Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
"Eyes are eyes." they said Sunday night as they tried to minimize the intrigue, the bad vibes between two competitive organizations run by former colleagues, but out for the same charity dollars.
The International Eye Foundation was the first charity, the most venerable, the most social, the cause (as if you needed an excuse for having a good time) for the old-fashioned, white-tie Eye Ball. The foundation was founded in 1961 By Dr. Harry King and Dr. John W. McTigue.
Sunday night, for the first time, McTigues' rival organization. The National Eye Foundation, turned to the old technique of throwing a party to raise money for charity.
McTigue's group gave a party in which they closed off Georgetown's Foundry complex and gave patrons a 10 per cent discount at the shops. This was billed as a New Wave benefit now that charity balls are a little too big a little to stuffy, perhaps a little too reminiscent to fiddling in white-tie while Rome burns. So 300 people paid $35 a head to McTigue's National Eye Foundation cocktail party to benefit the group's eye center at 1750 K Street NW.
The intrigue went as follows: In May 1977, Jay Lawlor, who had been executive director of Dr. King's charity, resigned when he felt the International Eye Foundation was being dictated to by the Agency for International Development, which was the source of most of its funds. At the same time, Dr. McTigue, who had been associate medical director since its founding in 1961, resigned as a medical adviser when the board was reorganized.
Half the indefatigable ladies who raise funds at parties like the Eye Ball, followed Lawlor and McTigue and went to work raising money for the National Eye Foundation. The source Sunday night of all the evasive conversations and quick escapes when questioned about the competition was the fact that what remains of Dr. King's board and of his staff, are reportedly putting the heat on the defectors. "We didn't want the International to get the idea that we were stealing all their people," said one refugee "I wouldn't want some of them anyway."
Sunday night chairwoman, Liz Haynes, who also worked on this year's Eye Ball, insisted that there was no breach and that since the National Eye Foundation was a local charity and the other an international one, there was absolutely of course, no competition. "Eyes are eyes," was all she would say, as she with heartfelt anguish, corraled partygoers to sit with her when the impolitic question was raised.
Party guests who insisted they were not partisan nevertheless said they had less than pleasant memories of the International Eye Foundation. There was also the whispered tidhit that Tongsun Park, the Korean wheeler dealer, might once have given a thank-you party to the Eye Ball's charity ladies. (Next week there's a thank-you reception for this year's International Eye Ball and spring festival committee given by Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Healy.)
Few of the new group's stellar board - including Bob Hope, Roger Stevens, Clement Conger, and Mrs. Warren Burger - showed up. One of those who did was Barbara Laird along with her husband, Melvin, the former Secretary of Defense.