INSIDE BLAIR HOUSE by Mary Edith & Lucie Prinz Wilroy


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Backstairs at the president's Guest House (1961-1975), by its manager--minus politics, intrigue, or indiscretion. In short, the daily diary of the very model of a civil servant. Thus, we're apprised of how Blair House was run during four presidencies: official state visits, building renovation, interior decoration, daily schedules, and routine crisis-management (from Dean Rusk's fall on an uncarpeted stair to the prevalence of rats). Only once does a modest scandal surface--a foreign diplomatic aide attempts to smuggle two female guests into his bedroom--but manager Wiley, ever discreet, refuses to name names. Politically, she is non-partisan and unbiased: ""It was not my role to make political judgments,"" but ""to help our guests see America in a favorable light."" (Even the recurrent presence of the Shah of Iran does not tempt her.) One secret, true, was ""until now. . . never revealed in public"": Lynda Bird Johnson and Charles Robb spent their wedding night at Blair House, where they ate Colonel Sanders' Fried Chicken. Not much to shake a state with, but it does highlight the authors' preoccupation with food--from the King of Tunisia's herb tea to Richard Nixon's favorite, quail in madeira sauce. (A Belgian priest is also said to have ""served Mass in the library."") By her own admission, Wiley is a ""passionate listmaker""--and what we have here, slightly schmaltzed-up, is 15 years of lists kept by a woman who clearly did her job very well. Tattle fans beware.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday