My Guess Is Definitely No

Would you run your presidential library the way we run Nixons?

Photo by Joy BastWhatever your opinion of Richard Nixon, well-known president and potty mouth, you have to admit one thing: his Yorba Linda library certainly is lame. From the gift shop that sells Nixon-and-Elvis plastic floatpens ($2.95) to the bronze statues of world leaders that aren't really bronze but rather painted papier-mâché, it's a tacky, uncomfortable place. Yes, if ever a structure reflected its subject, this is it. Desperate for acceptance and doomed always to fall short, it's the presidential-library equivalent of a guy in a Le Tigre shirt.

So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that on May 7 the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, dedicated to the man who opened China, was the site of a wedding show. I found out about this when I spotted one of those neon-colored cardboard signs, the kind that usually have "GUN SHOW" written across them, hung on a fence surrounding a construction site. This one read: "WEDDING SHOW." Underneath that: "Nixon Library."

I assumed the wedding show was some quasi-historical exhibit like the ones the Nixon Library indulges in regularly—see "Barbie As First Lady," now through Sept. 4. I assumed it had something to do with weddings held at the White House, since Nixon's daughter Tricia—the hot one—was married there. But as it turned out, this was your regular old wedding trade show, the kind usually held at the local Hyatt where people haggle with dressmakers and invitation-stationery salesmen—all in all, about as presidential as a police auction.

Turns out this was the SECOND ANNUAL Nixon Library Wedding Show, the highlights being a mock wedding in the First Ladies Rose Garden—has not Pat Nixon suffered enough?—a fashion show and, of course, DOOR PRIZES!!!

Even by its rigorous lame standards, the Nixon Library seemed to have outdone itself. Just to be sure, I called a few of the nation's other presidential libraries, told them I was interested in putting on a wedding show at their facility, and asked if they were interested. You may notice a theme in what some of them told me. See if you can spot the cruel irony!

RUTHERFORD B. HAYES PRESIDENTIAL CENTER, Fremont, Ohio

Nancy in marketing: A wedding show? Ah, I really don't think so. Really? Why not?

Well, it really doesn't fit with the kind of programming we do.

Which is?

More academic, cultural, a little more serious. We try to stick to the Gilded Age, when President Hayes was around.

People were getting married in the Gilded Age.

[laughs nervously] Uh . . . yeah . . . but we just wouldn't want to host something like that. I . . . uh . . . yeah, we just wouldn't do that.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, Boston

Unidentified receptionist: A what? A wedding show.

You mean . . .

A show, like a trade show, where people could come and plan their wedding.

[. . .]

You know, there'd be caterers and wedding-gown manufacturers and photographers, and they would all have their own booths.

Oh . . . And you want to do that here?

Yeah, and there'd be door prizes.

What?

Door prizes. You know, like gifts.

Uh-huh. Well, I don't think so, but if you want, I can have someone call you back. I . . . now just so I can tell them: You want to do this show here?

Right.

At the library?

THE DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, Abilene, Kansas

Colleen in administration: My guess is definitely no. The Nixon Library is a private library. They can do whatever they want. But our library, like all the other presidential libraries, is part of the National Archives and so we're prohibited from hosting events where people are exchanging money like that. So you would never host a trade event?

Well, I don't know, but we wouldn't do anything like that. We don't do shows. We might have a banker's association hold a reception here, but they wouldn't be able to sell the tickets here. That's just not something we would want to be going on here.

So door prizes would be out?

Door prizes would definitely be out.

THE HERBERT HOOVER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, West Branch, Iowa

Unidentified administrator: Ooooh, no, I don't think so. It would be very tasteful.

Ooooh, I don't think so.

And there would be door prizes.

Oh. No, I don't think so. We don't do that kind of thing. We might let a nonprofit organization use our facilities, but we don't let businesses come in here and sell their stuff. Not in a federal building. You can do that at the Nixon Library because it's not part of the National Archives.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, PART DEUX

Unidentified receptionist: And what was this about? A wedding show. I think I talked to you about it, remember?

Oh, I think so.

I just hadn't gotten a call back.

Oh, well, I gave them the message, but I really don't think it's anything they want to do.

Really?

Really.

RONALD W. REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM, Simi Valley, California

Loanne in administration: I wish we could. We have so many people, every day, who request to be married here. But we can't. We're part of the federal government through the National Archives, and everything we do has to be tied to our mission. Which is?

You know, historical and academic pursuits.

But President Reagan is married. That's part of history.

[laughs] Yes, that's true. But it just has to do with us being part of the National Archives. The Nixon Library is different from the other presidential libraries because it's not part of the National Archives.

Why isn't it part of the National Archives?

Well, it has to do with the circumstances of his leaving the presidency because of . . . you know. With all the other facilities, the presidential papers are actually at the library. President Nixon's papers are still in Washington because of . . . you know.

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