After the rumors last week that USIA director Charles Z. Wick, a Reagan insider, would replace Democrat Roger Stevens as chairman of the Kennedy Center, Wick called Stevens to apologize. As Stevens recalled it, Wick said, "I'm terribly sorry . . . I couldn't . . . take this job if I wanted to." Stevens replied, "I didn't take it seriously." Earlier, Wick had told a reporter, "I wouldn't be interested. Can you imagine me in a sedate role other than being dead?" As it happened, Stevens and other key officers were reelected by the center's blue-ribbon 45-member board of trustees in its annual meeting last Wednesday. So they are in for another year and, insiders say, it is unthinkable that the board will not continue to reelect Stevens, who has been chairman since the center opened in 1971.
But Stevens' 10-year term as a board member (he was appointed by President Ford) expires Sept. 1, 1986. Stevens, 72, told a reporter, "If the president wanted to appoint a new successor, I wouldn't argue. I've been here through six [administrations] . . . I've had it, as far as this place is concerned." The Kennedy Center is not doing well; ticket sales are down. Wick has been one of the more enthusiastic, active board members. If Stevens could realize his dream of getting Congress to forgive the center's $26 million interest debt on its building bonds, who knows but that he might bow out? On the other hand, with the approval of the board, he has just handed the center's lucrative advertising and public relations business to Gray & Co., Robert K. Gray's firm. Since Gray is Mr. Republican PR around town, to some insiders the move smacks of a long-range survival strategy.