They have in common things ranging from baseball to El Salvador, interests that these two presidents made a point of mentioning last night as they toasted each other at the White House. The occasion was an official dinner that President Reagan gave for Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins.
"Tonight we honor a man and a country that have chosen a path of principle," said Reagan in his toast. ". . . democracy and human rights is not the easiest course, but it is the most moral."
Said Herrera, in a toast that turned into a speech: "We are committed to democracy . . . In this line of conduct, we give active political and moral support to the government junta of El Salvador . . ."
It was an evening filled with the traditions and grandeur of dining at the White House -- good music, fine wines and toasts to democracy and cooperation. But more about that later. The unexpected twist in the format was the entertainment, provided by Robert Goulet, whose nightclub-like act took the formally clad group -- well, by surprise.
After a few numbers Goulet hopped off the East Room stage, microphone in hand, to work the audience, particularly the first row.
"All I need is a girl . . . " he crooned to Barbara Bush, the vice president's wife.
"Do you mind if I say you're cute in every way?" he asked Pat Haig, the secretary of state's wife.
Then, to President Reagan: "Am I getting into trouble?"
"That face, that face, it just isn't fair," he sang, moonishly looking into Nancy Reagan's eyes. "You must excuse me if I stare." He shook his head and smiled at her. "You're gorgeous."
Then he told a story about going into the audience to sing that same song at Lake Tahoe, but the spotlights got in his eyes, and only later did he realize to whom he was singing. "It was all men -- a lumberjack convention." Finally he found a face with long hair to sing to. "It worked out," he joked. "He's been writing every week."
There was more. "Wake up," he said, giving chief of protocol Leonore Annenberg a poke in the arm.
Still more. "It's impossible," he warbled to the tune of the familiar song, and then interjected his own lyrics, "making love in a Toyota." Few laughs. "That gets a big laugh in nightclubs."
His director at the afternoon rehearsal, it turned out, was Frank Sinatra, the occasional impresario to the White House, who had flown to Washington from Los Angeles with Nancy Reagan on Monday. ("He paid his own way," Sheila Tate, the first lady's press secretary, said earlier.)
"Frank was here this afternoon and said 'make it fast,' " Goulet told the audience while finishing up his act with "If Ever I Would Leave You" from "Camelot."
The president bounded onto the stage to thank the singer. Said Reagan, "I'll never forget the night you sang to me at Lake Tahoe." The house roared.
Reaction later ranged from polite to effusive. Leonore Annenberg: "Oh, gosh, no I wasn't asleep. I was tapping my feet."
Cardinal Terence Cooke: "I enjoyed it very much, especially the last number."
Minutes before he went to the press room to review a copy of the president's foreign policy speech, national security adviser Richard Allen was relaxed and joked during the after-dinner coffee. When asked about the controversy over the $1,000 he received for Mrs. Reagan as a "thank-you" fee for granting an interview to Japanese journalists, Allen said, "Now, do I look miffed? Would you ask Ambassador J. William Middendorf if I look miffed?"
"No, he doesn't look miffed," said Middendorf, the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States. He later huddled with Allen and told him, "Out of every adversity comes an opportunity for success."
Those who were in on the talks earlier in the day between Reagan and Herrera were pleased with the outcome. "Very frank," said Venezuelan Ambassador Perez-Chiriboga.
"Extremely successful," said presidential counselor Edwin Meese. "The two men found a lot in common in terms of their approach to the Americas."
It seemed appropriate, since both are powers in the western hemisphere -- Venezuela with its OPEC oil and the United States with almost everything else. And Venezuela is an important backer of U.S. efforts to aid the Duarte civilian-military government in El Salvador.
It also turned out that both presidents were sports journalists at one time. Reagan drew a laugh when he told his guests how Herrera delivered a speech to the United Nations, then went off to Yankee Stadium to see a baseball game.
It also reminded Reagan of another sports fan, his mother-in-law. She once told him Nancy Reagan's birthday would have been July 4 instead of July 6, except that Mrs. Davis didn't want to miss a double-header at Yankee Stadium.
Fires blazed on the hearths and as a sign that the weather had turned chilly, the dark velvets and rustling taffetas captured the evening's glow. Nancy Reagan and Lee Annenberg both wore black velvet. Betty Herrera's taffeta moire was in bright pink, a popular color among the guests. And guest Tom Wolfe, the author, left his signature white suit at home and donned the traditional tuxedo.
For dinner there was roast lamb, green beans amandine and hazelnut bombe, with three California wines. And after the entertainment, there was dancing and champagne. The Reagans took a few spins on the floor and on their way upstairs Nancy paused for a chat with her friend Jerome Zipkin, until her husband, the president, gently nudged her that it was time to go.
