Vacation Over, Clinton Faces a Blizzard of Work

LIKE many Americans, President-elect Clinton returns home today from a Thanksgiving holiday to find a blizzard of work piled up on his desk.

Key Cabinet positions have to be filled and preparations for a two-day economic conference have to be completed. Important policy decisions on complex economic and health-care proposals also must be made before he takes office Jan. 20 so Mr. Clinton can keep his campaign promise of an aggressive first 100 days in office.

At times the work load has been described by aides as "crushing."

"I think when you first come out of the election, it seems like you have to take a deep breath because all of a sudden you have all of an entire government to staff, policy positions to formulate, all within 10 weeks," Clinton Communications Director George Stephanopoulos told reporters last week. Move over, Bebe Rebozo

During his Thanksgiving vacation, Clinton stayed at an $8 million beachfront estate near Santa Barbara, Calif. The house was leased by Hollywood producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who apparently play the same role for Clinton that Bebe Rebozo performed for Richard Nixon and Walter Annenberg for Ronald Reagan: old friends who allow the leader of the Free World to spend a few restful days in relative isolation.

Clinton got in some heavy-duty partying during his four-day vacation. Late on Saturday night, the president-elect traveled to Pasadena, Calif., to take part in a surprise birthday party for Mr. Thomason. Clinton stayed until 3 a.m., even ordering room-service pizza at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

"I think he was the last to leave," said Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelley, who was in southern California for part of her son's weekend vacation.

Clinton then took off in a motorcade for the 90-mile drive to the oceanfront resort, located in the town of Summerland, Calif. On Sunday, the president-elect took part in an afternoon barbecue there attended by 80 Arkansas friends who flew in for the occasion. Of saxophones and cheeseburgers

Who says a Democratic administration is bad for business? Not if your business is catering to the appetite of a burger-chomping president-elect.

Doug Taylor, owner of a bar and grill in Summerland, went to some lengths to lure the First Vacationer to his joint: He shelled out $195 for a used saxophone, hung the instrument on the wall above the restaurant's "presidential booth," printed up some T-shirts, and made it known he was keeping the booth open for the Clintons.

And guess what? It worked. The Clintons and the Thomasons showed up Sunday night at the Nugget, as Mr. Taylor's restaurant is known, to gobble cheeseburgers. "In my wildest dreams I never expected this to happen," Taylor told reporters.

But the president-elect didn't play for his meal and the sax stayed on the wall. "I came to eat, I'll be back," Clinton said as he departed. Try some `lobster champagne,' y'all

Of course, the Nugget restaurant isn't the only institution trying to cash in on the incoming Democrats. The trend has reached a zenith of sorts - where else? - inside the Beltway.

The Willard Hotel, just two blocks from the White House, started serving bottled water from Arkansas the day after the Nov. 3 election. Two days later, Dominique's French restaurant announced with the words "Bon Appetit, Y'all!" that it would add catfish and chicken-fried steak to its menu - entrees it labeled "Clinton Cuisine."

"We want to make everyone from Arkansas feel at home," said one of Dominique's owners, Herb Ezrin, who insisted catfish wasn't out of place on a menu featuring rack of lamb and "lobster champagne." "We sold out of it when Clinton was in town last week," he added.

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