REPORTERS getting all dressed up in austere black tie and acting like proper gentlemen is always news, but when you get acres of them doing this, plus playing host to the President, then you have the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner last Saturday night at the Washington Hilton.
In addition to the proper reporter gents in black tie, there were two ladies in tuxedos . . . with spindly, teetering high heels . . . and one was 'other's date . . . and she wore sexy black with sacks of rhinestones. Well, I thought that was interesting.
Fame is hideously fleeting in Washington, borne out by the fact that Ron Nessen, former White House NBC voice tapped by Ford for his press secretary, came in, stood around expectantly with nothing happening. Of course, he is very nearly incognito from his old TV days since moving behind a grizzled Van Dyke. From this vantage point, he sized up the new White House Group with what looked like rather grand disdain.
Ron is booking it these days with his own definitive tome on Ford Days in the WH, determined to refute Sheila Weidenfeld's inside poopery book on the Fords At Home. They have called each other everything but former press secretaries, which jolly well might be the most accurate things they haven't said according to the hard-news people who cover 1600.
National Public Radio's Frank Mankiewicz is bound to have trouble with his vision for weeks trying to adjust it from low beam to high beam after sharing a table with a lady, who was stupifyingly endowed and whose decolletage was cut so incredibly low, I decided it was only with the aid of Krazy Glue that she did not plunge into the cream of almond soup. Defying gravity as she did, she was absolutely the wonder of the evening, and the President came in a poor eighth in getting attention.
Other ladies were having great trouble managing the new surplice skirts. They kept forgetting to clutch at the parting of the ways upon sitting down and standing up, and before the evening was through, just about all had done a little flashing.
Being as it's after Easter, and it's supposed to be A Fashion Dictum that furs are tacky until September, it can be a problem what madame should wear on cool spring evenings. Looking around the Hilton ballroom erased any doubts, for there was not a piano in town left with a fringed shawl on it!
It was suggested in this evening of rare levity between the press and the President that a perfect retaliation for the President's taking away the press corps' West Executive Avenue parking places would be to take away Air Force One and make him fly Allegheny Airlines.
The President's new hair part was the main source of laughs all evening, even by him. By the end of the dinner, however, the subject thinned and became quite bald around the edges.
Junking the Chinese Food
It's not often that Chinese delicacies and Deep South pit barbecue vie for honors, but when Federal Reserve Board Governor Philip Jackson and Barbara had friends in for fun at their Kenwood home, that's exactly what happened. They have a live-in Chinese chef, who had worked for three days fixing his native good dishes.
Imagine his consternation when the boss flew back from his native Birmingham with a suitcase full of a famous Birmingham native dish . . . the inimitable Ollis'e pit barbecue . . . written up last year by barbecue aficionado, Vic Gold, as being the Mother Lode, the Porky Pig, the utter antithesis of the pits of the pit barbecue in the U.S.A.
Even Marshall Coyne, who has enough chef's at his El Swello Madison Hotel to fill up 15th Street curb to curb, had spasms over Ollie's barbecue.
Meeting of the Brotherhood
Let it be written that George McGovern is running, careful, early hopeful, pretty sure of winning and not sure, in the least, who his senatorial opponent will be in '80.
Those who gathered under the nominal hostship of Teddy Kennedy at the Italian In-plane Tiberio's last Sunday evening were black-tied, loyal, friendly, happy, impressed, magnificently fed, serenaded, speeched, wined, rosed, souvenired, and will eventually be lots poorer.
Teddy was there with sister-in-law, Ethel, and indeed he did lead off with a welcome and many fine words for George and Eleanor, and indeed he did bid everyone pick up his fork and fall to, but be not misled that Teddy picked up the chit.
Senators don't do that for each other. They do lend prestige and open support, when requested or required to, if they feel doing so will not become a liability.
Senators and their wives can be very good friends in private, but refuse to be caught dead at each others' political doings. It is always, world without end, constituent consciousness and SURVIVAL. Each understands his compatriot's demands from home, and never presses a friend to go out on a limb. The Senate Brotherhood was represented by the John Glenns, the Howard Metzenbaums, the Bennett Johnstons, Pete Williams' Jeanette, and the Robert Byrds . . . the Senate Majority Leader.
And you know who brought his fiddle, don't you? And you know who sawed and moaned untold verses of "Amazing Grace", don't you?And you know who's resigned to this fate for all future polit dinners, don't you? Yeah . . . the Democrats.
The place was crammed with Classy Richies, but no South Dakotans. Rene Carpenter (new husband but same name) was a snakey lady in a python print showing lots of creditable gam; looking aggravated and pettish, but super fashionable was Margot Hahn, who spoon fed Mrs. McG. through George's presidental campaign; and two of the sexiest looking guys in town, Bob Rosenthal and Henry Kimelman, caused hot flashes right and left.
