites parties at Bobby and Ethel Kennedy's during which Ethel repeatedly pushed fully dressed guests into the pool). LBJ was gregarious; Carter had the White House menu printed in English instead of French. The Reagans window-dressed events with Hollywood types. More amusing than Beale's party critique is her avalanche of minutiae representing the society columnist's stock in trade. She compares notes about chihuahuas with Haile Selassie, talks about pride with Imelda Marcos. She describes the pair of throne-like chairs that the Eisenhowers occupied during state dinners, and reveals that the hors d'oeuvres were generous in the Kennedy White House, and that LBJ was a dance partner ``with a good sense of rhythm.'' Beale scolds the Carters for including Amy in formal dinners and adamantly defends Nancy Reagan's china acquisition. And while the author doesn't share much about the nuts and bolts of her job, she does tell all about a three-year affair with Adlai Stevenson, even quoting from corny love poems she sent him. Beale clearly is a pro in her specialized world. Readers seeking fresh social or political gossip will come away hungry, but those who thrill to hear Nixon describe himself as ``an earring man'' will find lots to nibble on at this trivia-laden buffet. (Photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-89526-503-6
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993