"In other words . . . I love you."
Last night, Frank Sinatra put a little Hoboken body English into that last line from "Fly Me to the Moon," pointing directly at George and Barbara Bush during the American Showcase Inaugural Gala honoring the vice president at the Convention Center.
That sentiment was hardly a surprise to the more than 6,000 "fellow citizens and fun seekers" in attendance who were promised a good time by Sinatra, "regardless of race, creed, party affiliations or seat locations."
Of course, as these things go, the vice presidential gala was not the best place to be if you were either a Democrat or a music lover. It wasn't too bad if you were looking for mild political humor, most of it directed at Bush, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the attention.
"I want to thank you for the support you gave me during the last election," said Rich Little as President Reagan. "I wear it all the time." "Reagan" also thanked the vice president for the good job he had been doing. "I have just one question? What is it exactly you do?"
Vice presidents have been enduring this sort of thing since John Adams, but last night, at least, No. 2 was finally No. 1.
"You're No. 1, sir," Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers told Bush before trying -- unsuccessfully -- to lead the audience in a chorus of "We're Number One." "And it was a hit!" he chided.
The gala was the first of two being produced by Sinatra, with the one tonight honoring President Reagan. Besides Gatlin's country-western singing group, other stars celebrating Bush included singers Pearl Bailey, Lou Rawls, Dean Martin and "Good Morning America's" Kathy Lee Johnson. Yale's Whiffenpoofs proved to be classic gentlemen songsters, with Yalie Bush singing along poignantly to "The Whiffenpoof Song." And the Naval Academy Glee Club also presented a medley of justifiably neglected campaign songs dating back to George Washington.
Rich Little ran through his impersonations (better than the material), and Don Rickles ran through some scatter-gun insults whose bite was weaker than his bark. The gala's best comedy was provided by juggler Michael Davis, whose deadpan one-liners ("I'm not a politician. I make an honest living doing little tricks") and remarkable juggling were the highlight of a long evening. He juggled small balls with his mouth and, later, a bowling ball, apple and egg. Terrific. He should give lessons to Stockman.
Much less terrific was a performance by Frank Sinatra Jr. that threatened to run into tonight's gala honoring Reagan. A tedious semi-oratorio titled "Over the Land," it imagined Francis Scott Key writing about the American flag in 1985. It's doubtful that Key would have felt a need to include every significant event and location in American history, but Sinatra Jr. did, often stretching for rhymes. The worst was the reference in the Revolutionary War section to "that fateful shot the world heard round." It was hard to tell whether the applause at the end was for the quality of the song, the fact that it was over, or that America is only 209 years old.
The other highlight of the show was a scintillating performance by the New York Breakers, a collection of gravity-defying youngsters whose head-spins and breakdances provided some much-needed youth and vitality. Even Sinatra Sr. was hard pressed to elicit the same reaction after his show-ending (but not show-stopping) rendition of "L.A. Is My Lady."
"I've never met Don Rickles," Bush said in a brief thank you at the end of the gala, adding slyly, "I'm not sure I need to. I heard the Naval Academy singing those ugly songs about McKinley and Van Buren and I think I had a soft year running against Ferarro this time."
Bush and his wife, Barbara, sat in a special box with their family and Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. They were greeted by Sinatra when they arrived, and television entertainer Merv Griffin was master of ceremonies. When he announced the attendance, Griffin quipped that it was "the same number of people who voted for Mr. Mondale in the last election."
As the guests arrived, the first thing you noticed was the fur.
"Oh boy," one woman gasped. "Look at all the minks."
The second thing you noticed was the white plastic bag with the inaugural seal that seemed to hang from every hand.
"They love it," said Susi Valenzuela, an inauguration volunteer, as she stuffed a free hospitality bag with free jellybeans, free M&Ms, a free guide book, free programs and a free catalogue that enabled you to send away for more things (which are not free).
They did seem to love it, judging from the crowds in front of the hospitality booth. And as the guests rushed to check their furs, secure their plastic bags and decode the floor plan of the Convention Center, their faces gleamed and their wide-open eyes scanned the crowds hungrily, as if the sight of the lights and signs and bands and all the other staring people was something to be acquired and stacked away with the same zest as the complimentary candy.
Tickets were priced between $75 and $150, but the event wasn't billed as mandatory black tie. Many guests wore formal attire, but Bush wore a conservative blue suit. Mrs. Bush wore a short sapphire blue double-faced tissue satin dress with long sleeves, jet bugle bead trim and a blue bow belt with jet bead trim. For the women in the mostly Republican crowd, fancy cocktail dresses were the standard.
"We just had to do it," said Sandra Cranek. "It's a true experience."
Just outside the hall, a group of five Ohioans stood giggling and smiling and taking each other's picture again and again.
"This is just the frosting on the cake," said Clarence Smith. "That's how much we think of Reagan."
A strange plinking sound arose from the group: the overlapping melodies of several inauguration buttons that flash with small red lights and play the national anthem.
"We have 13 grandchildren," said Wilma Drake, opening her bag and showing her loot. "We're taking one back for each of them."
Hundreds of humming buttons greeted guests as they entered the center, along with silent buttons with ribbons attached, greeting cards that sang and flashed, banners that didn't do anything, potholders covered with elephants, and 8-by-10 glossies of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and George and Barbara Bush.
A few steps further, just past the metal detectors, you could get your official inaugural portrait taken in front of a blue curtain decorated with the inaugural seal. All for $20 per 8-by-10 glossy, a smiling woman holding a portrait and a fur coat explained, with $15 dollars extra for the gold-painted frame, and $5 for shipping and handling.
"Say money," the photographer told one couple.
Four weeks to delivery.
Every 20 feet, it seemed, there was another band, another man in uniform offering assistance, another bar (mixed drinks $3.50, beer $2.50, soda $1.75).
"We just got here from Florida," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell, arriving late and rushing.
"Can I help you upstairs, Reverend Falwell?" one of the men in uniform asked. Falwell looked delighted. He was delighted, he said, and ready to celebrate.
"The right two men are in," he said. As reporters pulled one way, a nice man in uniform pointed another and Falwell smiled upon everyone. "We just attended the Helms' dinner," he said. "We'll be at the gala tomorrow night and the official swearing-in ceremony. We won't miss much."