The Soviet leader, rarely seen in anything less formal than his tailored suit, at first resisted Bush's style of mixing business with pleasure.
He nixed the idea of negotiating arms deals and other global problems at Kennebunkport, the Maine vacation home where Bush has wooed a regiment of world leaders.
But by the third day of this four-day event, Gorbachev had abandoned his necktie and his penchant for pomp. He and Bush sat chatting about issues such as Afghanistan and Central America at a patio table in the back yard of Camp David, the Maryland presidential retreat.
"We spent many hours together and were able to come to know each other very well," Gorbachev said yesterday at the closing news conference with Bush.
"I don't know whether anyone will be ever able to say that we know each other totally well or completely. I think that would take many, many years. But now we have a good human relationship and, I think, a good human atmosphere between us."
Gorbachev said he decided after his first meeting with Bush in 1987 that this was "the kind of person to do business with, to build our relations with."
Gorbachev's winning over of Ronald Reagan, a former hater of the "Evil Empire," was a well-chronicled conversion. But before this Washington summit, the relationship between Bush and Gorbachev had been more wary. That was obviously something Bush, who is known for leaning on his personal charms in diplomatic negotiations, set out to fix.
He could not lure Gorbachev to a baseball game as he did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and he did not entice him into a speedboat as he did France's Francois Mitterrand.
But he did get Gorbachev to loosen up enough to take control of a Camp David golf cart - and then look as though he would never relinquish it.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the two men still didn't call each other by their first names - something Reagan supposedly did with Gorbachev.
"They still refer to each other as president, and I suspect they always will," Fitzwater said after the Camp David outing. But "they have a very . . . warm and personal relationship."
Bush's summation of the visit was: "Mr. President, it's been a pleasure having you here, sir."