High-pitched giggles, red-velvet pinafores and pint-size pin stripes took over what could have been your basic staid Washington cocktail party yesterday afternoon.
Richard Viguerie, conservative direct-mail czar, had an old-fashioned colonial Christmas party at his sprawling McLean home and the little people of Washington had one heck of time.
Courtney Patton, 7-year-old daughter of Sheila Patton Tate, Nancy Reagan's press secretary, was mildly amused by the puppet show. For about three minutes. "I've seen it all before," she announced to her mother.
"Yesterday, I took her to Saks to see Santa," said Tate, "and she took one look at him and said, 'I wonder how much they're paying him.' I guess she's at that age."
The party was elaborate. Horse-drawn carriages carted guests from the parking lot to the house. Christmas carolers and Early American footmen greeted daddies wearing red blazers, mommies in black velvet and lace, and little girls whose pin curls were held in place by headbands that matched their dresses.
"We're not heading into a depression, you can quote me on that," said Viguerie, sporting a green Santa Claus tie and red plaid vest. "I keep hearing that we're going to a recession. Well there's no recession at the Viguerie company."
A red-and-white striped tent was set up in the back yard for the nearly 300 guests who feasted on baked goose, a whole roast pig and venison. This menu led to a mini-crisis.
"Is that chicken?" asked CBS' Diane Sawyer of Viguerie vice president Frank Gannon. She was pointing to the goose. Gannon turned pale.
"Excuse me, the waiter is telling people the goose is chicken," said Gannon, making a beeline to the buffet table. "If he only knew the trouble we had to get it . . ."
Santa arrived in the nick of time. He distracted the children from the gingerbread cookies, apple tarts and pecan pie and gave parents a rest from guarding the dessert table. Every child received a wrapped present to take home.
"Who says conservatives don't know how to have fun?" Viguerie bellowed to his guests. These conservatives certainly did.