Due to an editing error, a story in yesterday's editions of Style did not make clear that the Presidential Inaugural Committee has an estimated budget of $8 million. The Committee is not taxpayer-funded and must raise its own money.
Five Thousand Red, White and Blue Lights entwined into an American Flag and flown over the Capital City! Elizabeth Taylor Wears Earphones! Frank Sinatra Produces! Eight Thousand Fireworks Set Off on the Mall by Six Nationally Known Fireworks Manufacturers! Three Thousand Fireworks at the Lincoln Memorial, Including a Gigantic Portrait of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Superimposed on the American Flag! Forty Thousand Ballgoers Dancing to Eight Fabulous Orchestras at Eight Different Balls! Wayne Newton! Bob Hope! Johnny Carson! Pat Boone! Debby Boone! Donny and Marie! And much, much more. . .
Charles Z. Wick sees his charge very clearly. The inauguration of a president -- in this case his friend Ronald Reagan for whom he is co-chairing inaugural festivities -- in nothing less than a celebration of the entire democratic system of government.
"The ritualism and symbolism are equatable to any individual's celebration of an important event in his life, whether it's his birthday, anniversary, or graduation from college. We have the solemnity of the swearing in as in a marriage you take your vows . . . and then there is the joyous celebration of the looking foward and the happiness of the occasion -- marks of having successfully arrived at where you are."
Wick's vision grew.
Start with the swearin-in, which is required, and the parade and the balls, which are traditional. Then add whatever imagination and money can produce which in this case is the most elaborate, most expensive, most complex set of inaugural festivities in history.
Jimmy Carter spent $3.7 million, called his inaugural balls "parties," sponsored a week of free public events and the now-traditional star-studded concerts, and walked to the White House in his own parade, a symbolic gesture that sent newspapermen and television commentators into paroxysm of metaphoric bliss. No event cost more than $25 a ticket, and the emphasis was on a "People's Inaugural," and creating a contrast to the "Imperial Presidency."
Reagan's crew raised $8 million in interest free loans from 150 corporations just to open shop in this inflationary economy, and intend to raise at least that much more. There will be free public events, but this time the cheapest ticket to the main events is $50. The organizers hope most people will stay home by their television sets and send away for a souvenir medal or license plate. This inauguration of a Republican may turn out to be a celebration of free enterprise as well as "ritualism and symbolism."
At last count, at least three dozen show business stars from Bob Hope to Rudolf Serkin will be flown in to perform at concerts or balls. A generous contributor could spend $12,500 just on tickets (box seats) to a concert, the Gala at the Capital Centre, and a ball, not to mention the cost of hotel rooms, transportation, clothes and souvenirs.
The inaugural balls will be beamed by satellite to cities across the country, "the most complex production in the history of television -- for such a short period of preparation," according to the company setting up the system. The man who has staged the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, Marty Pasetta, will produce both the Gala and a closed-circuit telecast of the inaugural balls. The Gala will be shown for two hours on ABC. Just the television end of these two productions involve so many people that Pasetta is setting up a hotline to the stagehand's union.
The opening ceremonies, produced by a man who was the head of entertainment for Walt Disney for 12 1/2 years, will feature the 353 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic at the Lincoln Memorial while colored fountains in the reflecting pool spray in synchronized patterns, building up to a grand finale as the "Stars and Stripes Forever" booms out and over 3,000 fireworks bursting in air.
"We hoped Billy Graham would do the invocation," said producer Tommy Walker, "but unfortunately he's going to be visiting the Archbishop of Canterbury that day."
The closing spectacular will include 8,000 fireworks fired in 20 minutes along the Mall to the accompaniment of recorded music and searchlights, choreographed by the president of Radio City Music Hall. There will be a helicopter towing an American flag made up of 5,000 red, white and blue lights over the Mall as the smoke clears.
