Reprinted from yesterday's editions
Cocktail-party chitchat (a dying art form; nobody gives good cocktail parties anymore): "Hello, admiral, I haven't seen you since . . ." "Look at that view: it must be the best in Washington . . ." "Perfect weather - Given was alaways lucky with the weather . . ." "What is that yellow building? It must be a part of Georgetown; everything over that way is a part of Georgetown . . ." "Five years? I can't believe it's been five years . . ."
It had been, in fact, five years since the last big party given by the legendary Gwen Cafritz, doyenne emeritus of the jet set and heiress to vast quanitities of real estate (during the 1968 riots, she had been heard to remark: "I own half this town, and I'm worried.")
If she was worried about Wednesday's reentry into the social whirl, after years of illness and semiwith-drawal, it hardly showed - though at times everyone at the party seemed to be having fun but the hostess. She spent most of the evening seated in the large, richly decorated drawing room, one foot up on a hassock, greeting the guests from an armchair as they entered (bowing slightly, as the geometry of the situation required, to shake hands and speak with her).
For a while, she visited the dining room, where a simple but excellent buffet was being served, and, later on, assisted by a maid, she went out to sit on the terrace where a trio was playing popular Viennese and American tunes.
She had undergone surgery last week, and this made things difficult, she explained, "and tonight I seem to be having trouble remembering people's names." Asked if she plans to have more parties soon, she said, "I hope not."
Others were more positive, including the people who work there "It was a good party," said violinist Teddy Alper who has played at all the Cafritz parties for decades. "I saw all the people I haven't seen for the last five years." He was, between playing tunes like "Play Gyspsy" and "Wien, Wien, Nur Du Allein," as gregariou as anyone at the party, greeting many of the guests (and being greeted in returen) on a first-name basis.
"When I come in, I always say hello to Mrs. Cafritz in Hungarian," he said, "she gets a kick out of that."
While many of the guests were people frequently seen at Washington parties, particularly when the event is related to the arts - the David Lloyd Kreegers, the Livingston Biddles, the Frank Ikards - others were people who used to go to all the Cafritz parties and are seldom seen at other parties.
Some of the guests - Chief Justice Warren Burger and Sen. Barry Goldwater, for example - are still active at the centers of power in Washington, while others are best known from former incarnation: former secretary of state William Rogers, now a Washington attorney; former assistant secretary of state Joseph Sisco, now president of American University; former sens. Claude Pepper and Joseph Tydings; Gen. Godfrey McHugh, who piloted Air Force 1 for John Kennedy; retired admirals Thomas Kelly and Tazewell Shepard; True Davis, who was assistant secretary of the Treasury under Kennedy.
Sen. Goldwater, like many of the guests, was made nostalgic by this echo of parties long gone by. "This place and its hostess are very memorable to me," he said, standing on the terrace and admiring the unmatched view of Washington from this point higher than the Washington Monument.
"Right here, 28 years ago, when I was a new senator from Arizona, Gwen Cafritz was the first one who invited me to a Washington party, and it was right here that I first realized that Washington has some fine, upstanding people. She was very kind to a fledging senator who was really nobody at all, and we've been good friends ever since. I've even square danced with her, and I hate to square dance."
Chief Justice Burger said that his hostess "is one of the great Washington ladies - of all time.The things she has done to enrich the life of this city can hardly be counted."
Several people who try to count them were also at the party, but Martin Atlas, director and vice president of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, said it is hard to remember them all on the spur of the moment. The foundation gives between $2 million and $2.5 million per year to the arts and education in Washington, he said, and the big numbers are easy to remember $100,000 per year to the National Symphony, about the same to the Arena Stage, substantial amounts to the Washington Opera and the Kennedy Center ("We brought over La Scale, for example"), grants for research and scholarships to American University, George Washington University, Howard and Georgetown, the Moore sculpture for the new East Wing of the National Gallery.
"It all goes to local organizations", he said "and a lot goes to small organizations. We can help only about a quarter of those who ask, and that doesn't count the requests that come in from Kalamazoo or the ones who just say, 'We need money; please send money.'"
No need of money was evident at the party, which had a quality best summed up by Patrick Hayes, a connoisseur of elegance if ever there was one.
"This is an elegant party," said Hayes. "the kind of party that only Mrs. Cafritz or Mrs. Merriweather Post could give - a fine guest list, a good buffet, tables on the lawn and perfect weather."
Everyone gave the hostess credit for the weather, and perhaps they were right.