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HILL, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
For more information about James Foote and how to contact him, click here.
"There he is!" Mark said as we pulled into the parking lot at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on Long Island. Sure enough, the unmistakable form of Theodore Roosevelt, clad in black hat and overcoat, was heading towards the Phoenix. "Dee-lighted!" he exclaimed as we jumped out to greet him.
No, we haven't succeeded in mastering time travel. We did, however, have the good fortune to receive an introduction to James Foote of Sea Cliff, New York. James has been recreating the persona of Theodore Roosevelt for fifteen years, and today he'd granted us the honor of guiding us through Sagamore Hill, the Victorian home where TR and his family lived for over thirty years.
James has traveled the country as Roosevelt, perfoming at events like the commissioning of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and appearing on national television. When he's not traveling, he volunteers at Sagamore Hill and makes appearances at schools and colleges.
James' interest in Theodore Roosevelt goes beyond his uncanny resemblance. As a boy, he attended Scout jamborees at Sagamore Hill. Later on, his glasses, mustache and build kept drawing the question, "Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Teddy Roosevelt?" One appearance in costume led to another, and invitations began pouring in for him to attend events in character. "I couldn't keep doing it without knowing more about TR," says Foote. "And I began learning everything I could about the man." He now knows most of his speeches by heart and can deliver them in the distinctive, high-pitched voice for which the 26th president is known.
James gave us a splendid tour of Sagamore Hill, pausing whenever other groups passed to delight them with Roosevelt wisdom and lore. "Do the best you can with what you have where you are!" he admonished a group of school children. "When it's a question of right and wrong, never be neutral!" When a student thanked him for letting the group visit his house, James replied, "You're welcome, but it's no longer my home. It's your home now." Having put a smile on every face, he moved on through the rooms, explaining the historical significance of a bearskin rug, a pair of African elephant tusks, a stuffed badger, a hand-made quilt, and dozens of the other artifacts preserved here. Sagamore Hill is a three-dimensional history book of the Roosevelt era.
After a three-floor exploration of TR's home, we headed to the Old Orchard Museum, where more Roosevelt memorabilia is housed. On the way, we paused by the gift shop, where we met park ranger Dan Whalen and store manager Ernie Durand.
As we walked back to the Phoenix, James told us how Morris Michtom once asked TR's permission to use his name in the marketing of a toy bear. "I doubt my name will do anything for the bear business, but use it if you must!" was Roosevelt's reply.
James is an inexhaustible source of information about his colorful hero. As we drove away from Sagamore Hill in the gathering dusk, our feelings echoed another of Teddy's long-lived remarks. After finishing a cup of Maxwell House coffee he announced, "It was good to the last drop!"
James Foote's remarkable portrayal of Theodore Roosevelt has been honed over the last twenty-five years. Foote has memorized a large number of Roosevelt quotes and is extraordinarily skillful in using them to respond to questions posed by current guests to Sagamore Hill. He is also available to perform for classes, meetings, and events.
For further information and fees, call (516) 671-1447, or write to Mr. Foote at 55 18th Ave, Sea Cliff, NY 11579
Click here for more information about Theodore Roosevelt and the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.