Washington reporter, Helen Thomas (1920 – 2013) was known for asking the hard questions of each President and as being the first women to say the time-honored phrase given at the end of each press conference/briefing: “Thank you, Mr. President.” If you’ve ever seen the movie “Dave” with Kevin Kline, then you’ve seen her portray herself after Kevin Kline gives his press briefing as the ersatz President.
I never knew Helen Thomas, but I feel a little closer to her thanks to Urban Archeology. I have never ventured close to politics, or the press’ coverage of government affairs, but if I’d have wanted an insider’s look, there was no one closer than Helen Thomas. Reporters, assigned by their respective news agencies to cover anything and everything coming from the White House are part of a group known as the White House Press Corps. Helen Thomas was assigned to the corps in 1961 and stayed until her retirement in 2010.
I came to know of Helen after digging through a Connecticut estate sale I wrote about in May 2013. As I was looking through some books on a shelf, not finding anything of interest, the person running the sale approached me with a story. She pointed out Helen Thomas’ 1999 autobiography, Front Row at the White House and explained that, while it wasn’t very old, if I looked inside the cover I might find what I was looking for.
The book is a compendium of her experience covering the White House with headings describing each President and First Lady she met in almost 40 years of reporting. There are many interesting tid-bits of gossip and a fair amount of her personal struggles to provide her employer with the best coverage of national issues despite some cleaver press secretaries and spin-doctors.My “find” got better when I realized that the book had been signed by Helen Thomas herself. The real surprise is, that the owner of the book may have been one of the most influential people in 20th century politics - and most people have never heard of her. Click here to find out who was the Hollywood connection to the White House insider.