Eugene Allen Speaks - Hear From The Real Butler Of The White House (Video)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 23, 2013 9:09 PM
20 Comments
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I wasn't aware that this documentary featuring Eugene Allen, whose life Lee Daniels' The Butler is based on, existed.

Courtesy of Smithsonian magazine, in 1994, Smithsonian Folkways released a documentary titled Workers At The White House, which included interviews with White House staff, including, of course, Eugene Allen. 

The film was directed by Dr. Marjorie Hunt, curator for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and was produced in conjunction with the Folklife Festival.

If you'd like to purchase the documentary, you can find it on the Smithsonian Folkways DVD titled White House Workers: Traditions and Memories. Click HERE to buy. It's $15 a copy.

I'm surprised that they aren't fully exploiting the release of Lee Daniels' film and re-releasing their documentary, maybe on blu-ray, or even VOD, with a new campaign, touting it as must-see footage of the real butler, and charging $30 for it! 

Below you'll find 3 clips from the documentary, featuring Eugene Allen talking about his career, as well as recalling moments with Presidents Carter and Reagan.

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20 Comments

  • AudraMi | August 26, 2013 9:13 PMReply

    I haven't been bamboozled by Lee Daniels. I will not pay a penny to see this crap. I have shared every piece of media that I could find telling people of the gross and vulgar liberties Daniels took to create Lee Daniels The Butler. Yet, many ascribe to me "Hatin'" instead of informing them to truth. Lee Daniels the Butler should be called Lee Daniels' Downtown Abbey - The Chocolate City White House Mashup. Because this is historical fiction at it's best.

  • Craig | September 1, 2013 12:32 AM

    The truth hurts lol to all of you who can't look at yourself

  • FactChecker | August 24, 2013 1:23 PMReply

    Thank you, Tambay, for making us aware that this important piece of our history is available to us to view, absorb, study, and understand.

  • Miles Ellison | August 23, 2013 11:39 PMReply

    "I'm surprised that they aren't fully exploiting the release of Lee Daniels' film and re-releasing their documentary, maybe on blu-ray, or even VOD, with a new campaign, touting it as must-see footage of the real butler, and charging $30 for it!"

    Maybe the studio was afraid people would watch this instead.

  • nadia | August 24, 2013 8:41 AM

    Amd you might be right. It is Harvey Weinstein we're talking about. The industry bully who always seems to get his way.

  • CareyCarey | August 23, 2013 9:49 PMReply

    Now see, this ain't easy. I mean, every time I try to say I am sorry something gets in my way. I don't know, maybe it's an ego thang or a "men don't cry" thang, but until I saw these clips, Danny Strong and Lee Daniels had jacked my image of the real Eugene Allen. So if you could, could somebody bring Lee and Danny to my doorstep. I am not going to pat them on their backs or call them dirty name, I'm just going to pimp-slap the shit out of their ass and demand my money back.

    That's right, I feel used and abused so I should get some type of compensation, shouldn't I? Damn, my dumb ass was up in here defending their ass like I was a black puppet on the hoe stroll. So now I have to tell Tanya Steele that I am sorry for being so rough and so stupid in my comments to her (The post "Oprah's butlers -- Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry").

    Listen, Tanya said she was mad and angry at the butler, and now I'm pissed off too. It's a damn shame what Lee, Danny and the Weinsteins did to this man, and me. Shit, they had me thinking the man walked like Fred Sanford and had an IQ lower than step-n-fetchit's. Hell, now I'm sure they fked over his wife too. So Sergio, get your buddy on the phone, it's kickin' ass time.

  • CareyCarey | August 26, 2013 10:03 AM

    Donella, who said it was Kowtowing?

    You've read many reviews huh? Well, I've talked with many who did not fall for the Okie-doke. Everyone did not swallow the sympathy bait. The passive negro and his dysfunctional family brings the audience to tears.

    With humble grace, Cecil Gaines' waited patiently for his pie in the sky. Negro spirituals played in the background as Gloria Gaines' ship was called home. But oh happy day, death was no match for the good negro family. Gloria was their in spirit with the lonely widower as millions cried with joy upon seeing a dream come true. Victory at last, the dawn of a new day, the first black president of the United States. Sticks and stones broke their bones but, FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST, GREAT GOD OF MIGHTY WE FREE AT LAST.

  • Donella | August 26, 2013 8:55 AM

    Neither Eugene Allen nor Forest Whitaker's portrayal of Cecil Gaines in The Butler comes across as kowtowing to me.

    I've read many reviews on The Butler, but none have singled out Forest for this behavior.

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 6:31 PM

    That's a shame. Well, next is 12 Years a Slave. Wanna see how that plays out.

  • NO BRAINER | August 25, 2013 4:56 PM

    It was just a poorly executed film on so many levels. You're right to be upset.

  • CareyCarey | August 25, 2013 4:46 PM

    Yeah Agent K, it's nice to know someone understands. I mean (as you obviously caught), fiction aside, I simply didn't think Whitiker's portrayal of "Cecil Gaines" captured the essence of Eugene Allen -- for several reasons.

