Former reporter with Bloomsberg Kate Anderson Bower, who covered the first years of the Obama administration, has used all her investigative skills to produce a riveting read, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. From the blood stained stained sheets after Hillary clocked Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, to the pain of watching a decaying Richard Nixon, scandal, gossip, suffering and loyalty are all part of the mix.
From the mystique of the glamorous Kennedys to the tumult that surrounded Bill and Hillary Clinton during the president’s impeachment to the historic yet polarizing residency of Barack and Michelle Obama, each new administration brings a unique set of personalities to the White House; and a new set of challenges to the fiercely loyal and hardworking people who serve them: the White House residence staff. No one understands the president of the United States, and his family, like the men and women who make the White House run every day. Now, for the first time, their stories of fifty years, ten administrations, and countless crises, large and small, are told in The Residence. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with butlers, maids, chefs, florists, doormen, and other staffers–as well as former first ladies and first family members–Kate Andersen Brower offers a group portrait of the dedicated professionals who orchestrate lavish state dinners; stand ready during meetings with foreign dignitaries; care for the president and first lady’s young children; and cater to every need the first couple may have, however sublime or, on occasion, ridiculous.
Hillary Clinton faces potentially devastating “character” questions on the eve of her Presidential campaign, with allegations that she was obsessed with re-decorating the White House — not policy making — when she was First Lady.
Brower’s book reveals the first orders that she issued on the Monday after Bill’s election victory in the 1992 Presidential race were to her favorite Arkansas decorator, Kaki Hockersmith, who was given a $400,000 budget to makeover the official residence.
“The effort raised some eyebrows,” Brower notes. “Chief Electrician Bill Cliber, who worked on nine transitions, said that the Clintons’ arrival was by far the most difficult.”
In the voices of the residence workers themselves–sometimes wry, often affectionate, always gracious and proud–here are stories: The Kennedys–from intimate glimpses of their marriage to the chaotic days after JFK’s assassination. The Johnsons–featuring the bizarre saga of LBJ’s obsession with the White House plumbing. The Nixons–including Richard Nixon’s unexpected appearance in the White House kitchen the morning he resigned. The Reagans–from a fire that endangered Ronald Reagan late in his second term to Nancy’s control of details large and small. The Clintons–whose private battles, marked by shouting matches and flying objects, unsettled residence workers. The Obamas–who danced to Mary J. Blige on their first night in the White House. And just as compelling are the stories of the workers themselves, including Storeroom Manager Bill Hamilton, who served eleven presidents over fifty-five years and Butler James Ramsey, who made friends with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and whose spirit animated the White House through six administrations before his death in 2014.