Baby Louise was in motion.
Walking. Running. Climbing. Reaching. Grabbing. Falling. Bouncing.
Baby Louise was unbreakable.
The book was lying on the bed in the hotel room, and as soon as Baby Louise saw it, she went for it. She picked it up, turned it upside down, then right side up and stared at the color photograph of the baby on the cover.
"Who's that?" her father asked.
"Who you lookin' at, Lu-Lu?" her mother asked.
Baby Louise was looking at Baby Louise, smiling at her from the cover of "Our Miracle Called Louise" by Lesley and John Brown.
Baby Louise gurgled.
Baby Louise pointed.
Baby Louise said, "Baba."
Then, Baby Louise tossed the book to the floor.
Just another pretty face.
Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter.
"Thank you," Lesley Brown said.
And she is lovely. Quite lovely. With fine blond hair and big blue eyes and a pretty pink sweater. A cotton candy of a baby.
Baby Louise was 14 months old yesterday, spending the day with her parents and her half sister, Sharon, in Washington, doing all the things tourists do. Taking pictures. Buying souvenir stickers for the family car. Stealing soap from the hotel. Perfectly normal.
"I think people had the impression we'd lock 'er away and say -- 'Do Not Touch,'" John Brown said. "But what's the big deal? We've never 'id 'er away. We came to America to show 'er to people, to show 'em she's normal."
Baby Louise -- Louise Joy Brown, daughter of Lesley and John Brown of Oldham, England -- isn't quite normal. That is, her birth wasn't quite normal; that is, her conception wasn't quite normal. In fact, it was unique, unprecedented.
Baby Louise is The Test-Tube Baby.
"Bloody awful term, eh?" John said.
"Makes you think of monsters," Lesley said. "Had nothing to do with a test tube at all. Was conceived in a culture dish, wasn't she? She's our baby, isn't she? I carried 'er, didn't I? People call 'er the test tube baby don't really know much, do they?"
"I don't like the term," John said. "We told the publisher, asked them not to call her that, but they say they got to use it to sell the book. We said we'd rather they didn't, but they say they got to."
John shrugged his shoulders.
Leslie shook her head.
Baby Louise gurgled. She was up on the nightstand, playing with the telephone. She could care less.
The Browns arrived in the United States on Sept. 5 to begin their three-week publicity tour that takes them through Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Houston, Memphis (where they made a pilgrimage to Graceland, the site of Elvis Presley's gravesite and authorized souvenir stands), Washington, Baltimore, New York and Boston. If they were politicians, they'd have it made -- they bring along their own baby to kiss.
They love America.
"Love hot dogs," John said. "A bit spicy, you know, but we love 'em."
What they don't love is television cameras. At least Lesley doesn't. As times goes on John seems to be enjoying the spotlight, even thriving in it.
"I feel sorry for her," said Margie Boule, who interviewed them on "A.M. Northwest" in Portland. "She's just so painfully shy. I'm sure she's just doing this because she feels they couldn't support the baby without this tour."
"That's got to be it," said Don Nelson, who interviewed them on "Good Morning Houston." The guy's just living hand-to-mouth. There's a lot of pressure on him to make sure the kid lives right."
The media consensus on the Browns?
Nice People. Bad guests.
"Two of the most common, ordinary people I've ever met," said Cheryl Friske, who interviewed them on WWJ radio in Detroit. "After a year of dealing with reporters, I at least expected her to be able to talk."
Then again, the Browns might have been justified in feeling pure terror when first meeting the press. Some of the reports on press behavior in England were bizarre: Reporters posing as priests to gain access to the hospital where Lesley stayed during pregnancy. A reporter phoning in a bomb threat in the hope of clearing out the hospital and getting an exclusive interview with Lesley.
"Everyone who could sold them out," said Ann Fraser, who interviewed them on "People Are Talking" in San Francisco. "Their neighbors sold them out; they sold space on their roofs to photographers. Their families sold them out; they sold exclusive interviews on fights between John and Lesley. Everyone made money on this thing."
And no one more than John and Lesley.
In its cover story the week Louise was born, Newsweek reported that the Browns sold their exclusive story to Associated Newspapers for $565,000. John said that figure was far too high, but he said he did receive $150,000 for the story and now $40,000 for this book. He does not deny that financial gain was part of his motivation.
