Thursday, Apr. 27, 2006; 12:00 p.m.
President Bush may appeal to Californians with his brand of star power, but he's no Johnny Depp.
When the Presidency Comes to Town
President Bush caused local excitement during his visit to Orange County last weekend. He travelled to the west coast to speak about the country's latest controversial concern, immigration reform.
IRVINE, Calif. -- Tuesday was the day after at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, the day after the man in the motorcade came calling at 9 in the morning. It's not as if the Hyatt is some mom-and-pop operation that hasn't seen famous people before — after all, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been there — but when the president of the United States comes rolling into town, it's not just another day at the office.
But what gets John Philipp is how, some 24 hours after President Bush's appearance at the hotel, the president's visit left him so jazzed. "Huge rush," Philipp says Tuesday morning as we talk in the hotel lobby.
As a Hyatt official, Philipp had plenty to worry about before Bush arrived and hadn't gotten more than an hour or so of sleep the night before. You want job pressure? Try getting your house in order for a presidential visit.
And then on Monday morning, Philipp found himself on a riser in the second row of seats, awaiting Bush's emergence before the audience. And in a flash, the anxiety vanished.
"Just knowing that the president of the United States is coming to your [hotel] and speaking in your ballroom overshadows all the pressure and strain that goes with it," Philipp says. "Once he walked out, I was high-fiving some of the catering managers."
In this day of ubiquitous presidential presence in the media and the steady drone of politics in our ears, we've become jaded. We're not the America of 1906 when the sight of Teddy Roosevelt pulling into town on a train aroused the masses.
So, I'd say it's good for the republic that in 2006 the sight of a president in the flesh can still trump cynicism. "It was an incredible experience," Philipp says, who adds that he is "absolutely" surprised by how much the president's proximity affected him.
"It gets the emotions going; it really does," he says. "I've enjoyed talking about it to my wife and my neighbors."
When I press him for elaboration, he pauses and says, "I can't really tell you what it felt like to see the president just feet away from you. You may not agree with everything he stands for and what he does, but just seeing him that up close and personal overshadows any political beliefs you have."
Philipp's colleague David Siguaw was feeling the presidential pressure, too. Driving to work about 4 a.m., three hours earlier than usual and with the sun and moon competing to light up the pre-dawn, he hoped that all the things that had been checked off as ready to go actually were ready to go.
"When the president rolls in," Siguaw says, "you're pretty much going to second-guess just about everything, from the way you put the danishes out to the way the coffee looks."
The hotel is used to playing host to all kinds of groups, he says, but they don't come with helicopters and street barricades.
"That motorcade comes rolling around the circle and, you know what, it's a heads-up game from there on," Siguaw says.
The president's visit lasted no more than two hours. By noon, the Hyatt was back to normal, humming to the quiet rhythms of 500 rooms and assorted special groups.
"The day seemed very long," Siguaw says. "Nothing went fast. Your mind slows because your attention span goes through the roof."
He remembers noticing the majesty of the motorcade, the press corps, the spotless presidential limousine. "You don't really miss a beat," Siguaw says. "You take it all in."
Philipp and Siguaw were basking Tuesday in the afterglow of a successful presidential visit. Job well done, they think, not to mention some good memories socked awa
Teen heartthrob Johnny Depp - hotter than President Bush? Maybe just a little bit ... OK, a lot.
Then there's 19-year-old Dana Harris, who works in the hotel's cafe. Monday was her day off, and she was at her post Tuesday, mildly bummed she'd missed George Bush but telling me it would take more than the leader of the free world to get her out of bed at midmorning of her day off.
"Now, if it had been Johnny Depp…."
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at
email@example.com. An archive of his recent columns is at http://www.latimes.com/parsons.