Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"This is the biggest event in the gay community since Anita," said one gay partygoer standing in a line that spread from the elegant entrance of the Sheraton Park Hotel out to the winding driveway and then down Woodley Road to Connecticut Avenue Sunday night.
He was referring to the momentous night exactly (and only coincidentally) nine months ago when gay activists demonstrated while Anita Bryant, a vocal campaigner against homosexual rights, performed at a convention of religious broadcasters in Washington.
But Sunday night the tables were turned. It was a dance party featuring disco star Grace Jones, an incredibly lean, husky-voiced singer who wears skintight costumes and bares her teeth in fierce-looking snarls for photos.
"Everybody is here!" a 20-year-old college junior, who said she not gay, practically squealed as she danced around the ballroom floor. "Nobody is at any other club tonight!"
She may have been right. The gay Community Centerof D.C., in an efforts to raise money to lease and operate a central facility for the various gay organizations that make up its membership, sponsored the party and Grace Jones as a benefit fundraiser. According to the Community Center's Lyn Frizzell, the organization sold 4,000 tickets at $10 each.
The guests wandered through the ballroom, dancing together some men and women in make-up and costume, other looking collegiate in jeans and shirts, others in suits or floral dresses, attired as though they were out for Sunday night dinner.
"This thing has become an East Coast happening," said Frizzell, who signed Grace Jones for the event.
"We're hoping to lease a property for a Gay Community Center around Dupont Circle. It would be a central facility that would house gay clubs and organizations in the area. We hope that people can come to it thinking they have a home with a positive and wholesome atmosphere."
Among the predominantly gay crowd were many heterosexuals of all ages. "We go to a lot of gay clubs anyway," said the college junior. "People really kind out.They have the best music. We can dance together there without people thinking it's strange," she said as she spun her partner - was also said she not gay - around the floor.
"Somebody gave us the tickets," said a 48-year-old man in a dark suit, who came here from Milan 10 years ago. He sat next to his wife who smiled sweetly.
"They said 'Come to the disco.' So we come to the disco . . . It's nice," just dancing. It's nothing wild. If it were something wild it would bother me." His wife said they had visited other discos like The Apple Tree in Washington.
For many, Grace Jones was the main attraction. "The whole town has been talking about her," said a 28-year-old lawyer. "Then there was the poster, the radio promotions - all my friends are talking about it. Ever since I heard her album, I've been in love with her. She's sort of the female David Bowie."
"I've followed her for a while," said 20-year-old Brian Vance, a student at the Corcoran. "I really wanted to come and see her. Besides, where else can you wear plastic?" He looked down at his skin-tight see-though plastic pants that he wore with a sleeveless black leotard.
"I love Grace," said 22-year-old Michael Stokes, a computer programmer for a drug store chain, who wore a fur loincloth with fur boots and a string of belts running down the side of each of his legs. "She's wild and I'm wild."
Grace Jones' act is billed as "disco theater," and some of the guests were dressed accordingly. "Yesterday was my birthday," said a 24-year-old man wearing thick black false eyelashes and red lipstick, a tuxedo jacket, shirt and cummerbund with black stockings same month when 'A Star is Born' with Judy Garland was released. So I'm dressed up as Judy Garland in 'a Star is Born.'.
"I love to dance," he said. "But don't like disco. People are still thinking of discos as Saturday Night Fevers Disco is people dressing up and being someone else and getting lost in their fantasies. Disco is not polyester suits."
Shortly before 10 p.m. as the crowd still waited for Grace Jones to make her appearance, it was announced, that Marion Barry - the Democrationominee for mayor whom gays had supported practically as a bloc - had arrived. There was thunderous, prolonged applause, and the party continued.
"I was curious," said one well dressed straight woman. "Everybody, is being themselves. It's not often you get to see people on the other, side of the fence come out and mingle with all sorts of people. Everybody is having a good time. So it's cool."