In Monday's Style section, the hosts of a party held after the annual Gridiron Club dinner were incorrectly reported. The party was hosted solely by The Detroit News.
Jimmy Carter stayed home, but then, he doesn't get around much these days. As his campaign chairman explained, "If you'd just been home for 133 days with your wife and kids, you'd want to spend your first night out with the Gridiron Club?"
That was Bob Strauss, who was the funniest and wickedest among the roasters at the 95th annual Gridiron Dinner Saturday night. Or at least that's what Gridiron members and guests decided afterward, squeezed white tie and tails-to-tail into hot Capital Hilton party suites.
"It was Bob Strauss by a nose," said one guest. "George Bush was a close second."
A sample of Bush's monologue which roasted its own deliverer for rich-kid elitism: "Back in 1936, there was this big snow. And the chauffeur for my brother and me was the only one who made it to school."
But after Bush's funny ones, he spoke seriously about his campaign. "He talked about it almost in the past tense," said one Gridiron member. "It sort of sounded like a farewell address."
The third roaster was former Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, who spoke for Ted Kennedy. The candidate had canceled because of the shooting death of a supporter and close friend, former New York congressman Allard K. Lowenstein. Lucey got few laughs from a speech written for Kennedy, whose absence muted the evening somewhat. Later, nobody could remember what he said.
But by the time midnight rolled around, hotel-suite parties were bubbling over with drinks and celebrities. Everybody was telling the good ones from the speeches. Or the good ones they could recall from the invitation-only, news-coverage-forbidden event.
"It was funny," said a jovial and very relaxed Walter Cronkite, "but I can't remember a damn thing." He said this about 1:45 a.m., deeply immersed in the evening's biggest afterparty, held by The Los Angeles Times and The Detroit News. Lots of glitteries, including -- Chrysler board chairman Lee Iacocca and actress Barbara Eden.
"I love Washington star-gazing," she said.
If Cronkite had remembered a damn thing or two, he might have mentioned a few of these little zingers from Strauss:
If Pat Lucey is the Kennedy campaign's answer to Bob Strauss, then Bella Abzug is the Kennedy campaiagn's answer to Bo Derek."
If Andy Young were still United Nations ambassdor, there would have been no problem with the U.N. vote on Israel. "He never paid any attention to communications from the State Department anyway."
Both Prescott Bush and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. were politicians who love political jokes. "It's too bad they are not alive to see how they sired two of them."
That last one got laughter first and mixed reviews later. Strauss had gone too far, some said.
But then, the Gridiron's aim is to "satirize the great and not-so-great with good-humored bite," a mandate giving someone like Struass the chance to vent political frustrations to an audience of 450 of the biggest names, powers and egos in journalism and government.
The exclusive club has been around since 1885, the year a group of newspapermen sought brotherhood, in part because the earlier scandal-plagued Grant administration thought they were a bunch of byline-hunting hounds. Every year since, there's been the annual dinner, where 50-plus journalist-members invite sources, colleagues and other assorted hoo-hahs.
There's always Maryland terrapin on the menu, and skits in which club members play the people they cover. "This year, Charles McDowell of The Richmond Times-Dispatch appeared as Strauss, stealing the show). And speakers, too -- one for the Republicans, one for the Democrats, and one for the administration.
Critics of the club say it's a bunch of elitist stuffed shirts, perpetrating the coziness between journalists and their sources. Supporters, guests and members say the dinner is just a lot of fun.
Saturday night, they got lots of songs, dances, plenty of jokes. And a chorus line that included Helen Thomas, the first woman gridiron member and White House correspondent for the United Press International.She appeared at a party afterward in a long, creamy dress that certainly didn't look like one worn by a showgirl.
Anyway, some of this year's lyrics, set to Sir Arthur Sullivan's famous hymn:
"Onward, Cater soldiers,/Arm the Persian Sea./Bring back Doug MacArthur,/Patton, Grant and Lee.
"Billions for the Pentagon/We will vote with joy/Tanks and planes and missiles,/Draft each girl and boy.
"Mark 5 and Poseidon,/M-X and B-1./Build them in profusion,/We are never done."
Memorable moments from other years include the time when former representative Edward Mitchell (R-Ind.) punched Rep. Hale Boggs (D-La.) in the men's room, thereby draping him over the urinal. And in 1907, Teddy Roosevelt and Sen. Joseph B. Foraker got into a giant shouting match that was much more interesting than the evening's scheduled activities.
Among this year's unscheduled activity was a standing ovation for Canadian Ambassador Peter Towe, for his country's action in helping Americans escape Iran. There was also a solid round of applause for CBS newsman Roger Mudd.Presumably, that was because of his network's decision to make Dan Rather, and not Mudd, the next Walter Cronkite.
"Would you rather be rich, or would you rather be Rather?" asked Lucien Warren of The Frederick News-Post during introductions. Responded Jerry terHorst of the Detroit News: "I would rather be clear as Mudd." More applause.
And now some more lyrics, these about Kennedy and set to the tune of "Blues in the Night":
"My mama done tole me:/And Eunice done tole me:/George Gallup done tole me:/The lib-rals done tole me:/and ev-ry one tole me:/Run!
From Rockford to Bismarck/From Maine to Chicago,/Wherever the four winds blow,/I've heard me some small talk,/But there is one thing I know:
"A voters a two-face,/A worrisome thing who'll leave you to sing /The Blues ev-ry night."
Bush didn't escape from the music either. Sing a few bars of this one, set to the tune of "Rhinestone Cowboy":
"I've been making my plans since Yale/That I'd hit the glory trail;/This Connecticut boy was headin' down Texas way, Where dazzle is the name of the game/And a smooth guy can learn to play/And put a shine on his name."
For his opening one-liner, Bush grabbed the microphone in front of the illuminated gridiron on the wall and exclaimed, "What do you mean, this mike isn't on? I paid for it."
This was an unsubtle reference to his opponent, Ronald Reagan, the man whom he alone debated in New Hampshire while all the other candidates complained of Bush's piggishness. Reagan made the remark about the microphone because he had, in fact, paid for the two-man debate.
The dinner menu included melon with prosciutto, terrapin soup with sherry, a fish couse, filet mignon, dessert and champagne. Spouses are absolutely not invited, so they amuse themselves by having dinner elsewhere, then going to the Kennedy Center or something.
Barbara Eden, who's married to Chicago Sun-Times executive vice-president Charles Fegert, had dinner at Trader Vic's and then saw "Swing" with some other wives. In between the two activities, the ladies decorated a powder room with gardenias the waiters at Trader Vic's had given them.
"It's been such an evening," said Eden. Later, she was heard at the Los Angeles Times and Detroit News party (suite 1240, open bar, salad, casserole and mostly men) singing lustily. A little while later, most everybody else was singing too.