SOMETIMES Mother's Day is not too comforting for Ol'mom Types, no matter how many pairs of bedsocks, granny gowns and corset covers you get from your Children Types. It has a rather tacky way of remaining you that you are no longer the wasp-waisted, laughing, unlined golden girl of yore.
And so it was that four of us set out rather rebelliously to celebrate Our Day in Our Way. And if one is determined to be rebellious and cavalier, one just might as well do it with eclat. . .right?
If zooming off in Television Lady Deena Clark's Mercedes 600 Limousine (only 24 on this earth) with Mr. Johns at the controls and footmen fore and aft ain't having rebellious eclat, then I don't care to have any.
Deena, Hope Ridings Miller, Judy (Mrs. Sen. Malcolm) Wallop, your columnist and retinue sallied forth to Winchester, deep in Virginia's apple and hunt country, to join the happy throng at Sen. Harry and Gretchen Byrd's beautiful "Courtfield" for their annual May luncheon of fried chicken, Virginia ham, crabmeat and the legendary Byrd Family strawberry shortcake.
On the road through tonier-than-thou Middleburg and Upperville, we toasted our own marvelousness many times, and blabbed to each other every single solitary thing we knew, surmised, assumed and guessed at from every single imaginable, totally impeachable source.
Host Harry set the fashionable tone for the gents with navy, gold-buttoned blazer and yellow pants. Several others chose crimson pants . . . and there were also whites, stripes and creams. The men were the peacocks of the day. . .
Gretchen's menu each year carries on the exact same one served for to those many years by the late Senator and Mrs. Harry F. Byrd the Elders, when they had their friends from Washington and from adjoining estates. The shortcake surely sprang straight from the brain of the god of Calories.
With a great house, sumptuous food and Byrd hospitality, it's not too hard to have a great houseparty, but just how many people are set up to have such a great car party? Nobody but Deena, who could bottle and sell her own brand of girl-magic if she felt like it.
We could also sell tapes of our conversation! It was suggested we should have stuffed our gift corset covers in our months . . . not a kind, sensitive, suggestion at all . . . not on Mother's Day.
The feeling of great expectations on the opening night of the Kennedy Center's "Romantic Epoch" May 15 were joyfully evident from the subterranean parking levels to the blockslong corridor. Everyone came knowing it was a special, special evening . . . it seemed that Paris, with all its magic light, was sharing its very heart with Washington.
Symphony, ballet, drama and films were presented by France's Finest . . . and if there was a Frenchman in all of Washington who was not present and babbling away in patriotic joy, then it was because they were totally disabled and could not be moved! Excited, prideful French sounded from every quarter . . . and it was amazing how many people had flown from France just for this wonderful occasion, so long in the planning.
The chorus, which accompanied the Orchestre de Paris, is a good example. These are all amateurs who just adore singing and they took their annual holidays en masse to be able to come to Washington to sing four great choral studies with the orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The French Government picked up their traveling tab, which amounts to a cool million.
They were glorious, however, and worth every franc. They could have gotten by without singing another decent note after singing the "Marseilaise," their national anthem. Everyone had goose bumps big as quarters on them and tears in their eyes when they finished!
Having always been a groupie about conductors, and after minute study as he simply tore up the orchestra leading them through the intracacies of "The Damnation of Faust," which the orchestra, in turn, tore up rather splendidly, I do herby pronounce Barenboim to be a positively sexy HUNK of a conductor.
Furthermore, he is only 36; most elegant; dramatic on the podium as at least five hours of soap opera (and if Faust isn't fodder for the soaps, then what is? . . . it just might have been the first one!); is gracious too, even SMILES at his players; gives musical credit where due; and brandishes his tiny baton with undisguised relish.
I found the faces of the Frenchies on stage just wondrous to watch, particularly the women. French women hae such great faces . . . so expressive, so knowing . . . so . . . so . . . how you say . . . French, maybe . . . No?
Mercy, I left out how Barenboim can turn pages! It won't do for a conductor to just turn a page over . . . he has to TURN a page . . . ready snap it over . . . even sling it, when the heat of battle is upon him. Lots can be told about a fellow by how he conducts and turns the pages of the score. Lots.
One is forced to address certain social problems from time to time. . .such as Rules being violated. Which brings us to what are we going to do about Rules for Wearing Tails, friends? Please, notice I did not say "White tie and tails," for Things have gotten to such a mess that black ties are being donned with tails. . .and I honestly hate to go on with this, knowing how it will unnerve you. . .tails with tuxedo shirts, cummerbunds, both black and white, and both black tie and white tie.
For the sake of humanity these atrocities MUST cease. Rules are Rules, you know, and since cavemen began to cover their nakedness, male symphony orchestra members have worn tails with stiff bosomed tail shirts, wing collar, white tie and white waistcoat. Anything else, as Mammy said to Scarlett, "ain't fittin'". . .and that's that.
The only minus for Barenboim was that his tail pants were belled, but only slightly. That can be fixed. But the Boys in the Band!. . . They were unresplendant in tail coats, tux shirts (soft) black cummerbunds and black ties. The principal singers wore tails, tux shirts, black cummerbunds and white ties. The Chorus, bless their hearts, were properly clad in tux with correct accessories.
