CONSIDER THE Bachelor Congressman.
As popular myth would have it, he is, in appearance, a hybrid - a cross generally between Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. By nature he is serious, dedicated, a veritable pioneer of justice temporarily relocated in Washington to save democracy. Socially, he is a lion - a man equally at home in both black tie and no tie at all whose reputation is that of a rogue, perpetually careening from the Olympian Heights in order to dip into the secretarial pool.
Although today a lot of women might consider marrying a politican - there are seven bachelors in the Senate, 63 in the House - about as desirable as backstroking down the Ganges during monsoon season, there are still those who seek it. Because despite Watergate and Wayne Hays and Wilbur Mills, the politician, like all powerful species, still Wilbur Mills, the politician, like all powerful species, still has mystique - a mystique that is enhanced when he is. . single.
That, at least, is what Pete stark discovered when he arrived in Washington five years ago - married. Three months later, however, he was unmarried because, as he explains it, "If you think Washington is a hard place to make a marriage work, you just ought to try putting one back together here."
He didn't. And after 19 years of "your basic, monogamous, stable, common-garden-variety-type suburban marriage," Stark suddenly found himself 40, a bachelor and "amazed at the bumber of young women who wanted to go out with me."
"Yes, indeedie, it was right out of 'Passages,'", says Stark, his ling lanky frame cascading down the black leather, couch in a congressional office peppered with pictures of his four children.
"After having spent most of my formative years either married or in puberty, trying to get my hands on Susie Smith and blaming my failure to do so on the wrong hair tonic and acne, well, Washington was something I wasn't quite prepared for."
How then did Stark handle this new turn of affairs? Well, he "played around," of course, but only briefly, before he ended up living with CiCi Proxmire (daughter of Senator William Proxmire) for two years. And, no, he didn't care what people thought because Stark doesn't think "people pay attention to who I live with. As for hurting me politically? Listen, if the people in Congress right now living with people couldn't get reelected because of that, we wouldn't be able to get a quorum up here."
Stark can afford to be outspoken. He's from California and he's a millionaire - the result of selling the bank he owned to Adnan Khashoggi, whom he prefers to call"the Arab Call."
Also outspoken but not nearly so rich is 33-year-old Connecticut Democrat Toby Moffett. When he talks about the single life he prefers to do it at home - a $40,000 Capitol Hill house, where he sits you down at the kitchen table, purs a glass of Gallo red from the jug and spins some Crystal Gayle for background music. He also wears blue jeans.
Moffett sees Congress as basically show biz. "We're all such a bunch of actors up here and I think I'm one of the best. I guess I secretly always wanted to be Al Pacino," says Moffett, who volunteers that recently he was stopped coming out of the White House by a guard who thought Moffett was - Sylvester Stallone
When Moffett came to Congress in 1974 he was divorced father of a 5-year-old daughter who lives with her mother, a veterinary student in Alabana. Being a bachelor congressional father was one of the reasons Moffett bought his house. Julia, who visits him regularly, needed a home. Even more importantly, so did her father, whose idea of romance is "two people buzzing around a kitchen, whipping something up to eat and then sitting down for a long meal and a chat."
Now according to Moffett one of the big problems with men in Congress, single or married, is that "most members can't stand to be alone. We're so used to having someone around to buttress us, boost us, pet us. Most members would rather be with anybody than by themselves."
Which is why he says they formed The Group . . . "a sort of male liberation group" composed of a handful of members who regularly meet to "talk about our personal lives."
"The Eagleton thing pretty much took care of any politicians ever seeing shrinks, although I can't think of any place in the world that needs one more than the Hill.In fact, I think they should have a full-time psychiatrist just like they have medical doctors."
Moffett admits the job is good for meeting women even though it is often difficult to distinguish between "the genuine" and the "power groupies" often found lurking in subcommittee hearing rooms.
"Look," says Moffett, "I'm power oriented and I'm attracted to women who are less power oriented. I have often found they are frightened of getting involved with a politician. Sure, there is the initial excitement over the office, the access to certain people and places, but that is short-lived and then the schedules and personalities of being a politician surface. This job is not as attractive to women as you may think."
At that moment the telephone rings. It is a woman - a former beauty gueen from Syracuse University - a girl Moffett never freamed of dating in college - a girl whose brother Moffett happened to end up sitting next to at last year's Super Bowl who gave Moffett her number and whom Moffett has since seen. A woman who is now calling to ask Moffett when he will next be in Boston.
Well, yes, admits Moffett, hanging up the phone, sometimes the job does help.
