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Inaugural Moments

Expect Chic, Smoky Eyes And Sequins

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 17, 2005; Page B06

Erwin R. Gomez, self-proclaimed "eyebrow guru" to the women of Washington, says he's fully booked this week, but he's left a little eyebrow wiggle room in his computerized appointment book. He knows that the city's top concierges will be calling with requests from high-paying guests who peered into the mirror at the last minute and aren't satisfied with what they see. He's expecting "very big hair, lots of makeup," if they do.

High-fashion flair will prevail, expects Gomez, national makeup artist at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa in Chevy Chase. "Republicans are more glamorous. You're dealing with more money," he says. "A lot of them are wearing sequins. They're showing a lot of A-line, very fitted, backless. They want up-dos and half-up, half-down. They want their eyes smoky."

Gomez, voted best makeup artist in the nation three years running by Red Door clients, says he generally tries not to talk politics with customers but, like a good therapist, listens well. Among his clients are mothers whose daughters are at the opposite end of the political spectrum. "They have children arguing about going to the inaugural. The children are Democrats and their parents are Republicans, and both are my clients."

In addition to listening, he dispenses fashion advice. Clients have brought in photos of their dresses, or sometimes the actual dress. "Some of them wanted to wear a poufy ball gown, and I said, 'No, that's too old-style.' . . . I recommended something more slick and chic, like what Laura Bush is wearing."

The Best View in Town

Officially, Charlie Brotman is the presidential inaugural parade announcer -- has been for nearly half a century. Unofficially, he's "The President's Announcer," maybe his most important duty.

Standing atop the specially constructed media complex and strategically positioned directly across from the White House and the presidential reviewing stand, the 77-year-old broadcast veteran not only has a clear view of the president but also a better view than the president has. Armed with binoculars and on his feet, he provides the president a vital heads-up when the U.S. Marine Band or the Kilgore Rangerettes or Bevo the Texas longhorn comes into view. "My chief duty is to let the president know who's coming down the street so he'll know when to stand, when to salute," he said. "The president's at street level, so he can't see a great deal."

As lively and enthusiastic on the phone as he is in front of a microphone, Brotman said he also feels an obligation to the suffering souls who show up for their seats by 7 or so on a January morning. He usually arrives about 9 -- although this year the Bush people told him 10 is probably early enough -- armed with info about restrooms, water, first-aid stands and where to find lost kids, as well as reams of inauguration trivia to share with his shivering audience: "My responsibility is to get their minds off the cold."

Brotman's inaugural parade duties started in 1957, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in for a second term. Not long before, he had become the stadium announcer for the Washington Senators, at $10 a game.

"The first game, here I am an ordinary guy with the extraordinary experience of announcing the president of the United States throwing out the ceremonial first ball," he recalled. Apparently the Eisenhower people liked the way he did it. "In December 1956, I got a call from the White House. It was the greatest honor in the world."

Brotman, a native Washingtonian who runs a sports-oriented public relations firm, has announced inaugural parades for five Republican and four Democratic presidents.

Once he finishes his duties Thursday, Brotman will get back to preparing for the possibility that his announcing career could come full circle. When and if President Bush throws out the first ball for the Washington Nationals' inaugural season, a familiar voice in the announcing booth is likely to intone: "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted 33 years ago . . . "

Staff writer Maureen Fan contributed to this report.

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