WHEN BILL CLINTON WANTS A BIT of fun, he often turns to the Boys. The Boys went on Bill and Hillary’s honeymoon. They campaigned for Bill whenever he ran for office, nailing posters everywhere except on trees. (Hillary said, “Don’t kill trees.”) The Boys have taken Bill through 18 hilarious holes of golf at night. And they have even coaxed him into watching the Chicago Bears. Oh, sure, they may have a couple of habits Bill and Hillary don’t care for, like smoking. But the Clintons genuinely love them. And why shouldn’t they? The Boys, as they’ve been called for as long as Bill and Hillary can remember, are the First Lady—elect’s kid brothers, Hugh and Tony Rodham.

The new First Brothers-in-Law are “very, very close,” says Hugh. So close that they lived together for years and still see each other almost every day at their homes in Coral Gables, Fla. And so close that they tend to sweep up people around them in their fun-loving enthusiasm. Hugh, 42, and Tony, 38, have now taken upon themselves, according to Hugh, the unofficial task of keeping the new occupants of the White House “laughing and loose.”

The brothers, nevertheless, have serious pursuits. Since 1980, Hugh has been earning a modest salary as a public defender in Coral Gables; Tony was, until early this year, a process server and private detective who worked mostly for court-appointed attorneys and their indigent clients (he sold his business, Rodham Investigating Services, to devote himself to the Clinton campaign). They have always subscribed to what they regard as the Rodham family values—public service and compassion. “I think that shows in all our work now,” says Hugh. “Hillary with her Children’s Defense Fund, me with my public defender stuff, and Tony with what he’s done for poor people in this county.” The brothers are mildly surprised, but not at all daunted, to find themselves with a President in the family. “[Bill’s] no different now,” insists Tony.

Nor are they. For three years the Boys shared the apartment that bachelor-about-town Tony still occupies—until a woman came into the picture. In 1986, Hugh married Maria Arias, 35, and reluctantly moved out. “I love this place,” said Hugh last month, nostalgically scanning Tony’s two-bedroom household. It is badly in need of a new coat of paint, someone to empty the ashtrays and, Hugh admits, “a feminine touch.” At first, Hugh had tried to persuade Maria to move in with him and the never-married but “always-looking” Tony. She would have none of it.

“I never told Maria this,” said Hugh, pulling a cigarette from his brother’s pack, “but I waited until the day before our wedding to find another apartment for us. I was hoping that maybe I could change her mind.” Hugh and Maria, a lawyer, now live a few blocks away. But Hugh’s marriage didn’t dramatically alter the brothers’ relationship. The Boys still watch football games together, play golf and hang out at Duffy’s, a scruffy Miami bar. “We drive my wife a little crazy with this,” Hugh admits.

Hillary, Hugh and Tony were born, in that order, to Hugh and Dorothy Rodham and raised in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Ill. Until his retirement in 1970, Hugh Sr., 84, owned a small textile company, and Dorothy, 70, “had enough of a job taking care of us,” says Tony. To teach them empathy, the Rodhams took their children to see the Pennsylvania coal mines where Hugh Sr. had worked as a young man during the Depression. And the kids had to do household chores for their pocket money. “We used to have dandelion-pulling contests—a penny a dandelion,” says Tony. “Of course, I won all the time.”

When it came to school, though, neither boy could beat out big sister Hillary, who is three years older than Hugh. “At school, people sure expected a lot from Hillary’s brothers,” says Hugh. Tony adds, “When she wasn’t studying, she was a lot of fun. But she was always studying.” Tony, who attended Iowa Wesleyan College and the University of Arkansas but never received a degree, says his older siblings were “a tough act to follow, times two. Hillary was a very, very good student, Hughie was a very, very good student, and I was—uhhhh.”

While Hillary was excelling at Wellesley and Yale Law School, Hugh played football at Penn State, his father’s alma mater. After graduating in 1972 he spent two years with the Peace Corps in Colombia. Then Hillary met Bill, who had to pass the brothers’ inspection. Says Tony: “He couldn’t go any further until the family had a look at him.” At first, admits Hugh, they thought Bill’s accent was “a tad strange,” but they finally agreed that “if he was good enough for Hillary, he was certainly good enough for us.”

So good, in fact, that in 1974 the Rodham clan took an apartment in Fayetteville, Ark., so they could all give Bill Clinton a hand with his first electoral adventure-an unsuccessful congressional campaign. “Dad answered the phones,” says Tony. “Hughie and I were the official sign putter-uppers. We’d go out and nail ’em on anything that didn’t move and some things that did.” (In 1987, Hillary’s parents moved for good to Little Rock, a few miles from the Governor’s mansion.)

In 1975, when the Clintons got married, says Hugh, “Bill and Hillary didn’t have time to take a real honeymoon, and then my mom came up with the idea of going to Mexico. We got a special rate, and we all went down together.” Bill and Hillary, Tony and Hugh, Mom and Dad. “We had a marvelous time,” says Tony. “Acapulco for 10 days.”

Hugh stayed in Arkansas to get, first, two advanced degrees in education and then—taking Hillary’s advice—his law degree from the University of Arkansas. Tony, meanwhile, gave up on college and worked for a metal-marking equipment company in Texas, then sold insurance in Chicago. In 1983 he joined I high in Miami, the latter having moved there—in part because of the city’s high crime rate—to practice criminal law. Six years later, Hugh was appointed one of the heads of the Dade County Drug Court, an experimental court that helps addicts with rehabilitation and repatriation into the community. “We’ve processed almost 9,000 people, with a 93 percent success rate,” he says proudly.

Hugh met his future wife while she was doing an undergraduate internship at the Miami public defender’s office. Maria, too, was treated to a Rodham Family Honeymoon Special. First the couple flew to Chicago to pick up Hugh’s father’s ’77 Cadillac Seville, which Hugh had bought for $2,000; then Tony met them in Park Ridge, and the three of them hung out together for a week. “Their honeymoon was me,” says Tony. Maria, a Cuban-born Republican who changed her party affiliation to vole for Clinton, doesn’t complain. “I hit it off with the family immediately,” she says. “They always made me feel at home.”

This year, Hugh and Tony traveled to Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois, where they gave impromptu speeches on their brother-in-law’s behalf. For them the only hard part of the campaign was putting up with the attacks on Hillary. “She handled it better than we did,” says Hugh. “She’d say in a big-sisterly way, ‘It’s just politics.’ ”

With the election over, the brothers have turned their attention to planning one last family Christmas at the Governor’s mansion in Little Rock, consulting regularly on party details with Bill and Hillary. Meanwhile, Tony is trying to decide what to do with the rest of his life and is shopping for his first tuxedo—which he will wear to the Inauguration on Jan. 20. The Boys are hoping that Bill, Hillary and their “sweet niece, Chelsea” will still come down to Florida for some real R&R.

Not that Hugh and Tony don’t have plans to drop by the White House and stir up a little trouble. For months they’ve been plotting a master raid on the White House refrigerator. “That’s been a dream of ours since this started,” admits Tony, “because we’ve seen what the refrigerator in the Governor’s mansion looks like. It’s not bad, and as you can see we do like to eat.”


MEG GRANT in Coral Gables

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