She might have been Ginger Rogers, but Ginger Rogers was in another room. She might have been Lana Turner, but Lana Turner wasn't even in Washington that night. No, the woman leaving glamorously against the wall at a party after the Gridiron Club dinner a while ago was none other than actress Diane Ladd.
"I'm going to be playing Martha Mitchell in a film on her life," said Ladd.
Had she begun scouting locations at the Watergate, then?
"No, no, no," cried Ladd. "This isn't going to be a political film! We're going to be concentrating on her early years, in the south. She was kind of a Zelda in her own way you know."
Yes, but even Zelda got married and moved away. So who was going to play the attorney general? John Houseman was suggested, in appreciation of his scowly countenance and hang-dog eyes.
"I think," said Ladd frostily, "that he's a bit too old for me."
The banquet room at the Naval Reserve Association's party on Capitol Hill was packed tighter than seaman's quarters.
A doorway was roped off for arriving congressman, so when Rep. Eugene Johnston (R-N.C.) walked in with a redhaired woman in a revealing black blouse, the room couldn't help but notice.
"Who is she?" whispered a woman to her husband.
"I think that's Elizabeth Ray."
"She was a blond, silly."
After being ogled a few moments more, Johnston and guest exited, and bumped into courtly white-haired Rep. Sonny Montgomery (D-Miss.).
"Sonny, I want you to meet Susan Welch," said Johnston.
"Are you a lobbyist?" said Montgomery.
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Welch.
"She's with Americans for Tomorrow," Johnston explained.
Montgomery pondered this a moment.
"Well, honey," he said finally, "you're right pretty. I'm sure you'll do real well up here no matter what you do."
Meanwhile, back on deck, it was award time. Maybe most of the audience was at sea during football season, but hardly anyone noticed the flubbed call at the microphone as Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Rep. William Whitehurst (R-Va.) and Sen. Harry Stevens (R-Alaska), Rep. William Whitehurst (R-Va.) and Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) were given prizes for doing nice things for the reserves.
"Now I want to introduce the famous signal caller and linebacker, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, now a strong voice for a strong national defense, Congressman Jack Kemp!" said the emcee.
"Here, here," cried the reservists rallying 'round.
"You're a heck of a nice guy. Thank you for all your help," said Rear Admiral Philip Smith. He patted Kemp's shoulder.
Kemp sprang up to the podium to accept his just reward (a wooden plaque with a brass barometer protruding from it.)
"Actually," he told the crowd politely, "I was a quarterback."
Not everybody at the National Theatre party after the recent opening of "Children of a Lesser God" was thinking about the president's close call. But then, not everyone nibbling strawberries and cream at the National Theatre had cause to be.
"Don't you worry about getting shot at?" some asked Patrick Daly, who's been in the Protocol Office at the State Department for years and spends lots of time squiring visiting dignitaries around. On state visits he's frequently in the presidential vicinity.
Daly leaned against a wall, and sipped his drink.
"Only the good die young," said Daly. "I'm sure I don't have a thing to worry about."
The Postman Always Rings Thrice at Stewart Mott's place on Capitol Hill.
Mott inherited a General Motors fortune and keeps busy giving it away to good causes, many of which, as it turns out, have taken up residence at his house on Maryland Avenue, NE.
"Rings once for the Center for Defense Information," says the little platic strip outside the front door. "Ring two times for the Center for National Security Studies" and "Ring three times for Stewart Mott."
Wednesday night, Mott came down from his apartment upstairs to a party for the National Campaign to Stop the MX. He was introduced to a young man from the Campaign.
"We should know each other," murmured Mott. "We should use each other."
Over in the corner, a young man was murmuring something similar.
"So, look, where can I find you again?" a young man was saying to a younger woman. "Can I call you at your office?"
"I don't think that would work," said the young woman.
"Do you have a card or something?" said the man.
The woman turned to leave. The cause seemed lost.
He snatched her name tag when she wasn't looking.
Poor Secretary of the Interior James Watt.
He hardly had a free minute at the Corcoran's elegant dinner Monday night for collector Philip Anschutz and his paintings of the Wild West.
There Watt was, surrounded by walls and walls of pictures of his native land. All around him glittery guests were murmuring things about art. But all anyone wanted to talk to Watt about was business.
Like Rep. Norman Dicks, who was standing in front of a Remington, entitled "Return of the Blackfoot War Party," which features Indians on ponies staring intently into the snow.
"I just told the secretary that they're looking for waste, fraud and government abuse," hooted Dicks, pointing at the painting.
White House social secretary Muffie Brandon, dressed in violet and velvet, stood in the middle of one room, her hand outstretched, turning in a slow circle. "I like that one, and that one, and that one . . . "
But government and art aren't the only games in town, so of course some people were talking about another one: real estate.
"Face it," said a tanned gentleman, "there's no way people are going to go on paying a quarter of a million dollars for a pad."
"A pad?" said his companion blankly.
"Yes, a pad, you know, an apartment."
"Oh that. Of course, absolutely, it's out of the question."
Everyone dawdled over the pictures, and then it was dinner time. Lawyer, lobbyist and man-about-town Peter Martindale herded everyone into their places. "Let's get this going," he said to the chef. "These people are getting wild."