But it hurts, too, he says, fortifying himself with another belt of Gallo before beginning the saga of a man sorely wounded in love. Last spring, he says, a "very intense relationship with a girl back home" came to a crashing thud. A knockout blow he didn't deliver but which left him "devastated." He quit sleeping. He lost 15 pounds. But worst of all he went from being "an aggressive hard worker to just going through the motions. I guess this isn't a good thing to say but at that time the people of the Sixth District weren't the first thing on my mind."
"During our relationship, I was like a soldier on furlough," he continues, his face taking on the countenance of a lost puppy. "I'd go home on weekends and work in the district and see her. But once I was home there were certain things I didn't want to do. I mean, I didn't want to work my tail off here all week, go home and work shaking hands and then go out to a party. I'd rather sit home and whisper sweet nothings.
"She, naturally, wanted to do more exciting things. But I was doing exciting things all week on Capitol Hill and I didn't need excitement. And as long as we were together she really didn't have her own turf to stand on.And I realize how important that is for anyone. But back home she was never anything but Toby Moffett's woman."
A year later, however, the people of the Sixth District can rest assured that Moffett is recovered and once again on the social scene - albeit not in Washington. "That party thing here in Washington. "That party thing here in Washington," he says, "is one of the myths of this job. I don't get invited to those fancy parties. But maybe they haven't found out how powerful I am yet." He laughs, but . . .
It is 7 p.m. and Moffett's administrative assistant has arrived to take him to a meeting with a constituent. As he reaches to silence Crystal Gayle, he makes one last point. "You know what the biggest drawback of this job is? Loneliness. When you're not married or with somebody you have no sense of a team. You feel that ultimately everything from planning your next campaign to worrying about what you're having for dinner to when you're going to pick up your dry cleaning, all depends on you. Do you know what I mean?"
New York freshman Republican Bruce Caputo is a another kettle of fish. Cold fish, many of his colleagues will tell you, right down to his office which is impersonal, bare except for the furniture it came with. Yet he says, "This is like Versailles compared to my apartment," where in his year of occupancy he has not so much as lit the stove or filled the refrigerator.
But then Caputo, nattily attired in gray tailored suit, Ivy League tie and blue shirt, apparently has no need of a home. He goes out every night, picking his destination from "three or four times the number of invitations I could possibly every accept."
And yes, he admits candidly, he does find the Washington social scene "very helpful. I don't mean that in a mercenary way," he hastens to add. "But often times parties can provide real in sights - access to senior legislators you might otherwise not get to as well as, say, useful commentary from observers of the Washington scene who know people I don't but wish I did - like Leon Jaworski, for instance." (As a member of the House Ethics Committee, Caputo's aggressive pursuit of the Tongsun Park connections did not enhance his popularity among his colleagues.)
There is one aspect of Washington society, however, Caputo says he does not like - the treatment of women. "I find the attitude toward women at Washington parties condescending. The males huddle, talking affairs of state, while the women are tolerated, excluded. Their opinions are not sought."
Caputo has sensational eyes - huge round, brown pools. Yet when he is discussing his personal life, he sounds as if he is addressing a General Motors board meeting. Although he has been engaged twice, dates frequently, and finds Washington full of interesting women he wines and dines at watering holes like Le Lion d'Or or Tiberio, the 34-year-old legislator says he feels neither personal nor political need to ever marry.
"I don't have any clear conviction on whether I want to or not. It - marriage - is not something I am definitely planning to do."
In fact, he adds, if he had been married he doubts if he would have run in the first place. "One presumes," he continues, sounding very much like the businessman-who-made-a-bundle that he was before coming to Congress, "one presumes that when one marries one makes a commitment to share with that person a very large amount of time and other resources like money. And politics drains a large amount of those two resources and others from any other activity one wishes to pursue. So if I had been married, I probably would not have run because I might have felt that running for politics was a violation of that commitment."
So much for romance.
Clearly, if Caputo sees disadvantages in being a bachelor in Washington, they are not personal. But, he says, "you do give up a lot with this job. You give up weekends and control of your schedule. The pay stinks and the growth of my net worth has stopped - or at least is not growing.
"Plus, I live in a city I don't prefer. The things that are important to Washingtonians - like access to tennis courts, owning a townhouse, having parking in front of the house, being close to work, being close to politics - these are things I don't much treasure. I prefer to be in a place where there are good symphony orchestras, lots of opera, Broadway, unlimited films and restaurants and a strange array of people. Those are the things I value."
Yet, he concludes, despite all that, his life in Washington is not "substantially different" than the life he had back home in Yonkers, New York, which, if true, may well make Yonkers one of America's best-kept secrets.
