That unreliable almanac that Mrs. Kay Shouse checks to find out if it's going to rain on her parade of stars -- namely the Wolf Trap Gala -- almost did her wrong again.
"I'm chagrined," said Shouse with a little smile and a sigh just after one more sprinkle of rain yesterday evening at Wolf Trap.
"No, no, she's not," said Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus, standing next to her in the meadow, as guests arrived. "Today's not over. Look at that light over there," he said, pointing to dusky sunshine coming through the gray-blue sky. "It was just a sprinkle."
The torrential rains of the afternoon and the brief showers that followed did in fact give way to a little sunshine as Wolf Trap's annual fund-raiser dinner and show got under way. Many expensively clad and shod women sighed in relief.
Not only did the sun come out, but so did a few of the stars -- the biggest draw for this expensive affair, which this year will net for Wolf Trap over $200,000. Elizabeth Taylor Warner, the chair of the gala and also one of the stars of the show, was escorted through the dinner by her husband, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). She was mobbed by friends and well-wishers She was kissed by Gretchen Byrd, wife of Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia. "I don't feel like I've worked much," said Warner, swathed in a V-neck red voile gown as everyone oohed and aahed over all the labor she had put into bringing big-name stars to Wolf Trap. "But I'm going to work tonight," she said to Grethcen Byrd, with a smile that was almost a grimace.
"Harry and I have to work tomorrow," quipped Sen. Warner.
Elizabeth Taylor Warner had coaxed Burt Reynolds into being emcee of the gala. She also managed to get Johnny Cash, June Carter, American Ballet Theatre dancers Alexander Godunov and Martine Van Hamel, poet-composer Rod McKuen, Liza Minelli and composer/singer Paul Williams. She herself read poetry.
Elizabeth Taylor Warner was embraced by fashion designer Halston, who designed not only her dress but also the tablecloths on the dinner tables. He then took his place next to her at the dinner table.
"I was rather a nervous wreck when it started to hurricane," said Liz Warner softly. "But I'm calm now. I was so worried for the people who would be sitting on the lawn."
The Warners had an informal party for the gala stars Monday night at their Virginia home. "They all came to dinner," said Sen. Warner. "We barbequed in our blue jeans and talked past midnight. You know Paul Young's wife. .fs.".
His wife frowned at him. "Young? Williams . . ." she corrected.
He went on. "Paul Williams' wife has as astute a political mind as I've ever seen," said the senator. "And we're going to visit Johnny Cash in Tennessee."
Elizabeth Warner noted that "a lot of people don't know about Wolf Trap. I want it to become internationally known. Once you send people brochures about it they realize what a fine place it is."
So that's all you had to do to get Burt Reynolds and the like to come out to the Virginia countryside for a fund-raiser, she was asked?
She smiled and let out a low little laugh. "Well, I wouldn't say I had no problems," she said. "It's just not that easy."
But then Rod McKuen -- the only other gala star who came out briefly to the dinner -- appeared. "Rod . . . baby!" said Liz Warner, planting a kiss on his lips.
"If performers themselves don't help performing arts societies, who else will?" said McKuen as he expounded on the subject.
"Why not Wolf Trap?" said McKuen. "I just did seven nights in a row for charity.I'm doing something for the Red Cross in France and something for the hundredth anniversary of the Salvation Army, because I was born in a Salvation Army hospital. It's not the easiest thing to fly in from London, rehearse, then go to Paris the next day. But when Liz asks you to do something you want to do it. There's really nothing else I'd like to do." The relaxed and casually dressed McKuen turned to one of several attendants hovering around him and asked for a plain Scotch.
"I had a crush on Elizabeth Taylor when I was 12 years old," said Joe Duffey, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. "I really had a thing about pigtails -- almost a fetish. Remember National Velvet?"
Duffy and his wife, presidential assistant Anne Wexler, were part of a mix of some 900 guests includinmg politicians, both local and national, patrons of the arts and patrons of social affaris. "This is like a small-town big deal," said Washington lawyer Rob Simon. "They have the lawyers, the doctors, then the senators and Elizabeth Taylor."
A few of the guests, those in the political spectrum, had a few reflections to make on Superbowl Tuesday Wexler had only heard predictions of the winners of the various primaries when she left for the gala. "We've been preparing (to meet Reagan) for a long time," she said. That includes not just figuring out strategies for campaigning in the different states but also some fence-mending in the Democrattic party. "We have to put the party back together," she said. "That's always difficult after a hard-fought primary, but we can do it."
Wexler said there was no "bitterness or anger" toward Kennedy. "He fought hard," she said. "Now it's time to heal the wounds."
But politics was hardly the central topic of the evening, which was more given over to social chit-chat.
"Nice to see you," said Lyndon Johnson Robb with a firm handshake for newscaster Roger Mudd. "We could have car-pooled." Mudd lives in McLean as do the Robbs.
A jovial Virginia Lt. Gov. Chuck Robb shook lots of hands, even as a brief shower caused guests to pop open umbrellas. Robb noted cheerfully that it rained last year at the gala as well.
"Let rain never stop a politician from working a crowd," said entymologist Donald Duckworth with a smirk as he watched Robb and others greet people.
Ford's Theatre director Frankie Ehwitt, who came with Rob Simon, bemoaned the lack of opportunity to dance. "I came to check out the competition for funding," she said, referring -- to the fact that both Wolf Trap and Ford's Theatre and a host of other arts organizations often look to the same sources of funds.
The lures of the evening outweighted the inconveniences of going to an outdoor reception when the radio is talking about tornado warnings. Said Washington attorney Ed Weidenfeld to his wife Sheila, former press secretary to Betty Ford and an occasional TV hostess, "you said in the car you would stand in the rain for Burt Reynolds."
Shelia Weidenfeld smiled and shook her head. "No, I said People would stand in the rain for Burt Reynolds."
"I like his movies," said Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), who practiced a little French with the wife of the Belgian ambassador on his left and the wife of the Japanese ambassador on his right. "We'll have to see what he's like in person."
Burt himself finally came out on stage around 9 o'clock, introduced, rather nicely and simply, by the music of a guitarist and a banjo player performing "Dueling Banjos." The audience -- which appeared to be a capacity crowd with more on the lawn -- greeted him with applause, roars of approval and then catcalls and wolf whistles (mostly from the women).
"Hello," said Reynolds. "I'm Johnny Cash." Laughter. "I'm not really. I just like the way people react when he says that."
Reynolds told the audience that he was the emcee. "The emcee doesn't sing, doesn't dance, doesn't get to tell jokes. I'm kind of the Walter Mondale of this show." A roar of laughter. "That's all right -- I look real pretty."
While Reynolds was going through his spiel before Johnny Cash came on, he told the audience that instead of talking about himself he would show them slides of himself as a child. "These are silly, but you might find them interesting," said Reynolds. "If you don't, take a hike." He went through the slides -- which certainly appeared to be real. He paused at one of him in tuxedo with a date in a frilly dress. "Now you girls probably don't remember crinolines," he said. "But they were men's worst enemy."
Finally he introduced Johnny Cash, saying, "He's as at home performing in Washington as he is performing in Folsom State Prison." Some nervous laughter. "Kind of like our Congress." A show-stopper.
Some of the guests also had politics on their minds. In one of the little houses where Wolf Trap staff have offices, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D.Ohio), sat talking intently on the phone. "You think we'll lose the state? By how much? Have we conceded Ohio?" he asked.
"They tell me they've not ready to concede," said Metzenbaum when he got off the phone. For him, "They is Kennedy. "I don't think the ballgame's over."
That was at 10 p.m. The senator made another phone call and went back out to see the rest of the show.