Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Ballet's colossus, Mikhail Baryshnikov, was true to the art from Sunday night. The gala premiere of the "The Turning Point" at the Kennedy Center had just ended, and upstairs in the atrium a party was in progress for the stars.
What did Baryshnikov think of his co-star Leslie Browne's dancing, someone asked the Russian? Was she good?
"She has," Baryshnikov began choosing his words with exquisite care, "nice potential - very nice potential."
Browne, the 20-year-old ballerina, who, like Baryshnikov, makes her screen debut in the film, was some where else in the crowd of several hundred and thus, out of earshot of Baryshnikov's remark. But it would hardly have surprised her. Earlier, asked about what it was like to work with the Russian dancer, Browne said, "He gives few compliments."
"He gives a small account of encouragement," she said. "He may say not bad" but he never says something like 'good'."
Neither however, was playing the role of petulant star Sunday night. Both appeared as awed by the crowd as they were by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's invitation to join them in the presidential box after the film ended.
Browne got a presidential kiss, Baryshnikov a handshake and a promise that in December when the dancers return with American Ballet Theater's production of "Nutcracker" (which Baryshnikov choreographed and unveiled for the first time last year) daughter Amy Carter will be there. Browne danced Clara in last year's production.
For President Carter, Sunday night's world premiere of the film was the ninth culture event to draw him to the Kennedy Center since he took office last January. It was his first visit to the Eisenhower Theater.
Besides Baryshnikov and Browne, the Carters invited Shirley MacLaine, who plays Browne's mother in the film, ("Shirley is one of the family," Carter said) as well as director-producer Herbert Ross, executive producer and former prima ballerina Nora Kaye, who is also married to Ross, and co-producer Arthur Laurents, who wrote the screenplay.
"I was at the White House.I was at the White House," said the slight, blond man excitedly to a guest. It was Dennis Stanfill, chairman of the board of 20th Century-Fox. When someone commented to another Fox official about the lavishness of the buffet and the elaborate flower arrangements by Dove Florist in the atrium, the official responded off-handedly, "Why not? We've got 'Star Wars.'"
Stanfill's excitement, though, stemmed from a Sunday afternoon tour through the White House for the stars and producers of what promises to be a new Fox hit. The superstar tour was conducted by presidential assistant Midge Costanza.
During the tour the "Turning Point" crowd took turns sitting in the President's Oval Office chair.
"And various laps," cracked MacLaine Sunday night.
"It's a swell chair," said Laurents.
Midge Costanza said later that "Shirley really sat comfortably in that chair."
Continued MacLaine: "Midge says she always sits around under the Abraham Lincoln, so that no matter what happens she can say she was under Abraham Lincoln."
"Shirley," interrupted a rather vaguely familiar looking man, reaching through the crowd to grasp MacLaine's hand, "it was wonderful."
"Who's that?" somebody asked MacLaine after the man disappeared in the crowd.
"Doug Kiker - he's alo a liar, lies like an S.O.B.," MacLaine said, bursting into gales of laughter.
NBC correspondent Kiker had dinner Saturday night with Stanfill, an old Navy buddy.
The premiere also featured superstar parents - Mr. and Mrs. Ira Beatty, of Arlington, whose children are Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty. "Warren is just waiting for the right girl to come along," said his mother, who said she is still hoping that her son will provide her with a grandchild.
"I don't get to see Shirley and Warren that often," their mother went on, "but when Shirley comes around, I feel 10 years younger."
"I was absorbed completely," Costanza told Laurents, echoing others who predicted the film would be a major contender in the Academy Awards. Producer Ross, discussing the film's potential for financial success - it cost $4 1/2 million to make - noted that the spectacular increase in popularity of ballet would give "The Turning Point" an audience 18 times as great as that of the last major ballet film - "The Red Shoes."
Laurents added that the screenplay had been rejected by "every studio in town" before Fox decided to make it.
Contanza told Laurents that the film was "a great movie for women, for everybody. It's great entertainment."
"That," responded Laurents, "is the nicest thing anybody could say," and he predicted that the scene every one will remember best is the monumental hair-pulling fight between MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, who plays an aging ballerina.
"No, it isn't like scene in 'The Women,'" Laurents said, "they were two bitches clawing at each other physically. These women aren't bitches and they end up better friends than ever before."