Category Archives: Cities

White House Butler for 8 Presidents Dies

Posted by: Bluedog89

WP~Eugene Allen, who endured a harsh and segregated upbringing in his native Virginia and went on to work for eight presidents as a White House butler, died March 31 of renal failure at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. He was 90.

Mr. Allen and his wife, Helene, were profiled in a Washington Post story in 2008 that explored the history of blacks in the White House. The couple were excited about the possibility of Barack Obama’s historic election and their opportunity to vote for him. Helene, however, died on the eve of the election, and Mr. Allen went to vote alone. The couple had been married for 65 years.

Afterward, Mr. Allen, who had been living quietly in a simple house off Georgia Avenue NW in the District, experienced a fame that he had only witnessed beforehand. He received a VIP invitation to Obama’s swearing-in, where a Marine guard escorted him to his seat. Eyes watering, he watched the first black man take the oath of office of the presidency.

Mr. Allen was besieged with invitations to appear on national TV shows. There were book offers and dozens of speaking requests, all of which he declined. He also received hundreds of letters, some from as far away as Switzerland, from people amazed at the arc of his life and imploring him to hold on while thanking him for his service to the nation. People in his neighborhood would stop him and explain to their children the outlines of his life.

“He liked to think of himself as just a humble butler,” his only child, Charles, said Thursday. Aside from his son, Mr. Allen is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Allen was born July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. He worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and later at a country club in Washington. In 1952, he heard of a job opening at the White House and was hired as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year.

He became maitre d’, the most prestigious position among White House butlers, under Ronald Reagan. During Mr. Allen’s 34 years at the White House, some of the decisions that presidents made within earshot of him came to have a direct bearing on his life — and that of black America.

Allen, far right, while working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Allen was in the White House when Dwight D. Eisenhower dealt with the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Eisenhower once asked him about the cancellation of Nat “King” Cole’s TV show, which the president enjoyed. Mr. Allen told him that the show had difficulty attracting advertisers, who were worried about white Southern audiences boycotting their products.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Allen was invited to the funeral. He declined for the most generous of reasons: “Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral,” he told The Post. When first lady Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House afterward, she gave him one of the president’s ties. Mr. Allen had it framed.

Mr. Allen served entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He flew aboard Air Force One. He sipped root beer at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg after he left the White House. There were always Christmas and birthday cards from the families of the presidents he had served.

He looked up one evening in the White House kitchen to see a lone figure standing in the doorway: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who had insisted on meeting the butlers and maids. Mr. Allen smiled when King complimented him on the cut of his tuxedo.

Allen, far right, with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Archbishop Humberto Medeiros of Boston, and President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Allen served cups and cups of milk and Scotch to help Lyndon B. Johnson settle his stomach when protesters were yelling outside the White House gates during the Vietnam War. He longed to say something to Johnson about his son, who was serving in Vietnam at the time but dared not — save for acknowledging that his son was alive when Johnson asked about him.

It pained Mr. Allen to hear vulgar words, sometimes racially charged, flowing from Johnson’s mouth; and it delighted him when Johnson signed the historic civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.

Mr. Allen serves a party hosted by President Gerald Ford.

Sometimes Mr. Allen’s own life seemed to stop beneath the chandeliered light. First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong. She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.

Mr. Allen with President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

“She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself,’ ” he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene — she was a beautiful dresser — looked resplendent that night. The butlers on duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured champagne for guests — champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in the kitchen.

Mr. Allen was mindful that with the flowering of the black power movement, many young people questioned why he would keep working as a butler, with its connotations of subservience. But the job gave him great pride, and he endured the slights with a dignified posture.

“He was such a professional in everything he did,” said Wilson Jerman, 81, whom Mr. Allen hired to work at the White House in the early 1960s. “When my wife, Gladys, died in 1966, he told me not to worry about a thing. I didn’t think I could get through that period, and he just took me by the hand. I’ll never forget it.”

Mr. Allen retired in 1986, after having been promoted to maitre d’ five years earlier. He possessed a dazzling array of framed photographs with all of the presidents he had served, in addition to gifts and mementos from each of them.

The last item to be framed and placed on Eugene Allen’s basement wall was a condolence letter from George W. and Laura Bush. It arrived from the White House just after the death of Helene.

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Violence Erupts Over Health Care Bill

Posted by: Bluedog89

The Monroe County Democratic Committee in Rochester, New York, is vandalized by anti-health care legislation protesters. Photo courtesy WHEC.

CNN~Shots fired at a congressman’s campaign headquarters. Windows smashed at Democratic offices across the country. A coffin placed on a lawmaker’s lawn. Hate-filled voice mail messages left on members of Congress’ phone lines.

Those are just some of the incidents reported since the House passed historic health care reform legislation Sunday — a bill that became the law of the land.

