Was it just Frankie Goes to Hollywood?
Or was it also the fact that they were to ride up to Record and Tape Ltd. in Georgetown in an armored personnel carrier and be greeted by store employes decked out in World War I Army uniforms rented from a Virginia company that previously outfitted the movie "Stripes"?
Was it the fact that Frankie, a semi-outrageous Liverpool quintet whose two lead singers are openly gay, is very much the current British pop rage, with its pro-sex manifesto, "Relax," and antiwar anthem, "Two Tribes?"
In any case, close to a thousand fans had started lining up at the store before noon for a group that recently eclipsed the Beatles' longstanding British sales records by shipping 1.1 million copies of their debut album, "Welcome to the Pleasuredome."
"This is a mellow crowd," said store buyer Sheldon Michelson. "They just want to meet the band."
Also visible were a number of the group's now-discontinued Pop-T-Shirts, the most prevalent being "Frankie Say Arm the Unemployed." Among those employed yesterday were six muscle men from Gold's Gym in Wheaton. Nominal bodyguards, they stood around, often shirtless, flexing and posing.
Then the moment arrived, via the armored personnel carrier.
A few screams flitted through the chilly afternoon.
But it was just a few screams.
Then again, the album only arrived in American stores on Thursday and the hype machine is not yet in full gear, particularly since the band is an unknown quantity in concert (they have only done three concerts in England). A combination of the Archies and the Village People, they are the studio byproduct (or, some critics claim, puppets) of superproducer Trevor Horn and rock theoretician Paul Morley.
Frankie's first two singles, "Relax" and "Two Tribes," overcame outright radio and television bans in Britain to occupy the two top positions in the singles charts in England, a feat accomplished only by the Beatles before them. Because of that, the hype accompanying the group's American debut has been considerable. They did several warm-up concerts in Canada last week and will appear on "Saturday Night Live" this week. Last night, they appeared at the Ontario theater.
In case anyone missed the point, no matter where you looked, all you could see were Frankie records: there were 1,800 copies in the store, in front of everything else. Film crews from MTV, "Entertainment Tonight" and the networks jockeyed for position in the aisles. One crew, shooting for the BBC's "Entertainment USA" even though it was the BBC that banned the group's openly gay video and recording of "Relax," had received instructions to shoot only the two openly gay Frankies, Paul Rutherford and Holly Johnson. That's the difference between art and news.
The boys grinned and bore it, enduring a brief appearance by the same Reagan look-alike who appeared in the "Rappin' Ronnie" video. "Well, that's $1,500 for him," said one publicist. The Frankies are counting on taking home a lot more than that.