Two important things to know about Susan Fredriksen. Number One: She centers much of her life around the memory of Victor, a giraffe who died while trying to sire a calf at a London area zoo. Number Two: Susan Fredriksen is Dr. Fredriksen, a psychiatrist at a hospital in Mandeville, La.
Saturday night, Fredriksen and her husband of 1 1/2 weeks, Joseph Scott, joined 150 other lovers of the spotted beast on a Potomac River cruise sponsored by the Victor Invictus Society. The newlyweds cut a three-tiered cake topped by two five-inch giraffes. One of the giraffes on the cake wore a doily wedding dress, while the bride herself wore a skirt decorated with red, blue and purple giraffes. Society members cheered wildly. And then someone imitated a crazed chicken.
Donal McLaughlin, an architect and the designer of the United Nations symbol, founded the society after reading about the plight of Victor in various British newspapers.
"It's a very sad story," said the 73-year-old McLaughlin. According to the society's official pamphlet, "In 1977 an East African giraffe named Victor -- distinguished by age, experience and virility -- lost his footing and spread-eagle himself while attempting to be of service to Arabesque, one of his three female friends at the Marwell Park Zoo, 70 miles south of London."
"The zoo people here in Washington say that when a giraffe gets in that position they shoot him," said McLaughlin. "But in London they tried to save him. The press carried day-to-day accounts for six days of the attempts to raise Victor. England hung on his fate. On the sixth day the Royal Navy finally tried a sling and crane to lift him but Victor had a heart attack and died."
McLaughlin followed the story intently and, after three martinis with a few friends , drew up plans for the society.
Martinis and every other brand of spirit have oiled the society's first three bashes. "Last time we had people drown on dry land," said Steve Miller, a banker who flew in from Los Angeles to attend Saturday night's seafaring tribute to the fallen lover. Before anyone boarded Capt. Eric Shear's Ambassador, guests drank, mingled and congratulated the newlywed society members.
Many were curious to know how Fredriksen and Scott had met. Fredriksen had ben captivated by the Victor story from the start. She began work on an eight-foot stained-glass window of the fallen giraffe and, when searching for a new house, she insisted on a space large enough to accommodate the window. "When I moved in I didn't have a toilet or a sink, just giraffe drawings. But when it was finished, Victor was presented forever. He used to be dead but no longer." Fredriksen also hung a bucket of zoo-bought giraffe food by the window so Victor could eat all day long.
And then the Momentous Day: On Jan. 18, 1981, Joe Scott, an executive with Standard Oil of Indiana in Chicago, was waiting for his flight out of O'Hare to St. Louis. Mid-afternoon. Gate H 8-B.
"As I got to the gate, I saw this very warm, attractive woman, and our eyes met," said Scott. "We sat next to each other on the plane. The conversation was pretty superficial until I noticed her Victor Invictus pin. I mentioned I knew about the story and she went wild."
The two carried on their commuter courtship between Chicago and New Orleans, spending a total of only nine days together before their wedding.
"That's the truth, I swear on giraffes," said Fredriksen, munching on some Oriental chicken and tabooli.
Before the Ambassador pulled out of the pier for its cruise to Fort Washington and back, society member and graphic artist Joe Blanchard sailed by in his battered 38-foot boat, the Halcyon, a Victor Invictus flag flapping from the main sail.
For three hours, guests ate, drank and talked giraffes. "I'd like to open up horse racing to giraffes," said Les Cramer."They've already done some work with zebras, I hear."
Cal Klausner, a CPA in Arlington, is the self-proclaimed accountant for the society. "You have to understand that the bylaws say there are no bylaws and no records. I'm in charge of auditing all that," said Klausner.
Aside from the wedding celebration, the main event of the evening came when the Ambassador cruised side-by-side with the luxurious Amway yacht, the Enterprise III. Five women, all pretty limber by now, did what they had to do. They climbed to the upper deck, put down their drinks, waited until the Amway yacht was behind them, lifted their skirts, and mooned.
As the Ambassador pulled in to Pier 4, McLaughlin said, "While all this seems like a pretty trivial thing, I guess we do satisfy some basic human needs."