The issue has unleashed a deep-seated anger from those worried about a government takeover of health care, and what they deem as the process being “rammed through” Congress.

James Leach, with the National Endowment for the Humanities, said that while many of the acts may be protected under First Amendment rights, “that doesn’t mean that they’re morally justified.”

“And we have to think of ourselves as, ‘what kind of people are we?’ ” Leach said. “Are we one people working together with rival thoughts, or are we enemies within? And I think there’s something that’s been let loose in American politics that has to be thought about.”

That anger was visible in unruly protests by health care activists at the Capitol over the weekend.

Republican House members encouraged protesters outside and inside the House gallery, some of whom carried messages like “Vote no or else” or “If Brown won’t stop it, a Browning will” — a reference to newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown accompanied by a silhouette of a pistol.

But the anger has boiled over into physical and verbal threats. Windows have been smashed at Democratic offices in at least three states, and federal agents are investigating whether a cut gas line at the home of a Virginia congressman’s brother was related to the lawmaker’s yes vote.

Republicans have the right to be angry over the Democrat’s health care bill, but “resorting to violent measures is exactly the wrong way to send a message,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Thursday night.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, confirmed Thursday that his district office in Queens received an envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter.

Later Thursday, Weiner told CNN that initial tests indicated the powder was not a biological agent, but that he still was awaiting final word from the New York Police Department. Workers at the office turned over their clothes for testing and were given protective suits before being allowed to go home a few hours later, Weiner said.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now looking into the threats, and at least 10 House Democrats have been given extra security.

The voice mail has been vicious toward Michigan’s Bart Stupak, who switched his vote to seal the deal for the bill. He has released one of the voice mails.

“Stupak, you are a lowlife, baby-murdering scumbag, pile of steaming crap. You’re a cowardly punk, Stupak, that’s what you are. You and your family are scum,” an unidentified caller said. “That’s what you are, Stupak. You are a piece of crap.”

“Go to hell, you piece of [expletive deleted]” another caller said.

On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri had a coffin placed on his lawn, said his spokeswoman, Sarah Howard. She said Tea Party protesters at his office in St. Louis had a coffin with them and later brought it to his house. The coffin was later removed, she said.

Democratic congressional leaders have demanded Republicans join them in condemning a spate of threats and vandalism that has followed Sunday’s vote on the health care system overhaul.

The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, condemned the threats and vandalism, telling reporters Thursday that it “should not be part of a political debate.”

“There are ways for people to channel their anger, and they should do it in a constructive way,” he said.

Liz Mair, a Republican consultant, said protesters “are unfortunately crossing a line.”

“When we’re talking about violence, vandalism, threats, that crosses a legal line, in addition to being in plain old bad taste,” Mair said. “And I think that there’s a lot that is in plain old bad taste that is going on.”

Democrats aren’t the only ones being targeted.

Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, said Thursday that a bullet had been fired through a window at his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia.

A Richmond police spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that a bullet was fired at the congressman’s office. “We are investigating the circumstance surrounding it,” spokeswoman Karla Peters said.

Cantor also said that he had received threatening messages but that he would not publicly release the messages out of concern that doing so would only incite further violence.

He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — a member of the Democratic House leadership — of “fanning the flames” of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members “as political weapons.”

“Enough is enough,” Cantor said. “It has to stop.”

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hit back against Cantor’s claims.

“We disagree with the charge made by Rep. Cantor today that Democrats are using acts of violence for political gain,” he said. “Let’s be clear: Calling on Republican leaders who have contributed in part to this anger by wildly mischaracterizing the substance and motives of health reform to condemn these acts is entirely appropriate.”

Another Republican — Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida — said in a news release Thursday that she received what appeared to be a death threat on her district office’s voice mail.

“Just wanna let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this b**** does not live to see her next term. Goodbye,” the voice mail said, according to the release.

Brown-Waite said she contacted both the Capitol Police and the Hernando County sheriff, and they are “looking into the matter and subpoenaing telephone records.”

At least one of the threats aimed at lawmakers appears to be racially based.

House Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn, who is African-American, said he has received a fax in his office with a picture of a noose drawn on it and had threatening telephone calls at his home.

“We’re giving aid and comfort to these people, and this stuff gets ratcheted up,” Clyburn told CNN. “We in this Congress have got to come together in a bipartisan way and tamp this foolishness down. It doesn’t make sense. That’s not what a democracy is all about.”

Democratic officials and liberal Web sites are also upset that Sarah Palin used an image of crosshairs in a Facebook post this week listing 20 vulnerable Democrats who voted for the legislation. She plans to target them this election year with money from her political action committee.

