The Stars came out Saturday night.
They couldn't be found hanging over the yellow-striped awning in the back yard of the Capitol Hill house but under it. That's where there was much helloing and handshaking, as old friends and colleagues got together again.
It was a Washington Star reunion, a year after the paper closed.
"It's just as sad," said former Star sports columnist Morrie Siegel, who was wearing a summery yellow jacket. A red hankerchief was dangling from his back pocket and just a hint of tears was in his eyes. "You know, you're happy to see these people, but it's sad there's a party."
But Siegel, now with NBC radio, was one of the few at the party who spoke of the sadness. Instead, the emotions ranged from bitter to cheerful, the scales tipping toward good cheer. It was a night to remember the old stomping ground, a time of hard work, a job well done and some good friends.
"There was a unity of purpose, friendship and everything," said Mary Lou Forbes, a Star op-ed page editor, now executive editor of The Source, a telecommunications publication. "And you know what I think more than anything else? I'm thankful for what the dear old Star did for me." She made the rounds, a smile never leaving her face as she greeted and teased old colleagues and buddies, quick to show off her 25-year gold Star pin, a symbol 12 years shy of her total time at the paper.
Others of the 275 or so Stars who had donated $16 to get into the back yard bash, held at the house owned by businessman and political activist Stewart R. Mott, included editorial columnist Mary McGrory, ex-managing editor Phil Evans, Ear columnist Diana McLellan and retired police reporter Charles A. McAleer.
Their donation entitled them to a paper plate feast that included chicken, barbecue beef sandwiches, potato chips, potato salad, cheese, baked beans and beer. Red reunion T-shirts were sold, and many people wore buttons bearing black stars and proclaiming the life span of the paper. White House reporter Jeremiah O'Leary remembered the day the paper's death was revealed.
"I wasn't around at the demise on Aug. 7 because I was covering Reagan in Santa Barbara," O'Leary said. "But I remember the announcement on July 23. And everyone in the White House press corps had been just too nice. They'd thrown about three farewell parties. So, when 1:30 California time came I went to San Francisco. Just took off. And now a year later I'm back in the same identical spot."
"I'm now the White House correspondent for the Washington Times."
Debbie Bradley went from Star dictationist to general assigment reporter for a newspaper in Northampton, Mass. "I was nervous. I wasn't sure I wanted to reminisce," Bradley said, explaining why she had flown in just for the party. "The last time I saw these people we were attending a wake. But I think most people have landed on their feet."
The feet, the chips, or the whatever have fallen into place from Florida to Vermont to Los Angeles.
Joan Lowry, 25, local news reporter for the Star, is now a general assignment/political reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
"It sounds so parochial," she said, but it's far from it. Lowry now covers, among her many assignments, burro races and posse roundups. "I ended up sitting all night in a sheriff's truck waiting for them to round 'em up," she says, smiling and shrugging her shoulders. Another assignment required her to wear snowshoes into the moutains to gauge the water supply.
"I like it." Lowry says. "It just took getting used to."
Other Star staffers, however, have gotten out of the business all together.
Robert Walker, a picture editor who spent 13 years at the paper, now owns the Junction Country Store in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. He and his wife motorcycled in for the reunion.
"The quality of life is superior," Walker says, looking down at his pointed cowboy boots for just a minute, while inhaling some humid Washington evening air. "But I've learned that all the figures of the economy are real figures. We gotta get those damn interest rates down. When I left the Star we sunk every dime we could get our hands on into the store." Walker says he now works seven days a week and lives above the shop, the one on the postcard he passed out to friends.
Not everyone, however, was absorbed by another medium or found another niche.
"I've been rejected by the Moonies, the gazettes, the journals," said a laughing Eddie Crane, who spent 20 years as editor of the Star's high school sports department. He zipped from group to group at the party, cracking jokes and catching up with old cronies. Crane said he gave about 35 guys a start in the newspaper business, "and I don't have a job. You sure find out who your friends are when you're out of a job."