Among the horde of favor-seekers, chip-cashers, sages, exemplars, log-rollers, movers and shakers, shovers and makers, beautiful and bright young things, purveyors and surveyors of the conventional wisdom and other eager folk riding into town last week on the rods of the Gravy Express which always follows so closely the election of a new president was, look out Washington, Patricia McLaine, psychic to the stars, come all the way from Los Angeles.
She may be the first psychic to arrive for The Reagan Years in Washington.
She got here Tuesday, on a tour whose last stop was actress Susan Strasberg's apartment in New York. Here, she set up shop in Georgetown on the dining room table (decorated with crystal panther) of Sheila and Ed Weidenfeld, Sheila being former press secretary to Betty Ford and member of the Reagan transition team, Ed being the Republican lawyer.
McLaine's been doing Tarot-card readings ever since for Sheila Weidenfeld's friends, and friends of friends, as the word spreads of eldritch insights.
"i have to have a friend, a sponsor, wherever I go," said McLaine over lunch at the The Palm restaurant, where the current Washington biggies gather for lunch under caricatures of themselves. Some caricature artist will be busy in the coming months, painting out the old, in the new.
These are uncertain times here, all the better for her trade.
"all predictions for me say I'm supposed to live in the East while Reagan is in office," she said. Then, shifting into the prophetic mode: "i see dramatic changes in the next six months. Nancy and Ronald Reagan will bring class to Washington. I'm worried about the hostages, though, and I think the Middle Eastern war could go on for a long time."
This gift of prophecy does not cloud her face with extravagat drama, however.
"I'm the girl-next-door psychic," she says. "People come to my house in Woodland Hills and find me wearing curlers."
She's 44, a jolly redhead who looks like she could make friends almost anyplace. So far in Washington, she says her biggest catch as a client has been a senator she can't name, unless you count Takoma Park's own Goldie Hawn. Back home, where she started doing readings when she was a secretary at Twentieth Century-Fox, she has read the cards for Peter Sellers, George Kennedy, Sam Pekinpah and Jill St. John, among other stars, she says. With Hollywood and politics drawing ever closer these days, she could be a big hit in Washington.
"what's your sign?" she says across the lunch table.
She is asked what she thinks it is. "an air sign," she says. "libra . . Gemini . . . Aquarius . . ."
Gemini, it is confessed. "you have two children." Three. "two girls." Two boys.
But she's happily undaunted. After all, she's got lots of satisfied customers.
She got a mention in Susan Strasberg's autobiography. She got polled by the National Star recently. Sheila Weidenfeld can testify that "she absolutely predicted I was going to have a child, a boy, back when I didn't think I was ready to have a baby."
Media types have been her big clients so far in Washington, says Weidenfeld.
"she described to me perfectly the house that we're building," said one who called her mother right after the reading and told her to go too.
Another reason that she might be cheerful is that she's been working with Tarot cards for the last 15 years, doing readings full time for the last two.
Tarot cards are spooky, nasty, weird and perverse. If you want to lost friends, deal out a Tarot fortune and read the interpretations out of a handbook. There are 78 cards bearing omnious pictures in the lyrically severe style that marked the final decay of the pre-Raphaelite movement in England around the turn of the century: The hanged man, the Fool, the Magician, The Tower (which is aflame, with a man and woman plummeting to the ground), the Ace of Wands (a hand comes out of the clouds bearing a phallic branch), the Nine of Swords which shows what "a Complete Guide to the Tarot," by Eden Gray, describes as "awakening from sleep in the dead of night, a woman sits in despair . . ."
And so on.
Divinations range from "insight, inspiration, hope," to "change, conflict, catastrophe . . ."
The cards have been linked variously to the gypsies, to the Egyptain Book of Thoth, to the Kabbalah, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, black magician Aleister Crowley and all that occult business which is the illegitimate child of civilization, citing shaky pedigrees as its proof, and secrecy as its excuse.
A Tarot deck has it all -- the secret wisdom, the unexplained powers, the strange coincidences. It can be pleasant, but the vibe is definitely thorny. Many flies in the ointment, snakes in the grass.
"i hate it when people say that," says Pattie McLaine, who has spread a dozen or so cards on the restaurant table to demonstrate her tools. "oh, I don't want the Death card. The Devil? Is that okay?"
"you have to remember that when you're a psychic, you're being a channel for light. I mean, there's always hope. I don't like doom and gloom. My daughter used to tell clients: 'don't worry, everybody leaves here smiling.'
Why not? You pay your money ($60) and she shows you your choices.
In one prediction, she informs the Querent, as supplications to the Tarot are known: "i see a lot of travel for you."
"to Europe . . . or South America . . .
"or Africa . . ."
That's nice, too.
Or Asia . . ."
Does this rule out Australia? The Querent doesn't ask. Who can psych out the psychic? Expecially one who's garrulous and red-haired and finds good news in the Tarot deck, which half the time looks like the Yellow Pages for Hell.
She says: "i had a great-aunt who used to hold seances in Redondo Beach She'd talk about spirits in chairs and I could see them. She said I'd be a medium some day. I'm sort of a medium, but I'm not talking to dead Aunt Harriet or anything."
She's talking to live Washingtonians. To Washingtonians, living and dying by inside information, the word, the hot scoop, almost any news is good news. Good news is heaven. They leave Sheila Weidenfeld's house smiling.