Glamour or money could spark invitation Celebrities, donors on sleep-over list

February 26, 1997|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- You didn't necessarily need a pile of money to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom during President Clinton's first term. But, lacking that, you did need a certain cachet -- as a Barbra Streisand or a Billy Graham would have -- or a certain connection -- as Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had.

The White House list of overnight house guests, released yesterday, identifies 938 visitors who bunked down in the Executive Mansion between 1993 and 1996, including personal friends, dignitaries, celebrities and more than 100 campaign supporters.

In Clinton's first term, there was room at his inn for Arkansas friends such as lawyer (and commodities trader) Jim Blair, TV producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and actress Mary Steenburgen; supporters such as computer executive Steven Jobs, diet doctor Dean Ornish and Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg; public officials such as former President Jimmy Carter, former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and the king and queen of Norway; and celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda, Kate Capshaw and Tom Hanks.

The Schmokes stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom and reported being thrilled at the experience. The Glendenings, who also raved, stayed in the Queen's Bedroom.

"No matter how sophisticated you think you are, there's a sense of awe in staying there," says author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who stayed overnight in the Queen's Bedroom in November 1994.

"Seeing a tree Andrew Jackson planted or the balcony Harry Truman added on, just knowing the layers of history of that place."

Goodwin, author of "No Ordinary Time," a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, said she was invited to stay at the White House after mentioning on a radio show that she would have loved to have roamed the residence at night in Roosevelt's days when top advisers and dignitaries stayed there.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, hearing Goodwin on the Diane Rehm radio show, called and invited her to come and spend the night.

After a state dinner for the president of Ukraine that Goodwin and her husband, Richard, attended, the Goodwins and the Clintons walked the second-floor residence at midnight, trying to figure out who had stayed where in the Roosevelt era.

The Goodwins slept over that night in the bedroom Winston Churchill stayed in for the months he camped out in the White House during World War II.

Another Queen's Bedroom occupant, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and longtime Clinton friend Taylor Branch, said he preferred the smaller, more prosaic bedrooms on the floor above the White House residence.

In the historic Lincoln and Queen's bedroom suites, "It's hard to relax," says Branch, of Baltimore, who wrote "Parting the Waters," a chronicle of the civil rights struggle.

In the Lincoln Bedroom, especially -- the room where the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and not actually the room in which Lincoln slept -- Branch says, "It's kinda like you don't want to mess up the bed."

What's more, he says, the Clintons and daughter Chelsea "are down at the opposite end of the long yellow hall."

"It's like you're bunking in with them."

So, after an initial stay in the Queen's Bedroom in 1993, he has chosen to stay in the upstairs bedrooms on subsequent visits.

"It's like a big old New England house with relatively normal-size bedrooms," he says of the floor that also features the solarium.

Branch says he is "many hundred thousand dollars short" of being one of the fat cat contributors awarded with an overnight at the White House. In his case at least, he says, spending the night is a fairly casual affair.

"He'll say, 'Do you want to stay overnight or drive back to Baltimore?' " Branch says of Clinton, a friend since 1969.

"Then he'll tell me to just pick a room. It's not like a formal assignment process. You're just there."

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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