It all happened aboard a good ship called the First Lady: Serious conservatives with serious money in serious sequins gathered under pressed-tin ceilings with Tiffany shades to gamble funny money in honor of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation Inc. By late evening, a group spokesman said it had raised $200,000. "It's funny," said Paul Weyrich, who heads the foundation. "I'm a guy who doesn't drink and doesn't gamble and I got Joe Coors to sponsor a drinking, gambling event with two or three evangelical ministers. Now that's coalition politics."
Joseph Coors, ever the gracious host, received his guests at the waterfront with a (Coors) beer in hand and said he hoped to throw another party four years hence to honor the inauguration of Alexander Haig.
There were a few Democratic congressmen of the Boll Weevil persuasion helping out at the blackjack tables, but the evening belonged to the conservative glitterati. "The real story is after tonight we're both going into sports," Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.) said, nodding at Weyrich.
"But we both want to play right wing," Weyrich said. "We can't find anyone at the party to play left wing."
Or even center.
Actor Lorne Greene chatted up Gen. Daniel Graham. Sens. Daniel Quayle (R-Ind.) and John Warner (R-Va.) hobnobbed with the crowd that included Nelson Bunker Hunt. Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, arrived in red suspenders with "Coors" written all over them. "It used to be in politics that only Democrats had a good time," said Donald Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management. "Now it's changed. It's conservatives. Liberal Republicans are boring just like liberal Democrats are boring. It's conservatives that are interesting."
Said Phyllis Schlafly, wearing a red silk dress with a gold-and-diamond encrusted eagle at the bodice, "Oh, I do think conservatives have fun. A lot of liberals seem dedicated to grimness. Especially the women. The basic tenet of liberalism and feminism is that you have to be serious about it." She said she wants to attend as many parties this weekend as Washington's traffic will allow.
The Irony was inescapable. One guest, who came dressed as a flapper and declined to reveal her name, stood with Tim LaHaye, chairman of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, commiserating. "I was just saying all of us believe in traditional values," she said. "And here we are smoking, drinking and passing out cigarettes, and I don't even smoke."
The goings-on, accompanied by the music of Al Hirt, mostly reflected the tradition of having a good time. Education Secretary-designate William Bennett and his wife, Elaine, took advantage of the occasion to find a quiet corner and have a chat. It has been a tumultuous week. "Oh yeah, we celebrated," he said. "Celebrating for us is my wife and I talking adult talk for 10 minutes."
Their 10-month-old son John Robert did not attend the celebration.