The following were invited to last night's White House dinner for Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins and Mrs. Herrera
Jose Alberto Zambrano, minister of foreign affairs
Luis Ugueto Arismendi, minister of finance
Gen. Bernardo Leal Puchi, minister of defense
Jose Luis Zapata, minister of agriculture
Humberto Calderon Berti, minister of energy and mines
Gonzalo Garcia Bustillos, minister of the secretariat of the presidency
Marcial Perez-Chiriboga, ambassador to the United States, and Josefina de Perez-Chiriboga
Hilarion Cardozo, ambassador to the Organization of American States, & Mrs. Cardozo
Dr. Julio Sosa Rodriguez, former to the United States
Adm. Julio Cesar Lanz Castellanos, chief of the president's military household
Sen. James Abdnor (R-S.D.)
Richard V. Allen, assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Pat Allen
Leonore Annenberg, chief of protocol
Rep. Eugene V. Atkinson (D-Pa.)
Patricia A. Avery, U.S. News and World Report
James A. Baker III, chief of staff and assistant to the president, & Susan Baker
Malcolm Baldrige, secretary of commerce, & Margaret Baldrige
Frederick Biebel, deputy director of the Republican National Committee, & Violet Biebel
John R. Block, secretary of agriculture, & Sue Block
Vice President George Bush & Barbara Bush
Gustavo Cisneros, president of Highgate Properties, New York, N.Y., & Patricia Cisneros
William P. Clark, deputy secretary of state, & Joan Clark
Cardinal Terence Cooke, archbishop of New York
Mr. & Mrs. Ronald Crawford, Arlington, Va.
Michael K. Deaver, deputy chief of staff and assistant to the president, & Carolyn Deaver
Count & Countess de Ravenel, New York, N.Y.
Sam Donaldson, ABC News
John C. Duncan, chairman, Council of the Americas, New York, N.Y., & Barbara Duncan
Thomas O. Enders, assistant secretary of state-designate for Inter-American Affairs, & Gaetana Enders
David & Marilyn Evins, New York, N.Y.
Peter M. Flanigan, managing director, Dillon Read & Co. Inc., New York, N.Y., & Brigid Flanigan
Rep. L.H. Fountain (D-N.C.), & Christine Fountain
Mr. & Mrs. Stephen D. Gavin, Los Angeles, Calif.
Robert Goulet, New York, N.Y.
Peter J. Grace, president, W.R. Grace & Co., New York, N.Y., & Margaret Grace
Paul E. Gray, president, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, & Priscilla Gray
Alan Greenspan, president, Townsend-Greenspan & Co. Inc., New York, N.Y.
Alexander Haig, secretary of state, & Patricia Haig
Colleen Hargrave, Templeton, Calif.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) & Elaine Hatch
Mimi Herrera, New York, N.Y.
Janet Hooker, New York, N.Y.
Jaquelin H. & Betty Hume, San Francisco, Calif.
Mary Lou Judy
June Karger, New York, N.Y.
John L. & Frances Loeb, New York, N.Y.
William H. Luers, American ambassador to Venezuela, & Mrs. Luers
Peter McCoy, deputy assistant to the president and director of staff for the first lady, & Kacey McCoy
Edwin Meese III, counselor to the president, & Ursula Meese
Aileen Mehle, New York Daily News
J. William Middendorf, representative of the United States to the Organization of American States, & Isabelle Middendorf
Alejandro Orfila, secretary general of the Organization of American States, & Helga Orfila
Harry Platt, Tiffany & Co., New York, N.Y.
Laurance S. & Mary Rockefeller, New York, N.Y.
Eugene V. Rostow, director, Arms Control & Disarmament Agency, & Edna Rostow
William A. Rusher, publisher, The National Review, New York, N.Y.
Frederick D. Seeley, president, Pan American Society of the United States, New York, N.Y., & Mrs. Seeley
George P. Shultz, president, The Bechtel Group Inc., San Francisco, Calif., & Helena Shultz
Richard Thieriot, publisher and editor, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, Calif., & Angelica Thieriot
Marietta P. Tree, New York, N.Y.
Gerald & Florence VanDerKemp, New York, N.Y.
John C. Whitehead, Goldman, Sachs & Co., New York, N.Y. & Jaan Whitehead
The Rev. Hosea Williams, Georgia state representative, Atlanta, Ga., & Juanita Williams
Tom & Sheila Wolfe, New York, N.Y.
Jerome Zipkin, New York, N.Y.