Presidential Inaugurations Old Hat for SF Man

Aside from the minor detail of being voted leader of the United States, Presidents Obama, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Nixon all have something in common: Lee Houskeeper was on hand to watch their swearing-ins.

While the presidents likely weren't apprised of this precious detail, Houskeeper, a well-known San Francisco press agent, is quite proud of the fact. "It's the experience of being there," he said.

"It reaffirms the democracy and the participation and the citizens' participation in our freedoms," he said.

Houskeeper didn't entertain as lofty democratic ideals when he attended his first inauguration.

In 1968, Houskeeper was hanging out in New York's Greenwich Village when a young woman invited him to ride a bus to Washington, D.C., to protest President Richard Nixon's swearing-in. "On the way to Washington I'm sitting between two guys with helmets and gas masks," Houskeeper recalled.

Upon arriving in Washington, Houskeeper quickly ditched his protesting hosts and instead stumbled into numerous parties thrown by Congress members. "So I discovered a taste for inaugurals in 1968," he said with a crooked smile.

Since that experience, Houskeeper has attended nearly every presidential inauguration — save for Presidents Bush Sr. and Jr. He didn't care much for their politics.

He ended up helping organize a last-minute party for President Jimmy's Carter's inauguration, which gave him the leverage to invite his mom.

"The president came through, and so that was very memorable to take your mom to an inaugural ball," he said.

He attended President Ronald Reagan's inaugural ball, thanks to some well-placed connections who gave him tickets.

He said President Bill Clinton's inauguration was quite a bash. "We really felt Clinton was going to change the world," Houskeeper said. "And that was some party."

But his favorite by far, was four years ago when he attended President Barack Obama's first swearing-in... sort of. Because of a ticket snafu, he couldn't get into the actual event. So he watched it happily on a TV back at his hotel.

"It's the experience of being there, "Houskeeper said, flipping through his souvenir Obama inaugural invitation. "It's just being part of it."

This weekend, Houskeeper will join many West Coasters heading east to Washington for Obama's second swearing-in on Monday. 

He loaded up on long underwear and earmuffs for the expected cold weather. "I remember long underwear with the flaps and stuff," Houskeeper said, looking over his recent purchase.

"This stuff is like pantyhose."

This time around, Houskeeper will attend the inauguration in style. He has eight tickets to the swearing-in and invitations to numerous parties. He's most excited the chance to take his son along for the first time for a graceful introduction to democracy's supreme event — minus the gasmasks and helmets.

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