It wasn't your average party for one of America's most popular and successful rock 'n' roll bands.
Normally when Fleetwood Mac is feted, the decor is more wall-to-wall denim than lip-to-lip three-pice suits.
The crowd is younger, and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and music is the No. 1 topic of conversation. Chocolate mousse and champagne are not served. And waiters in black tie do not wander around taking drink orders. The guest list Tuesday night was something special too: presidential assistants Hamilton Jordan and Tim Kraft, first son Chip Carter. White House media adviser Jerry Rafshoon. Majority Whip John Prademas (D-Ind.), Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), California candidate for lieutenant governor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and New Jersey Senate candidate Bill Bradley.
"Six concerts by someone like Fleetwood Mac would pay for a whole campaign" said Mickey Shapiro, the band's lawyer, who himself cut his teeth working for Birch Bayh.
And, indeed, that thought was not lost on the politicos circling beneath the hanging baskets of ferns at La Serre, a private Georgetown club. "Rumours" and "Fleetwood Mac," the group's last two albums have sold more than 20 million copies - without the benefit of a movie. Last night's Capital Centre concert, canceled at the last minute, was part of a 10-city tour - was sold out early, and the band is currently working on a new album which is practically a platinum guarantee.
The Big Mac, as they say in L.A., is definitely hot.
If politics breeds strange bedfellows, then nothing boggles the mind more than the marriage of politics and rock 'n' roll. The more restrictive campaign donations laws have made politicos suddenly give a little respect to Linda Ronstadt, the Big Mac. The Eagles, etc. Not that rock-meets-politics is a first-run engagement - the Capricorn-Carter-Walden precedent firmly established rock in the national political scene, and the president's surprise on-stage visit to Willie Nelson furthered the tradition.
What is new is the frequency of rock-heavy-talks-it-over-with-political-heavy gatherings. The two cultures are slowly advancing from mingling to meshing.
However, Tuesday's political soiree was as much a party for Fleetwood Mac as it was a tribute to the man who records them - Steve Ross, chairman of the board of Warner Communications, Inc. In June 1977 Ross, along with Arthur Krim, the independent Hollywood producer and powerful grandaddy of Democratic fund raising, put together Carter's successful $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in New York. And since then, Ross is being touted by political insiders as Krim's heir apparent.
The tall, patrician Ross denies the rumor, although Jordan says otherwise. "It was Arthur's idea for us to work with Steve," said Jordan, who described Ross a a "very good friend of ours. Arthur said we needed some new blood."
And Kraft added that three weeks ago Ross organized a New York dinner with "30 affluent people" for himself. Jordan, Evan Dobelle, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and Joel McCleary, deputy assistant to the president.
La Serre filled up fast with smooth politicians and disco music blasting the background - politicos like Rep. Bob Krueger (D-Tex.), who excorted Carter's personal secretary Susan Clough. He admitted that he probably wouldn't know a Fleetwood Mac if he ran into one. "Have I heard of Fleetwood Mac?" said Krueger, who is currently running for John Towers' (R-Tex.) Senate seat. "Well, I've certainly heard of Steve Ross."
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, meanwhile, is a Fleetwood Mac fan, but her appearance at the party, she confessed, did have some ulterior motives. "No, I haven't asked Ross for a campaign contribution yet," she laughed. "But if I see him, I certainly plan to."
Fleetwood Mac has done several benefits both for politicians and causes - Birch Bayh, the American Heart Association and Jacques Cousteau. (The band's bass guitarist, John McVie, is a serious environmentalist.)
Last year the band helped bail out John Tunney after his losing Senate race piled up a hugh debt: "He'd just hit on rocky times," shrugged Mick Fleetwood, who was decked out in green velvet jeans, a blue-and-red polka dot shirt and pink satin vest. "I don't get wound up with what all these things are supposed to mean. Tunney had just tired to do something and failed, so we helped him out."
"Last week Jerry Brown spent an hour and a half in my office talking to Chick Corea," said Shapiro. "I get as many calls from politicians as I do from record companies.
