Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Vice President Walter Mondale sipped water all through fish, all through the veal, through the salad and through the strawberry dessert served in caly flowerpots.
Before him his threew ine glasses stood full - one white, one red, one sparkling. The Vice President never drinks before he has to make a toast.
Suddenly, without apparent warning, Egyptian President and Mrs. Sadat stood up, shook hands with everyone at their table and disappeared.
No toast. No nothing.
"I couldn't have drunk my wine after all," laughed Mondale later.
"Are you kidding?" cried one down-in-the-mouth guests. "That wasn't wine. That was grape juice."
If you had to sum up Tuesday night's dinner party that Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal gave for the Sadat's at Anderson House, you would have to say: Somber. Very somber.
The first shock of the evening came when arriving guests grabbed drinks from trays the waiters were passing, only to find that they were drinking ginger ale, not scotch: Fresca, not gin.
"Don't worry," promised a waiter with an encouraging wink. "There will be wine at dinner."
Consequently, there was a lot of uneasy shuffling around during the cocktail hour - the several hundred guests (men in dark suits, women in long dresses) were anxiously glancing at their watches, half-heartedly trying to find familiar faces in the enormous crowd. Then came ther receiving line, the dinner.
"Let's go into the dinning room," said one well-known guest desperately, "Maybe we can find some wine."
Everyone else seemed to have had the same idea - the dinning room filled up quickly. But the glasses didn't.
Finally after Mondales, the Sadats, the Nelson Rockfellers, the Henry Kissingers, the Cryus Vances, and the other VIP's were seated, it became painfully clear that there were four long courses ahead.
Seldom at any diplomatic dinner in Washington have so many glasses remained so full. Seldom at any diplomatic dinner in Washington have so many guests remained silent.
"This is," explained one Egyptian official, "for political reasons. Grpe juice is always served instead wine or whiskey at officials functions because there are many Moslems who are strict and would not approve."
"Well, I'm sick and tired of this," said a former State Department official. "This whole new administration thing of encouraging no drinking is really just for show anyway." He paused for a moment, then shook his head glumly. "I think," he said. "We'vehad enough of symbols."