" . . . in the future, I would advise Hamilton to substitute peaches [and cream] for the amaretto." - President Jimmy Carter.
Washington, D.C. July 1977. Moonlight crept up on the K Street boathouse. Kegs of beer flowed. A steady stream of southerner in blue jeans back-slapped and danced, Jerry Rafshoon, Pat Caddell, Jody Powell, Chip Carter.
A tall, blond woman eased up to a man standing in a circle. He wore a curious necklace of bleached white bones. She ran her fingers over the ivory. "What are these?"
"These," he grinned, "are my python bones. Woman touches these, she's in my power."
And with a flourish, he eased her into a rowboat and, together, they paddled into the sultry night.
The travelling roadshow of the New Rev. Ragtime Billy Peaches - aka John Golden of Cedar Springs, Ga., aka Hamilton Jordan's college roommate and longtime friend - had arrived.
Today, John Golden, 33, Son of a Cedar Springs, Ga., (pop. 250) grocer and a onetime salesmen of everything from mattresses and mushrooms of hideabeds and used cars, works as the deputy treasurer for the Democratic National Committee.
The New Rev. Ragtime Billy Peaches is a silver-tongued persona Golden carved out before moving to town - a sometimes amiable, often crude, barroom patron whose legend still lives on Peachtree Street. Lately, he has tried to keep Peaches under wraps, but there are just times when he slips back, as he did with Jordan the other evening at Sarsfield's. And, says Golden, the Rev. Billy Peaches stakes a powerful claim as Hamilton Jordan's social mentor.
"There's a lot of John Golden in Hamilton Jordan," says Golden "We're like brothers. I have the ear of the man who has the ear of the president. I could merchandise my friendship, but I don't."
A strong-jawed 6-footer crowned with wavy black hair, Golden was fuming over the treatment official Washington had afforded Rev. Peaches and his flock before the Starsfield's misadventures were chronicled. He preached at length B.S. (Before Sarsfield's), but refused and audience afterward. Alas, the brethren have come to feel like Jackie O, under the click of Ron Galella.
"There is a feeling in the White House that The Washington Post is the enemy," he said. "Reading The Washington Post and going to a rasslin' match are about the same. They're both after cheap sensation. They both try to get people to cheer when the show is a fake."
The local papers also have been meddlesome. Just last week, Atlanta Journal columnist Ron Huspeth bemoaned the city's loss of a "zany . . . lady-killer extraordinaire," the one and only Billy Peaches. Hudspeth quoted a customer as having witnessed the torrid entanferent of the Reverend and a woman on a barroom floor.
Alas, the image was reportedly too much for a former employer, who severed the recoverend from the payroll. Golden was furious over the story, and there is talk he might retain attorney Melvin Belli.
Understand the social roots and you begin to understand the bitterness of the White House enfants terribles. Rerun the gauntlet or games in the brotherhood's millieu, and you will perhaps glean insight onto the the recent clash of cultures.
Much of Old Washington feels snubbed. Many in the White House feels sneared at.
Anthropologists might suggest a peek at early rites of passage, where social habits were nurtured. The trail of evidence, of course, would lead them back to "the university," omitted in the '60s from a men's magazine list Top 20 party schools. The editors explained in a footnote: "The University of Georgia was not listed because we consider it not a college, but a 24 hour-a-day night club."
"Jesus Christ could never have been born at the University of Georgia, since this would require three wise men and a virgin," advises The Insider's Guide to Colleges. Of course, this is literary hyperbole and not all students, by any means, engaged in the hijinks that the '60s fraternity scene cast up.
Saturday night, Athens, Ga., 1964. The school's "hairy dogs" have just beaten the Yellow Jackets 7-zip, the first time in four years the Georgia Bulldogs have whipped up on rival Georgia Tech. All about, the brothers are spilling whiskey, preparing to rejoice.
Upstairs at the SAE (Sleep And Eat) house, they are slipping off bourbon-soaked Brooks Brothers suits for required evening dress: Corbin slacks, Gant shirts, Gold Cup socks, and shiny Bass Weejuns. Across campus, their dates have donned Villager blouses and A-shaped skirts. No papagallo shoes tonight; the beer puddles would baptize them to ruin. Anoint yourself with Joy, woman, and prepare for the evening's gross-out.
At one house, the raunchy Hot Nuts are lubricating their instruments for a concert of scatalogical rhythm and blues. Across the way, starry-eyed freshman from fine sauthern families are being courted into brotherhood with all the firepower the social budget can muster: The Temptations, The Tams, James Brown and the Famous Flames, The Drifters do battle.
Inside another fraternity house, two brothers chug-a-lug Colt-45 from the can. One coed cheers on her steady, as the brother gags, falls to the floor coughing, throws up. White foam dibbles from the chin of the winner. He grins. "AAAAAAaaaaaaaaawright, you harry doags!"
Off in the corner a curious urge has come over a brother; he decided to test the mettle of his date by "dropping trou'" (his pants). She blushed, registers only minor annoyance, passes the test. He's okay, she's okay.
