Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Film Plumbs the Depths of White House Occupants

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Film Plumbs the Depths of White House Occupants

Article excerpt

History may remember President Lyndon B. Johnson for his Great Society programs and the Vietnam War, but it's LBJ's shower that stands out in Howard Arrington's memory.

From the time Johnson took office in 1963 until he left the White House five years later, the president's quest for a perfect shower - and Arrington's heroic but frustrating efforts to provide one - united the two men in a Chaplinesque comedy.

The hot water wasn't hot enough. The cold wasn't cold enough. The pressure was too weak, the shower head wasn't right. No matter what he did, the chief White House plumber couldn't satisfy Johnson.

One day, the president's valet called with ominous news, recalls Arrington, who is a star of a humorous new documentary film, "Workers at the White House."

"When the president got out of his shower this morning, he had green pipe dope all over his back," the valet said. "I didn't say a word to him."

Fortunately for Arrington, Johnson never saw the colored putty that plumbers had applied to pipe threads during yet another attempt to improve the shower. The valet phoned Johnson's masseur at the White House, warning: "When the president comes in, don't ask him what's all this stuff on his back. Just take . . . alcohol or something and just kind of clean him up."

Arrington, who retired in 1979 after 34 years at the White House, is one of several former workers who reminisce in the 30-minute film produced by the Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibit provides a revealing, sometimes funny glimpse of life at the White House. But don't expect lurid stories about Marilyn Monroe visiting John F. Kennedy. In a city of leakers, the White House staff keeps secrets better than the mob.

The slightest violation of the first family's privacy can cost a worker a job. Even former staffers are careful to protect the privacy of the presidents they served. …

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