"But what bothers me, what bloody bothers me, is that some people think we had Louise for the money," John said, making fists of the hands that are so heavily tatooed. "We didn't go in it for the money -- all we wanted was a baby . . . .
"And this money we're talkin' about is before taxes," he said. "After taxes we kept about $50,000 from the sale of the story and maybe $16,000 from the book. I bought me a car because we didn't have one, and put the rest in trust for Sharon and Louise.We can't even touch it, me and Les. And why should we? What do we need? And let me tell you -- no more books, no more tours. This is it. Now we're going back home and be normal again. Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Brown and family. I drive me truck. I enjoy me work. The money goes to me daughters."
John and Lesley are not Hollywood's idea of who John and Lesley should be. They are fairly round and small, far smaller than the commotion they caused. He has tatoos decorating his arms, hands and fingers. L-O-V-E on the fingers of his right hand. H-A-T-E on the fingers on his left hand. He drives for British Rail. She worked in an underwear factory and then in a cheese factory before she became pregnant. He married his first wife four months after the birth of their first child, and after their second child, Sharon, was born the first Mrs. Brown ran off with a hotel porter. He was still legally married when Lesley ran off with him. They lived together for six years before they married, and after they were married he had an affair with another woman and Lesley threw him out of the house. Lesley was 16 and John was 21 when they met. Both had come from broken homes. Working-class Brits.
"The cafe where I started spending most of my time was called the Holborn. As it was close to the Bristol docks, seamen of all shapes and colors, with tatoo marks up their arms, and elsewhere if you cared to look came in. The cafe was a pick-up joint . . . the place was a real dive.
"you'll end up a slut too if you keep hanging around this place," a bloke called John told me . . . When I first met John, he really irritated me . . . If he sat next to me, I pulled the hairs out of his arms, which were rather hairy. That would shut him up . . . "
-- "Our Miracle Called Louise"
The book tells all.
Too much all. It borders on sludge.
"We didn't want to do it at first," John said. "Our lawyer called us and asked us if we wanted to do it. Les and I talked about it and decided we'd have to tell everything. We knew we'd made some mistakes, but we weren't ashamed of anything. And we wanted to tell people about our baby, about how hard it is to live without being able to have a baby. We tried 15 years. Bloody near ruined us. I hope people who read it learn to not give up hope."
Sharon has read it twice. She is 18 now, more like a mother than a sister to Baby Louise, but certainly like a daughter and not a sister to Lesley. "I think it's brilliant," Sharon said. "But I didn't know all that stuff about them, no. It surprised me. It was them when they were much younger, wasn't it? They done it all, 'aven't they?"
John is 37. Lesley is 32.
They are neither worldly nor learned. When he went to have his sperm tested, he did not know the meaning of "semen." When she was assured she was, in fact, pregnant after the implant process, she did not know that conception had never before been accomplished outside the womb.
"Well, we're just normal, aren't we? Lesley said.
"I'm a working-class man," John said, as if it was a bumper sticker. "I'm still Johnny Brown. I don't want to change. I want to drive me truck like I always did. And I want me daughter to grow up like everyone else. I want her to work for what she gets, not have it on a platter. Les and me, we just want to be normal working-class people."
He looked at her.
She was nodding her head.
"We're not the greatest parents, are we?" she said. "Far from it. It used to worry me. Everyone was watching us, watching Louise. It was frightening. I remember once she was crying a lot, really crying. A long time. I didn't know what to do, so I yelled at her. After, I thought maybe I didn't deserve this baby. But all babies cry, and once in a while all mothers yell. We are who we are. We're normal, aren't we?"
There is no American talk-show host who speaks for the popular morality more than Phil Donahue, the Walter Cronkite of soft news. Donahue interviewed the Browns in Chiago and came away convinced they were not running a scam.
"I cannot bring any real moral indignation to this thing," he said. "I think they're entitled to this, really. This is not the carnival midway. I honestly was not offended. I saw two people, who, I think, love their baby. The issue to me is not whether they want to sell a book -- it's whether they love their child."
They certainly seem to.
So much so they want another child by the same method, if it's possible.
"You asked me if I felt left out because all the attention goes to Louise," Sharon said. "I don't. I couldn't. Don't you see how special she is?"
Baby Louise was playing with her mother's feet.
First petting them. Then kissing them.
Lesley Brown looked down at her baby and said, "She'll always be the first, won't she?" Then, she picked Baby Louise up, rocked her gently and stroked her hair.