Benedicte Valentiner invites the reader behind the scenes of one of the world's most prestigious official guest houses: the historic, charming, and beautiful Blair House, across from the White House. For more than thirteen years Mrs. V hosted Chiefs of State and Heads of Government during their official visits with Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Her anecdotes about the world's most powerful leaders are revealing, entertaining, and dramatic; we are present when George H. W. Bush plays with his grandchildren, when an inebriated Boris Yeltsin is discovered wandering through Blair House, and when the Togo delegation's luggage reveals a smoked monkey, an enormous lizard, and giant cockroaches. Mrs. V also writes about the year spent in raptor research in Iran, about weaving in Mexico, and how she very early decided on the career which led her to one of the world's most prestigious hospitality positions. PROLOGUE On the first night of Boris Yeltsin’s?visit in September 1994 our two security officers on duty got a bigger adventure than they could ever have imagined. At about 12:30 am Officers Paul Besett and Michael Cooney saw on their computer screen an astonishing sight. Clad but sparsely, having forgotten to put on his pajamas, the mighty President of the Russian Federation was briefly dressed as he negotiated the back stairs with the certainty of a person who had a directional problem. He was stoned out of his skull – and he was almost naked. Our security officers were glued to the computer screen. At the bottom of the circular emergency staircase going from the dressing room in the Primary Suite and leading to the New Executive Office building’s garage, they saw Boris Yeltsin trying to open the garage door and nearly jumping out of his briefs from fright as it gave off a loud signal. Then the security officers lost him on the screen. Frantically they called the USSS Command Post to alert them that “their man” was loose in the house. And when they turned away from the screen they had another shock. There was Boris Yeltsin in the flesh – and such a lot of it too – holding on for dear life to the door frame of their office. Without a word, he bowed gravely to them and staggered out, rolling around the corner into the Leslie Coffelt Room. This room, named for the security guard who gave his life defending President Harry S Truman during an assassination attempt by Puerto Rican Nationalists on November 1, 1950, was set aside as a down-room for the Metropolitan Police and USSS uniformed police so that during their strenuous and long hours protecting our visitors they could come in out of the cold and refresh themselves. During that particular night there were thirty sitting around when Yeltsin turned up. “There is a drunken Russian in here,” someone casually said to which another one replied: “This is not a drunken Russian. It’s B o r i s Y e l t s i n!”
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