White House Weddings: Fuel for Capitalism
DIANE ROBERTS: Bonny, Diane Roberts here. I imagine the 200-something guests that Prairie Chapel Ranch yesterday were enjoying great food themselves. As you know, Ms. Jenna Bush married Mr. Henry Hager of the Virginia Republican Party Hagers in Crawford, Texas. I'm sure it was very nice.
But I have to say that I am bitterly disappointed that they didn't hold the nuptial hoedown at the White House.
A White House wedding is America's version of a royal occasion. Her pageantry and elegance, a White House wedding beats Super Bowl halftime or the Oscars. Remember when President Johnson's daughter Lynda Bird married Charles Robb in December 1967?
Unidentified Man: President Johnson escorts his eldest daughter, Lynda, on her wedding day. It marks the first marriage...
ROBERTS: It was a Christmas-themed ceremony with the bridesmaids in red velvet.
Unidentified Man: The east room and its adjoining central hallway are jammed with 500 guests, including friends, relatives, political leaders and diplomats.
ROBERTS: Lynda Bird Johnson's high-necked Jeffrey Beam dress made her look a bit like a candlestick with a tulle top knot. But at least she didn't get her dad's administrative in trouble with big labor like her sister. For her, a 1966 wedding to Patrick Nugent, Lucy Baines Johnson had chosen a design by Priscilla of Boston, a non-union company.
The garment workers went ballistic and threatened to protest at the wedding. The White House tried to solve the problem by insisting that some of the dress be sewn by union members.
Unidentified Man: In a 15-minute Episcopalian ceremony, Lynda becomes the wife of Marine Captain Charles Robb, while her younger sister, Lucy, acts as matron of honor.
ROBERTS: White House weddings aren't just grand, social affairs. They are fuel for the engine of capitalism. If Jenna and her fiancé had decided to get hitched in the East Room, the TV ad revenue alone would have dumped millions into the economy. Millions that could have been spent at Wal-Mart on a state-of-the-art washing machine or maybe a new set of tires.
Which would help with this recession we're in. The fashion industry could also use a boost. When Alice Roosevelt married Nicholas Longworth in 1906, the New York Times published a detailed description of her immensely long silver brocade train, the puenta venise lace, the embroidered coat of arms. Fashionistas loved it. If we could've gotten a good high-def eyeful of Jenna's organza Oscar de la Renta dress, Target or Penney's could've had knock off on their racks in a couple of weeks. More economic stimulus.
But even if the Bush family didn't think the American consumer was worth leaving Texas for, the political situation should have convinced them. The wedding of a cute, Reformed Party or book author First Daughter has to be worth at least ten points in the polls.
Surely the president's baby girl would have wanted to help him out with that increasingly depressing legacy thing. Ulysses S. Grant's second administration floundered like a longhorn in a tar pit, tainted by corruptions, scandals, rumors of heavy drinking and continuing problems of the unreconstructed south until May 18, '74, when his daughter Nellie married Algernon Sartoris in the White House.
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ROBERTS: The Marine band played Mendelssohn and the nation rejoiced. What about June 19, '71, when Richard Nixon's daughter, Trisha, an ice blonde dream in sleeveless lace, married Edward Cox in the Rose Garden? For several hours, maybe longer, the nation forgot Kent State and the invasion of Cambodia.
I imagine that a young woman who's spent much of her life in the public eye might want to have her special day in her beloved Texas at home where she can have a few beers in peace. But what about our right to buy the T-shirt? All that matters to the modern citizen is bread and circuses, bread and circuses.
HANSEN: That's Diane Roberts, who studies the effect of satin and taffeta on national politics from her home in Tallahassee, Florida.
We're going to leave you with a bit of archival tape. Tricia Nixon's 1971 White House wedding.
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Unidentified Man #2: A White House wedding - Tricia Nixon to Harvard law student Edward Cox. The first wedding ever in the Rose Garden. A proud moment for a proud papa. Ah, yes, a time to remember. The Nixon White House is, as one columnist describes it, splendiferous. Even the three White House dogs wore corsages.
There are a thousand guests. Billy Graham, J. Edgar Hoover, Norman Vincent Peale, Bebe Rebozo, Bob Hope, Mamie Eisenhower, and some 55 million Americans watch it all on television.
HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
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