Dom DeLuise seemed to have taken it upon himself to provide the entertainment at the White House last night. Conducting the Marine Corps Band at a reception for contributors to Ford's Theatre was DeLuise, encased in a vast expanse of tuxedo and waving a baton.
Band leader Col. John Bourgeois, batonless, provided backup.
"The man gave me the baton," DeLuise said. "He thought I conducted so well. Look, they were playing "Memories," and they were playing it so well I could barely eat my crab cake."
Then he danced the flamenco.
Except for the ebullient DeLuise floating across the marble floor, and actress Delores Hall, who wore a top dripping with gold spangles and hair that rose from her head in startled tufts, most of the guests were sedate in both dress and demeanor.
But people don't go to the White House looking for excitement. They go there looking for power and glitter, which were provided, as usual, last night.
The cohosts for the show at Ford's, which followed the reception, were "Dynasty's" Linda Evans and John Forsythe, both of them tan beyond the average sunbather's dream. They gleamed and received admirers who had given at least $5,000 for the privilege of attending the reception. President and Mrs. Reagan, pale by comparison, did the same, working their way through a 400-person receiving line.
"First, I think it's a wonderful cause," said Evans, a soaring column of sleek red topped by her usual impressive shoulder pads. "And then to cohost with John Forsythe is irresistible. Most importantly, to come to Washington, D.C., for the first time in my life -- and I've certainly been given the best treatment. Yesterday we were just like tourists."
But unlike most tourists, Evans was as much looked at as looking.
"People are very enthusiastic about the show. People at the sights were very helpful if we couldn't move or see anything," she said.
Ford's annual fund-raising weekend included receptions, parties, a show at the theater that was filmed by CBS to be shown June 12, and a late-night supper at the Organization of American States. Like any savvy charity, Ford's enlisted a few stars, both political and not, to draw attention and money. Last night they included Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore, Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.), former senator Howard Baker and U.S. Information Agency chief Charles Z. Wick. The politicians were really just there as dates, since it was their wives who are involved with the theater, which expects to raise $500,000 from the weekend's combined events.
Millie O'Neill and Carol Laxalt were general cochairmen and Mary Jane Wick gala chairman. Joy Baker, who has been ill, received the theater's Lincoln Medal and thanked the audience in a faint voice.
In addition to stars, no charity in this day and age can survive without corporations. One of the big ones last night was Kraft, which will sponsor the television broadcast.
"When I was 16 I met Kennedy in the Rose Garden," said Kraft grocery products general manager Joseph Durrett. "I come back every three or four years for something. It really makes you feel neat. My picture was on the front page of the Washington Star that night when I saw Kennedy. It was a gas."
Every fundraiser has its own buzzword and last night's was "history," with "Americana" coming in as a close runner-up.
"I just think it's a wonderful historic institution," said Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), who said he was there as a guest of the Wicks.
And said Montalban: "I felt it was a great honor, and I think it's a great place. This country has been so very good to me and what it means in the history of the country -- I was very honored."
Since the use of the phrase "I was honored" is as essential to a fundraiser as good catering, Montalban's comments may have made him eligible for the Year's Best Charity Guest award.
After everyone had shaken the hands of the stars, it was time for the show. While guests employed programs as fans against the heat produced by the television lights, magician David Copperfield made a duck appear out of a barrel Tip O'Neill was holding, Patti La Belle and Julia Migenes-Johnson sang and Bobby Berosini's Orangutans behaved surprisingly like humans.
Because it was Washington, a few special jokes were added.
"Do you know who that is?" a big stuffed doll staring doll-like at the Reagans asked ventriloquist Ronn Lucas.
"It's the leader of the free world," Lucas answered.
"And she brought her husband," the doll quipped.
Because a lot of people there were very rich, there were a few special jokes that only the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent are able to make.
"Two days ago, I was recovering from surgery at UCLA," Armand Hammer said. He wanted to attend the fundraiser. "The doctor said, 'That's impossible.' So I said, 'What if I bring the doctor with me?' So the doctor's here tonight."
And because Reagan sees no reason to let a joke disappear just because it's slightly used, he brought out pretty much the same one he used at Ford's in 1981.
1981 version: "Incidentally, it is not true that I used to play this theater before it was closed 100-odd years ago."
1985 version: "Ford's Theater opened in 1863. It is not true I was part of the opening act."
Laughter. More laughter. And more laughter still.