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Easygoing Bush Style Likely to Trickle Down

It goes beyond barbecue and cowboy boots. O.C. Republicans and others say to expect wholesomeness and civility as part of this administration's social legacy.

February 01, 2001|ANN CONWAY

Get ready to slip on those boots and belly up to the easygoing Bush style.

Political activists Ron and Sandy Simon of Newport Beach did it when they hosted a fund-raiser last fall for then-presidential candidate George W. Bush. Guests, George W. among them, wolfed down barbecue fare in ranch-style duds.

Ditto the GOP faithful who attended the Black Tie & Boots Ball in Washington on Jan. 19. Forget satin slippers. Women paired boots with their ball gowns.

Supporters of the Orange County Chapter of the American Cancer Society are going to do it when they stage their Texas-inspired annual Cattle Baron's Ball later this year.

"The Bush style really ties in to our event," a Cancer Society spokeswoman said. "Bush is a leader who readily deals with serious issues but also likes to have fun."

Prominent Orange County Republicans who attended Bush's inaugural festivities have returned with firsthand observations of the Bushes' personal style.

The buzzwords: Fun-loving. Dignified. Understated. Consensus-building.

"The first words that come to my mind are very Texan," said Laguna Beach venture capitalist Duane Roberts, who attended events in the capital with his wife, Kelly Roberts. "I know the Bushes are extremely comfortable in blue jeans and boots. But they don't put them on for show; this is what they wear when they're casual. They're both very down-to-earth people."

Presidential style has enormous impact on "how people dress, what they eat, how they entertain," said social observer Letitia Baldrige of Washington, who was chief of staff for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. "We've already gotten glimpses of the Bushes' personal style. But it's too early to tell what their White House style will be--they haven't had their first state dinner yet."

Kelly Roberts, an Orange County charity activist who lives with her husband in the famed "Gucci house" in Laguna Beach, was taken by the Bushes' "all-American demeanor" at the inauguration, she said.

"What came through was their genuineness," she added. "There were no showy displays, no pomp and circumstance; they seemed to have a traditional, wholesome approach to life."

Philanthropist Mark Johnson of North Tustin, a premiere fund-raiser for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, expects the president's social style to have an impact on how Republicans across the country conduct themselves.

At the inauguration, Johnson, along with his wife, Barbara, witnessed a civility by the Bushes that, he said, "embraced the dignity of who we are as a people--both Republicans and Democrats."

If there is a new Republican style in the works, "it is inclusive, consensus-building, a bipartisanship coming together to affect a blending of styles," Johnson added.

Republican leader George Argyros of Newport Beach, who attended the whirlwind of events with his wife, Judie (their fourth inaugural), saw Bush setting a "tone that will bring a dignity to the White House that will uplift all Americans," he said.

"Don't ask me about their social style; I don't think in those terms," he added. "But, obviously, a party in power is going to have impact. Bush is a positive guy and I think that will affect all of us."

How will the Bush style play in Orange County?

Perhaps it's a little early to tell if local caterers will be invited to serve up chuck wagon instead of choice cut. Or fashion pace-setters will begin to leave their European designer labels in the closet.

But, having had a good look at the Bushes' celebrating during the inauguration, this much we know:

Boots, bright colors, short hair, mild splashes of glitz and American designers are in.

Out: anything that smacks of elitism.

"We don't want to highlight or have a style that in any way sets us apart, points up differences," Johnson said.

Philanthropist Zee Allred of Newport Beach, who after her trip to the inauguration, characterized the mood there as "a return to optimism." But she doubts that the Bush style will make a "major impact" on Orange County.

"We're a big, wealthy county with many educated people and top business owners. We're individuals--our own people," she said.

But the First Couple's love for the conservative lifestyle is sure to be welcome here, she added. "We're pretty casual and conservative to begin with."


Don't watch for the Orange County Performing Arts Center to toss a bash--big or small--to celebrate its 15th anniversary this September.

"We have nothing planned," said a center spokesman. "We're holding off until our 20th, which will be almost immediately after the planned opening of our new concert hall."

Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at

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