A glimpse of Chelsea under wraps

November 11, 1992|By Orange County Register

Officially, Bill and Hillary Clinton refuse to talk about their daughter, Chelsea. They're mum on her interests, her birthday. Even the part she danced in "The Nutcracker" last year.

But they went back and forth for 20 lines in People magazine, discussing whether to let their child get her ears pierced.

"We've agreed not to talk about it until her 13th birthday," Ms. Clinton says.

"Until February, we have," President-elect Clinton agrees.

Aha! So! Chelsea's birthday is in February, is it? That means she's an Aquarius. Or a Pisces. And they're OK, aren't they?

Whatever she is, the blue-eyed girl with the uncontrollable hair has been one of the best-kept secrets of the Clinton camp.

Hillary Clinton stressed early that her daughter was happy and normal and that they wanted to keep her that way. Dig up what you will on marital infidelity and the draft issue, she told the press, but you won't get near dear Chelsea.

"What her parents have done has worked well," said Anne McCoy, administrator of the outgoing Arkansas governor's mansion. "Chelsea is just as normal as blueberry pie."

Last week, Chelsea became the first child since Amy Carter to get a room in the White House. Another Democratic daughter, another lone child who had lived in a governor's mansion.

"That's been her whole life; that's been home," said Phyllis Brandon, society editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. "A big Georgian mansion with columns in the front and acres of grounds.

"And now, well, she'll be moving into the White House," Ms. Brandon said. "And there's nothing normal about that."

Still, longtime Clinton friend and television producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason expects the transition to be smooth.

"Chelsea will adjust fine to the White House," Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason said last week. "Arkansas loves Chelsea. She's sort of our state child, and she has been very nurtured and loved.

"Now she will be subject to some ridicule, but it's not about her, and she understands that.

"She's very resilient and truly one of the most unspoiled and natural children I have known -- a walking advertisement for Bill and Hillary's interest in and love of children and they way they should be raised."

Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason told of a recent dinner with the Clintons at which Hillary's mother, Dorothy Rodham, asked to be introduced to a certain movie star (she couldn't remember the name).

Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason agreed, then told Chelsea she would happy to introduce her, too.

Chelsea politely declined.

"Then who would you like to meet?" Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason asked.

"Well, do you know Nelson Mandela?" Chelsea asked.

For months into the election, Chelsea Clinton was just a line in her parents' bios. That all changed in May, when a survey showed that many people believed the Clintons to be childless.

Slowly but surely, Chelsea -- named for the Joni Mitchell song "Chelsea Morning" -- made her way into her parents' presidential pursuit.

We learned that Chelsea faxed her homework to her parents so they could review it from the road. We learned she had a cat named Socks and played a mean game of Hearts. And we learned how much her parents love her.

"Being away from (Chelsea) is the one piece of this that is hardest to accept," Bill Clinton told one reporter during his campaign.

"Chelsea," Hillary told another, "has been the joy of our life."

Americans got their first good look at the kid on the last day of theDemocratic National Convention, when she appeared in a segment of "A Man From Hope," the Bloodworth-Thomason-produced documentary about Bill Clinton.

On a 30-foot-high screen in the center of Madison Square Garden, Chelsea rollicked with her parents on the lawn of the governor's mansion, then told of how her father makes her laugh.

"And sometimes when I squeeze his nose," she said, "he talks in a really weird voice."

At the film's end, Chelsea appeared in person, walking hand in hand with her parents toward the convention stage, where her father would accept the Democratic presidential nomination.

She wore a white dress and the self-conscious smile of a kid with

braces as she held on tight to her parents' hands, occasionally breaking her hold to hesitantly wave to the crowd.

The sight of her brought forth memories of a young Amy Carter, who passed through four awkward years while America watched, amused by stories of her school-time shenanigans and struggles with public life.

"I'm sure that Chelsea has thought about living in the White House," said Joyce Kravitz, who serves as Hillary Clinton's press secretary in Little Rock. "But I think her parents have made sure that she has gone about the business of being a 12-year-old."

That business includes the aforementioned cat, ballet lessons, badminton and little to do with her father's political life.

Still, Hillary Clinton was busy last week arranging a security team for her daughter, the new first child.

"The election was a big deal," Ms. McCoy said. "This is a big deal. But you wouldn't know it by Chelsea."

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