Jean Smith, wife of Attorney-General-designate William French Smith, looked up at Nancy Reagan's friend. Jerry Zipkin, her diamond earrings glittering. "Do I look all right? Have I done anything wrong?" she asked him. Zipkin assured her she looked perfect in her black gown with a net overlay embroidered with purple sequined flowers and a big ruffle at the bottom. "You know I want you to tell me if I have," she added.
Around her swirled a heavy crowd of about 500 Reagan friends, contributors, cabinet designees and Inaugural Committee members at a reception hosted Saturday by inaugural co-chairman Robert K. Gray and Charles Z. Wick at the State Department. A lavish buffet dispensed clams on the half shell, mounds of fresh fruit and sliced roast beef, and the glass wall on one side of the room provided an excellent (and warm) view of the fireworks at the opening ceremonies across the way at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Reagans arrived on schedule, she in a loose bright green dress and he in a dark suit, and thanked the crowd for the work they'd done, particularly those who helped arrange this most extravagant inaugural.
"We're worn out now, so we won't be able to finish the thing," the president-elect joked. He asked them to pray that the wind would not spoil the fireworks. (The most elaborate displays planned, a portrait of Reagan and George Bush overlayed on an American flag and another of an inaugural seal, were canceled after a construction worker died when part of the scaffolding collapsed, something Reagan evidently did not know of at the time.)
The Reagans spent about 10 minutes gretting guests, including Strom Thurmond's wife, Nancy, who'd brought along her sister and brother-in-law to be introduced. Incoming cabinet members Richard Schweiker, John Block, Caspar Weinberger and Smith joined such civilian celebraties as Walter Cronkite, Robert Stack, Hugh O'brien and Rose Mary Woods in making forays outside onto the balcony to watch the fireworks.
George and barbara Bush arrived after the opening ceremonies, which Bush said made him "proud to be an American." The work of governing ahead "is not going to be easy," he said. "The problems are really rough," but the inaugural festivities, he added were doing "a lot to inspire."