The great chandelier was dark and, while the March wind might chase the shadows of winter out of the courtyard of the Iranian Embassy, other ghosts remained behind in the great, once-glamorous rooms.
Recorded martial music blared where string quartets had played and scarved heads and ski parkas stood where a gold earring might once have reflected the glow of a perfected flirtation.
The Iranian Embassy celebrated NowRooz, the Iranian New Year, last night with a party whose invitation list consisted of a newspaper advertisement inviting "all Iranians for the celebration."
"Of course, we don't serve caviar now," said Ali A. Agah, the embassy's charge d'affaires, nor were there the peacock, the pheasant, the Persian rugs, or the sheer extravagant spectacle of watching herds of Washington officialdom come to feed and revel in the opulence of former Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi's diplomatic version of Walt Disney World.
There was, however, a good deal of oddness inherent in the idea of Iranian Embassy officials in Washington nonchalantly tossing a party while American officials in Tehran were observing their 139th day of captivity.
Not that it seemed weird to the Iranians. "It is not really strange," said Agah. "Our New Year is celebrated on the first day of the spring and spring belongs to everyone. This is a holiday on which people interrelate with each other. It is an opportunity to get to know one another more. I'm sure the American people understand -- this has been going on for thousands of years."
By the time the party was at full tilt early in the evening, several hundred people had shown up to drink coffee and eat fruit salad and baklava, to listen to a movie detailing the history of the revolution, and to look at a photo exhibit that depicted moments both brutal and poignant in the days before the shah was deposed.
No one seemed particularly concerned that a band of irate Americans might come wandering in to disrupt the festivities. "We don't worry," said Hossein Ava, the press attache. "If they wanted to do something, they would have done it when everything was at its height, soon after the hostages were taken. We don't even get telephone calls anymore. We miss them. We used to talk to the people that called, and we would try and explain the situation to them. It was very effective."
This was not the first party the Embassy had given since the hostages had been taken. "We had a party last month to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution," one official said. "We had an ad for that one too."
Many of the people who came to the party had two or three other New Year's parties left to go before day was done. "Of course we don't celebrate by getting drunk, the way Americans do," said Mokhtar Matinrazm of Howard University -- and, until he returns to Iran, Takoma Park. He was there with his wife Katayoon, a19-year-old Montgomery College student who was wearing a chador.
Matinrazm himself is only 23, although, he said, "Since I've lived in this country I feel 20 years older." The Matinrazms have only been married six months, having met just last summer in Iran. "We are a revolutionary people," the young man said with a smile at the relatively whirlwind nature of the courtship. "We do everything in a revolutionary way."
Matinrazm had been wanting to get married for the last three years, he said, but until the revolution, it proved a difficult proposition. Fathers would worry, he said, over any daughter who might consider marrying a young man being educated abroad. "There was no way of knowing whether they might end up in a SAVAK (the shah's secret police) jail. I think last summer at least 35 or 40 of my friends got married."
Like most of the others at the party,Matinrazm entertained little doubt about whether the taking of the hostageswas the right thing. "There were very good reasons for doing it," he said. "We were hostages for 30 years to America."