Judge Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman nominee to the Supreme Court, made her debut on the Washington black-tie circuit last night and stole the show at the Wolf Trap Associates Ball. She also made off with the door prize. Seriously.
John and Sandra O'Connor won round-trip airfare for two to Morocco in what appeared to be a legitimate drawing at the end of the ball. They were shocked. Not to mention slightly embarrassed.
"I can't believe this," Judge O'Connor said. "All I wanted was a one-way ticket to the Supreme Court." Much laughter.
"I think we'll need the judgment of a competent lawyer to find out if we can accept this," said John O' Connor, who happens to be a lawyer himself. More laughter. "I hope we can win like this next Wednesday."
Judge O' Connor finished three days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, and her nomination will be up for a vote before the full Senate on Wednesday.
Because of her sensitive position, she later said they might not accept the trip. "It's just a prize, but it may be a problem," she explained. "We'll have to check into it over the weekend."
The door prize reflected the theme -- "The Road to Morocco" -- of this year's ball thrown by the Wolf Trap Associates, a fund-raising arm of the performing arts center. Guests paid $125 apiece to attend. The food was marginally Moroccan and cocktails were served from under Moroccan-like gazebo tents. But the music was big-band.
Among the guests dancing on the Filene Center stage where the ball was held were Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis, Anna Chennault, Sen. Don Rigele (D-Mich.), former treasury secretary G. William Miller and Tony Hope, son of Bob.
There were two receiving lines at last night's ball. The official line featured Elizabeth Dole, chairwoman of the event. The unofficial line at the back of the stage starred Sandra O'Connor, with a supporting cast of hundreds.
Not looking particularly judicial, Judge O'Connor arrived punctually, wearing a bright, free-flowing orange and pink chiffon dress. Her husband wore the black tie.
Just about all of the 360 guests there charged right up to her, held her hand and told her how "great" she performed during the confirmation hearings. In fact, many acted like they had never seen a woman before. "I told my husband you were feminine and sweet," said Katrina Biddle, wife of Livingston Biddle, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "That's good isn't it?" she asked quite seriously. Who could argue? O'Connor nodded and smiled.
"It's so wonderful to meet you," drawled Washington interior designer Bob Waldron, clutching her hand. "You were just terrific during the hearings. I bet you're glad they're over."
"They were long enough," replied O'Connor. "It's quite a procedure. It was really an education in civics for me, going through the process."
Asked if she was nervous, O'Connor replied, "No I really wasn't nervous. I found the proceedings very fascinating. Now we're all just awaiting the results."
John O'Connor, a prominent Phoenix attorney, spent the better part of the past three days intently sitting through every minute of the hearings and ducking inquiring reporters.
"We made a decision early on to maintain a very low profile while this was going on," he explained. "I think it would be very presumptuous of me to address any questions before she is confirmed."
So, he won't say whether he's moving to Washington. Or what problems or conflicts of interest might arise between them with Sandra O'Connor on the high court. But he will say that he's "very, very proud of her," and that the rest of the answers will come later.
Asked if she had seen "First Monday in October," the recently released film about the first woman justice on the Supreme Court, O'Connor turned red and burst out laughing. Quickly regaining her composure, she said, "I'm going to have to say 'no comment' to that one."