    And yes, I did backtrack because I had too. After seeing and feeling the persona of the man (Eugene Allen) I come to the conclusion that the movie's fictionalized accounts played to white folks while showing Gaines' family and friends in constant turmoil.

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 4:28 PM

    @Careycarey My bad for the multiple posts. I'm on my tablet.

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 3:55 PM

    @Careycarey You know I initially wanted to see The Butler but the trailer threw me off. In addition to looking up the actual butler Eugene Allen and from what you're saying, I may wait for the dvd. That was a helluva backtrack though lol

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 3:54 PM

    @Careycarey You know I initially wanted to see The Butler but the trailer threw me off. In addition to looking up the actual butler Eugene Allen and from what you're saying, I may wait for the dvd. That was a helluva backtrack though lol

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 3:52 PM

    @Careycarey You know I initially wanted to see The Butler but the trailer threw me off. In addition to looking up the actual butler Eugene Allen and from what you're saying, I may wait for the dvd. That was a helluva backtrack though lol

  • Agent K | August 25, 2013 3:51 PM

    @Careycarey You know I initially wanted to see The Butler but the trailer threw me off. In addition to looking up the actual butler Eugene Allen and from what you're saying, I may wait for the dvd. That was a helluva backtrack though lol

  • CareyCarey | August 24, 2013 6:27 PM

    @ Factchecker... "uncultured" Okay, I'll put that with the rest of the names I've been called over the years. But listen, say what you will about Whitaker's performance, from my perspective he didn't capture of the Eugene Allen that I saw in the above clips, nor was his performance anything to write home about. So, I have to ask, what was it about his performance that has you swinging off his nut sack? Opps... there I go again... being uncultured. And excuse me, I had a father (now deceased) who I considered that best man in the world. He worked all his life while my mother stayed at home. He didn't own a car nor was there a phone in our home until all the children had left. He was my little league coach, mentor and role model, if I am half the man he was (he died at 53) I am batting a thousand. Consequently, I've witness quiet dignity first hand. But tell me, what does my father and Mr. Whitiker's performance have to do with the tea in china? I mean, I don't know what you saw or what you're referencing, but, as I love saying, the devil is in the details. That said, I have to repeat my position, Forest's portrayal of Mr. Allen, in my opinion, did not do him justice. And, to that point, was Forest's relationships with his family, co-workers and friends always exhibited in a "quiet" and "dignified" manner? Was he always quiet? Yeah, think about that before pandering to the simp crowd.

    @Donella, although I was being a bit factious ( I assumed most knew that), I don't know but didn't the movie paint Cecil Gaines as "uneducated". I believe he told one president that he did not attend school?

    And please, spare me the "emotional intelligence" rhetoric. Hell, tosing that back at you, men with the "emotional intelligence" to kowtow, tote that barge and lift that bale, live long lives too. Fear will turn men into passive pawns who live long lives. Hell, some men who where raised in the South during the Jim Crow era "protected themselves" by disassociating themselves from their children whose lives may offend their massa. Is that what Forest's "Cecil Gaines" did? And, is that how Eugene Allen treated his son? I am suggesting that you should look at all the details before giving such blanket praise to The Butler.

    Now, your implication that since its "fiction" it's alright and excusable, is nothing more than a failed attempt at rationalization. As I said to Factchecker, the devil is in the details. I mean, so one is fiction and the other is a documentary... AND? So what?

  • Donella | August 24, 2013 2:49 PM

    I didn't see Forest Whitaker walk like Fred Sanford or behave like a man with a low IQ.

    On the contrary, I believe Whitaker captured the sharp, emotional intelligence, and wisdom that protected men raised in the Jim Crow South. He portrayed a man of strong will, determined to gain steady employment, and provide a middle class life for his family.

    Men without the emotional intelligence to "read a room" lived shortened lives.

    The difference between Forest Whitaker's portrayal of Cecil Gaines and the real life of Eugene Allen reminds me of the difference between Dreamgirls and a documentary on Diana Ross/The Supremes.

    One's a fictional portrayal of a 60s era girl group. The other's Diana Ross and the Supremes.

  • FactChecker | August 24, 2013 2:30 PM

    @CareyCarey ... you're so uncultured.

    Listen, Tanya said she was mad and angry at the butler, and now I'm pissed off too. It's a damn shame what Lee, Danny and the Weinsteins did to this man, and me. Shit, they had me thinking the man walked like Fred Sanford and had an IQ lower than step-n-fetchit's. Hell, now I'm sure they fked over his wife too. So Sergio, get your buddy on the phone, it's kickin' ass time.

    In your unintelligible rant it sounds to me like you're disparaging not only Mr. Allen, but Mr. Whitaker's performance. ... You must not have a daddy if you believe that it makes a man less manly to carry himself with quiet dignity.

  • nadia | August 24, 2013 8:39 AM

    Lol. Word!

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