Yes, that was former Sen. Chuck Robb and Lynda Johnson Robb in the orchestra seats for “La Cage aux Folles” Tuesday night. A nifty brush-with-celebrity for fellow theater-goers who get a kick out of recognizing Beltway VIPs out on the town.
But downright thrilling for those who remember a more exciting time in Washington — when a movie star dated a president’s daughter.
For several glamorous, paparazzi-trailed months in 1966, Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda Bird and George Hamilton were an item. They’ve remained friends over the years, which is why the Robbs went to see Hamilton on stage at the Kennedy Center.
“I enjoyed it! The music’s just wonderful,” Lynda Robb said when we called and asked for her review. And yes, it’s been great to catch up with an old pal. A week earlier they had Hamilton over to dinner at their home in Northern Virgnia.
In his 2008 memoir, “Don’t Mind If I Do,” Hamilton writes that he got invited to a 1965 White House dinner after the Johnson family saw his portrayal of Hank Williams in “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” He hit it off with Lynda, then a “brainy and bookish” student at GWU: “I sensed that somewhere inside that bookworm was a babe trying to get out.”
He invited her to Acapulco, and she surprised him by taking him up on the offer. He thought he’d teach her a thing or two about the art of tanning, but she “blew me away by lasting longer in the sun than I could.”
A jet-setting courtship ensued, with dates at the Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras and the 1966 Oscars; he spent Easter at the LBJ ranch, and attended Luci Baines Johnson’s White House wedding. Their relationship drew fire from LBJ critics, who branded Hamilton a draft dodger, and he actually considered enlisting. Instead, she met Chuck Robb (“her genetic destiny”). Hamilton attended their White House wedding in 1967. Years later, they invited him to Robb’s inauguration as governor of Virginia, and “I couldn’t help thinking it might have been me,” he wrote.
Amazing! Seems like the Johnson girls have more fun than any other White House kids (see also the famous photo of Luci doing the Watusi with Steve McQueen). Maybe even more fun than Jenna and Barbara?
Lynda Robb laughed. “Nobody had as much fun as Alice Roosevelt,” she said. But yes, “it was an interesting time to be alive.”
Read earlier: George Hamilton goes on with the show in ‘La Cage aux Folles,’ 1/6/12