President Bush, like a lot of other Americans, is looking to home improvements as a way of getting the old manse back into shape. But in his case, those other Americans will be footing his bill as well as their own if Congress approves his $7.86 million White House operating budget request for fiscal 1991.
Of that amount, which represents an 18 percent increase over the fiscal 1990 budget, Bush is asking for $500,000 to update and expand the White House kitchen, $125,000 to renovate the mansion's antique furniture and $800,000 to replace broken window panes.
White House Curator Rex Scouten says about 800 panes need replacing now but he expects another 700 to need replacing during the next 15 to 20 years. Because of that and the fact that the glass has to be custom-made to match the existing panes, some of it from the early 19th century, the White House wants to stockpile it. The hitch is that custom-made glass doesn't come cheap and may have to be ordered from France if no U.S. manufacturer can be found to take on the task.
Enlarging the White House kitchen, which hasn't been renovated for 40 years, also would provide pastry chef Roland Mesnier space to make the thousands of cookies and other baked goods served to the president's 150,000 invited eating guests each year. "We estimated three pastries per guest at the 300 or so teas, receptions, luncheons and dinners," says Jim Allen, assistant White House usher. "Right now, Chef Mesnier uses a workbench in the main kitchen."
Also of concern are the White House furnishings in various stages of disrepair, either from something being spilled on them or from being bumped, rubbed or kicked. Scouten says the estimated 1.5 million to 1.7 million visitors who tour the mansion annually cause "negligible" damage. What takes the heaviest toll, Scouten says, is the unending movement of furniture and equipment in and out of the state rooms either by the White House or the media.
"You can't run cables and lights without doing some damage," he says.
The $125,000 requested to refurbish the furniture this year is part of a four-year, $600,000 ongoing repair program, according to Scouten.
Marilyn Quayle celebrated her 41st birthday Sunday surrounded by family and a mountain of get-well cards following her recent hysterectomy.
Among the well-wishers, according to a spokeswoman, were the Nixons, Fords and Reagans, "many, many" congressional families, Abigail "Dear Abby" Van Buren, Mary Kay Ash of cosmetics fame and the Jackson, Miss., Mets AA baseball team, all of whose members autographed the 12-by-24-inch card they sent.
Spokeswoman Denise Balzano said Mrs. Quayle will curtail her schedule for the next four to six weeks in accordance with her doctor's advice. At some point, Balzano said, she may be able to accompany her family on a vacation in the West.
Mrs. Quayle underwent surgery on July 21 because Pap smears indicated she had severe dysplasia, a cell abnormality that experts said can be a precursor to cervical cancer, according to Vice President Dan Quayle's office. She returned home Wednesday.
"The messages she has received have been wonderful. She feels that one of the great messages has been that it's become an excellent opportunity to get out the message for early detection," Balzano said.
She is already a published author whose next book -- her second, "Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush" -- comes out Sept. 17. Now, in what may be a media blitz -- planned or otherwise -- that won't hurt sales, Barbara Bush is about to make her debut in her newest calling as host on a weekly radio show called "Mrs. Bush's Storytime."
Starting Sept. 16, and continuing for 10 consecutive Sundays, ABC Radio Networks will air the First Lady reading stories for young listeners, aged 1 to 10, and their parents. She'll have company at times, interacting with such characters as Alf, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh, Big Bird, Roger Rabbit, Porky Pig and Garfield.
"Mrs. Bush is entertaining enough that I think adults too will get a big charge out of the shows," says Jim Farley, executive producer of the American Agenda Radio Specials. "It's like having your mom read to you."
Children's Literacy Initiative, the grass-roots program that first approached Mrs. Bush about the idea several months ago, will co-produce the 25-minute shows. Some of the stories she and they have selected are Munro Leaf's "The Story of Ferdinand," Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad," Paul Galdone's "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," Judith Viorst's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" and Betty Leslie-Melville's "Daisy Rothschild."
On Sept. 5, the First Lady also joins ABC News anchor Peter Jennings for an hour-long call-in special focusing on illiteracy in America.
Keeping her name, and in this case her voice, out front, Barbara Bush has taped two public service announcements, also with a literacy theme. She co-stars with nine young "actors" from Maryland and Virginia schools. The two 30-second television announcements started airing yesterday around the country, presenting a message to families that is crystal-clear: Read a book when you see a television or video program that sparks your interest.
"When a good TV show makes you want to find out more, find it in a book. TV and books work together to really take you places," says Mrs. Bush in the voice-over for one announcement. "TV can get you started, and for the inside story, open a book. TV and books can work together," she says in the other.
Organized by the Washington-based Kidsnet, a nonprofit computerized clearinghouse for children's audio, video, radio and TV programs, the public service campaign has the cooperation of national broadcast and cable networks, according to Karen Jaffe, Kidsnet's executive director. Last week at the Kennedy Center, the campaign was officially launched when the Weston Woods video of "Where the Wild Things Are" was compared with Maurice Sendak's book by the same name, which Mrs. Bush and Montgomery County teacher Susan Michal read to a young audience.