"I don't like to use the word lavish," said Wick, a California businessman. "It has the connotation of unusual expenditures, or unusual opulence. This unusual array of talent is all free, they're all contributing their services . . . All the liquor and Pepsi and Coca-Cola is donated. The Hilton is donating the use of their ballroom and we're working on the Sheraton to do the same.Federal Express is helping us expedite the response to the invitations . . . all the American automobile companies have loaned us cars at no cost. We have over 1,000 volunteers at no cost. Of course lodging and transportation costs money, but it costs a fraction of what it would normally cost for these guys. Getting back to the elaborateness -- of course the country has grown, in our analysis of what has gone before, I attended only one inaugural ball before, I think it was JFK, and I heard people were crushed at the inaugural balls, yes, crushed! The ladies' beautiful gowns were torn, and trampled. We wanted to insure that not only would we have the revenue, which is necessary, plus the fact the population has grown and there was an ever increasing demand for people to participate . . . The balls I remember were terribly sterile in providing entertainment and enjoyment. There was a dimly lit orchestra, not necessarily distinguished, people would mill around in a din, being jostled . . . my feeling was we could get all these entertainers who were just very happy to in some way make a contribution.
Producer Marty Pasetta got to Washington on Monday, wearing a cast on a broken foot and accompanied by 10 "key people" he has imported from New York and Los Angeles to help him through this experience. They somehow look different from the other workers in inaugural headquarters. Maybe it's the chunky gold bracelet associate producer Michael Seligman had on his wrist, or the suspenders and bow tie one of the female associates was wearing. Some of the regular workers raise eyebrows and look at the ceiling when they refer to the "television people," and the television people do the same. "Everything here is done by committee!" said Pasetta in amazement, quickly adding that contrary to his expectation he has found the inaugural operation to be very efficient.
Pasetta, a paunchy, gray-haired dynamo who talks very fast, is consulting with a man in blue jeans and beard who is a stage manager for Frank Sinatra. Sinatra is producing the Gala at the Capital Centre the night before the inauguration, which 17,500 people will attend and at which a battery of stars will entertain. Pasetta will be simultaneously filming the two-hour, 45-minute show and editing an hour out of it. He is worried -- no, panic stricken -- that a "rat's nest" of cars will delay the audience and they'll try to walk in front of his cameras to get to their seats.
"I can't have them walking across my cameras," he says. "It looks rude. It looks like they aren't paying attention."
"Look, once Reagan and Bush are seated, boom, we roll," says the stage manager. "We'll hold people back."
"Are you going to work on this transportation bit [to get the stars] from the hotels to the rehearsal? We can't afford one minute delay. We can't have stars sitting around waiting for us."
"With Sinatra we've never had a problem.
"I'm not worried about Frank, he's a professional, he'll probably be there all day. It's the others I'm worried about, what about the musicians, what about handing out the books?"
"Well, let's see. Little is good, Vereen is good, Tillis -- I don't know him."
"What about Bumbry? What about guest conductors, how will they get into the pit?"
"While Carson is doing his whatever, we'll sneak them in."
Pasetta nods. The stage manager rolls up his floor plans of the Capital Centre and goes back to New York. Pasetta assembles his staff for a meeting.
"I need a couple of spotters who know Washington faces to be in the booth with me," he says at one point. "So if Senator Dadada comes on, I know who he is, and how to spell it. In this town celebrities are not the Rock Hudsons, they're the Senators, so I've got to get them for reaction shots [in the audience] and I won't know these faces. And I want a list of some of the majors."
"How about George Stevens's secretary?"
"Does she really know these people? Can she stand the craziness we have up in the booth? Check her out."
He wants maps to give to all the drivers who will be driving his stars around. He wants the stars to be bused to and from the parade on Inauguration Day, and once they get to rehearsal that afternoon he wants them to stay put.
"I don't want them to get out there in that traffic where they can get lost and not get back.That scares me. You know Washington if it snows -- forget it, Charlie! It's all over with!"
There are two productions that Pasetta is responsible for. The first is the Sinatra-produced Gala at the Capital Centre, which will be seen on ABC two hours after it starts. The second is the satellite ball project, which is Charles Wick's pet vision.
The idea is that people in, say, Pocatello, Idaho, will gather at the local ballroom and for a small admission fee attend the inaugural balls via television. The inaugural committee is raising $1.6 million to pay for the transmissions, which will require, according to TNT Communications Inc., nine color television mobile units, 38 color cameras, 131 production technicians, 31 television directors and stage managers, and 19 supervisory engineers.
