Charles Allen’s late father, Eugene Allen, who was the subject of the 2013 film “The Butler” and served eight White House families from the Trumans to the Reagans, never missed a day of work in 34 years of government service. But if his father were still working in the White House residence today, Charles says he would have very simple advice: “I would implore him to retire.”
His uncle, John Johnson, was also a butler, and the flouting of safety protocols that has made the White House a coronavirus hot spot has also put the career staff members who work where President Trump and first lady Melania Trump live at risk of exposure. It has Allen puzzled and incensed.
“I would be begging my dad and uncle, ‘You need to get the hell up out of there,’ ” he said. “It’s like: ‘Get out! Get out!’ ”
The White House residence staff members are largely Black and Latino, and often elderly, according to Kate Anderson Brower, who compiled a trove of interviews with former staffers for her book “The Residence.” Numbering 90-some full-time ushers, butlers, housekeepers, valets, florists, engineers and cooks charged with maintaining the historical house and creating a comfortable home free from prying eyes, they work more closely with the first family than perhaps anyone else in that building.