Elizabeth Taylor Warner, wrapped in a purple shawl, posed in front of a wall hanging at the Museum of African Art. The photographers clustered around her motioned for her husband, the newly elected senator from Virginia, to join her.
"Oh, you don't need me," said John Warner, to laughter from the crowd.
Last night was not exactly the "small media event honoring Sen. and Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor" that cartoonist Garry Trudeau referred to in his comic strip, "Doonesbury," this week. But it was, as Trudeau would call it, "the opening salvo."
Had Elizabeth Taylor Warner read "Doonesbury"?
"In the comics?" she asked coolly. "Well, I read 'Peanuts' and 'Andy Capp' and that's about it."
Warner laughed heartily. "I think everyone is reading it. I think political satire is essential. It's just that some of the facts (in the strip) are totally false and inaccurate. Oh, I'm not going to pick them out. The people of Virginia know the facts."
As for his wife, he said, "She was troubled by the one today because she knows the true story of that."
Last night's reception, Warner said, was the couple's first official appearance since the election.
It was a reception to celebrate the "closing" -- that's right -- of an exhibit of crafts from the southern African country of Botswana. The exhibit of handmade dolls and baskets with intricately woven designs opened at the museum Nov. 9. But Elizabeth Taylor Warner, who has contributed money to build health clinics in Botswana and spoke passionately on the subject last night, could not come then.
So the museum held a closing. "Instead of just inviting her down to see it," said museum director Warren Robbins, "we thought we'd have a few people in." Those people were mainly ambassadors from African countries, State Department officials and "friends" of the museum. Most had also been to the opening.
"Cute way to get us here," Roscoe Dellums, the wife of California Rep. Ronald Dellums, said softly with a laugh to Robbins.
"I also think she deserves thanks for what she's done," said Robbins, "and people should know it."
"We are greatly honored to have Sen. and Mrs. Warner here tonight," said Botswana Ambassador Bias Mookodi. She saw that "there was much suffering" in Botswana's northwest, he said.
As Warner watched with the other guests, his wife received a bouquet of flowers. Her face was solemn as she spoke.
She told how, on a tour of Botswana several years ago, she found peace and serenity at a time in her life when she was depressed. She also saw a man shot and nearly die because of a lack of nearby medical facilities. Both she and Warner later contributed money to the government for the building of health clinics.
She was reminded that she had remarried Richard Burton on that trip to Botswana and had promised to sell a large jewel for money for a Botswana hospital. "That was a long time ago," she said. "My plan was always to build small clinics in areas where they have no facilities. I am going to sell the stone. I never wear it. And the proceeds will go to more clinics."