On the Friday before Mardi Gras in 1987, then-U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Capitol Hill to enjoy Carnival in New Orleans.
Around dinnertime, Johnston and his daughter ventured out from his French Quarter apartment and headed over to Galatoire’s. Since it was the Friday before Mardi Gras, however, Galatoire’s had a long line of patrons outside the door waiting to get in. Arriving without a reservation, the Bayou State’s senior senator at the time took a spot at the end of the line.
While they were patiently standing on the Bourbon Street sidewalk discussing what they were going to order, the Gipper decided to interrupt their conversation.
“We had been waiting for about an hour when somebody poked their head out from the restaurant and said that President (Ronald) Reagan was on the phone,” Johnston told LaPolitics.
Reagan was considering appointing former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee as his chief of staff. He called Johnston for advice since he was a former colleague of Baker’s and was considered a rising star in the upper chamber’s Democratic leadership.
When they were unable to reach the senator, the White House operator tracked down Johnston at Galatoire’s.
“I went inside and took the call in a small room up on the second floor,” he said. “I told him I thought it was a great idea.”
After Johnston finished up his chat with the commander-in-chief, the senator went back outside, where his daughter was still waiting.
“We waited for about another 30-45 minutes, but it was sure good once we got in there, I assure you,” he recalled with a laugh.
They Said It
“Everyone knows that time is money. Well, almost everyone.” —State Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, on a solar tax credits ruling, to the Associated Press
“Not that the almond milk is not a tasty thing, I hear, but nothing is better than cows milk.” —State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, on dairy policy, on the Louisiana Radio Network.