It was a Washington night: jokes, speeches, politics and standing ovations.
The jokes were short, the speeches long and the politics intense.
Mayor Marion Barry, City Council Chairman David Clarke, and Reps. Mo Udall (D-Ariz.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) were among those who gathered last night at the Capital Hilton for the first Washington fundraiser to benefit the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the only national PAC established to support gay rights.
Udall, on hand to present Frank with an award last night for his role in supporting federal gay rights legislation, stole the most laughs. "I've been trying to write a collection of political humor," he said, using Gerald Ford as an example: "If Lincoln were alive today, he'd turn over in his grave."
In talking about Frank's contributions to human rights, Udall said, "I measure politicians by what they stand for . . . this good man cares about people, the oppressed, the less fortunate in our society. Someone said not too long ago that America didn't create human rights -- human rights created America. That's what Barney Frank is all about."
Victor Basile, the PAC's executive director, talked at the predinner reception about the strides gays have made. "It wasn't so long ago that a gay person couldn't even get an appointment with a member of Congress," Basile said.
The mayor, who showed up late, also received an award. His speech came last, but it certainly wasn't least, judging from the audience response.
"You have access to my office anytime, because an open door means an open mind," he told the crowd of about 200 at the $100-a-plate dinner.
Using the the D.C. police department as an example, the mayor said, "We have openly gay and lesbian police officers, one of the few in the country that will allow its officers to admit their gayness or lesbianism. I think that's an accomplishment in itself and let me say," he added, grinning, "that police departments are hard to crack."
Barry also took the opportunity to make a pitch for the Democratic presidential ticket. "Mr. Reagan is very good at being personable . . . Mr. Reagan has 75 years practice of being slick and anybody who's had that much time, they can do very well. But being slick, being sly is not what it's all about in 1984. Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro is about the serious business of America -- the serious business of our communities in general, the gay community in particular . . ."
Others receiving awards were Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.), who was unable to attend because of congressional business, and Mary Farmer, a feminist community leader and owner of the local women's bookstore Lammas Women's Shop.
"Assimilation into mainstream America should not be the goal of lesbian and gay liberation," Farmer told the crowd. "The transformation of mainstream American values should be."