They were genteel, the politicians and the socialites and the journalists, but they pushed toward her just the same. "Jessica," they said a little breathlessly, and stood there smiling at Jessica Lange, and stood there some more until another genteel politician or socialite or journalist pushed them aside.
The 400 people at the Regent hotel last night were happy to talk about Lange's new movie, "Country," which they had just seen, but whenever a blond woman walked by, the conversation faltered: "Was that her? Excuse me, please."
"My husband says it's the 'Terms of Endearment' of this year," said Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), who had been held up at the House and had missed the screening.
"Life isn't fair," she said. "I'll take this out on Tip O'Neill. If a woman ran the House, this wouldn't happen."
Just then Jim Schroeder found out that the crowd to his left was clustering around a certain movie star. "No!" he exclaimed. "Is she here?" He was off in an instant, the bemused congresswoman behind him.
In "Country," which takes place in Iowa, producer and star Lange has curly hair and lots of shapeless sweaters. There are tornadoes, foreclosures, sheep and mud and combines and pickup trucks.
At the Regent, Lange was talking about farmers, but her hair was straight, the sweaters had been replaced by black wool and high heels, and the guests avoided shallow puddles on a terrace to eat oysters on the half shell, raspberry mousse and cream puffs shaped like swans.
"You should be very proud of your daughter," Carolyn Deaver, the wife of White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, told Dorothy Lange, Jessica's mother.
"I loved it," said Dorothy Lange of "Country," which she had just seen for the first time last night, "but anything Jessie's in I love."
Dorothy Lange lives in Cloquet, Minn., a town of 10,000, and she, like her daughter, looked slightly flustered by the crush that came at the end of several days of interviews and screenings. The two Langes stood inches apart all evening, both nervously twisting something -- one a program, the other a napkin -- in their hands.
A lot of people, some of them wearing buttons that said "I'm for Family Farms" were talking about farmers.
"We lost my mother's farm two years ago," Hill staff member Krysta Harden told Lange. "That land had been in my family . . . My mother lived on it, her father -- I don't think people realize the agony of losing your home."
"People in this part of the country don't pay much attention to what happens in that part of the country," PBS' Jim Lehrer said. "When people on the East Coast hear about farmers, their eyes and their minds glaze over. That's what's so good about this movie -- it will bring people's attention to it."
But some people were talking about maturity. Said socialite Buffy Cafritz: "I think it was powerful. Walt Disney has grown up -- that and Doonesbury. Everybody's growing up."