Hollywood on the Potomac
“Whatever the cost of protection, it’s nothing compared to the blow to this country if an assassination occurs,” best selling author Ron Kessler told Hollywood on the Potomac regarding the escalating costs of the President-Elect’s Secret Service detail that now includes Trump Tower in NYC and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. With news that the future First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron will remain in NYC until he finishes his school year, their home in New York will require around the clock protection by taking over several floors of the Trump building which could cost as much as $3 million. “The Secret Service will do whatever it thinks is necessary to protect the President-Elect [no matter] where he wants to reside.”
Although the author is friends with Trump, he wasn’t called during the campaign to offer SS advice.”I’ve been friends with him ever since Pam and I flew down with him on his Boeing 727-100, since upgraded to a Boeing 757, almost twenty years ago for my book on Palm Beach: The Season: The Secret Life of Palm Beach and America’s Richest Society. We spent the weekend with him at Mar-a-Lago. Ever since we’ve been in touch with him and we see him in Palm Beach. I did talk to him on the phone periodically. In terms of advice, I think that anybody who thinks they’re actually going to give Donald advice is crazy. I think that Donald marches to the beat of his own drummer. I’ve interviewed his people. I really have a good idea of what he’s all about; that is, behind the scenes. He’s very savvy. He’s very reasonable. He’s very meticulous, which is just the opposite of the provocative comments that he makes on TV. On the way down on the plane to Palm Beach, he imitated the nasal-constricted sounds of the old guard – the WASP Society – that condemned his club at Mar-a-Lago because it admits blacks and Jews. To this day, some clubs in Palm Beach still do not admit blacks and Jews, so I could not be a member. My friend Juan Williams could not be a member. This is just a little peek at what Donald is really like. He’s not prejudiced. He’s not a nut.”
By the time Hollywood on the Potomac showed up for a tour of Trump International Hotel DC, less than a mile from the White House and set in the Old Post Office, Executive Pastry Chef Fabrice Benezit had already been there for six and a half hours. “We do everything the day before,” he explained. “We make the croissant dough, we shape the croissants and all the pastries because we have to proof them overnight and when I come back in the morning, I bake them.” Expect to see him there until 7 PM and later if he has a banquet or a VIP dinner.
Life starts at Trump Hotel with a power breakfast at 6:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast table-side with croissants, coffee, orange juice and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. At eleven o’clock it turns into charcuterie and cheese table-side for when you come in for a working lunch. The champagne flows and it all comes together, not what you would expect in a hotel lobby. Bringing back table-side service brings a big element of fine dining when you arrive; it’s an innovative part of breakfast. They call it The Godfather of service: Think old European elegance – think Palace Hotel in Madrid.
LBJ was ‘in the house’ at the Washington, DC private screening of Rob Reiner’s “LBJ” at The National Archives – a venue steeped in history and most befitting a former President. Actor Woody Harrelson, who plays the 36th President of The United States, seemed elated to be in the midst of countless real former Presidential assistants as he mixed and mingled with Lynda Bird Johnson and her family as well as many of LBJ’s former staff and colleagues including his Chief of Protocol Ambassador Lloyd Hand. “I thought it was fantastic,” Hand told us. “I saw the play in New York and I saw the HBO movie. I take nothing away from Bryan Cranston – a great director – but this captured more of LBJ than any portrayal I’ve seen.”
“I just told Woody that I was honored and privileged to work for LBJ when he was majority leader, Vice President and President. It must have been a very, very challenging role for him; but he portrayed more of him, more of his personality. It’s all true: LBJ was very tough and all of that, but he also had a soft side and they brought that out,” added Hand. “You could see how concerned President Johnson was about not being liked and all of that. I saw moments like that, but he had it in him – the power and the ability – to acquire and use the power he got. The other key thing about the President was his timing. He knew when the time was right to push something and he took it. Robert Caro said that in one of his books (Means of Ascent). It was Johnson who pulled open the curtains of the voting booth. Johnson changed the course of history. Whether you like him, or you don’t like him, he did. Johnson passed many pieces of legislation and all of them were very important: The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, The Housing Act, Conservation, The National Endowment of the Arts and more. Those are the more popular ones, but he did more things than people ever realize.”