Inside, it seemed like Versailles: French tapestries of the huntress Diana, marble floors, a seductive candle glow. Outside, earlier, was the real world that permeated the Irish prime minister's dinner for Vice President Mondale last night: U.S. students with signs that cried "Free the Americans," abrupt and angry reminders of the worsening Iranian crisis.
"It's very unfamiliar," said Jack Lynch, the prime minister, "that the American government can't make an impact on this situation. It's very sad for democracy."
About 150 congressmen, ambassdors, White House sorts, socialites, Irish-Americans and Irish groupies assembled under the crystal chandeliers at Anderson House.
The talk, except for an occasional foray into Irish designers and will-Jimmy-or-Teddy-win, was Iran.
"Absolutely disgraceful," said Peter Jay, the former British ambassador.
"Giving overriding priority to the hostages in the American Embassy is the right thing to do," said Rep. John Brademas (D-Ind.).
"I can't comment," said Mondale, who was probably the one around who knew the most. "Very delicate situation."
Lloyd Cutler, the president's special counsel, didn't comment, either. Instead he would produce, with little prodding, a copy of a statement that American families of hostages made at the State Department yesterday.
This greatly impressed those standing nearby. "This is teriffic," said Mary Ann Stewart, wife of the Supreme Court justice, who put on her glasses to read it. "It's so moving."
Not everyone talked crisis. Publisher Austin Kiplinger, for instance, talked fashion. "I think that was a bedspread once," he said, pointing to his wife's Irish lace blouse. His wife, Gogo, replied that it was by Irish designer Mary O'Ddonnell, who found the material in a creepy old attic somewhere.
A lot of senators of Irish stock were around, like George McGovern, the Democrat from South Dakota.
"About half the McGovern clan came from Leitrim County in Ireland, which is about halfway between Galway Bay and Donegal Bay," he said in justifying his presence at the party.
Ethel Kennedy, who wore green, said she hoped she wasn't invited because of her marriage into the Irish Kennedy clan, but rather "because I'm beautiful."
She then made her way into the crowd gathered in the marble, tapestried gallery that could have held Louis XIV and his powdered, perfumed entourage.
And was she looking for Teddy votes? "I certainly hope so," she replied.
Soon after, the receiving line formed in what was called The English Room, which consisted of more marble, more chandeliers and oil paintings of well-fed women like Lady Browning, Lady Cockburn and Anne Brudenell, the Countess of Shrewsbury.
After that came dinner. This took some time, since it was five courses of soups and fish and veal and so forth.
Then, the speeches. "To the warm and enuring frienships between our two nations," said Mondale. Everybody else said "slainte," which is Gaelic for "good health."