Edward L. Bernays
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1928
WARMING UP CALVIN COOLIDGE

Bernays was asked to bring a celebrity group to visit the White House and demonstrate Coolidge's "warm, sympathetic personality." He decided that "stage people symbolize warmth, extroversion, and Bohemian camaraderie," and set up a star-studded breakfast at the White House. He arranged for a group of actors to take the midnight train from New York to Washington after they finished their shows. The cast included Al Jolson, Ed Wynn, The Dolly Sisters, Charlotte Greenwood, Raymond Hitchcock, and other big stars of the time.

Mrs. Coolidge greeted the guests. "I have met you all across the footlights," she said, "but it's not the same as greeting you here." The President was not quite as welcoming. "He was practically inarticulate, and no movement of any kind agitated his deadpan face," Bernays said later.

When the group lined up for breakfast photos, the President remained as grim as ever. After breakfast, the group moved to the White House lawn where Al Jolson sang "Keep Coolidge," which he had composed for the occasion. Everybody sang -- except for the President.

Despite Coolidge's demeanor, celebrity star power seems to have worked. Newspaper headlines reported, "Actor Eats Cake with the Coolidges...President Nearly Laughs...Guests Crack Dignified Jokes, Sing Song and Pledge To Support Coolidge."

Probably no one looked at Coolidge again in the same way.

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