The point of the evening was campaign money. As a result, the candidate's sister-in-law, for one, was just looking, thank you.
"I'm so cross I can't get one," said Ethel Kennedy last night as she studied a new Jamie Wyeth $1,000 lithograph of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and two larger-than-life Andy Warhol serigraphs of the senator. One was priced at $750, and the other deluxe red, white and blue model cost $2,000. "But," continued Mrs. Kennedy, "I've already given -- I gave at the office."
Campaign laws being what they are, giving at the office -- or anyplace else, for that matter -- tends to limit the salability of such pricey campaign likenesses. Ethel Kennedy, like others, had already given her $1,000 maximum.
Her frustration, though, was apparently shared by few, because only two of the works were purchased by anybody in the crowd of about 200. And it was not because the supply was short.
First unveiled in New York last week, the campaign art works could add some $600,000 to Kennedy's lagging coffers if all are sold. But at the Fendrick Gallery in Georgetown last night where the Washington unveiling was held, Kennedy supporter Joe Rauh may have summed up what will be a dilemma for others like him around the country:
"How do you buy them if you've already given all you can?"
The majority of last night's lookers were drawn from the gallery's regulars and weren't necessarily Kennedy supporters.
Gallery owner Barbar Fendrick said she lent the Kennedy campaign office her mailing list -- "normally I don't do that" -- because she thought the Warhol serigraphs were very good and last night's unveiling a nice way to show them to her customers.
Nor did her hospitality mean she is a Kennedy supporter. "Oh, no," she said, "not at all. I won't say what my politics are."
If money was absent, so was the old Kennedy bravado. First to arrive was the candidate's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who thought the Wyeth, depicting Kennedy striding into the wind, showed "real determination -- a terrific campaign picture."
On campaign specifics, like who he thought could win which primaries, Shriver, himself a former candidate for national office, was less than specific.
"Really," he finally apologized, "I'm not trying to hold back on anything but I just got out of the hospital, and really, I haven't been out the way my wife or daughter have."
Next to arrive was the candidate's sister, Shriver's wife Eunice, who voiced confidence that Kennedy will win Massachusetts and then added that "it's not easy facing any incumbent."
"Oh, I know," she said of reports that Carter campaign aides predict that Kennedy will be knocked out of the race after the March 25 New York primary. "I hear how they're going to knock teddy out after every primary. What really makes Teddy stick in there is that people are getting the message."
She downplayed Kennedy's other ongoing battle, the one against a dwindling money supply that led his campaign manager, Stephen Smith, yesterday to announce new austerity measures.
"Oh, all the candidates are doing it," Eunice Shriver insisted, mentioning "Reagan and, well, everybody. I think that's the way to compare what Teddy's doing -- not with what the president is doing."
A mystery face in the predominantly arts-crowd turnout was that of a Dutchman rumored to be the highest-paid soccer player in the world.
"That's what they say," said the Diplomats' newest aquisition, Johann Cruyff, of a reported $1 million contract, "but I don't know. I didn't see the other contracts."
As for a Warhol serigraph or a Wyeth lithograph, Cruyff, a supporter of the Kennedy family's Special Olympics, was uncertain whether he might buy. Told they were for sale, he replied: "So I understand."
But at least one prominent Washingtonian supporter of Kennedy, Joe Rauh, who says he will be a delegate for him at the convention, was speaking openly about the problems of the Kennedy campaign.
"What I really feel is that people are going to wake up and see we're got two Replublicans running - a nice f iery Republican Reagan and a nice passive Carter. It's a question of time," said Rauh.
"Do we have time," asked his wife, Olie.
"I never thought I'd welcome the day when Gerald Ford came in," Rauh continued. "But he'd be a more suitable president. I wish he would come in."