Washington Rollercoaster


220 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-385-25254-4
DDC 327.2'092





Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


Allan Gotlieb, who served as Canadian Ambassador to the United States
during the Reagan era, raised Canada’s public image to new prominence.
Part of the credit, however, must go to his wife, Sondra, whom Vanity
Fair called “Washington’s twinkling hostess.” While her book does
not deal with weighty matters of international diplomacy so much as with
what she terms the “froth and shadow of important events,” she
offers some keen insights into the social life of official Washington.

At her parties, Sondra Gotlieb went out of her way to mix government
bureaucrats, artists, journalists, academics, and politicians. She
realized that the Reagan entourage, consisting largely of wealthy
Californians, eagerly wanted to meet members of the established
Georgetown set. Equally, the Georgetowners—led by Katherine Graham,
publisher of the Washington Post, and ignored by the previous
administration—yearned to participate once again in White House social
activities. Canada’s Embassy, guided by Sondra Gotlieb, brought these
two groups together. This situation enabled her husband to lobby for
Canadian interests among some of America’s most influential leaders.

The notorious “slap flap” momentarily tarnished Sondra Gotlieb’s
reputation. North American newspapers carried reports that she had
struck her social secretary, Connie Connor, in plain view of Brian
Mulroney, George and Barbara Bush, and other famous people during a
dinner at the Embassy. Actually, the event had occurred before the
dinner, and Mrs. Gotlieb had immediately and tearfully apologized to Ms.
Connor. Both women considered the incident closed until journalists
published exaggerated and distorted stories about it.

Allan Gotlieb remained in office long enough to witness completion of
the Free Trade Agreement, which represented the attainment of one of his
major objectives. While the couple agreed never to accept another
ambassadorial assignment, they regarded themselves as privileged to have
been at “the most interesting post in the world” at an exceptionally
important time in Canada-U.S. relations. Despite the sometimes-hectic
quality of life on the Washington rollercoaster, Sondra Gotlieb
observes, “I will miss it more than I can say.”


Gotlieb, Sondra., “Washington Rollercoaster,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10886.