JB West

March 31, 2016 Notes: James Bernard West (July 27, 1912 – July 18, 1983), known as J. B. West, was Chief Usher at the White House from 1957 to 1969. His best-selling book, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (with Mary Lynn Kotz), documents his time in the executive mansion and is considered a good source of material on the First Families he served.

He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings, funerals, gardens, playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For 28 years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests - including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

He was heavily involved in Jackie's White House restoration project and the two became very close. In 1963 Jackie surprised her lifetime confidante Nancy Tuckerman, then serving as White House Social Secretary, with a birthday party. At the party, West dressed up as "Miss Ward" the former headmistress of Miss Porter's School, where the two women attend school as young girls. West and Kennedy remained in contact after the assassination and often corresponded, with Jackie sending him notes and funny sketches.

West announced his retirement from the White House on November 14, 1968. According to author Ronald Kessler, however, an investigation into missing items at the White House had supposedly discovered that West let friends into the White House for after-hour tours and some of them had stolen White House mementos. According to Kessler again, the investigation also reportedly concluded West was a homosexual, which at the time made him a blackmail/security risk. West was forced to retire, or be dismissed. West left the White House on March 1, 1969. (Wikipedia)

Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)


111 Irving Avenue: The President's House

March 15, 2016 Notes:  In 1956 John and Jackie Kennedy bought a smaller Hyannis Port home of their own at 111 Irving Avenue, not far from that of his father and mother. Many press pictures from the 1960 campaign were taken here. Jackie spent time here in later years, and JFK Jr. used the house extensively before his death.  Caroline sold the house to her Uncle Teddy in 2005 after holding an auction selling many of its furnishings. Ted sold the house to his son Ted Jr. sometime around 2008.

A significant portion of the furniture and decorations in the Kennedy's "President's House" Hyannis Port home was part of a collection of furniture and folk art purchased by the Kennedy family from Gerald Shea, a highly-regarded dealer in American decorative arts in the 1950s and 1960s.

Among the works from the Shea Collection sold in the 1995 Sotheby's auction was a Portrait of Captain Platt out of Portsmouth, with a Clipper Ship in the Distance, attributed to Frederick Mayhew, circa 1830, which hung behind President Kennedy in an official portrait taken during the summer of 1960. Captured in that iconic photograph, which would eventually grace the cover of the November 16, 1960 issue of Life Magazine.

Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)

Nancy Reagan's Funeral Invitation

March 9, 2016 Notes: Nancy Reagan's funeral invitation courtesy of PPB contributor Rusty Thomas. He will be in attendance per the wishes of Mrs. Reagan. Rusty, thanks for being a good friend to the former First Lady.

Jackie's BFF Tucky

February 22, 2016 Notes: Nancy Tuckerman was social secretary to Jackie in 1963, after the resignation of Letitia Baldrige. “Tucky,” as she was called by Jackie, had been a close friend since their prep-school days at the Chapin School, where they first met, and at Miss Porter’s School, in Farmington, Connecticut.

During her stint at Miss Porter’s, her and Tucky got into a great deal of trouble (Mostly due to Jackie’s mind). Once, Jackie got the brilliant idea of teaching Nancy how to ride her horse Danseuse (Danny). Mind you, in those days, it was forbidden for a young girl to ride a horse without parental permission (which Tucky did not have). This didn’t hamper Jackie’s plans, so she forced a reluctant Tucky to get on Danny, only to have the stable’s dinner bell to be rung, causing Danny to take off for the barn to satisfy his hunger.

Tucky got thrown off, hurting her arm, and she didn’t want to go to the infirmary because she would get into big trouble. But, Jackie told her to tell the nurse, “you fell out of a tree” so she did and Nancy later said, “And of course, it worked.” Everyone walked away blameless!

In the dark days after the assassination, Tuckerman helped organized Jackie's responses to more than 800,000 condolence letters that flooded the White House. She was Jackie's only official spokesperson in her later years, and provided polite and guarded media updates, even during Jackie's final days.

She wrote the introduction to Sotheby's auction catalog featuring Jackie's personal belongings. Jackie left $250,000 to Nancy her longtime friend, spokeswoman and "confidante," as Onassis described her in the will.

Tuckerman has authored several books including In the Tiffany Style and The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette.

Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)

Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2002-2015. All Rights Reserved.