| George W. Bush kisses wife Laura on her 56th birthday. (Reuters)
Washington, Nov. 5 (Reuters): Twenty-five years ago on Tuesday George W. Bush and Laura Welch married in Midland, Texas, after a whirlwind courtship that the future US first lady initially feared had a “fat chance” of going anywhere.
They were thrown together on a blind date at a friend’s backyard barbecue in August, 1977. Bush, who had a reputation as a good kisser, was instantly smitten by the quiet and studious Laura, according to a recently published book. They wed three months later.
She was “gorgeous, good humored, quick to laugh, down to earth and very smart”, Bush said later. “I recognised those attributes right away, in roughly that order.”
A quarter of a century on, biographer Christopher Andersen set out to learn what makes the Bushes’ relationship tick in George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage.
Andersen, who has made a name for himself by writing about famous people such as John F. Kennedy Jr., Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton, did not interview the Bushes but he did speak to Laura Bush’s 83-year-old mother Jenna Welch and several longtime family friends.
That first night, Laura judged the future President to be “really cute” and “very funny”. But she told her mother she was afraid that living in Austin — with George W. hundreds of miles away in Midland — would kill any budding romance.
“Fat chance,” Welch quoted Laura. “I really like him, but how is this going to work'”
Later Welch worried that George W. was coming on too strong. “I thought George was a great catch but I was afraid he was pushing Laura so hard he might ruin the whole thing,” she said.
Laura wasn’t Bush’s first serious romantic interest. Three decades ago, he was engaged to Rice University economics major and head cheerleader Cathy Wolfman who described the future President as “a very passionate man — a good kisser, a real romantic guy and a real gentleman. He was kind, caring and sensitive”.
When they broke up, Wolfman told Andersen that George W. was stricken and began to weep when she slipped the engagement ring off her finger and handed it back.
Other anecdotes from George and Laura, include:
n The bookish Laura, who became a school librarian, named one of her cats “Dewey,” after the Dewey Decimal System, an organising system for libraries.
n Bush, who has occasionally spoken publicly about his decision to give up drinking 16 years ago, did so with no fanfare, no drama. “You just sort of gradually noticed that he wasn’t holding a beer in his hand anymore,” according to one longtime friend.
n Bush “might tease her for being prim and proper and studious and she’d needle him right back for mangling the English language — again”.
n Both the Bushes are enjoying every minute in the White House. “Hell, they’re having the time of their lives,” friend Doug Hannah said.