Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
The idea wasn't to make it a "whoopee party," as host-to-be Peter Malatesta put it, but instead a quiet gathering of good friends wishing wealthy Korean businessman Tongsun Park a happy 43rd birthday.
It was all set for Tuesday night. Then late Monday the Justice Department stepped in and, according to Malatesta, said quite categorically, no party.
Or, as Malatesta said Wednesday, "Justice said there is 'no way you are going to have a party.'"
Malatesta has given Park a birthday party every year "that he's been in the country" since 1972. Exceptions were 1976 and 1977, when Park was in Korea and elsewhere.
Malatesta indicated that he can appreciate any security problems that might arise from Park's stay in Washington to testify before the House Ethics Committee about the Korean influence-peddling scandal.
Malatesta, who operates a club called Peter's in Alexandria, planned the party for Park last week until Justice stepped in and told him to hold off. So he rescheduled it for Tuesday night this week, inviting about 40 Washington socialities but steering clear of politicians and diplomats because he didn't want to embarrass anyone.
He told everybody to bring some "fun gifts" and he ordered a special cake. Then around 11:30 p.m. Monday he was informed by his own attorney, by a Justice Department attorney and by Park's attorney, William Hundley, that the party was off.