Out there is the night somewhere, over at the Ohi Delta Theat House, rivals of the SAEs, you will find Hamilton Jordan, an esteemed brother, expresident of the freshman class, and pledge trainer. He is partying with his best friends, they are not brothers: Jay Beck, former Albany ad-man who works on the White House reorganization staff, and John Golden, fresh up from Georgia to solicit corporate contributions for the DNC.
It was back at the "university" that John Golden helped Jordan sharpen the tougue that recently has been heard round the world. "We'd get our hands tanned from the sun lamp, buy a six-pack of Tab to get skinny, watch Johnny Carson to get witty and tell our friends we'd been to Palm Beach." The Rev. Billy Peaches is warming up.
"Hamilton was smart. But there are two kinds of smart. Someone in the ditch who shovels and someone above who says, 'Hand me the dirt.' Hamilton was always the one who said, "Hand me the dirt."
He was like the man at the oasis in the middle of the desert who owns the only radio. When people came out of the wilderness to get a drink of water, they're head up to his house to get the news. He had progressive attitudes about social reform before any of our friends. I knew and he knew that Hamilton Jordan would be a success. You just got that feeling.
"Ham used to sleep on my floor. Hell, if I'd known where he'd be today, I'd have let him have the bed."
"Hamilton fit in at Georgia as a totally normal human being, the way we all fit in," reflected Frank Fowler, a former fraternity brother of Jordon's who agents Andrew Wyeth paintings from Lookout Mountain, Tenn. "We staying up late and having a good time was considered 'raising hell.' Today, what we did would be thought child's play."
After the university, Hamilton ended up with Carter, and Golden made a go at selling mattresses, scoring a promotion from a big sale to the Red Cross - a hurricane had ravanged the Texas coast. He also tried marriage for a year, but found out "my destiny just wasn't into sharing destiny."
Golden wound his way to Atlanta, where he sold real estate, farmed mushrooms, hooked back up with his college pals and, after hours, carved out a Valentino reputation for Billy Peaches. The moniker was borrowed from a character on "Baretta," and memories of the Rev., Peaches still waft about the potted palms and antiques of Harrison's on Peachtree./
Atlanta. Ga., 1975. Harrison's is Atlanta's answer to Sarfield's, a singles bar tweedy professionals. "I probably spent more money in Harrisons's than anybody buying free driinks that year," says Golden. "I'd go into the bar and say, 'Set this fellow up on Billy Peaches.'
"I wasn't interested so much in the character as the name. I created Billy Peaches because I observed that most people weren't having a good time in bars. If you went up to them and gave them your real name, or your business card, it became really hard to buy them a drink because they felt like you wanted something in return.
"And I was trying to totally escape carrying business to the bar. I knew this fellow could not try to contact me in the daytime because he didn't know my name. I also okserved that most people pre-determine they had 'X' dollars to spend. They'd buy maybe three drinks and think, 'I could really have a GOOD time if I had the fourth drink, but I can't afford it." So I'd buy them one on the behalf of this anonymous character named Billy Peaches, just to elevate the energy in the room, create a little good karma.
"I knew it wouldn't benefit me in any way. I wasn't going to sell them insurance, or call them up later and get them to buy a used car. And there was no way they could buy my mushrooms.
"Billy Peaches was a magnificent obsession. I was trying to do something for others knowing they couldn't do anything back for me."
Do you remember a customer named John Golden? a Harrison's waitress was asked.
"You mean the New Ragtime Billy Peaches" she answered. "Sure. He'd come in any day of the week, mostly around Happy Hour. Hesca fun-loving nut who was always in a good mood. He always had a weird story to tell. We miss him. He was the life of the bar."
Nowadays, John Golden sweet-talks corporations into contributions for the Democratic party. He has a technique for that, too. He calls it his "handsup" policy.
Golden raises his hands like a bank teller in the midst of a hold-up. "It's hands above the table so we don't have to go back and say hands-up like a bandit." His hands are now aimed fingers cocked, ponting like a pair of six-shooters.
"Some corporations are still waiting for us to come around with a bag.
"I go up to people and say, 'I'd like you to support the president and the two-party system.' A lot would prefer to have their hooks in you. So when I say, 'Look, here's what I want, A, B, C,' they start looking around the room, wondering where's the bag . . ."
In the recent DNC purge of Carter inductees. Golden remains unscathed. His special relationship with the White House has not gone unappreciated.
Golden describes his ability to get along this way: "If an education is the ability to deal with people, I have the highest degree you can get." He has both a smooth, soft-sell and hard-edge approach to life.
The Washington incarnation of the new Rev. Ragtime Billy Peaches is distressed at the shower of brimstone from the Washingtonians. Oh, what some of Peaches' Georgia brethren wouldn't give for a refuge, say, a chapter of Phi Delta Theta on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It's a very stiff town," says Rev. Peaches. "But I'm only going to be here a short time. I can always sell used cars and make a lot more money.
"Washington, D.C., is a city where you come to get a disease. When I land here, I feel it. People just don't know how to enjoy themselves. They are always looking around the corner or under beds. What we need are a few more Billy Peaches in this town."