She had spent 30 years backstairs at the White House, seeing presidents and first ladies at closer range than most, so the reprimand had the ring of authority.
Lately, she said, drawing her tiny stature up so that she could almost see over the lectern, a couple of things had been bothering her.
One, said Lillian Rogers Parks, 81, a maid on the mansion's household staff until she retired 20 years ago, was this habit former White House staffers have of writing "ugly things" about first families.
The other, she told a luncheon crowd honoring her at the Mayflower Hotel yesterday, had more to do with some habits of the occupants.
"Since the White House itself is entitled to respect and dignity," she said, "I hope you folks over there will quit wearing blue jeans all the time."
Hardly anybody in the crowd paying "Tribute to Lillian Rogers Parks," guessed very long about who "you folks over there" were. But in the way of Lillian Parks, who has made something of a lifelong habit, herself, out of doing things in her own way, it successfully brought down the house.
It was yet another moment in a day filled with them -- "so many nice things have happened to me, I would have thought I'd be used to them by now" -- and programmed to focus on a preview showing of an NBC-TV miniseries about her life starting Jan. 29 and continuing on three successive Monday nights.
Based on the 1961 book, "My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House," which Parks wrote with Frances Spatz Leighton, the four-part, nine-hour series was scripted for television, then -- in the ways of the television and publishing world -- was made into a paperback novel.
Both worlds were generously represented by corporate officers of NBC-TV and Bantam Books, by Ed Friendly -- who produced the $6-million series -- and by a half-dozen of the film's stars: Leslie Uggams, who plays Lillian Parks; Olivia Cole, playing her mother, Maggie Rogers; Louis Gosset as Mercer, the houseman; Julie Harris as Mrs. William Howard Taft; Robert Hooks as Mays, the doorman and barber; Robert Vaughn as President Woodrow Wilson, and Celeste Holm as Mrs. Warren G. Harding.
Even the mayor showed up long enough to have his picture taken from a dozen different angels with a half-dozen different companions.
"You're a distinguished citizen of this city. I want you to undersand that," Marion Barry told Lillian Parks, whom he also identified as "a constituent -- she reminded me of that during a fund-raiser last fall."
"I understand," grinned Parks. "I understand."
The backstairs bunch from the present White House was represented. Many of them, including maitre d' John Ficklin, assistant storekeeper William Hamilton, maid Rose Booker, retired butler Edward Booker, pantry-woman Pearl Wiggins, floral designers Jim Nelson and Rusty Young and plumber Howard Arrington, had worked with Parks. Some had even worked with her mother, who had signed on back in the Taft administration.
There were letters from some former first family members, and Franklin Roosevelt's granddaughter Eleanor Dall Seagraves was there.But no one representing the present White House tenants turned up.
"It's a commercial venture and the White House has a policy of not getting involved in a commercial venture," said Faith Collins, deputy press secretary to Rosalynn Carter.
Virginia-born Lillian Parks joined the White House staff when Warren Harding was president but before that she had done mending and sewing for the Taft and Wilson families.Those were the days, backstairs at the White House, when a household worker like her mother might work years on end and never get a raise, when there were different pay scales for black and for white maids, when it took a presidential order to keep a black maid from scrubbing the floors on her knees.
Those were also the days when the staff interacted much as families do. "We're still like a good family group," said one of the current crop. "You become attached to each other."
"Lillian had a great rapport with Franklin Roosevelt because they both had had polio," said Uggams at a reception before the luncheon. "He let her ride the elevator to the second floor."
As a child, Taft had discovered Lillian trying out his oversized bathtub but found her so engaging that he invited her to join him for supper. A few years later, she was out demonstrating with suffragettes against Woodrow Wilson.
Actor Robert Hooks called the film the "epitome of true integration, of history as seen through the eyes of people who served."
Hooks, who portrays one of those members of Parks' staff "family," felt the master-servant relationship had been dealt with "with dignity" and signified a step forward in commercial televison badly in need of balance in programming the black experience.
"I cried and cried because of the humanity of it, the truth of it," said Frances Spatz Leighton, seeing for the first time the film version of her best-selling book.
It came out about the time Jacqueline Kennedy had demanded White House servants sign statements that they would not write books.
"Jackie was furious," said Texas journalist Sarah McClendon.