New York Democraft Tom Downey is 29 years old, which really isn't his fault but did confuse voters when he was campaigning door-to-door. Some thought he was the paper boy.
Sitting in his rather standard fare congressional office, whose notable decorations include two model jet planes and pictures of Downey with Jimmy Carter, Fritz Mondale and Downey's mother, Downey is direct. Being a bachelor congressman in Washington is not fun at all. "All I do is work," he says. "I mean, I never had any idea how much time a political career consumes. Two hours with nothing to do is a vacation for me. Plus, I have law school three nights a week," an ordeal to be ended this spring when he graduates.
A big night out, he says, is a hamburger and a beer with Reps. Ron Dellums or George Miller (both D-Cal.), an activity he considers far more fascinating than "those parties" which he doesn't get invited to and wouldn't attend if he did.
Although looking to buy a house in his Long Island district, Downey currently lives alone in an English basement furnished by him and kept by a cleaning woman even though it drives him bonkers. "I feel guilty having a cleaning lady," he says, his face a wall of distress."I've been trained since I was little to vacuum, dust, clean. I don't find it demeaning and where Chris and I spend weekends together I always clean. She cooks."
"Chris" is Chris Milanos, a 31-year-old divorcee who may end Downey's bachelor status depending on his next - her first - campaign. Although Downey claims, "I wouldn't want to marry a woman who loved this job as much as I did, I do look at politics as my life-long profession. So my wife would have to understand that. I've been through this before because during my last campaign I was seeing a girl who told me after it was all over that the political life made her unhappy."
And if it comes to that choice again?
"Well, I've thought a lot about that, you know, and I'd like to be able to say that if it came between politics and a woman I loved, I'd choose the woman. But I don't think I'd do that." However, he visibly brightenss, "the mere fact that I've even thought about it pleases me no end."
He dismisses just living together. "Yes," he says firmly, "I want to get married . . . because I want kids. Otherwise, it doesn't matter. My tax returns are my constituents" business, but who I live with isn't."
Pete Stark is laughing, his handsomely craggy face a sea of facial pleats. He is talking about Tom Downey who, he says, thinks Stark is a sitting duck for predatory females. "So one day, Downey got so worried he decided to sit me down for son-father talk. He said, 'Pete, I'm afraid some girl is going to come along and take advantage of you.' And I said, 'Tom, tell her to hurry. I'm ready.'"
When Stark lived with Proxmire, she campaigned with him and they appeared casual about public opinion even though "most political wives around here are pretty damned threatened by the idea of their husbands' colleagues living with somebody.
"But quite frankly," Stark says, "the country probably gets better work out of those that do. After all, if a guy is living with somebody, he's probably eating better, living better and sleeping better with somebody he likes.
"Besides," he adds, declining to cite a few cohabitants for the record, "there's nothing improper about people [making love]. I think even Jimmy Carter thinks it's okay."
Stark currently lives alone in a Capitol Hill Victorian townhouse he owns and keeps up with the aid of a housekeeper. His social life, he says, leans toward small dinner parties at his house where he cooks. "I try to keep a relatively low profile social life because in this town if you're not careful all you'll end up being is a perennial dinner partner." However, whenever another congressional bachelor hits the marital dust, it is Stark who throws the farewell bash. "I like to celebrate having one less guy to compete with," he laughs.
Although Stark would like to marry again, he sees one thing standing between him and wedded bliss - his line of work. "Jesus, I know how chauvinistic this is going to sound," says Stark with the expected wince of the radical in good standing, which he considers himself, "but my job has got to come first. When we're in session you have to be here. You can't miss a vote. And you also have to spend a lot of time back home. The biggest drawback to making a relationship work in this job isn't time, it's geography."
Not to mention ego. "Oh, yeah, yeah, in this job you gotta have a big one of those, too," he concedes. "A real big one. And you know what that does for relationships. Especially when you campaign. And I love to campaign. But what woman in her right mind is going to want to go campaigning with me so she can stand there and watch me while I show off?"
Protestations aside, however, Stark is clearly hooked. "Sure, it's fun being a celebrity. It's like my kids say, 'In what other job would 1,500 cops have to memorize you picture just to keep you free?'".
Yet, being alone on The Hill is still - well, being alone. "There are moments in this job," he muses in a rare instance of seriousness, "when you look at yourself running off to campaign or hustling through some asinine bill and wonder, 'What the hell am I doing here? And why am I here alone for Christ's sake?'
"But then, on the other hand, you also look around at all the rotten marriages up here - and there are a lot of those - and think, w-a-i-t a m-i-n-u-t-e. I'm not going to let that happen to me."