The weather Saturday afternoon was bright and sunny and unseasonably perfect. Comedian Mark Russell took a look outside from the National Press Club bar and said, "We all might as well be inside on a day like today."
Inside, David Waters, who served 21 years in the State Department - many of them as assistant chief of protocol under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - and is now in public relations, was being give a 54th birthday party by a group of friends.
Russell calls Waters, an artist and one-time actor, one of the funniest men in Washington. Say Waters, "The most important thing in life is a laugh, and they are hard to come by."
A sample from Saturday's party:
Russell's characterization of James Michener's new novel "Chesapeake" as "'Hawaii' with crabcakes."
Russell, speaking of Waters' work with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, said his job was changing the Pinto's image: "He suggested they call it the Hindenburg, and like the Parkay commercial the guy drives along, opens the glove compartment, and shouts into it, 'Hindenbur!' and a little voice comes out saying, 'Pinto!'"
A bagpiper, Gregory O'Brian, playing "The Wearing of the Green" as Waters pipe-danced to the mike to remark about his job in protocol: "Twenty-one years in the federal establishment as an actor - the people who take themselves so seriously will not admit they are in a sense actors."
Raised in the 42nd Ward of Chicago in a political atmosphere, Waters began his career as a sculptor and painter at the Chicago Art Institute.
If acting was necessary for his later career, Waters started early, as a partner in a comedy act called Barry and Kay. "I don't know where the name came from. We played at the Elks Hall and Legion conventions and picked up $500 a show.My partner had a good voice and he would sing 'Dance Ballerina Dance' and I would wear a mop for hair, long underwear and a phony tutu. We got four encores, so what the bell."
Waters' painting talent took him to NBC where he tried to be a set designer, but couldn't get into the union. He ended up an assistant producer on shows such as "Kukla, Fran & Ollie," "Zoo Parade," public affairs and news with John Chancellor, the "Dave Garroway Show." In 1954 he produced and directed a half-hour show for then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and was asked to come to Washington as his TV adviser.
Waters became known as a can-do man with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
His talk of presidents and people in charge is first-hand:
"Dulles, straight rye whiskey. He would stir it with his finger and lick the finger. He was a wonderful man. It was just his choice of friends."
He remembers President Johnson standing at the Taj Mahal and letting out a loud Texas yodel; Truman at the age of 81 asking him to do his impersonation of JFK at the Mayflower Hotel; then Truman doing his of radio commentator H. B. Kaltenborn.
Waters, who has had several shows of his painting and sculpture, has donw busts on John Kennedy, Dean Rusk and Dulles. He attempted one of Nixon but said he "couldn't finish."
The Kennedy bust was done after Waters and been awake for 72 hours working on funeral arrangements. "I got back home and couldn't sleep, he said" "I was angry at a society who could knock off a president. I went home and into my studio and worked for 2 1/2 hours, somehow trying to bring him back to life."
With a friend he carried the bust to the Senate Office Building to present to Bobby Kennedy. "David, I don't know what to say," Kennedy remarked. "There is only one thing that matters. He didn't have that much flesh under his chin."
The bust is now at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Rutherford, N.J.
If kids had kept a good close record of the giveaways and penny-purchase offers they collected, they might own a few inches of oil-rich land in Canada, a piece of Old Ironsides and a few orphans.
Having invested wisely in all three as a schoolboy, but never having been able to cash in on one, I decided to find out just what my holdings were worth today.
Old Ironsides is long gone, though our pennies were to save it from extinction. The only kickback our class received was a large colored print of the ship.
We all know what happened to those orphans the nuns had urged us to save.
So the only thing left to investigate was the land I owned in the Yukon.
It was 1955 when Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his trusty dog King were solving all sorts of crimes and the people at Quaker Oats, the sponsors of the show, decided to unleash their promotion.
They dispatched two trusty men out into the silds of the Yukon to search for land.
They found and bought 19 acres of land for $10,000 along the Yukon River. The acreage is surrounded by places with old gold-rush names like Tombstone Mountain, Klondike River, Bear River, and the town of Forty Mile.
The Quaker Oats people formed the Big Inch Land Co., and the 19 acres were sectioned off in inches, numbered and 21 million deeds were dropped into cereal boxes. One inch per box.
Most people put the deed away as a souvenir except for one man who advertised in newspapers and collected 10,500 deeds.
The years after the original promotion scheme he figured he had about 70 square feet of land and told the Quaker Oats Co. he was ready to take over "his land."
The deeds were not in sequence and the great land grab figgled out. Now for the rest of us:
If any holder of a deed plans to drive up to take a look at his inch or two of land, remeber that the roads are closed during the winter.
And in case there is someone holding a deed who thinks that oil or gold might be discovered they should know that the Canadian government holds the mineral rights.