Palin’s political “hit list” includes: Which Democrats has she singled out?
The list includes: Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Harry E. Mitchell (AZ), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), John Salazar (CO), Betsy Markey (CO). Allen Boyd (FL), Suzanne M. Kosmas (FL), Baron P. Hill (IN), Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL), Charlie Wilson (OH), John Boccieri (OH), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), Christopher Carney (PA), John M. Spratt, Jr. (SC), Tom Perriello (VA), Alan B. Mollohan (WV), and Nick J. Rahall II (WV).

Palin’s team is fighting claims that she is encouraging threats of violence. One House member mentioned her Facebook posting during a Wednesday meeting on safety concerns, a Democratic source told CNN’s Dana Bash. Mention of the map brought audible groans to the room, the source said.

An adviser to Palin responded by pointing to several instances in which the former Alaska governor has urged supporters to focus their energies on civil debate and action at the ballot box, not extremist activities.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Malia & Sasha Tour NYC for Spring Break

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama enters Memphis performed March 21, 2010 at The Shubert Theater 225 West 44th Street, New York, NY.

It’s Spring Break!

First Lady Michelle Obama took daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, mother Marian Robinson and some friends to New York for a spring break trip where they hit Broadway shows, toured the Empire State Building and visited Harlem and Brooklyn.

To borrow a phrase from Lynn Sweet, here’s the bite they have taken from the Big Apple…

Saturday, March 20, 2010
The First Lady and first daughters took in a performance of the Blue Man Group. All of the organization’s appearances star a trio of performers called Blue Men, who appear to have blue skin and no voice, hair, or ears. On the same day they stopped at Dylan’s Candy Bar.

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Cast of MemphisThe ladies went to Broadway for a performance of musical Memphis, which is about an interracial couple in segregation-era Tennessee. The entourage was whisked into the theater just before the show started and was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience. During intermission the girls went backstage for a quick glimpse of the scene change. Before that, brunch at the Mesa Grill. After the show, they got a private tour of the Empire State Building, devoured cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery in the West Village and ate at the Russian Tea Room.

Monday, March 22, 2010
The group enjoyed a preview of a new musical, “The Addams Family,” which opens next month. The Addams Family is a musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. The show is based upon the “Addams Family” characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams in his single-panel gag cartoons for The New Yorker beginning 1938, which depict a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre. The show is slated to open on Broadway in April 2010.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The Obama group toured the Studio Theater and the famous Apollo Theater. The Apollo Theater in New York City is one of the most famous music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers. They also ate at Aquavit, the restaurant owned by Marcus Samuelsson, who cooked the White House’s first state dinner. Dinosaur Bar-B-Q in Harlem was also on their culinary tour.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The group toured Kaufman Astoria studios and stopped by the studio to see Sesame Street in production. Mrs. Obama first visited Sesame Street at Kaufman Astoria Studios in 2009 when she taped a segment to promote Healthy Habits For Life.

Next, they hit Brooklyn, visiting the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and a well-known pizzeria, Grimaldi’s. Grimaldi’s history of coal-fired brick oven pizza cooking can be traced to the first pizzeria in America back in 1905. The New York Times quoted the waiter who served the entourage: “I think they said it was better than Chicago pizza.

For more photos and video of the trip, please check-out our friends at ObamaFoodorama’s coverage…~First Lady Does a Foodie Tour of New York~

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March For America: Protesters In D.C Demand Immigration Reform

Posted by: Audiegrl

Seven-year-old Luis Leon from Chicago and other protestors participate in a March For America demonstration calling for immigration reform March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. According to the organizers of the March for America hundreds of groups from almost every state are taking part to march for immigration reform from the National Mall to RFK Stadium. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images North America)

AP~Frustrated with the lack of action to overhaul the country’s immigration system, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied on the National Mall and marched through the streets of the capital Sunday, waving American flags and holding homemade signs in English and Spanish.

Supporters traveled from around the country in hopes the rally would re-energize Congress to take up the volatile issue. Some lawmakers oppose any attempt to help an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants become U.S. citizens while others insist on stronger border controls first.

President Barack Obama, who promised to make overhauling the immigration system a top priority in his first year, sought to reassure those at the rally with a video message presented on giant screens at the National Mall. The president said he was committed to working with Congress this year on a comprehensive bill to fix a “broken immigration system.”

Obama said problems include families being torn apart, employers gaming the system and police officers struggling to keep communities safe.

The president, whose comments were released as he worked to get last-minute votes on a health care overhaul, said he would do everything in his power to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform. The House was expected to vote on the landmark health care legislation late Sunday.

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Host the Annual Governors Ball At the White House

Post by: Audiegrl

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (C) and first lady Michelle Obama (L) at the 2010 Governors Ball at the White House in Washington February 21, 2010.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (C) and first lady Michelle Obama (L) at the 2010 Governors Ball at the White House in Washington February 21, 2010.

