Even though I have some serious problems with the way her husband has run this country for the last eight years — or should I say NOT run as “President” Cheney has made most of the big decisions — I gotta say I was still kind of thrilled to meet Bushie’s wife, First Lady Laura Bush and daughter, Jenna Bush-Hager yesterday afternoon at an invite-only reading and booksigning of their best-selling children’s book “Read All About It!” at downtown’s Central Library.
With tickets snapped up almost as soon as the last-minute event was announced last week — Veronique Peck, widow of actor Gregory Peck is a huge supporter of the Library Foundation and the First Lady appeared as a favor to her — seats were pretty hard to come by for non-Foundation members, but luckily for me, I know someone on the inside!
For the new readers out there, my “connection” is my wife Christine, who runs the Library Foundation’s super cool Library Store.
But even Christine couldn’t manage to get me a seat at this event. So, seeing as I couldn’t get inside the old fashioned way, I decided to volunteer to help Christine sell books outside the Auditorium before the reading. Then, thanks to some awesomely-timed cancellations, Christine, her co-worker, Natalie, and I were able to score some primo seats at the reading for ourselves. Yeah!
Introduced by the crazy chic Veronique Peck — seriously, this chick has a French accent Catherine Deneuve would kill for! — the First Lady and Jenna Bush took the stage and read aloud from their charming, if a tad slight, book. And though both Bush ladies were gracious and sweet as Texas BBQ on the outside, there was a reserve there that made things seem a bit stilted at times.
And the Q & A that followed was even stranger. Since most of the pre-approved questions were from the scads of cuddly Esperanza Elementary School second graders in the front row, they were anything but hard-hitting. I didn’t think the kids would grill the First Lady on Guantanamo Bay or anything, but I guess I expected a little more from the whole thing than “Is the White House like a mansion inside?”.
I’m not saying they weren’t cute — because those kids are ready for commercials, baby…seriously, the cutest kids you ever saw! — but the simplicity of the questions, coupled with the almost rehearsed quality of the answers made for kind of a snoozy twenty minutes.
After the Q & A, the ever-present Secret Service — who were way nicer and funnier than you would expect them to be! — lined everyone up for the booksigning. Since Christine, Natalie, and I still had lots more books to sell, we headed back out front to man the booth, and when the lines finally died down, we made our way to the stage.
Now before you ask me why I didn’t get a picture of myself or Christine with either of the Bush beauties, l should tell you that cameras were totally forbidden onstage. But since strange, random questions were not, I picked a doozy!
Smiling as first mother, then daughter signed my three books, I asked the First Lady if she and the President were planning on seeing “Indiana Jones 4″ this weekend. Chuckling, she replied that they just might as the President asked her the other day “What movies are we gonna watch this weekend?”. Hilarious! Good to know that despite his abysmal record as a Prez, he can still enjoy himself some good old Lucas/Speilberg hijinks!
But even more amusing than the First Lady’s response was the reaction of First Daughter Jenna. Shooting me kind of a confused look, she asked. “Is that coming out this weekend? Wow…I’m really behind the times!” And then, totally unprompted, Jenna announced that the summer flick she was most looking forward to seeing was the upcoming “Sex and the City” feature. Ha!
I just kind of nodded lamely and said something like: “Yeah, that looks pretty good too…” But by then, Natalie and Jenna had begun talking about Jenna’s necklace, which she said was a handmade gift from her twin sister, Barbara — I know…handmade? Who knew the Bush’s were artsy? — and as the line was backing up behind me, I left the stage with my books.
So, while it was brief, I must say that my personal audience the better half of the First Family was actually very cool, and both women were way warmer and down-to-earth than they had appeared during the reading and Q & A. But perhaps my favorite part of the day was yet to come…
While gathering up the receipts and heading back to the store, we checked the green room — which had been sealed off to everyone but the secret service and the First Lady’s handlers since earlier that morning — once more for anything we might have left behind and found a lovely, untouched fruit salad that had been intended for the First Lady and Jenna.
Now, I ask you, if you were in my shoes would you not eat that poor abandoned fruit salad? I mean, come on, how often is an opportunity like this gonna come along? Needless to say, quicker than you can mouth the words: “Tomás loves free food!” I grabbed that salad and headed for the exit.
And later, in the comfort and privacy of Christine’s office, the three of us enjoyed the hell out of that fruit salad. Sure the magoes were a bit hard, but hey, this was presidential grade fruit and we were not gonna miss out on a single bite!
And even sweeter than the oranges in that rocking good fruit salad was the perfectly-placed anti-Bush sign we spotted on the freeway overpass just a few exits from the Library on the way home.
Now, I don’t know who put that sign there or even if they knew the Bush’s would see it on their drive north to Burbank to appear on “The Tonight Show”, but I think it’s pretty telling that the “anti” slash is only through the “W”.
See, even crazy, freeway-sign-protesters love the First Lady…and now, after meeting the former Texas librarian and her recently-hitched, “Sex and the City”-loving daughter in person…I can see why!