In Washington, Stevie Wonder was avoiding the torrent of congratulatory handshakes and Mary Travers was confirming she is indeed a grandmother. In Atlanta, Coretta King was looking worn and Yolanda King was being hugged.
And above all the party activity at Atlanta's Marriott hotel and the District's Pension Building hung huge screens showing what the rest of the country was seeing. A televised Wonder grinned, Travers sang as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated for a national audience, and if there was food and talk to be engaged in, most of the guests seemed happy to watch the show they'd just finished taping -- watch themselves -- one more time.
"WOO!" shouted dancer Gregory Hines in Washington as Patti La Belle, in Atlanta, roared from the TV screen.
"It was a very emotional thing, a very emotional thing," he said of the show, in which he performed a tap interpretation of the rhythms of King's speech. "We're just doing his bidding. What happened tonight was exactly what Martin Luther King spoke about -- black people, white people working together, sharing, sitting together, in the audience and here. We're just doing his bidding."
While Hines diligently signed autographs and the Rev. Jesse Jackson diligently worked the table after table,, a coterie of men in tuxedos diligently surrounded Stevie Wonder, shaking their heads at approaching notebooks.
"He's supposed to be relaxing," said one of the tuxedos of Wonder, who led the battle for the King national holiday and produced the television show.
Just one question?
"Just one question," the tuxedo repeated, but warned: "A really short question."
"I thought it went really smoothly, considering the time," Wonder said, seeming pretty relaxed already. "What did you think?" He was then led to a corner where he could concentrate on listening to the show.
The 1,200 guests at the Pension Building had each either paid $400 for their tickets to the show or had been asked to eat creole rice, chicken and a chocolate-raspberry concoction by someone else who'd paid $400 in their behalf. Furs and sequins were accented by neon-green glowing wands distributed to the audience. Several guests stuck the shining things in their pockets and exuded an eerie light throughout the evening.
Dancer Judith Jamison was soaring and graceful in black spike heels, black pants and a black fur-trimmed cape. Jamison danced and spoke for a moment during the show, telling of how she and her fellow Alvin Ailey dancers had learned of King's assassination while performing a production of the same ballet they presented last night.
At the party, speaking of King's work, she said, "I was in college when all this was going on." "I was a girl from Philadelphia and I was very unaffected in Philadelphia. But when I went to Fisk in Tennessee, I began to see how different it could be."
At Fisk Jamison remembers participating in one lunch counter sit-in, but, she said smiling, "It was very difficult. I'm not very passive. As an aggressive dancer, it was very hard to be passive."
In Atlanta, about 500 $50-ticket-holders moved through the cold night air filled with fireworks toward the party, where King's oldest child, Yolanda, credited as producer of the Atlanta show, doubted there would be much money left over from the telecast after all expenses are paid. But she said it was certainly worth it: "The message got out."
King took bows as she moved through a crowd that nibbled nachos and rare roast beef. "You're all right, baby, haven't seen you," said a tall man in black tie who hugged Yolanda and described himself as an old boyfriend. "I may be a fool not to be with you." Polite, she hugged back, then reminisced about growing up in the shadow of her father's legacy. She gave her mother credit for keeping four children "from being incredibly neurotic . . ." unlike most children of the famous. "I grew up with everyday people, the same people my father worked to uplift."
It was those people, and others who stayed away from the celebrations and gave the holiday little thought, that the King family hoped the telecast would reach. "NBC estimated we'd reach 40 million people," Yolanda said, sinking to a seat with a glass of white wine. "I'm exhausted. I'd like a few days to take it all in, but I've got to go off to lecture."
The guests, most in black tie and mink coats, snaked through a buffet line, past makeshift fountains and yellow daffodils, grabbed drinks at an open bar and raced for the candlelit tables to watch the big screens.
Coretta Scott King was still walking but looking tired after weeks with little sleep. But she was pleased. "The message got out tonight more from the show than anything in the past. The whole thing was focused on Martin's goals."
Then she signed a few final autographs and went off to bed.