With San Francisco most recently added to the original six-city schedule of the King Tut exhibit, Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal had to admit he'd met his diplomatic superior in Tutankhamen.
"I always say I am the best," Ghorbal said at a Saturday-night dinner party in honor of visiting Egyptian Minister of Culture and Information Abdel-Moniem Elsawy and his wife. "But I have to say the boy king is better."
With the exhibit seen here by nearly a million people - a number already surpassed by attendance at the show in Chicago - Ghorbal declared that the exhibit of artifacts from the Egyptian king's tomb had allowed King Tut to touch more American lives and do more to improve Egyptian-American relations than he himself could do.
J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery, also had tales to tell about the boy king, but he referred to the fact that during the exhibit's New York showing the city had a blackout.
"After hearing all those things about Lord Carnarvon and the others, it was rather spooky," said Brown. Lord Carnarvon was the English aristocrat who discovered the treasures. He died from an infected mosquito bite shortly afterward. His death, along with the mysterious deaths of several others connected with the dig, were frequently tied to the curse said to afflict violators of the pharaoh's tomb.
Mostly, however, the conversation was about the beneficial aspects of the King Tut find and its exhibition. Under Secretary of State for political affairs Phillip Habib noted that the exhibit had been a plus for this country and had outstripped attendance records for all other exhibitions. And another guest, commenting on the NBC television special on the boy king that was narrated by Orson Wells, remarked on the number of positive letters the company had received from viewers.
Some of the letters, along with a tape of the show, were given to Elsawy to take back to Egypt on his return. This is Elsawy's first visit to the United States. He and his wife will spend 10 days in the country, visiting New Orleans, where the exhibit will soon open, Chicago, and New York. He indicated that Egypt would be amenable to showing its other ancient treasures in this country.
Brown laughed, saying that he'd heard the phone during dinner and wondered if it was his wife calling to say it was time to go to the hospital. "I had the feeling someone answered the phone and said 'Brown? no there's no Brown here.'"
That was something that was on the mind of Brown. The Exxon Corporation sponsored the King Tut exhibit and when someone mentioned that the Hartford Insurance Company might be interested in sponsoring future exhibits, Brown perked up with "Really? Do you think they would be interested."
While other guests, including on assistant secretary of state, Alfred Atherton, and the Egyptian embassy's minister for information, Mohammed Hakki, chatted about the tremendous response to the exhibit's tour. Ghorbal chided Brown about the imminent birth of his own boy king or girl king."