"But I'm no power broker," added Shapiro, who heard of the group through Bob Welch, a former Fleetwood Mac member. "A lawyer just doesn't wave a magic wand and hundreds of thousands of dollars float into the lap of a politician. That kind of thinking presumes the artist is a moron. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (the band's founders) are brilliant. They make their own decisions."
And the decision for a politician isn't an easy one.
Darry Sragon, who was working for Bayh at the time the Fleetwood Mac concert was organized, said, "There are very few groups I would have recommended to Bayh for a concert. But Fleetwood Mac is straight in a loose kind of way. Of course, they're not exactly the Beach Boys of 1962, but they're not the Rolling Stones either.
Fleetwood Mac is probably the only rock 'n' roll band qualified to compete with Washington's own ongoing saga of "Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter." The trials and tribulations of the Carterites-as-Washington-outsiders.
"Upstairs, Downstairs" with Midge Costanza, and the life and times of Hamilton Jordan are hard acts to contend with. Especially when Tuesday night's party added yet another episode to the Jordan legend.
"These days I'm not going to say anything unless I clear it first with Jerry Rafshoon," laughed Jordan just minutes before an unidentified man walked up to him and slammed a plateful of chocolate mousse in his face. This time, however, it was not Jordan who did the provoking. As soon as a friend fetched him a clean shirt, Jordan left.
The band has been at it for almost 10 years. And their saga is one of rock 'n' roll's most complicated soap operas. In 1976, for instance, when the group began recording "Rumours," John McVie and his wife of eight year, Christine, one of the band's two female vocalists, were splitting up. At the same time, the band's other female singer, Stevie Nicks, was moving out on her boyfriend of six years, Lindsay Buckingham, the band's lead guitarist. Mick Fleetwood, meanwhile, was in the process of divorcing his wife, whom he has since remarried.
Nonetheless, art won out, John McVie has since married again and the group remains together, because, says Fleetwood, "none of use hates each other."
Besides Fleetwood and McVie, Christine McVie also showed up for the party, but she wasn't talking. Nicks and Buckingham were not there. Nicks was with her parents at an Eagles concert (her father, a former president of Armour Meats, now promotes the Eagles). Buckingham, though, was home sick, the result, John McVie said of "almost dying two days ago. Three hours before our Philadelphia concert, Lindsay had a seizure - a mild epileptic thing. It had nothing to do with drugs or anything like that. Anyway, the sound engineer saved his life - pulled his tongue out - and three hours later Lindsay was on stage. After the concert we checked him into the hospital for tests. He's okay now."
"We did this tour to feel like a band again," said sound man Richie Dashut. "It's been eight months since we've played together. And being in a studio is like being in a submarine. It's close quarters os if you're not focused, you sink."
If Fleetwood Mac was impressed with the White house turnout, it didn't show.
Among the White House types, it was apparent that life has been a little tense since Peter Bourne's resignation and Carter's warning to his staff that anyone caught with so much as a joint would be out in the cold. At one point, Chip Carter walked over to presidential adviser Kraft, who currently shares a Georgetown house with Jordan and political pollster Pat Caddell.
Grinning, Carter informed Kraft, "My old man told me I couldn't come over to your house anymore."
"No, he didn't," smiled Kraft.
"Yes, he did."
Carter did say, however, that since his father was elected, he has not smoked marijuana. "The risk is too great," he said, adding, "but I don't think there is a drug orientation in the White House anyway. There's a rock 'n' roll orientation. And I'm into rock 'n' roll. But don't necessarily equate drugs with rock 'n' roll."
All of the attention for Fleetwood Mac Tuesday night was obviously very pleasing to Ross, the silver-haired godfather of Warner Communications.
"All we have to do is have Fleetwood Mac and everyone in Washington shows up," laughed Ross, one of five Warner Brothers executives to fly in for the party. "Millions of politicians have called me about the band doing concerts for them, but I just give them Fleetwood Mac's number and let them decide. I guess when you have Fleetwood Mac, all you have to do is be audited."
Also contributing to this story was Art Harris.