The people who come to look and applaud at the one-night-only showing of Bill O'Brien's paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures were saloon keepers, their patrons and the help.
In some circles they could have been described as the "traveling squad" of Washington society, or the "twin-prop set" as opposed to the "jet."
It has been six long years since O'Brien took off the bartender's apron and declared to anyone who would listen, "I'm quitting and I'm going to become an artist."
O'Brien, over 300 pounds of hospitality, stood in the center of the gallery with happiness, a valium in his pocket, a beer in his hand, and worred how his friends would accept this work and if they had enough to drink.
Patrick O'Flaherty, an Irish minstrel, answered O'Brien's worry when he walked to a wall and took two prints, put them under his arm and went looking for Gaby, the artist's wife, to arrange for some way of paying for them.
Someone said, "Hey Patrick, in fancy art shows when you buy something they put a little dot next to it and you leave it there for other people to see."
And Patrick said, "If I don't take the ones with the frames they'll sit in my drawer forever. These I can hang right away."
At the table where the money was being taken and which also was being used as a bar, Gaby told Patrick, "Don't worry about paying now, you're a friend," and O'Flaherty got them both with frames, all for $500.
A lot of the drawings and paintings were barroom scenes. The largest was in oils showing several guys fully clothed leaning on a bar, and two nude women.
O'Brien described if by saying, "When guys walk into a bar and a woman is standing there, they undress her. This way, I did it for them."
Among the nude paintings and drawings a voice was heard to say, "Hey O'Brien, wait until the nuns back in Queens hear about all the dirty pictures you're painting." O'Brien answered with, "The nuns in Queens never had me."
Saloon owners Jimmy Desmond of the Beowulf and Danny Coleman of the Dubliner walked away with drawings of barroom scenes.
Redmond "Red" Roach, an attorney (he was once press secretary for President Kennedy for two hours on election night in Hyannisport when Pierre Salinger took a nap) wanted a nude in good taste and said, "It's may payment for getting O'Brien into the GI bill. When he did it he only had three days left before his time ran out. We agreed that he would give me a nude in good taste."
O'Brien, a native of Queens, has been drawing all his life and said, "They used to hang my pictures on the walls of P.S. 151. I always itched to draw."
He is a 42-year-old ex-Marine and he and Gaby have two children.
As a student at the Corcoran School of Art, O'Brien, like most artists, has found the going rough. He has been helped by a couple of grants and assists his wife in her framing and matting of prints.
He does sell a print or a painting here and there and that, along with the grants and a wife who helps out, enables him to continue with his first love.
Art lovers' remarks included, "Did you see the one he did of himself?" which sounded better than, "and here's his self-portrait."
A couple of art patrons for the evening asked, "Red, did you find you nude?" and another voice said, "Which one you looking for?"
A viewer who has a long reputation for his martini guzzling kneeled to look at a series of barroom scenes leaning along a wall. It prompted a couple of remarks like, "If he looks at another barrom scene, he's going to order a drink."
"Not only that," someone said, "when he leaves he's going to ask for a check."
Attorney Frank Reed bought one of O'Brien's prints and had him in a corner talking about it. He was so convincing in talking about his purchase that O'Brien bought one of his own prints.
The former owner of Nathan's Harry Soghigian, bought a charcoal and was drawing of Wille Mays to hang in his office. His purchase prompted a remark from a bystander who said, "What about Le Bagatelle, why can't we get those Frenchmen overhere with their checkbooks."
It ended and the gallery was empty when Gaby, who had cut all the mats and done the framing, said, "Obie, it's only for one night, we have to move everything out of here tonight."
O'Brien liked it, and holding a beer in his hand he said, "Thank God, you have so many old friends. They come back, pat you on the back and cheer you up."
Then he summed it up by saying, "You know, when you're a bartender what do you have to show for it, 5,000 dirty glasses? When you're an artist you can show your paintings."
It was then that Gaby yelled from the bar and counting table, "Obie, we did very good."
Obie answered, "I don't care, I'm just happy, all my friends showed up."