Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
There were three benefits for three separate causes in Washington Sunday evening. Two of them glittered with the rich and presently famous, including the Vice President's wife and the Secretary of HEW. A third glowed with old memories of Czarist Russia, with glasses thrust high and songs proclaiming those were the days my friend, and didn't we think they'd never end. That was the one you didn't want to leave.
They called it a dansant and it was put on, in the basement of the Mayflower, by the American Russian Aid Assn., a non-political organization whose members raise money for elderly and infirm Russian emigrants. There were more than a few old emigres on view, the men in their limp suits and waxed moustaches, the ladies in heavy jewelry and buxom growns and smiles that said they didn't know the language very well, but wished you good cheer anyhow.
Mrs. Anna Saworotnow would probably have told some stories, were she able to speak the language. Her middle-aged son, Parveny Saworotnow, a math professor at Catholic University, tried to fill in, saying he brought his mother over 10 years ago, and that the two of them now live in a little house in Avondale.
"She comes from near the Don River," he said in a thick accent. "She uses sign language.Where we live there are some Ukraines, so she gets along. She has a TV, she goes to the Safeway, she takes care of her little terrier, Laika. I think she's happy."
Royalty was there too - in the name of the house of Romanoff. Not long-lost Princess Anastasia, but Prince Nikita Romanoff, grand nephew of Nicholas II, last Czar before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Prince Romanoff, who is a writer and has recently co-authored a biography of Ivan the Terrible, rode the Metroliner down from Manhattan Sunday afternoon. He looked smashing in a dark suit with a little silk flag shooting from the breast pocket.
The event was put together this year by Prince and Pricess Alexis Obolensky of Washington. Prince Obolensky, who works at the State Department, was born in Heidelberg, where his parents fled after the February revolution. He is a tall, aristocratic man with a Fu Manchu moustache and a watch fob to hold his glasses. His wife, it turns out, is a princess by marriage - she's from Birmingham, Ala., and speaks with a syrupy American accent.
"Well, you know Southern hospitality is the same as Russian hospitality," she said. "The emphasis is on community. Course they drink vodka here."
Mrs. Obolensky said there may be as many as 7,000 or 8,000 Russians in the Washington area. "It is hard to count, because some don't want to publicize their whereabouts. We probably have about 500 families actively involved in the Russian community here, though it is a misnomer to call us a community." She said Washington has the third largest Russian population, behind New York and San Francisco.
Meanwhile, uptown, two more beneifts for worthy causes were in progress. At the Golden Booeymonger restaurant (called, in previous incarnations, Saggitarius. Larry Brown's, the Golden Parrot), Jack Valenti had just left. But Art Buchwald and Joseph Califano were still on view (they had come from the Redskins game) at the Friends of Groome Center's "tea dance." Mrs Mondale was shortly to appear.
Groome Center, an offshoot of Groome School on Nebraska Avenue, is a clinic dealing with the emotional problems of children and their families in the Washington area. Both school and center take their name from a young Marine named Warren Groome, who had graduated with honors from Sidwell Friends, Princeton, George Washington Law, only to end up committing suicide. In his death note he left all the money willed to him by his parents to establish a school for children with emotional problems.
That sad historical note didn't keep the patrons from having a good time - or from donating cash for the center. The scene was more of a crush than in the Mayflower, with reporters and photographers (Women's Wear Daily, Dossier, et al) darting in for choice gossip.
In another room, a combo pounded out "Mame" and other hits while the dance floor blurred with string pearls on black velvet, ruffled tuxes, and all manner of gleaming shoes. If you wanted, you could get a sandwich called a Patty Hearst, which was a turkey and bacon affair; most seemed to be nibbling at petit-fours and let it go at that.
The night's third benefit had a casino theme on behalf of sickle cell anemia research. The party, was held at the glossy Foxtrappe, a private club at 16th and R Streets, NW. All evening long, foxy mamas and mellow fellows poured in to gladly blow play money (for which they had traded hard cash) at the gaming tables, manned by such local TV celebrities as Dolores Handy and Jim Vance.
The event was sponsored by ISCARBI (International Sickle Cell Anemia Research Institute), a non-profit corporation organized in 1975. John Wilks, president of the organization, said he hoped to raise $5,000, maybe $6,000 from the evening.
"There is not a black person alive who doesn't have an awareness of this disease," he said. "It is something that lives with all of us. We never completely get away from it."