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An insider view of the White House

When David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower went out on the lecture circuit this year they had no idea that their subject, "The White House," would turn into such a hot topic.

That's because an estimated 938 people have bedded down for the night in the country's No. 1 manse since the Clintons moved in, and some have accused the couple of turning the place into "Motel 1600."

"My parents (President Richard M. and Pat Nixon) had very few overnight guests," Julie Eisenhower recalled during a recent phone interview from the Eisenhower home in Berwyn, Pa.

"David and I were married 29 days before my father took the oath of office, so when we went to visit, we stayed on the third floor. My sister Tricia lived in the White House with my parents. Her room was on the second floor, and its most recent previous occupants had been Caroline Kennedy and Lynda Bird Johnson.

"Probably the most famous people my parents entertained as house guests were Prince Charles, who stayed in the Lincoln bedroom, and Princess Anne, who stayed in the Queen's Room, on their first visit to America," she said. "My parents frequently invited the recently widowed Mamie Eisenhower to stay with them at the White House."

"Important visitors in those days stayed at Blair House (the official guest quarters), not the White House," she said.

Eisenhower mentioned that none of the Ryan (Pat Nixon's family) or Nixon relatives stayed in the executive mansion or at Blair House.

A few special celebrity friends stayed overnight.

People magazine reported that when Richard Nixon lit a fire in the Lincoln bedroom for Bob Hope's wife, Dolores, the room filled with smoke; the fireplace had been sealed.

Julie Eisenhower and her husband, David, a grandson of President Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower, will speak about the presidency and the White House on Wednesday in Tampa.

This is their second visit to the Tampa Bay area this month and their third trip to Florida this year.

Although they grew up in the public eye, the couple prefers to lead a private life.

They are especially close to former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara. During a trip to Houston in February they stopped by Bush's office for a quick visit.

"The former president was wearing black cowboy boots with the presidential seal that had been given to him," Julie Eisenhower said, laughing.

She describes David Eisenhower as "an original thinker and scholar." When he is not involved in research and writing he teaches a course on the presidency at the University of Pennsylvania.

Julie Eisenhower says her only problem with David is getting him into suits.

"All he thinks about are the "itchy suits' he had to wear when, as a little boy, his grandfather was in the White House," she said.

The Eisenhowers are collaborating on a book about the war in Vietnam and its relationship to the 1968 presidential election, which will be published later this year by Random House.

Because of the important roles their families have played in the history of the United States and their own lifelong involvements in American politics, the Eisenhowers are sticklers when it comes to facts.

"Movies like JFK, Jefferson in Paris and Nixon are giving young people a twisted sense of history," Julie Eisenhower said. "Many young people are unable or unwilling to sort out the propaganda or artistic license from the truth."

It bothers her that "it's becoming more and more difficult to get a fix on historical fact. Docudramas are the most troubling trend in history because they create myths and fuzz reality."

Away from the lecture circuit, the Eisenhowers are very involved with their family.

Their oldest child Jennie, 18, is a freshman theater arts major at Northwestern University and "has a beautiful singing voice," her mother said.

Their son, Alex, 16, is a sportsman, and their daughter Melanie, 12, is a ballerina and recently was accepted by the Pennsylvania Ballet's summer program.

Both Julie and David Eisenhower have been approached as candidates; neither has plans to pursue a political career, she said.

Where to hear the Eisenhowers

Julie and David Eisenhower will speak at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the first 1997 Northern Trust Forum at the Hyatt Regency Westshore, 6200 Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa. The event is by invitation only. For information, call 895-1700.