Inauguration week has always been somewhat star-studded as well as pinstriped, but this year promises to provide more glamor than ever, owing to the president-elect's tinsel-town connections.
Some onlookers will sigh and simply try to glimpse the glorious from a balcony of the Key Bridge Marriott. But more determined people-watchers will discover that throwing discretion to the wind has its rewards.
If you have no class, no clothes and no shame, the most obvious places to ogle the opulent are Dulles, National and BWI airports; even the most unabashed rubberneck won't look out of place there. Another site where crowd-gazing is the norm is the Union Station Visitor Center, a pick-up station for tickets to a number of inaugural events.
Hotels prove the warmest -- if not the happiest -- grounds for hunting the haute monde. Among the more promising are the Jefferson, where David Brinkley will throw a party for Johnny Carson on Sunday; the Madison, whre Frank Sinatra will stay; the Sheraton-Washington, where George Bush will be honored at a party Saturday night; and the Four Seasons, site of Fred Silverman's brunch for NBC news and entertainment heavies on Sunday.
A word of warning about hotels: Drape your body in designer finery and your face in arrogant disdain, and if you're hanging around the lobby, glance at your watch now and then, lest the management get wise to the fact that you don't belong. And move on to another hotel after a while, or you might find yourself back out in the cold.
If the thought of being booted out of the lobby of the Four Seasons makes you shudder but the cold weather doesn't, you can witness a constant parade of fame and fashion by simply hanging around places like the George Town Club, where there'll be a party for Cabinet nominees Friday at 6; the Corcoran Gallery, where the Walter Annenbergs will hold a reception Sunday; the F Street Club, and the Kennedy Center, where political and entertainment figures will troop to concerts Sunday and Nancy Reagan will have a reception Monday.
But let's get practical. Even the stars have to buy fromage et pamplemousse, and the most celebrated supermarket for purchasing posh provisions is the Georgetown Safeway (alias the "Social Safeway"). Just keep filling up your cart until you bump into someone famous, then make another round putting everything back.
Contrary to what commoners may believe, neither cavedwellers nor nouveau riche are born with every hair in place. Lucien et Eivind Coiffure (2233 Wisconsin) will be draping plenty of famous frames in pink wrappers and flattery this week. Make an appointment for a manicure, go early and dawdle over Elle.
It may not be too late to offer your services as a waiter for Ridgewell Caterers (5525 Dorsey Lane in Bethesda). Ridgewell's will be one of the top caterers to all the glittery affairs and parties. Answer "yes" when they ask whether you have a tuxedo, and "oui" when they ask if you know French service. If your offer is declined, you can resort to following the purple Ridgeway trucks as they make their royal rounds.
Bear a faint resemblance to Frank Sinatra? Make the most of it, put on your three-piece and head for Pisces, where Nancy and Wyatt Dickerson will throw a party for Washingtonians Saturday night. (The party will wind up at Merrywood, where the real Frank Sinatra -- and the Reagans -- will make an appearance.) Or hang around outside until you recognize someone going in, then approach the door with a hurried look and an imaginative explanation. Failing that, make the doorman an offer he can't refuse.
Where there's a wile, there's a way.