Baroness Garnett Stackelberg greeted the Museum Phillipes, and Mrs. Hardware Hechinger puffed away elegantly on teeny weeny, pale, slender, filtered cigars. No . . . nobody had motored in from South Dakota.
Give Them a Break
The proper name for ladies who break bottles of champagne on the bows of ships, thereby christening them and giving them a proper name, is "sponsor." The ladies chosen as sponsors of the United States Navy ships of the line gather once a year at the Mayflower Hotel to glory in the fact that they are quite special ladies.
Being chosen to christen a Navy ship is a mixture of being tapped for the best sorority on campus, receiving a proposal of marriage from the most eligible man in town, and being asked to be a den mother for life. By the officers and men of "your ship," you are treated as a queen, very nearly an object of veneration, and have boarding privileges as long as you live.
You are treated like this IF you break that bottle on the first whack! If not, then you have personally invited the wrath of the Sea Gods to be visited upon the ship forever and a day. Ladies have been known to swoon with vast relief when the champagne shot out in all directions. Bess Truman never did break her bottle, and it had to be thrown at the ship as it slid down the ways!
Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, chief of Naval Operations, as the Society of Sponsors' luncheon speaker, was illustrating his wonder with a report of being flown by a woman navy helicoper pilot, who "actually found the ship we were looking for, landed on board, and got back" . . . then capping that with "having seen them (women) disassemble complicated pieces of equipment and wonder of wonders, put them back together and they work?"
May the Irish Way
Mayday (La Bealtaine) was observed at the Embassy of Ireland, when Press Secretary Con Howard served some liquid refreshment for several members of the Washington Press Club, who are leaving May 18 for a group visit to the Emerald Isle.
According to the embassy, Irish legend has it that "the Celts began in Iran and no doubt made a notable contribution to the Tower of Babel."
The first of May was also a time, the Irish say, for beginning new ventures especially marriage, with temporary or yearly marriage ending just before Mayday and new arrangements entered into.
Money and Minds Meet.
Oh, yes, and oh, my . . . it was truly the Big Time at the Wednesday General Motors Cancer Research Awards Program and dinner held at the State Department.
It was a case of Super Science Laureates speaking only to Chairmen of the Super Blue Chip Boards . . . only the Chairmen speaking only to Isaac Stern and God.
There was so unspeakably much mega-money and bountiful brains represented in the Benjamin Franklin Dining Room, it was literally beyond belief. There's just no telling how many corporate jets were waiting, tip tank to tip tank at Page Aviation!
GM Cancer Research Foundation presented its first annual awards to Henry S. Kaplan, M.D., Stanford, (Kettering Prize); Sir Richard Doll, M.D. Oxford (Mott Prize); and George Klein, M.D., Karolina Institute, Stockholm, (Sloan Prize).
Isaac Stern played gorgeously with the N.Y. String Orchestra and spoke after dinner with his specs quaintly pushed up on his head. An amazing artist in that he never seems to display egotism.
Beauteous Anne Armstrong was in town . . . she's a Foundation board member . . . and was in dashing black and white with sparkles and a shoulders spray of diamonds.
Deeda Blair brought the only obvious couture touch . . . but then you'd drop dead if she didn't look like she's just cleaned out YSL!
There were a few oldish, recycled, classic Pucci prints, and it seemed as though corporate wives from the Executive Suites tend to much, much floaty chiffon.
The cancer research people had assembled from all over the globe, and for the sake of all humanity, we wish them the finest and the greatest.
And how proud we can be the worldwide guests could meet in Clem Conger's magnificent Diplomatic Reception Rooms . . . among the greatest collection of American antiques extant.
Honoring the Honorable
Washington's former Mayor Walter Washington, now titled "Honorable," was honored, indeed, by his new law firm with a splashy reception at the Madison. The receiving line was a block long, made a bit uncomfortable by unrelenting camera lights.
Just Everyong was there . . . Sen. Pat. Leahy of Vermont; from business, John Stadtler, William Calomoris and Bud Doggett; from education, President James Cheek of Howard University and Dean and Mrs Wiley Branton of Howard Law School, Dr. Margaret Hall, the only female department (sociology) head at Georgetown University with her international lawyer husband . . . economist Robert Nathan, Robert Cole, the Robert LeBarons, other from the legal community, the Senate, House and many layers in between . . . CAPTION: Picture 1, Ted Kennedy; Picture 2, George McGovern; Picture 3, Anne Armstrong; Picture 4, Walter Washington