Enter columnist George Will, who walks up to columnist Hugh Sidey. Will bows his head in greeting, tugs at his shaggy, blond bangs and interrupts Sidey, who is explaining his Time magazine necktie.
Sidey: "You see, it has the little yellow triangles, just like the one on the cover's upper right-hand corner . . ."
Will (deadpan): "I have an Oxford tie and a Trinity tie."
Moments later comes columnist James Kilpatrick, who walks up to Sidey and Will.
Kilpatrick (feigning indignation at Will): "Oh! He's trying to cut off my John Adams tie!"
Will (deadpan): "So the one conservative had a spat with the pseudo-conservative."
Kilpatrick: "Well, George! You've finally admitted it!"
So the fun and games went last night between Sidey and Will, and Will and Kilpatrick, and later, between Sidey and Martin Agronsky. Amid all the ties, nobody won. The banter was not on the set of "Agronsky & Co.," Channel 9's slightly acerbic public affairs show, but in the home of Martin Rubenstein, president and chief executive officer of the Mutual Broadcasting System Inc. Rubenstein and his wife, Cora, held a reception to honor the program's cast, because "Agronsky & Co." joined the MBS network in October. In addition to nearly 20 television stations, the program also now airs on about 100 radio stations nationwide.
With the exception of Carl Rowan and Elizabeth Drew, who were out of town, all the "Agronsky" journalists came, along with about 100 others from MBS, the Federal Communications Commission and local broadcasting.
And for those who wanted to know if Agronsky & Co. really, truly get angry at each other . . . they all said no. Except for Will, who threw back his head, roared, and said, "You may say, 'Will laughed uproariously.' "
Will, with his hands clasped on his head, called his colleagues "equable," "volcanic," "lachrymose," and "wait a minute, I have to think -- ah, the unaccustomed torture of thought -- and . . . laconic." But he wouldn't say which adjective applied to which journalist.
But really, the others said, we're professionals and leave passionate arguments behind us. "They are lovely people," Sidey said. "I don't know of any grudges. It's more than just a show. I look forward to coming together with these guys and Elizabeth and find out what they've learned during the week . . . It's the only kind of experience like that I've had.
"For years I thought it would fold," he continued. "But year after year, for 12 years now, it's gone on. I can't figure it out."
He didn't have to, really; the presence last night of many prominent names in broadcasting attested to the show's widespread success and credibility: FCC chairman Mark Fowler; former FCC chairman Richard Wiley; Broadcasting magazine founder and publisher Sol Taishoff; National Association of Broadcasters president Vincent Wasilewski; RKO-FM president Jerry Lyman; and International Communication Agency deputy director Gilbert Robinson.
Then up comes Martin Agronsky in a pin-stripe suit and faces Sidey.
Agronsky: "Can't you think of any anecdotes?"
Sidey: "The anecdotes are all in the arguments. Jack and Carl had a 15-minute argument once on who had the poorest childhood! None of us could get a word in edgewise! Then the damn thing was erased and it never got on the air!"
Agronsky: "Or when Carl was talking about the trickle-down effect, and Jack said, off the air of course, 'How much did you pay for that Ultrasuede jacket?' "