Just after they turned off the TV cameras and the vice president-elect finished his little speech, it happened.
People-gridlock. The house was so crowded that no one could move. Right there in the middle of Harry Smith's Georgetown home last night. (George Bush had to leave through the garage.) Right there in the middle of a cocktail party that the Massachusetts Republican Black Caucus was throwing for D.C. black Republican Arthur Fletcher.
"Remember that scene in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'? The party scene?" called out Jock Garst, Ward 3 Republican chairman, in the hallway crush, reaching for an hors d'oeuvre from a silver platter held high by a stranded waiter.
A crowd at a party for black Republicans? In this town?
"Isn't everybody a Republican?" said Ken Tatum, a consultant, in crisp blue suit, laughing.
"Go with the flow, huh?" said Frank Foreman of Merrill Lynch -- three-piece suit, preppie glasses. A believer in precious metals, as he was saying to Ken Tatum. "One of the brokers in my office was campaign chairman for George Bush.And I'm basically a capitalist, being in the business I'm in."
"Are there any Democrats left -- who'll own up to it?" said Tatum. A reporter scribbled notes and Tatum hesitated.
"Will this help my business?" he asked Janice Sullivan, who works for Art Fletcher.
"Sure," she said, grinning."At least for the next four years."
Maybe a few hundred trod across the doorway last night. Black and white. People who thought it was a good idea to come to be seen, people who came simply because they were invited. Friends of Fletcher's -- 1978 unsuccessful Republican mayoral candidate, 1980 chairman of the D.C. delegation to the Republican Convention. Interesting names like former Mayor Walter Washington, former Howard University president James Cheek, fight promoter Don King, wearing a chain holding a jeweled pendant saying "DON."
And of course, the vice president-elect, who literally gushed praise for "all the faces of friends I see" and for Fletcher.
"I've worked with Art Fletcher in many incarnations," said Bush to guffaws. "You've got to be careful he doesn't boss you around. If there's a better speaker around, I don't know where he is. When I need advice, I turn to Art Fletcher at the top of the list."
In fact, 40 or so would-be guests stood in line outside Smith's house waiting to get in.
Richard Douglas, one of three co-chairs of the Caucus and a Boston economist who works for John Hancock Insurance, rationed the flow in to his friend Harry Smith's house.
"Art and I used to fly all over the state together when I was campaigning for attorney general and he was running for lieutenant governor," said a man patiently waiting in the front of the line for his turn in. "I'm Sen. Gorton from Washington State."
Douglas looked stricken. He immediately ushered them in, apologizing. "It's perfectly all right. Everyone had to wait," said Gorton's wife.
"You see how clean those black folks are in there," said Douglas, young (32) and impeccably dressed in a three-piece dark blue suit. "They don't want to hear they can't grow. They've gotten all the degrees and everything necessary for the American dream. We see opportunity in the Republican Party."
And they wanted to give a party. "I said let's give a cocktail party. Let's give something in Washington," said Douglas. "It was a natural to honor someone like Art Fletcher. Art's not just D.C. He's national."
"We've got a little party here," said Fletcher, appraising the crowd that besieged him."Not bad for a country boy."