Somebody prompted his friends to cry "author, author," and sure enough, the author came forward. Peering over the lantern, he could hardly disguise his excitement.
"It is," said Theodore H. White, his eyebrows arching in that characteristic way he has, the eyes beneath them growing enormous behind their rimmed glasses, "a very, very good weekend to be back in Washington."
After 40 years and, more recently, 84 public appearances around the country hawking his newest book, "In search of History: A Personal Adventure," Teddy White was back in town.
And as coincidence would have it - so often the case of reporters like White with the enviable knack of being in the right place at the right time - it was "a time when someone has asserted American power again."
That White also was back again after deserting Jimmy Carter's campaign in 1976 to write, instead, a personal reflection of his own remarkable career, led to speculation among some guests. Would there be a "Making of the President 1980?" someone asked.
"Today the answer is yes," he began coyly, eyes alert for familiar faces in the receiving line at last night's publication party in the Sheraton-Carlton's Federal City Club. "Today is Tuesday, isn't it" No, I have no contract with anybody - I'll do what pleases me."
But to W. Averell Harriman, there was a candor that friendship generates. "I have," White confided, "one more campaign to go through, then I think I'll hang up my shirt."
There was no sign of it last night as he and his wife, Beatrice, joined Townsend Hoopes, president of the Association of American Publishers, and Simon Michael Bessie, senior vice president of Harper and Row, to welcome the 75 or so guests. Jimmy Carter's triumph at Camp David dominated most conversations.
"I wish I had a quip," White fretted between handshakes.
"Well, you could say 'little David was small but oh my,'" suggested Beatrice, laughing.
"No, no," White replied, not finding it funny. "It was like Moses coming from Mount Sinai and bringing the 10 Commandments." A little later, as writers will, he has rewritten it in his mind.
"The last great Sinai agreement was Moses' agreement with God," he said.
The raves for Carter ranged from out-and-out Democratic euphoria ("We thought the president ought to draw a little attention to himself," drawled Texan John White, Democratic National Committee chairman) to tongue-in-cheek Republican envy ("He couldn't have done it without my phone calls," said Henry Kissinger).
The historical view came from Harriman, who called it "one of the most extraordinary pieces of negotiation I have ever seen.
"The only thing that compares to it," Harriman continued, was "Teddy Roosevelt in 1905 and the Treaty of Portsmouth. He was responsibile for ending the Japanese-Russian war - one of the earliest things I remember because I was in Japan at the time."