Jill St. John didn't bother to walk away from the buffet at the Regent hotel on Saturday afternoon. She didn't even look for a napkin. She just put her plate down right there at the end of the table and started eating.
"Nothing gets in the way of my feeding," she said, as she worked her way through three crab legs large enough to star in a science-fiction movie. "I'm the kind of person who never gains weight," she said, as her escort Robert Wagner fended off the approaching tide of friends, "and I'm always hungry."
"Now what do I do?" she asked, when she finished only a few seconds later and was left with two perfectly manicured, perfectly sticky hands. No problem. Down a corridor into the kitchen, back with a napkin, "Oh hello!" to the approaching Hugh O'Brian -- all in one smooth movement.
It was the kind of party where everybody is addressed as "darling" or "you lovely woman," where a question about a guest's identity brings an answer like, "He's a yachtsman and an oilman from Texas," and where the warm wool suits are trimmed in mink.
"I haven't got any ax to grind," said hostess Nancy Holmes, a contributing editor to Town and Country magazine, explaining why she came down from New York to hold the party. "I've got friends in every camp."
Then her glance strayed to the staircase.
"Now here come the Faroukis, whom I adore," she said, and was off.
Some of the other friends there were Merv Griffin, Eva Gabor, actor Michael York, Baroness Di Portanova, White House social secretary Gahl Hodges and her husband, State Department assistant secretary Richard Burt, Sen. John Warner and Oscar de la Renta.
Everyone seemed to know everyone. Everyone hugged. Everyone was crushed in the crowd of about 140 people from both camps and no one seemed to mind.
Just past the seafood, but before the pasta and the ham and the eclairs and the raspberries and the whipped cream, Mary Martin was having her picture taken with Ambassador to Italy Maxwell Rabb.
"I've known Nancy and Mr. President -- I keep forgetting and saying Ronnie -- for years," she said, as the camera flashed and Rabb grinned. "Nancy's first time on Broadway was with me. She was very young and darling -- of course, we were all very young and darling."
Then she grabbed Rabb's arm as if she was about to start dancing.
"Ah, they're playing my song," she said, as the strains of "The Sound of Music" rose over the chatter. "I thought it sounded familiar."