Apologizing in advance for using the first person, there was no other way to cover the 15th anniversary of the victorious ride of the Lady Bird Special. I was the First Lady's Alabama hostess on that journey, and it was my first political solo assignment.
The Capital Hilton ballroom was alive in Democrats and nostalgia. Returning legends like Liz Carpenter, Muriel Humphrey, Wauhillau LeHay and Betty Talmadge caused cries of joy. The line of New Frontier faithful waiting to go down the receiving line wound down the corridor and into the lobby.
Lady Bird was in red, Muriel in a black Pucci print, Lyndia Bird Johnson Robb in teal chiffon, Luci Bains Johnson Nugent in black crepe, and Chuck was in a suit.
Leonard Marks, of the LBJ Old Guard ran the show and welcomed the bourbon-sipping and Texas-chili-dippin' throng "to the 15th anniversary of the greatest victory of the 20th Century" while holding aloft a headline announcing the 1964 Johnson victory.
As all the Johnson Days superstars stood before the backdrop of Lady Bird's campaign train, which chugged its way from Washington through the South to New Orleans, and as the former First Lady talked about "Lindin," my thoughts went back to the observation car platform of that storied train.
We were at Flomaton, Ala., and Lady Bird and I had to stand on Coca Cola crates to reach the mikes to make our speeches. Her fluffy coat matched the roses I gave her.
Thoses roses! Four dozen of them, and I had carried them since early that cold morning. But as the Alabama folks waited on a siding in Pensacola for the two-hour late train, it grew hotter and hotter, and so did I, in a wool dress, fur and gloves.
The heat grew to 85, and the weeds grew up my legs . . . there in the sun with four dozen roses. I looked like a hot, sweaty mourner hunging in vain for a funeral to attend!
But the ballroom wasn't much different from that long day . . . red, white and blue everywhere, balloons, chests and bosoms covered in LBJ and HHH buttons, old Democratic convention badges and wrinkled ribbons. Straw boaters and bonnets wrapped in LBJ-HHH scarves. Cardboard engineers caps. It's miraculous that so many had saved so much.
The whole night was an orgy of happy remembering when the "never were very greats" got to back slap and bend elbows with the "very greats who were," it was a wonderfully equalizing affair.
While Lady Bird and Muriel were billed as the stars, there was never a doubt as to who the REAL star was . . . none other than LBJ Himself!
How he would have loved it. Indeed, LBJ would rise up and run again if he could have seen the crowd and heard the cheers. And with the torn-up state of the Democrats right now, he would win!
Writer Warren Adler looked around the French Embassy and said, "There are a lot of French widows here tonight . . . lots of black . . . but they have that arrogant French look about them . . . over-chic." Over-sexed, too, maybe? "God, I hope so," replied Warren with feeling.
The gorgeous rooms glowed with gilt, candles, silk damasks and glittery guests. Ambassador de Laboulaye received with Madame (gowned in royal blue) as Friends of the Kennedy Center and the French Colony supped before attending the world premiere of the French-made movie of Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."
Rose Saul Zalles came with Adm. and Janet Dietrich . . . the ladies just having returned from a jaunt to Ireland and Spain. Rose is Irish Chairman of the International Fund for Monuments, working with Desmond Guinness, for whom she will host a dinner soon, when he drops over from saving Irish historic goodies.
While in Spain, they moved from the Ritz in Madrid to Countesss Aline Romanones' ancient Castle in Spain in Trujillo. Aline's sister, Peggy, married Ken Crosby there this summer, and the countess is visiting them presently.
A lady who created a stir was Evelyn Lambert, enveloped in a Tangerian, sweeping, trained tent of coral taffeta, bibbed in sequins, green glitter and coral beads. Her white hair was pulled into a super-tight top-knot.
"I am married to a very distinguished landscape architect named Joseph Olliphant Lambert," said Evelyn, "and I am presently on my around the world. We spend a few months of each year in Dallas and the rest in our 16th-century villa outsie of Vicenza across from the Villa Rotunda, where Joseph Losey made 'Don Giovanni' . . . in fact, he and his wife stayed in our house during the filming."
Warming to the subject, Evelyn added, "I speak all over to audiences on 'How To Raise Money Aimlessly" . . . I'm 72 and I want to move while I'm mobile, and I always travel on Dallas time."
Oatsie Charles was in that chic French black, with new exaggerated sleeves making a shoulder silhouette, which she laughingly described as "looking a bit draggie, doesn't it?"
Talking of her summer in Newport, Oatsie said, "All I did was to the funerals. It was too bad it got to be the only social thing one could do!"
With her were her stepson, Summer and wife Vicky and Susan Mary Alsop.
It was a grand evening at Evelyn and Sidney Zlotnick's elegant dinner table, when Secretary of the Treasury William Miller and wife, Ariadna, were the honored guests.
Among the guest were Supreme Court Justice and Mrs. Lewis Powell; Sen. Sam and Coleen Nunn; Sen. Nancy Kassebaum; Ambassador and Mrs. Faisal Alhegelan; bachelor Italian Ambassador Paolo Pansa Cedronio escorting the Princess Raspoli.
To his wife's declaration that she likes the Cabinet life much more than the isolated one of the Federal Reserve, which he formerly headed, and which she ended with, "I'm making friends right and left." Sec. Miller sagely added, "In the Treasury you need friends, right and left!"
Responding to questions about the U.S. sale of gold, Miller said, "The way things are going, we will be having gold sales like in Filene's basement." w
Host Sidney allowed as how he had been in a tizzy as to "whether to seat Sam Nunn above or below the salt."
The new Belgian ambassador, Raoul Schoumaker and his wife Cecile, are settling into the grand embassy residence on Foxhall, and report galdly that the pricelesss Aubuson carpets are back from cleaning and repairing, "and the colors are devine and jump out at your. My wife has rearranged the drawing room to show off the rugs. The new chef is coming in January, meanwhile everyone takes his turn at being cook on a rotating basis . . . everyone but me, and I absolutely refuse to cook!"
Mexico's Ambassador Hugo Margain walked proudly through the exhibit of Mexican caricaturist Jose Guadalue Posada's etching-art and said that, Michael Corrigan, the exhibit designer of the Library of Congress, had "done a magnificent job invoking the milieu of the times and conditions in which Posade lived."
Ron Tyler, acting director of the Amon Carter Museum, in Fort Worth, Tex., also its curator of history, came up to act as visiting curator for the show. Many of the Posadas were on loan from his museum, from collectors here and in Mexico and from the embassy here in Washington.