We take you to the Blue Room of the Shoreham Americana. It's New Year's Eve again and Barnee Breeskin is back to celebrate the hotel's 50th anniversary. (Didn't last year's celebration mark the 50th? No matter. Play it again, Barnee.)
Last night's merrymakers ranged in age from just-allowed-to-drink to candidates for pacemakers, but they all exhibited a general feeling of camaraderie. Comedian Mark Russell, who noted that the Shoreham Hotel "is an idea whose time was recently elected," took his obligatory shot at the Reagans: "Nancy Reagan has been taking secret trips through the White House in the tour groups. She has an interior decorator with her, who dashes around taking measurements."
Then there was Jeane Dixon, who softly but proudly told the guests she had predicted Reagan's victory. And of course there was Breeskin.
Presidents, members of Congress, thousands of Washingtonians, tourists -- they've all danced to Breeskin's music during the 25 years he was the leader of the band in the Blue Room.
It is said of Breeskin that he knows hundreds of people by their first and last names -- and their favorite tunes. Remembering Franklin D. Roosevelt, Breeskin tells the story about how Roosevelt was saddled with the song, "Home On The Range."
"The president loathed that piece," Breeskin recalled, "and everywhere he went if there was a band they would play that song.
"It came about when Marvin McIntyre, a Roosevelt aide, was asked what the president liked. "'Home On The Range,' Mac said, so I made the announcement, played it and didn't find out until years later that it was really Mac's favorite, not Roosevelt's."
When Dwight Eisenhower showed up with his wife he would request, "I've Got Spurs That Jingle-Jangle," while Mamie enjoyed the more sedate "The Old Spinning Wheel."
One of the worst dancers that Breeskin could remember was Sen. Tom Connally, of Texas, who liked to whiz around to the "Beer Barrel Polka."
Breeskin is pure Washington nostalgia. Bob Considine once described him as "a big muscular guy whose face has frozen horribly into a prepetual smile."
A native Washingtonian, he graduated from Central High School and went on the Georgetown and George Washington.
Football fans know him for leading the Redskin band wearing his feathered headdress while it played the first song he composed, "Hail to the Redskins." h
To welcome him back for his one-night stand, Breeskin received hundreds of letters congratulating him and telling of how they enjoyed his music and pleasant evenings.
Wrote Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.): "It will be like the Liberty Bell ringing again when you come back to Shoreham."
Included in the accolades were letters from Richard Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), Secretary of State Edmund Muskie and many, many more.
Mrs. Johnson wrote of the nights many hours on the Hill, when she would coax her husband away from work and the two would head for the Blue Room. She wrote to Breeskin, "Under the spell of the music of your orchestra, it was a favorite place to gather with friends and relax."
Last night Breeskin added a footnote: As he launched into "Hello Dolly," he recalled how, somehow, that became a theme song for the latee president, with everyone bawling out, "Well, hello, Lyndon." Johnson, Breeskin said, just hated it.