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Hot, Hip and Pumped At the Corcoran Bash

By Annie Groer and Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 19 1997; Page F01

Forget the red, white and blue bunting and images of braying donkeys. Conde Nast and MTV, as you might imagine, were having none of that predictable inaugural decor. Rather, hundreds of guests who began arriving even before the 9 p.m. party start at the Corcoran Gallery last night were treated to black-clad waitpersons dispensing red, chartreuse and turquoise martinis; bars adorned with glass bricks; and half a dozen living rooms, complete with couches, Oriental rugs and coffee tables.

By 10 p.m. the buzz was building. "Who's here, who's here?"

The only one of the Big Four to show was first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who spent most of her time there in a roped-off room schmoozing with party hosts. But she briefly waved to the 1,000 or so revelers from a second-floor landing. Chosen politicos included Donna Shalala, Laura Tyson, Barney Frank and Vernon and Ann Jordan. And then there were the nonpolitical stars: Conan O'Brien, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Smits, Cornel West, Lynn Whitfield, Lauren Hutton, Iman, Ron Silver, Herbie Hancock and Dweezil Zappa.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns was among the earliest arrivals, with daughters Lilly, 10, and Sarah, 14, and a bit later came Kevin Spacey and Beverly Johnson. Burns had spent a frigid afternoon leading a discussion in a tent on the Mall.

"It was phenomenal," he raved. "It was like a revival meeting."

His subject? "The inexpressibly wise ghosts of the past."

Johnson, in a burgundy floor-length Donna Karan cashmere sheath, was suffering from an equally bad case of inaugural fever. "This is an emotional experience that I've never had in my life. I thought it was going to be like a Super Bowl or the Olympics, but it's not. It's bigger. It's bigger than all of that."

By 11, outgoing Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, a vision in spangly black trousers and white satin jacket, was on her fifth or sixth event of the day. "This is definitely New York meets Hollywood meets Washington," she laughed.

The music was loud, but not quite loud enough to kill the chitchat. And, fortunately for the socially and professionally adroit, there was room enough for air-kissing and business card trading. The food was upscale stylish -- sushi, sate, mushroom flutes.

But the night didn't pass without an act of vandalism. Animal rights activists outside the Corcoran threw red paint on the lavish fur coat of one guest.

Inside, the favored color of the evening was, naturally, black, although there was a bright touch here and there. MTV's Tabitha Soren wore a fitted long-sleeve gold-lace dress.

Her explanation: "I have to be on TV, and black washes me out."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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