In some civilizations, the greatest show of loyalty is your willingness to die for your friends. In Washington, it seems, it's your willingness to go to their parties.
"Isn't it wonderful that so many friends came? It shows you can have friends in this town as well as enemies," one guest whispered at last night's reception to celebrate the opening of Helga Orfila's new boutique, Helga O.
Helga is the wife of former Organization of American States secretary general Alejandro Orfila, who resigned from Gray and Co. last week after an investigation of the company's Madrid office raised questions about payments from a Spanish company to a Spanish politician.
"Very attractive, isn't it?" said Alejandro Orfila, the welcoming smile he has perfected over the years taking in the cases of necklaces and scarves and belts. "I'll just talk about Helga here tonight."
Helga O. (the owner, not the boutique) was talking about how she didn't want to sell any of the necklaces and scarves and belts because then there wouldn't be anything in the cases for the next three opening parties. And the timing of her party?
"Nothing is perfect in life, I think," she said, "so you do what you can. I said, 'I have to do it.' He's had some offers. He will wait and see what happens. I said he should take it easy for a while."
Helga O. (the boutique) is pretty small, but just large enough to accommodate scads of pictures of Helga O. (the owner) at White House state dinners, with Frank Sinatra, with the Carters, the Reagans, the Bushes. For variety, there were signed photographs of Merv Griffin and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the latter dressed in overalls and standing next to a tractor.
"I've known them for years," said the real-life Warner, who was not in overalls. "I also am very interested when women try and establish their own careers. I try to be a champion of equal pay, equal opportunity, equal rights."
It was the kind of crowd filled with perfectly coiffed women in little black suits and little black purses and a few well-suited men, the kind of crowd that kisses a lot and squeals, "You look fabulous! So streamlined!"
Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) was wandering among the cases, studying their contents.
"Let's just say I'm always looking," said Hatfield. "There are always anniversaries and birthdays coming along. Being chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I'm always looking at cost. I haven't caught the cost factors yet -- the cost-benefit ratios."