The nation’s governors and their spouses gathered at the White House on Sunday night for the Governors’ Ball hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle. The ball is a annual black-tie event held in the State Dining Room. President Obama in the evenings first toast, praised the nation’s state leaders for “helping to right the ship” during the economic crisis in the United States the past couple of years. President Obama began his toast by joked “This is not too stiff of an affair, because last year, Ed Rendell led a conga line. We still have photographs that we may use.” He also added, “to our spouses and families who make extraordinary sacrifices…Michelle is starting to clink already,” as he glanced and smiled playfully at his wife.

Each of you in your own respective states saw how brutal it was on so many families — hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month, home foreclosures, small businesses having to shut down unable to make payroll and people not sure about the future,” President Obama said. “It is worth this organization taking some extraordinary credit for helping to right the ship.”

He attributed the success of a portion of the recovery efforts to the governors and their willingness to work across state and party lines for the good of the people.

The annual Governors’ Ball is seen as an opportunity for the leaders of each of the 50 states to get together in a non-working environment, allowing them to get to know one another on a personal level.

Gov. Douglas (R-Vermont) also delivered a toast, despite the president prematurely ushering the ceremony to the first course, only to renege on the announcement, “Dinner is served.”


For all the foodie details out there, please check out the excellent behind the scenes coverage of the ball from our friends at Obama Foodorama, they’ve got ‘all the juice‘ on the dinner menu, wines, place settings, linens, and flower arrangements. Check them out here

The seating arrangement according to the pool report:

“Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota was seated to the right of FLOTUS. Neither he nor any other guest was seen measuring drapes, though of course the pool can only attest to the 10 minutes it was in the room.

In the back row: Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida – well beyond hugging range – at Table 3 with Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mike Beebe of Arkansas, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of Calif. sat beside Wisconsin Gov Jim Doyle, with Interior Sect. Salazar two seats to Arnold’s right, and the two governors clicked glasses at the toasts.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who got a shoutout from Obama during his pre-toast remarks, was in a striking emerald jacket at Table 12 with FLOTUS and Pawlenty.

Also spotted, at separate tables: Gov. David Paterson of NY, Gov. Bill Richardson of NM. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were seated together.

Vice President Biden was at the table in the middle, with a head-on view of the lectern.

Apologies to the many other VIPs. Presumably, all the governors in town for the NGA were at the dinner, but no attendance list was available. I can report that Texas’ chief executive, Rick Perry, nine days from the primary and never a fan of the NGA anyway, was home campaigning today.”

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Filed under Barack Obama, Culture, Dancing, Entertainment, Fashion, Government, Governor's Ball 2010, Governors, History, Hollywood, Live Stream Video, Media and Entertainment, Music, News, Politics, Pop Culture, Presidents, States, Uncategorized, US, Video/YouTube, Washington, DC, Women's Issues

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts the White House Governors Ball Talent Preview

Post by: Audiegrl

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama poses for a group photo with music students from Myrtilla Miner elementary school at the White House in Washington February 21, 2010.

U.S. First lady Michelle Obama poses for a group photo with music students from Myrtilla Miner elementary school at the White House in Washington February 21, 2010.

Today the First Lady gave a group of Washington, DC music students a special preview of the 2010 Governors’ Ball performance. Grammy Award Winning artist, Harry Connick Jr. spend time talking to students and closed out the event with a song, joined by a few residents from the New Orleans Musicians’ Village. The Musician’s Village was conceived by New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr. in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to rebuild homes for many of New Orleans cherished but displaced artists, those who have defined the city’s culture and created the sounds that have shaped the musical vernacular of the world.



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The Chicago Tribune Names First Lady Michelle Obama One of the 2010 Good Eating Award Winners

Post by: Audiegrl

Children from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden, April 9, 2009.  (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Children from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden, April 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Chicago Tribune~There’s a 1,100-square-foot organic vegetable, fruit and herb garden on the South Lawn of the White House. That patch of earth planted in March — the first time vegetables have been grown at the White House since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency in the ’40s — has yielded 700-plus pounds of lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, collards and more for meals at the White House and a nearby homeless shelter.

That garden, first lady Michelle Obama told reporters, is “one of the greatest things that I’ve done in my life.” It also signaled the first lady’s efforts to improve America’s eating habits, tackle childhood obesity and encourage fitness. She began by bringing those efforts to her new home, where chef-working mom Cristeta Comerford runs the White House kitchen, by adding chef Sam Kass (whose track record includes work at Avec) to mentor her local-sustainable efforts.

2010 Good Eating AwardOther first ladies have urged healthy eating at the White House ( Hillary Clinton pushed for a low-fat menu, while Laura Bush encouraged organic foods). But Michelle Obama has, in her first year, moved food and nutrition issues front and center. Her efforts dovetail with our appetite for the food-tube (she kicked off this year with an appearance on “Iron Chef America“) and America’s awareness that what you eat plays a major role in your health.

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