The State Department agreed to allow a satellite "dish" to be placed on top of their building, and Pasetta and crew will operate from a control booth "in the bowels of the Kennedy Center," where people will be sitting in front of 30 television monitors, each representing a camera, logging the time and length of each performance or event at an inaugural ball. Each ball will have a host emcee wearing an earphone -- Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Stack, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Charlton Heston and Mike Connors among them -- and Ed McMahon will function as "anchorman," posted at the Kennedy Center ball. Each ball location will have been researched, so McMahon can dish out appropriate quips or local references.
"I say, I want a Tony Bennett number, and they roll it up, Ready on Three, Boom!" said Pasetta. "I talk to Ed on the headphone, Hey we're cutting to some night shots of Washington, or some tape of the fireworks. Or we cut live to a ball, and Elizabeth Taylor introduces someone.And each place we have to coordinate the president's arrival. And maybe one place he'll dance, and another place he'll wave, or whatever. And at some point he will address the satellite audience.
"I've been to these balls before and I know these people get very looped as the evening progresses, so I don't want to show that side of it. So the first few hours will probably be more live and last few more tape, to avoid that."
Normally productions like this, such as the Oscars program that Pasetta has produced, get a week of rehearsals and on-site technical preparation. This time the technicians can't get into the Capital Centre until 1 a.m. Sunday; the performance starts at 8 p.m. Monday. The performers will get barely five hours of rehearsal.
"We have no fix time," Pasetta said. "We're really on the line."
The idea of the satellite balls came to Wick because he and his wife, Mary Jane, used the same technique in a successful "Prelude to Victory" fund-raising program of 19 dinners across the country linked by closed-circuit television.
"I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if all Americans could participate?" said Wick, who was so successful at "venture capital" investing that he basically retired 10 years ago at the age of 53. "Wouldn't it be fabulous? But I thought there was no way to make it fly in 60 days."
The last inauguration, Carter's, pioneered the idea of the televised gala to make money and have something accessible to the public. This time the new idea is the satellite balls, not profit making, but a way of doing something you don't need an invitation to get into.
As it turns out, it may not fly as high as originally predicted. "Over 100 cities" were announced as participants in the program; now a combination of drop-outs and technological difficulties may bring the number closer to 50. Some town couldn't organize a ball in that short a time, and some were too isolated to get the satellite signal.
"We're having ours at the Holiday Inn," said Dick Bower, a Chevrolet dealer in Pocatello, Idaho. "We're charging $20 a couple.We thought if we could get 50 people in Pocatello we'd be doing well," he laughed. "It's a bastion of Democrats." And profits will go to the Arthritis Foundation.
In Hagerstown, Md., two balls were originally planned. "We cut it back because of the expense," said John Ritchey of the Chamber of Commerce. He expects about 800 people at the Venice Motel, at $10 a couple. There will be a cash bar, peanuts, pretzels and recorded music "in case the picture fails."
In Dixon, Ill., known as Reagan's hometown, Elks Lodge No. 779 is being donated by the Elks for the occasion. "We expect 500 people at $10 a person," said Darwin Burke of the Chamber of Commerce. "In the basement and on the main floor we'll have local bands that we think are real good. The screen will be on the second floor. We think it's great."
Charles Wick was born in Ohio, the son of a businessman. He got a degree in music from the University of Michigan, earning his tuition by arranging music for dance bands. He went to law school but has never practiced.
For the last two years he and Mary Jane Wicks have donated their time and energy to work and raise money for Ronald Reagan. They took an apartment at the Watergate, leaving the home they bought from Lana Turner 20 years ago, the tennis court on which he used to play every day, the swimming pool, several servants and a vacation home at the beach. He is gray-haired, fit, usually dressed in conservative suits and monogrammed shirts. She is blonde and equally conservatively dressed. They have five children, ranging in age from 20 to 28, all of whom seem to be successful.
"Children are like animals, he said. "You have to train them right now. And kind of program their reactions while you instill intellectual principles. I think personality traits are pretty much a habit once they're instilled, through happenstance or through inculcation. "We've been very fortunate."
Right now the Wicks are in the spotlight, invited everywhere and sought after. They are out almost every night and at work every day. They have been rumored to be under consideration for Chief of Protocol. "After January 20 it will all be over," he said. "It's been fun, but I plan to leave after it's all over."
He is an unabashed capitalist and patriot who said he got involved with Reagan because he is concerned about the future for his children.
"The inauguration is an affirmation of this great country's vitality in the democratic process through the voice of the people transfering power, total power, from one regime to another without a military coup d'etat," he said.