'What are the bathrooms like at the White House?'
Saturday 01 March 2014
Funny you should ask. I both worked at the White House, and have a terrible colon condition, so I can safely say that I have used a very wide variety of bathrooms at the White House – perhaps more extensively than anyone in modern memory.
Where to start? The Residence – when they redid the White House under Truman, one thing they did was to add a bathroom to nearly every room in the lowest floor of the Residence. They vary from very nice for guests (Men's in the Library/Women's in the China Room) to a more utilitarian co-ed number off of the map room. There are more work bathrooms near the florist shop and kitchen that resemble work bathrooms the world over.
The toilets in the guest rooms are automatic flushing, the others have handles.
My favourite is in the Library. I liked its antechamber so much that we occasionally featured it in shots of the 'Weekly Address' [the President's Saturday morning video address to the nation]. The toilet paper there is very good and there are paper towels with the seal of the President.
Oh man, the West Wing is tough bathroom-wise. Not far from the Oval Office there are two... I've never used the ladies' room there, but the men's room is pretty epic. It's this tiny bathroom with a small sink, tucked in next to the Roosevelt Room. Nothing special, except there aren't many bathrooms in the West Wing and you never know who is in them. You might be waiting for Senator Reid or 'Bibi' Netanyahu to finish up.
Special memory: this is also the bathroom where I learnt to tie a bow tie on inauguration day.
Downstairs, there are multi-stall jobs that have these weird, white saloon doors on them. I really hated them – but there are also shoe polishers and shower stalls!
The East Wing doesn't have many bathrooms but they are nice, and actually very normal.
You didn't ask about the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but the fun there is to look at the doorknobs and you can see if, back in the day when it was the War Department, the Army or Navy controlled that area. (Either stars or anchors on the knobs.)
It really is funny you should ask – I wrote a book about filming the President and I was going to include a guide to the bathrooms at the White House, but decided not to!
Arun Chaudhary, formerly President Obama's videographer; currently a partner at Revolution Messaging
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