Our National Symphony Orchestra members also look like fugitives from a Rent-A-Tux fire sale when they go on stage. It's time for audiencese to hiss and boo.
But if they did, the orchestra jolly well might hiss and boo right back, for going to a concert nowadays is rather like going to Yankee Stadium . . . you'll see everything from black crepe golfer dresses of the militantly dowdy school of design to super smart theater suits straight from a designer's posh salon.
Take the K.C. Opening Night, for example . . . hideous, polyester pant-suits; 300 pound ladies in 17,000 yards of neon ruffles; white mink, el fake-ofur, chinchilla; enough chiffon to tent the Grand Corridor; Roman collars, nuns' coifs; wretched rayon jersey garbs straight from Lerner's basement; caftans of every hue and size; 200 Diane Von Furstenberg copies; rippling pleated skirts and too-tight ones cupped under too many fannies; slobs in T-shirts with Camel cigs rolled in the sleeves; orange suits, mustard shirs, red flowered ties.
The thing is. . . can't a happy medium be achieved? It used to be that WHERE one sat dictated WHAT one wore. T-shirts cheek-by-jowl with tuxedoes look weird. It wouldn't hurt to dress up just a little to go partake of glorious entertainment, would it?
The orchestras have become hodgepodge, but maybe they would straighten up and get their tails right, if they could look out and at least see coats on all the men. Standards . . . Rules . . . Traditions . . . they DO matter! If nothing else, they make life prettier, and we could sure stand some of that.
And something prettier than pretty . . . in fact, downright divine, was the after-theater party given by French Ambassador and Madame de Laboulaye at their country's embassy residence.
A thousand guests were invited, and thank heavens, they didn't all arrive at once . . . thanks to the staggered endings of the three French performances.
The reception rooms are always magnificent with their exquisite French decor, furniture and Impressionist paintings, but they were largely ignored for the party tents, which encompassed the rear of the mansion. Tent poles were entwined with flowers; champagne flowed like white water through a canyon, tables were lavish with incredibly beautiful food; bejeweled ladies swished their flowered chiffons over the green velvet grass; laughter was in the air; gentlemen sprang to wait upon ladies; waiters waited; barmen barred; ambassadors ambassed; French was Frenched even if, by some, far from fluently and even brokenly. You could just say that the de Laboulayes plum over-partied themselves!
Several hundreds of America's most giving and contributing citizens gathered at the Capital Hilton last weekend for the first International Conference on "The Role of the American of Italian Heritage in the 1980s."
Coming from Turin, Italy, to personally represent his cosponsoring foundation was Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat, who has promised a huge amount of his foundation's annual budget to proposed US. projects of awakening Italian Americans to their great potential as a viable force in every imaginable field.
Understandably, Agnelli was the star of the show. Anywhere in the world he goes, he enjoys the status of at least a movie star, what with the aura of his mega-wealth, his tanned, eagle-like face, those shrewd, cautious eyes, the slightly stooped lean of his tall, wiry body, the crisply curling, silver hair.
The European Kidnappers must spend endless hours plotting how to make off with Agnelli, salivating over the handsome ransom he would bring, but the Agnelli secret service makes the U.S. branch look to their laurels in the body-protecting department.
The National Italian American Foundation is led by two men who know first hand what the potential of Italian descent Americans can be. . .Chairman Jeno F. Paulucci of Chun King and Geno's fame . . . and former Massachusetts governor, former secretary of Transportation, former ambassador to Italy John A. Volpe, president.
This immigrant's son heads an international construction company, which has made him several times a millionaire.
Of course, one of the conference's concerns is that Italian Americans are at times viewed as a race of gun-toting bandits, or at best, as violence-prone good guys, portrayed all too graphically by "Godfather," Fonzie, "Baretta," and several decades of old Warner Bros. gang flicks.
This is hardly fair, when you consider the national track record of the Italian-descent leaders in America, in every field one can imagine . . . from banking to baseball.
At the concluding dinner at which Vice President Mondale was the speaker, there was a super-achieving ride running through the assemblage that would have done Caesar himself proud. Like the South, the Roman Empire - American Style, is bound to Rise Again!
The National Symphony did something a little different last week in that only the "mice" played while the "cat" was away whooping it up in Mexico.
In an all-Schubert program, the orchestra's string quartet played in the Ken Cen's Concert Hall, becoming a quintet when Maestro Rostropovich joined them after intermission for the Quintet in C Major, which features a second cello, the maestro's favorite instrument.
The rest of the orchestra is in Mexico concertizing and will leave from there on their first Rostropovich international tour. Their leader and the quartet left the day after the Schubert program to join the main body, plus many bigie Board and Sym Supporters Mex-ing with them South of the Border.
The Corcoran Gallery's fabulous "Pagannini Strads" were used by the quartet, and are so called, of course, because they were Pagannini's own collection instruments created by Antonio Stradivari, Anna Clark, wife of the late Sen. William A. Clark of Montana, gathered these priceless instruments together again after they had become scattered at the time of Pagannini's death, and then bequeathed them to the Corcoran in 1966.
Their collective sound is miraculous. CAPTION: Picture 1, At top, Daniel Barenboim; Picture 2, and at right, John Volpe. Right photo by AP; Picture 3, left, Harry Byrd; left pho* to by Linda Wheeler-The Washington Post