Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript


CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN NEWSROOM

Talk with Jackie Kennedy's Former Social Secretary

Aired September 6, 2001 - 04:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CNN ANCHOR: Letitia Baldridge was Jackie Kennedy's social secretary. She, therefore, planned dozens of state dinners.

Kim Abbott (ph) spoke with her and shared some of her secrets behind these great galas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KIM ABBOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most people will never have the chance to go to one of these state dinners. Take us inside the White House on the night of one of these galas and describe what we would experience.

LETITIA BALDRIDGE, JACKIE KENNEDY'S SOCIAL SECRETARY: Well, you'd be awestruck. Everyone is awestruck. No matter how many years they've been in Washington or how many high posts they've held, to come into that house -- that magnificent historical house with great marble walls and great chandeliers and gold torches, it's just an incredible place.

And you go into the East Room and you're handed a cocktail and you make social conversation with everyone. You talk to whoever is around you. When the president and the first lady appear, there are ruffles and flourishes, there's an honor guard, the color guard, military. It's just incredible. It's such a show. And the receiving line is formed and people pass through it. And the social aides and the social secretary are standing there to say, hey, hurry up, hurry up. People want to talk to the president and first lady but there isn't time so they push them along and they finally get into the dinning room.

The toasts are made in both languages. The head of state of Mexico -- well, the president first speaks and greets the president of Mexico and he returns the toast. And when that's over, then everybody can really get on with their beautiful dinner and it's a night of magic.

ABBOTT: What kind of planning goes into an event like this? I've heard that it's timed to the minute so how do you plan something on that scale?

BALDRIDGE: It's timed to the minute. Well, you make -- you write a scenario. The social secretary usually does that. What time the head of state is fetched across the street at Blair House and brought over in a car and the American president and first lady are waiting for them and take them up to the private quarters. And in the Kennedy years, it used to be great because we had little children, Caroline and John, who would come into the Oval Room upstairs in their pajamas and always enchanted the head of states. It's a great way to start off a state dinner with little children.

Then down the stairs they would all -- the four heads of states and their first ladies would come down the stairs and pose for the press, photo op. Everything is protocol and has been that way for years and it works.

ABBOTT: Who is invited to these events? How do you get on the guest list?

BALDRIDGE: It's a precious invitation. People lobby like mad for it. All of the old Washington society feels they should be invited because they used to be in the times of George Washington and James Madison and so forth, but there's no room for them.

The official party coming from another country, there are usually about 30 or 40 who come and only about 11 or 12 are allowed to come to the state dinner. So the rest of the official party has to be entertained elsewhere, but the 11 or 12 who come feel very honored. Then there are the top cabinet people and all the cabinet officers feel they should be invited because they do business with Mexico, for example, they have art dealings. So the minister of the interior, the minister of state, everybody -- everybody feels they have a right to be there.

Always have to have a couple of glamorous people, a couple of movie stars. You know they haven't had a rock band yet but they will. And it's -- it reflects America today so who's invited today is very different from who was invited back in the Kennedy years.

ABBOTT: Tell me a little bit about the historical significance to these events. Other than being a glamorous event, why is it such a hot ticket? Why is it so important to both countries?

BALDRIDGE: Because everyone wants to know what they're doing in the big house. What's going on in the White House? What are they eating? What are they serving? So when there's a state dinner, that's supposed to be the top of the top with beautiful people doing beautiful things. And if anyone goes in there badly dressed or acts up, I mean that becomes front page publicity. It's supposed to be perfect.

ABBOTT: Who did the Kennedy's first host? What was the first state dinner?

BALDRIDGE: Well, their first state dinner was a small country, but we were practicing, and also this small country was very important militarily, at the moment, Tunisia. President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, and of course the Arab world was delighted that the first state visitor was an Arab. That was really great.

ABBOTT: President Clinton hosted the emperor and empress of Japan for his...

BALDRIDGE: Oh yes.

ABBOTT: ... first state dinner, and of course President Bush is hosting Vicente Fox and his wife. What's the protocol in choosing who will be the first honoree at a state dinner?

BALDRIDGE: It's who is the most important politically, economically and psychologically. It's really decided who would we make the best effect upon to bring their head of state over and who is important to us militarily and trade wise, all of those factors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 Search   




MARKETS
4:30pm ET, 4/16
144.70
8257.60
3.71
1394.72
10.90
879.91
 














Back to the top