It is 6 a.m. in the Grand Foyer of the Kennedy Center and Louisa Benso, 17, senior at McLean High School, and four friends, are bordering on nervous breakdowns. "We've been making plans for tonight all week," Louisa says.
"We're all wearing long dresses - we sat up until midnight last night hemming them. And we're all going to a restaurant afterwards.I even bought flowers for him . . . a rose to throw on the stage and a bouquet to send to his dressing room. If we don't get our tickets after all this I'm just going to die. We have to see him."
(Oh the tradegy of it all. Benso was number fifty two. But never mind, back in line again today . . .)
Jackson Browne, you may think.
The Eagles, maybe? Mick Jagger?
Wrong. Just another bit of testimony to today's raging ballet chic and its concurrent Mikhail Baryshnikov madness. His "Don Quixote" has been sold out for weeks - except for the paltry few (50, actually) standing-room places made available each morning at 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. $3 per.
It didn't take long for would-be standees to figure out that if you wanted one, you had to be there early. Very early. And wait.
Which is why yesterday, Benjamin Villamueva, a medical student from the Phillipines, rolled into the Kennedy Center at 1 a.m., sleeping bag in hand, to begin his vibil. By 5:15 some 44 others had joined him and moved themselves, sleeping bags, snacks and backgammon boards, into the Grand Foyer.
"I've never done anything like this before in my life," said Emily Sheketoff, staff assistant to presidential assistant Richard Hardin. Sheketoff, with Carol Caldwell, also a Hardin assistant, had begun their efforts to get standing room last Sunday. That day, however, a 9:45 arrival was hours too late as was a 7:30 arrival on Wednesday. By yesterday, however, the women had caught on and showed up at 4 a.m.
"Quite frankly, this whole thing has become an obsession with me," said Caldwell. "Somebody said Baryshnikov's been told we are all waiting in line every morning so you'd think the least he could do would be to send over doughnuts."
And then, of course, there was - The List. Everybody who came signed in with Mary Wilcosky, a temporarily unemployed mathematician, who took it upon herself to organize the hopefuls - albeit unofficially. "Of course, you understand," said Clay Bradley, a GW student, "that technically the list means nothing. Anyone who gets to the box office first can get a ticket. But we are trying to be democratic about this thing."
By 7:30, however, when cleaning men forced the group - now around 80 - out into the cold, things got tight. Late arrivals began showing up, threatening to storm the Bastille, regardless of the honor code. After a quick meeting of a few self-appointed governors, Bradley set up the first of several practice lines formed to insure, they hoped, an orderly entrance at 10 a.m.
Cary Raditz, a project analyst for the Peace Corps in West Africa, who said he was there "to see how America works nowadays," was clearly impressed. "This group is terrific. Look at them - strangers, and they've already formed a democracy.
"Internal organization with dignity. I just spent the fall in France and believe me, the French would never had made up a list. There, it would have been every man for himself.Kill and be killed."