Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"I said to my wife, I don't care who calls, I'm going to stay here and get my title back," said Muhammed Ali, who two months ago lost his title as heavyweight champion of the world to Leon Spinks. "And then Yvonne called and said, 'We need you' and here I am."
Although he had claimed nobody could make him leave his Pennsylvania training camp, Tuesday night Muhammad Ali flew to Washington with his wife, Veronica, and an entourage of seven for a party at the sprawling Bethesda tudor home of lawyer Robert Martin and his wife, Betty.
The occasion was a $50-a-head fund-raiser for Democratic congresswoman from California Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who is seeking her party's nomination for California state attorney general.
Held outdoors under a green-and-white-striped tent, the party drew 300 guests who wandered about helping themselves to an open bar, sliced roast beef sandwiches, pate and steak tartar.
Until, that is, the arrival of Ali who made his entrance accompanied by Burke, an old friend who he said had "sweet-talked" him into making the appearance. His arrival, needless to say, caused instant bedlam among the otherwise subdued crowd, consisting mainly of Californias who live in the Washington area, businessmen and politicians.
"I like the way she looks. I like the way she moves. And I like the way she carries herself," said Rep. Dan Flood (D-Pa.), who sat alone at a table of hors d'oeuvres.
"I'm a lawyer," Flood continued admiringly. "Can you imagine having an attorney general who looks like that?"
And certainly Tuesday night Burke was looking very well indeed, decked out in a mauve silk blouson dress and mauve shawl with wine suede sandals. She had alighted from a fleet of cars carrying, along with Ali and his wife, Ali's accountant, Gene Dibble, and his administrative assistant, Jerry Shabazz.
Ali clearly thrived on Tuesday night's adulation, constantly reaching for his wife's hand in order to draw her into the spotlight of photographers' and TV cameras. At one point, as Ali grabbed both Veronica and Burke for a picture, he quipped, "There are two women in Ali's life and now you see both of them."
Veronica Ali didn't seem quite so taken with Ali's planned rematch with Spinks. "I was hoping he'd retire. But this is obviously something he has to do," she said, while observing the throng of female admirers surrounding her husband.
Does all this attention to him from women bother her? "Well, it bothered me at first, but you have to get used to it. You have to remember who he is."
Although Burke said Tuesday she leads in polls for the June primary, campaign fiancing is still a problem, even though fund-raisers with Marlo Thomas and U.N. Ambassador Andy Young are on tap for the next week.
Burke, who described Ali as "the man who restored my faith in boxing," said her campaign coffers needed about $150,000 more, adding that "it's harder for women to raise money for campaigns, because men are the big contributors and men generally tend to contribute to men."
"She needs money," Ali interjected, to which Burke replied, laughing, "Then you start. I'll take from $1 to $1,000."
Signing autographs up until the end, Ali, who looked slimmer but said he was still weighing in at 230, finally plowed his way out to return to his training campsite at Deer Lake. As he passed through the crush, still clutching Veronica's hand, Yolande Fox, a strong Burke supporter, commented," "There's no question about it. That man's one of the best acts in show business."