FROM THE DOOR OF THE WHITE HOUSE by Preston with Others Bruce
Kirkus Star

FROM THE DOOR OF THE WHITE HOUSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Preston Bruce was the White House doorman, a job with varied responsibilities, from 1953 to 1975--but this is neither scuttlebutt nor pap. Even veteran White-House-watchers might learn a thing or two. But the book is first a personal story: how the son of a black South Carolina sharecropper (b. 1908), also the dignified, diplomatic proprietor of a barber shop, employed those paternal attributes in the service of presidents. Bruce's happiest White House years were with the Eisenhowers: both were methodical and consistent; Ike took great interest in baseball-prospect Preston Jr. (disabled in an auto accident); and Bruce, agreeing with Ike's public moderation on race, found him privately active and concerned. (Regular, unreported confabs with flamboyant Washington preacher Elder Michaud are cited.) But a single incident of Eisenhower fury--over a briefly delayed elevator--fully attests to that side of his personality. The Kennedys were another matter entirely--informal, unpredictable, exhausting. (At what door would JFK end his perambulations? When and how could Bruce--discreetly--turn off the second-floor lights?) Bruce reports hearing Jackie beg Jack not to go to Dallas--and his asking her to go with him; he tells of her blood-stained 4 A.M. return (""Bruce, you waited until we came""), his own inclusion in the funeral arrangements. At Johnson's first explosion, Bruce almost quit--but in standing his ground, he became one of the few LBJ didn't bully. (Later, Johnson would cite him to congressional aides as a model of firm, courteous behavior.) Still, nobody worked harder than both the Johnsons--and in trying to get LBJ his 5 A.M. Situation Reports one snowy morning, Bruce had a heart attack. Then, the book chills. Even before the Nixons moved in, John Ehrlichman prowled around. Bruce was warned against Bob Haldeman. And, the first introductions over, ""never, ever again over the six years that Mr. Nixon was in office, did either of these two gentlemen acknowledge me in any way. . . They looked through me as if I were invisible."" (Accordingly, they plotted against Nixon in his presence.) Bruce, revering the presidency, felt badly for the Nixons. The Fords he served only briefly before retiring. Yet in finding them cheerful amateurs, in seeing them change like previous incumbents, he adds to a snapshot-gallery that says as much as many tomes--and says it far more winningly.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard