With all of the designer blue jeans and silk, checked shirts in the audience at the Kennedy Center last week, you might have thought you'd stumbled onto the set of "I Was a Prisoner on a Dude Ranch."
What it was, in fact, was the audience for the premiere of Jack Wrather's "The Lone Ranger."
Wrather is a presidential pal, and there were lots of administration people in the audience, and the tickets were free, so all in all, everyone was in a good mood. Especially Wrather. "I hope you'll like the film," he told the audience. "I know you'll like the film."
They did. They laughed, not always in the right places, but they laughed. And they whooped at the shoot-em-up sequence where the U.S. cavalry and the Lone Ranger rescue President Ulsses S. Grant (played by gravel-voiced Jason Robards.)
Afterwards, there were polite and qualified raves.
"The photgraphy was very good," hedged Sen. Paul Laxalt.
"I grew up listening to the Lone Ranger," said Gerald Rafshoon. "I've always like the Lone Ranger. I liked him even before Henry Kissinger."
One of the film's more exciting moments came when U.S. Grant was kidnapped by a black-suited megalomaniac. Laxalt was asked about the parallels, a president imperiled and all that.
"I noticed that the audience quieted down a bit then," Laxalt said.
"If the president were in trouble today," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, "Paul would put on his mask and ride after him."
Now that would be a picture. Show of Shows
The Hickory Hill pet show has just about everything -- animals, tennis players, society matrons. And best of all, Kennedys. You can stare at them, talk to them, even ask them questions. It's all for charity, so they have to put up with it -- to a point.
Last Saturday Ethel Kennedy officated in a T-shirt that read, "Confidence is never having to say Sit, Heel, Beg . . ." and so on.
As she strode down the lawn, toward the tennis court, (where people had paid a dollar a head to watch "celebrity tennis") she was stopped by a woman with two children in tow. The woman wanted to know where she could get a T-shirt liek that. Some exquisite pet boutique perhaps, known only to the fortunate few?"
But Kennedy didn't hear her, so a man walking with her repeated the question. "Ethel, she wants to know where she can get a T-shirt like that."
Ethel Kennedy paused. Somewhere, a dog was barking. Then she spoke. "Tell her she can go to Tysons Corner and buy one." With a Little Bit
"My mother," Kitty Carlisle Hart told her audience at the Smithsonian the other night, "always said to me, 'You're not the prettiest girl I ever saw, and you'r not the best singer I ever heard, and you're not the best actress I ever hope to see,'" -- here Hart paused, 'but with luck and a soupcon of discipline, you can make a bit of talent go a long way.'"
That's just what she did at the Museum of American History, as part of the Smithsonian's Doubleday Lecture. She sang up on the second floor, near the well of the giant pendulum on a platform filled with ferns and flowers. The audience sat quietly in the dark. Hart's diamonds and pearls glittered in the spotlight.
She sang Gershwin, Berlin and Porter and, of course, Moss Hart, her late husband.
When she sang "Easter Parade" the audience joined her. And they knew all the words.
She charmed them into submission and afterward, they rushed to meet her.
There was Rep. Sidney Yates, ("Call me," she said, "I'm in the phone book as Mrs. Moss Hart"), and former New York Mayor Robert Wagner, (who'd come all the way from Gotham just to see her). Roger Kennedy, the director of the museum, and the man who had persuaded her to do the lecture, smoothed the introductions.
"Here's an ambassador," he whispered, "and I want you to be nice to him," said museum director Roger Kennedy.
"Oh, I will, I will," Hart said airily.
And she was. They talked about careers. Telling Tales
Scheherazade, you remember, told tales to her captor for 1,001 nights. This she did to saver her like. She was good at it and she lived.
Last weekend, at a Scheherzade-inspired party at the Moroccan embassy, Sen. Strom Thurmond, his wife, Nancy, and TV anchorwoman Renee Poussaint told tales, too. It was a benefit for the Children's Museum. And the fables didn't just keep the audience awake.
"I grew up on a farm," Thurmond began, and wen on to talk about the virtues of rural life. "We rode cows and horses and billy goats." His father gave him a pony, Sandy. "We loved that pony to death," said Thurmond. "And history is recurring. I just bought my children a pony named Dixie. If you've never been on a farm get out there and try it. Get out on a farm. I love animals, my chilren love animals and I recommend it to every one of you," he finished with a flourish.
Then Mrs. Thurmond spoke. "We call ourselves the odd couple of the Senate," she said of her husband. "We first met in a small town in South Carolina. He was the guest of honor, and I was just a guest."
"Don't you believe it," Thurmond interrupted her. "She was Miss South Carolina."
Nancy Thurmond went on, talking about their age difference, and how her parents and sorority sisters didn't understand her love for the senator. She went to law school, "but I found I loved him more and more." They married, and had four children.
And then it was Poussaint's turn. "This is an Americanized African folk tale, it takes place in Louisiana," she told the guests, who were loading up their plates with Moroccan delicacies.
"It's called, 'The Old Man Who Wouldn't Take Advice.'"
The Fable was about a rich old man who'd gotten too old for farming and had nothing to do but sit on the courthouse steps. He takes a fancy to a young woman, who, "after she finds out how much money he has," falls in love with him.
And on and on it went, a tale of the old man losing his powers but stubbornly persevering.
There were some murmurs of disapproval from the audience, but Poussaint kept on. In the end, the old man outfoxes everyone and regains his lost powers. Poussaint thanked the audience and went back to her table.
She was complimented on the story, and asked if there were parallels intended. "Thank you very much," said Poussaint. That's all she said. And then she smiled.