Leonard Bernstein conducted the U.S. Army Band at Monday night's entertainment for Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiae-ping at Kennedy Center. Yesterday's editions incorrectly reported that he had conducted the Marine Band.
It had to happen. Weeks of the most careful planning possible could not assure even the president's state dinner would run according to schedule. Everything was a little lats.
There was a television audience waiting, but they just had to wait.
The gala entertainment given in honor of Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping and his colleagues was scheduled to begin last night in the Kennedy Center's Opera House at 9 p.m., with public television stations across the country ready to pick up the live broadcast.
But at 9:10 producer George Stevens stepped to the microphone and told the audience -- which was practically wall-to-wall VIPs: "The anticipation for this event has been building for two weeks. It appears it is going to have to build for another 15 minutes."
"You know what's going to happen now," said one woman, "this will turn into one big cocktail party."
And that's more or less what happened. With senators, members of Congress, Cabinet officers, presidential aides, diplomats and socialites as well as the less familiar faces of the international business community greeting and hugging and kissing each other and chatting in the aisles until the president and his party arrived, the sea of tuxedos, siks and furs, did seem to have turned into one big mixer.
Fortunately, it didn't last long, and by 9:30 the president and Teng arrived in the presidential box.
Teng applauded the audience and Carter. Carter applauded. Everybody applauded everybody else. Teng waved to the crowd. Carter waved to the crowd. They held hands a lot in the style of prizefighters, and the downbeat for the Chinese National Anthem got under way.
In general, the performance communicated a spirit of zest and enthusiasm, from the virtuoso tap-dancing of Gregory and Maurice Hines from the musical "Eubie" to the flawless artistry of pianist Rudolf Serkin and the zaniness of the Harlem Globetrotters playing tricks with a basketball to the accompaniment of "Sweet Georgia Brown."
At the end, the president, his wife Rosalynn, and Teng joined the entertainers on stage for a round of mutual congratulations.
Even the people who introduced each act, who were described as Americans who had visited China, were applauded. Architect I. M. Pei said, as did most everyone, "I share the excitement of this moment when historical changes are happening between our two countries."
Singer John Denver, dressed in embroidered black satin, attempted to speak a few words of Chinese, interspersed with his rather high-pitched giggles. And actress Shirley MacLaine, who told Teng that her visit to China in 1973 inspired her to go back to dancing and return to the stage for the "first time in 20 years," added, "I would like to thank you for that and also ask if acupuncture helps arthritis."
MacLaine introduced the Joffrey Ballet which performed "Rodeo," a modern dance ballet considered uniquely American because of its cowboy theme, its American choreographer Agnes DeMille and its American composer Aaron Copland.
One mark of status apparent at the highly exclusive gala was whether you sat in the orchestra or one of the upper balconies. Virginia Sen. John W. Warner and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, for example, had to hop it up two flights, while members of Congress of the majority party sat smugly downstairs. "What did you do to get a seat behind the camera?" asked Sen. Donald Riegle (D-Mich.) of presidential pollster Pat Caddell. "I don't know," Caddell answered, "This could be a real signal of something."
Many women in the audience were dressed with a Chinese flavor. Everywhere there were brocades, mandarincollared tops and silk and satin versions of Chinese dress. Most of the Chinese women, however, were dressed in simple, even mannish suits, with only an occasional flash of color to indicate a celebratory costume.
In another haberdashery note, the Harlem Globetrotters apparently wanted to give Teng a Globetrotter T-shirt but were discouraged by a production official who was afraid the other acts would feel bad if Teng didn't have their T-shirts too. Teng appeared to react animatedly to the Globetrotters' performance, which was said to come as a surprise addition to the program for the basketball-loving Teng.
The president thanked the performers and said, "There could be no better way to demonstrate the diversity of our catalytic culture." Teng kissed some of the angelic-looking members of the National Children's Choir, 80 of whom had closed the show by singing a Chinese song, "I Love Tien-An-Men Square," in Chinese.
Before the performance began, several hundred spectators formed a double line down the Hall of States and the Grand Foyer at the Kennedy Center to ogle the celebrities coming in. A few of the bystanders might have been diehard Maoists looking for trouble -- but if so, they found none.
Two of them were dressed in the uniform of a revoljtion 10 years dead: cast-off clothing that looked like it came straight from a Goodwill store.
Their faces were painted white, they wore Yippie buttons, and one of them kept repeating slogans in a slightly raised voice. "We're just going to walk around until we find a place where we can't go and then we won't go there," he said.
Nobody paid much attention -- least of all the Secret Servicemen, who were numerous but not very busy.
Otherwise, the crowd was purely middle-American fans hoping to glimpse Jimmy Carter, Teng Hsiaoping, Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger in the flesh. There were many more people with cameras than with press credentials, but the cameras saw relatively little action.
Nixon and Kissinger did not come to the Kennedy Center, and Carter and Teng entered by an inscrutable route chosen by the Secret Service. Besides assorted and unidentified people in black Mao jackets, the crowd had to be satisfied with glimpses of such celebrities as Hamilton Jordan, Jody Powell and Leonard Bernstein, all of whom slipped past almost unnoticed.
Applause was also given to Bernstein, but not as he was running the gantlet of spectators -- only later when he went over to the Marine Band, which had been playing marches in the Grand Foyer, and led them in a suite from "West Side Story."
When Bernstein left and the band began "Stars and Stripes Forever," the crowd of spectators began to break up. "I'm going home," said one woman, "I'd rather watch 'Rodeo' on television than stand here."
There must have been at least a few empty seats inside, however. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for one, walked out briskly on some mysterious errand before the performance was ended.
A strolling string trio provided music, primarily show tunes and popular hits of yesteryear, for a glittering assemblage of Washington's social and political elite in the Atrium foolowing the gala performance.
Some 1,500 formally garbed guests regaled themselves with a variety of crepes, babas au rhum and cocktails that ranged from Dubonnet to bourbon on the rocks.
Performers from the gala rubbed elbows with corporate executives, White House staffers, and some of the most powerful office holders on Capitol Hill.
Many of the executives were armed with business cards printed in both English and Chinese and were clearly interested in the new market that has opened in China, particularly since the death of Mao Tse-tung and the liberalization of attitudes toward the West.
"There's so much euphoria floating around that it's horrible," said Stanley Young, vice president of the National Council for U.S.-China Trade, which picked up the tab for the reception. "We had 441 members at the end of October; today, there are over 500, and applications are still pouring in. Now we're trying a soft-sell approach telling them that China is not for everyone.
"It's not really a consumer market; right now it's a market for capital investment and development. The Coca-Cola contract is misleading a lot of people; for the immediate future, the people who will be drinking Coca-Cola in China will mostly be tourists."
Two executives who are already old hands in trading with the new China are Donald Bixby and Donald Reed, both of the Delaval Turbine Ink Corp. in New Jersey. "We've got lots of machinery in China already," said Bixby, "88 pieces of machinery operating right now in the People's Republic."
"Dealing with the Chinese," said Bixby, "you're dealing with a group, and it's hard to know which individual is making the decisions, if it is one individual."
On a more esthetic level, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell said, "I thought the show was great, and I think everyone enjoyed it. Four or five of the Chinese were sitting in front of me and they seemed to be having a very good time. They applauded a lot and I don't think they were just being polite."
What the applause meant may become clear later.