An official from the National Coalition to Ban Handguns was trying to talk Marty Feldman and Elliott Gould into going around the ballroom of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel to collect money for the group at its fund-raiser last night.
Gould, with a diffident shrug that perfectly summarizes his public persona, quietly refused. He had just flown in from the West Coast for the reception and enough was enough.
Feldman didn't seem to mind. With his eyes bugging out behind blue-tinted aviator glasses, with his rubbery mouth cutting a malicious smile across his face, he took the opportunity. Twisting his hand into the shape of a pistol and aiming it toward his bulging temple he cried out, "God! If I had a gun, I could get even more money from them!"
Lugers and Winchesters were unnecessary, however. More than 600 people paid between $25 and $100 to attend. Looking out at the crowd, comedian Mark Russell said, "I haven't seen so many liberals in one place since Sen. Metzenbaum's last picnic."
Big as the reception was, it wasn't hard to pick out Feldman and Gould. While everybody else was dressed almost uniformly in various shades of bureaucratic gray, blue or brown, Feldman, in a mauve shirt and lavender knit tie, and Gould, in a Ban Handguns T-shirt and a rakish wool cap, looked as though they had just had lunch at Chateau Marmont.
Asked why he'd come all the way from L.A. for the event, Gould said, "I'm actively involved in disarming the world."
"Hey, that's pretty good," said Feldman. "Did you think of that just now or was it prepared ahead of time?"
"I just thought of it as it came out of my mouth," said Gould.
After the two Californians finished talking about legendary comic Spike Milligan and the threat of nuclear war, and after the waiters cleared away the platters of cheese, crackers and fruit, everyone assembled for a set from Mark Russell ("The man who says if ketchup is a vegetable, then mustard is a fruit," acccording to Gould).
The spotlight went on and right away it was obvious:
Mark Russell looks a lot like Raymond Donovan, the secretary of labor.
And far be it from Mark Russell to avoid the issue: "People stop me on the street and say, 'Hey, didn't I see you eating lunch in New Jersey?' Guys with broken noses and pinky rings are always winking at me."
Of the Boll Weevil southern Democrats, Russell said, "Those guys know nothing about the real South . . . They think Huey Long is a Chinese restaurant." Russell did, however, offer some constructive advice for another conservative group, the builders of breeder reactors: "You know, the biggest problem with the nuclear industry is that they have no folksingers of their own."
So Russell immediately became the businessman's Woody Guthrie, pounding out a rendition of "This Power Plant Is Your Power Plant."
Later on, the crowd heard routines from members of Chicago's improvisational Second City troupe and made bids on original cartoons by Garry Trudeau, Herblock and several others.
When it was Feldman's turn on stage he slammed a half-empty bottle of Wild Turkey down on the lectern and claimed to have come "schtickless."
"Remember, this is a political evening," he said. Maybe it was the sly, English tone, maybe it was the booze, or maybe it was just those blaring eyes behind the baby-blue shades, but the laughter came anyway, rolling and rolling as it had all night long.