It was Hollywood's night at the White House. "Dune" mixed with "Dynasty" and science fiction with politics.
Joan Collins provided the glitter and "Dune" author Frank Herbert the message. Herbert said of his book and the movie that premiered Monday night at the Kennedy Center, "There was metaphor in it. I was talking about following leaders without question. If you do it without thinking, you can end up in Guyana drinking Kool-Aid."
Mind you, Herbert was saying this to reporters with a somewhat wicked look in his eye. He had just arrived at the White House where President Reagan was entertaining Venezuelan President Jaime Lusinchi at a state dinner.
Guest and "Dune" movie producer Raffaella De Laurentiis added, "It's a story of a charismatic leader," and of Reagan, "He's a charismatic leader."
The state dinner drew on soap opera and film for its glamor. "Dynasty's" Collins, wearing a black velvet dress with gold embroidery designed by Noal Miller, had flown in from California on the red-eye for the event. Earlier in the day, she attended a welcoming ceremony for Lusinchi and then got in a little shopping.
"We went out and bought how many?" she asked of her escort, Peter Holm. "Two-dollar bills. I'd never seen them before. I think they made rather good gifts."
She said she bought five sheets of bills -- about $150 worth -- at the Treasury Department.
Collins and actress Michele Lee, swathed in strapless white satin, and Nancy Reagan, in a red Bill Blass skirt and sweater outfit that she is wearing in this month's Harper's Bazaar, supplied the high fashion at an evening whose guest of honor did not bring his wife to Washington and whose entourage was all male.
Lusinchi assumed hero status during Reagan's toast when he described the Venezuelan leader's arrest and torture as a young man by his country's dictators.
"Mr. President, I'm told the beatings left welts on your back similar to the stripes of a tiger," Reagan said. "Well, you had the spirit of a tiger and you never gave up your ideals. Venezuela is free today because it has such people of such character."
Repeating a theme he sounded at a luncheon given by Secretary of State George Shultz earlier in the day, Lusinchi described Reagan and himself as "common men" in his toast. He also said that, like Reagan, he had won a landslide election just a year ago but that he went Reagan one better by not even losing the Venezuelan equivalent of Minnesota.
In the Blue Room after dinner, aides stayed close to the president. Reagan, in talking to Lusinchi, said through an interpreter that "there are many people in South Africa who want a change, and there's no way that I can explain that to the people who are demonstrating."
Andy Williams provided the evening's entertainment in the East Room, prompting a joke from Reagan. "Andy, I know yesterday you had a birthday," said the president. "I'm thrilled to be in the company of people who are still having birthdays."
Williams brought his daughter Noelle and Ethel Kennedy, who said she felt "bittersweet, I guess" at being in the White House. Another of Kennedy's friends was there, but this time as a Republican supporter.
"I don't know the percentages," said former football pro and Reagan campaigner Rosie Greer about the black vote for Reagan in November.
"I just believe what he's saying is right for the country, so that's why I'm here."
Dancer Fernando Bujones, another Reagan supporter, came with his wife Marcia, daughter of former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveria. She had visited the White House with her father when she was 15, just a few weeks before President Kennedy was assassinated.
"He's a great fan and admirer of President Reagan," said Marcia Bujones of her husband.
He, in turn, seemed to be a great fan and admirer of Reagan's son Ron, the former ballet dancer.
"I saw him perform many times," Bujones said. "He was a wonderful artist who had a tremendous sense of communication with the audience."
Marcia Bujones said the president had mentioned her husband as an outstanding artist of Hispanic descent during a speech and has hinted he would like to see him perform at the White House.
Michele Lee said she had been to the White House once before, to promote automobile safety. "They invited me to come because they noticed I was wearing my seat belt on "Knots Landing,"" she said.
As for the recent rift in the Reagan family, Lee said, "I know what it's like to be a mother. Those things happen. There's no family in America, including the first family, that doesn't have a family feud."
Collins, whose fictional family on "Dynasty" has redefined the phrase "family feud," said she was not paying attention to the Reagans' disagreements.
"I'm too busy with "Dynasty,"" she said.
Glitter and fashion were also right at home with designer Karl Lagerfeld who, with Michele Lee, sat at Nancy Reagan's table.Lee said she and President Lusinchi talked about "my bad Spanish and his bad English and [illegal] drugs."
Lagerfeld's eyes were hidden behind sunglasses and his hair tied back in the usual ponytail. He said he had never designed clothes for Nancy Reagan.
"Because I'm a European," he explained. "She does only American designers. But I'm starting an American business so perhaps she might now."
He said he was impressed with the gold dress and jacket Nancy Reagan wore to the Kennedy Center Honors gala Sunday night.
"I must say, the other night she looked divine. There was a magic glow -- the golden dress and her hair. What she had on the other day was perfect. She has good charisma."
Washington's welcome for Lusinchi got under way earlier in the day with a welcome by the Reagans on the South Lawn followed by the Shultz luncheon at the State Department.
The South Lawn segment nearly found Reagan addressing Lusinchi as "your highness" when he pulled from his overcoat pocket the welcoming speech he had used three weeks earlier for the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Realizing the fix he was in, Reagan tucked away the notes and started to wing it. As Shultz later explained, the president then remembered the Lusinchi notes were in his suit coat pocket.
Lusinchi had been told of the near gaffe. "I just wonder what Venezuelans' faces would have been like if they had heard [your highness]," he said in his after-dinner toast.
At the luncheon, Shultz's right hand, which has had its fair share of shakes since the secretary took office two years ago, was encased in a splint and, instead of a handshake, the secretary offered an apologetic smile to guests going through the receiving line for Lusinchi.
Lusinchi, who is a pediatrician as well as leader of Venezuela's Democratic Action party, was impressed. Over champagne toasts following a lunch of breast of pheasant and wild rice (at the White House dinner, it was breast of chicken and wild rice), Lusinchi put Shultz's hand into diplomatic perspective by praising the way he has handled foreign affairs.
"He has shown us even today at lunch, in a very pleasant manner, how he knows how to handle a situation," said Lusinchi, speaking in Spanish. "Just before the guests came, he put his arm in a strange device. I said it will make his hand stronger. But no, he said it was to protect his hand against strong shaking."
Continued Lusinchi: "It's an example of how -- in a very subtle manner -- he exercises diplomacy."
Shultz, however, was not so subtle when it came to praising Lusinchi.
"He is one of the modern heroes of Latin American democracy," said Shultz in his toast, by this time unencumbered by the splint. "In 1950, President Lusinchi was in the vanguard of the struggle against dictatorship in Venezuela."
Last night he added a footnote to the story of his splinted hand that could also have been interpreted as a political statement.
"I know I could never run for office.You're shaking hands all the time." Shultz said.