Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Allison LaLand gave what she called a "southern dinner dance" Thursday night in Georgetown for Attorney General Griffin Bell and his wife, Mary, southerners without a doubt.
It was just four years ago that LaLand, also a southerner and an Atlantan as well, had given a similar party for another attorney general and his wife. That one launched her as a self-proclaimed and confessed Washington hostess who liked giving parties for important people.
In his reciprocal toast that night, then-attorney general William B. Saxbe, the tobacco-chewing Ohioan who had grown disenchanted with the U.S. Senate and had readily accepted Richard Nixon's invitation to head the Justice Department, said he liked Washington well enough. "But sometimes I feel like a mule in the horse's harness."
Thursday Atlanta's Griffin Bell said he liked Washington well enough, and during a toast he elaborated."
"Allison is a friend from Atlanta," said Bell. "We sent Allison up here some years ago to get ready for Jimmy Carter to be president. On behalf of the Georgia people, we want to thank the people of Washington for being so nice to us."
LaLand left no detail of her blacktie dinner to chance. She used magnolia leaves as place cards, penning the names in gold ink herself, saw to it that her 90 guests had dance programs and tiny pencils and even provided the chef of the City Tavern with her late mother's cook's recipes for sweet potato souffle.
There was some momentary excitement when Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge arrived from the Dutch 'embassy's tulip festiva, to tell Bell that the rumor was Panama leader Omar Torrijos had just rejected the treaty. The way Illinois Sen. Charles Percy told it, the president had called the embassy asking for Ellsworth Bunker.
The attorney general dispatched presidential counsel Robert Lipshutz to a telephone rumor was true. And Percy went off to another telephone to call the National Security Council's Robert Pastor who checked wtih presidential aide Hamilton Jordan on the veracity of the rumor.
It turned out that the Torrijos story wasn't true, but according to Percy, the Torrijos government has "expressed unhappiness" with the Canal treaty.
The idea for the dinner dance grew out of an encounter LaLand had last fall with mary Bell at a luncheon.
"I asked Mary how she was enjoying Washington and she said there had been so much illness in her family in Atlanta that she hadn't gotten to know many people. So I said I'd love to have a dinner for her and the attorney general to meet my friends," said LaLand.
What she calls her "working guest list" totals about 300 names, but to have invited all,LaLand said, would have meant giving a reception.
The final guest list included Associate Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Sen. Richard Stone (D-Fla.), Rep. Gillespie (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.), White House adviser Stu Eisenstadt, FBI director William H. Webster, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Livingston Biddle, Deputy Attorney General-designate Benjamin R. Civiletti and 14 ambassadors.