Temperatures rose in the Capitol Hill Club last night.
Nothing too serious--just a touch of Pac-Man fever.
Rep. James Coyne (R-Pa.) decided to get inventive in his fund-raising for his re-election campaign. He sent out about 500 invitations to Washington-based Political Action Committees (PACs) challenging them to hand-to-hand video game combat. Their price, or contribution required for the deal, was $200. It bought them two hours of free Pac-Man playing and cocktails.
So in addition to the usual plates of cheese, roast beef and turkey, Coyne brought into one of the club's private dining rooms four Ms. Pac-Man machines. About 50 people, not to mention the packed-in press and TV folks which almost outnumbered the guests, showed up to try their hands at controlling the little round people who eat up the dots and fruit.
To the familiar waca-waca-waca on the beeping screens, the PAC men took on the Pac-Man.
"No one's been able to beat me," Coyne said, greeting Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard Schweiker and Rep. William Frenzel (R-Minn.). Coyne had already eliminated one opponent earlier when he took on Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis at the one sit-down version of the game.
"Don't you want to play?" Coyne asked Schweiker, who glanced over at the game in the corner as if the Pac-Men, or maybe the hungry TV cameras waiting nearby, might gobble him up.
"No, thanks. I leave that to my son," Schweiker answered.
"We all have our vices," Coyne told Schweiker. "Tip O'Neill's out playing golf . . ."
Said Schweiker, apparently refering to the budget business in the House, "That may be our best way to get anything done." He made his way over to the table where he could play his own game of Pac-Man on the hors d'oeuvres, as did many of the other PAC and Coyne staffers there.
Coyne, however, managed to challenge just about every person in the room to a game as he looked for someone who could beat him and take home the door prize--a portable Pac-Man machine. In the meantime, he pawned off Pac-and-Pol puns on the group.
"You know why we Republicans have the elephant as our symbol, don't you?" Coyne said. "Because it a pachyderm."
When asked if there was any chance of Pac-Man machines being put in the Capitol, he said, "Well, if we could, it would solve the whole budget problem."
Many of those who paid the $200 price to play were, surprisingly, not Pac-Man addicts. Some had never even played before.
"I'm a pinball man, myself," said David Winston of the National Association of Life Underwriters. He and other PAC people in the room were content to leave the playing to the only real challenger Coyne faced all evening.
Dressed in a flowered skirt and pink top, 8-year-old Erin Fitch quietly went around the room darting in between the legs of the men in pinstripe suits on her way to one of the stand-up machines. She didn't care about those TV cameras, she was a Pac-Man wizard.
Then she met her match in Coyne. They went to the corner, took their seats and began keeping score.
"Did you beat her, Rep. Coyne?"
"I walked away from that match," Coyne said. "I know how to choose my opponents wisely."
Fitch walked away the winner.