There Are No Darryls, but at the Real-Life Stratford Inn, You'll Find a George—McGovern, That Is
04/02/1990 at 01:00 AM EDT
As Congressman, as Senator and as Richard Nixon's 1972 opponent in the infamous Watergate presidential campaign, George McGovern spent 22 years dealing with life, death and taxes. Today, the problems that engage his talents can be even more pressing: There's no hot water; a guest is locked out; or, most urgent of all, a toilet is overflowing. As sole owner of the Stratford Inn in southwestern Connecticut, McGovern, 67, still fields questions about global power, but more often, "they want to know why the faucet in their room doesn't work," he says. "It kind of brings you down to earth."
A year after he plunked down his life savings—$1 million for the three-story, 150-room inn plus another million for renovations—McGovern is a happy if anxious entrepreneur. George and his wife, Eleanor, 68, visit the inn—and its manager—every other week from their home in Washington, D.C. The Stratford won't be profitable until it reaches 50 percent occupancy, a rate McGovern hopes it will achieve this year. Meanwhile, the couple live off George's pension and lecture fees. Still, he likes the involvement of meeting a payroll: "I feel like I'm more integrated into the life of the country."
McGovern readily admits that the Stratford is not the Waldorf or even a quaint old bed-and-breakfast. Located in a blue-collar area of the Nutmeg State, the 29-year-old Stratford resembles a large motel. Inside, however, the lobby has overstuffed chairs and a working fireplace. There's a grand piano, which McGovern occasionally plays. And, of course, there are photos and bumper stickers from McGovern's years in politics. "I hope it's not overdone," he says.
His guests don't think so. In fact McGovern has been hosting regular political forums at the inn. One of them attracted 300 people on Super Bowl Sunday, prompting a guest to ask if the turnout didn't tempt him into thoughts of another run for office, maybe even the Presidency. "I said that what I'm thinking about is how to get all 300 people to check into the Stratford Inn," McGovern recalls with a smile. A good politician never loses the art of ducking a tough question.