There were white plastic 1986 souvenir tote bags, filled with M&M's candy, Cadbury mini-eggs, comic books and, as one youngster put it, "lotsa other junk." There was an Oxon Hill Children's Farm pig, whose pink wet nose was wobbled and wiggled by little pink fingers. There was GloWorm. There were balloons tied to wrists, ankles and belt-holes. There was Baby Potato Head, who had his ears and nose pulled off several hundred times. There were Easter baskets, green cellophane grass and Easter eggs.
But mostly there were people, 35,000 of them lined up or on the loose, but quite definitely on the other side, the Inside, of the White House gates yesterday. The pastel throng of humanity mixed and mingled with each other and the stars: Spider-Man, the Easter Bunny, Big John Studd (the wrestler), Jay Schroeder (the Redskin), some other Redskins, Glenn Brenner (the sportscaster), clowns, Captain Crunch and other characters from Teevee land.
"This could never happen in Russia," said Ron Cohn, a physician from Long Island. "The Kremlin would go nuts."
But this was not the Kremlin. This was the White House, home to the annual Easter Egg Roll, open to anyone accompanied by a child 8 or younger.
In such a multitude it's hard to distinguish oneself. But Rita Cohn, wife of Ron and mother of Keri, Gianna and Heather, did. She was first in line, with 7-year-old Keri, at 5 a.m., five hours before the White House gates were scheduled to open.
The Cohns came down from New York Sunday and spent the night at the Holiday Inn. Then, before most everybody else in the city, Rita and Keri Cohn were up and out, watching the clowns pour out of vans, the military bands set up, and the sun rise. At 9 a.m. Ron Cohn arrived with Gianna, Heather and breakfast from Hardee's.
By 9:30 the crowd, like a cat chasing its tail, had curled around State Drive, the end meeting the beginning. Flannel blankets were spread out on the pavement. Naps were under way. Dunkin' Donuts boxes were empty.
From the Entertainment Stage the loudspeakers poured out the singers' warm-up tones: "This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island . . . " The Shutterbugs
It's the age of Polaroid, the Instamatic and the Sure-Shot. Anybody can take a picture. And yesterday, it seemed, every parent was doing just that.
Jelly Belly, "the Original Gourmet Jelly Bean," was a popular photo study. "Grab hold of Jelly Belly's hand. Grab hold of his hand. Turn around, Grace. There you go. No. Turn around. Look up at Daddy."
Two-year-old Grace Thompson, bobbing and swaying in a pink and white gingham dress, looked up at Daddy's Polaroid Autofocus 660 with a crumpled, pout-bound face.
"Gracie, smile!" Finally Garland Thompson got a shot of his daughter standing in front of Jelly Belly.
"You don't happen to have an extra picture, do you?" somebody asked Thompson. "We forgot our camera."
So Garland Thompson, with one more Polaroid shot to go, aimed his Autofocus on the Eddins family (Jim, Sue and their daughter Kimberly) standing in front of the White House. "We're glad to help you out," said Thompson.
It was his last Polaroid picture, but not his last shot. Thompson gave the Polaroid to Grandma, took out his Kodak Instamatic 20 and headed off for more photo opportunities. Spider-Man Can
Pen-pushers seeking autographs found the nimble Spider-Man elusive. "Shake hands, guy," said the Super Hero to a little fan. "Jeez, I really don't have time," he said to another autograph seeker. "Sorry. Spidey is on his way to find Captain America."
And Spider-Man, all red, blue and slinky, fled from the autograph-crazed crowd.
He's cool. He doesn't do autographs. But one disappointed kid got the last, angry word: "See yah, Spidey. You web-head!"
Ouch. You Get Egg Rolls
"All right, buddy. Right here. Right into my hand. Good job. YOU WON!" Thomas McKnew shouted as the toddler -- advancing a hard-boiled egg with a white plastic serving spoon -- crossed the finish line.
McKnew, a 15-year-old St. John's student, was on spring break. "I couldn't go to Florida, so this was the next best thing," he said. "This" was the the Easter Egg Roll pen, where McKnew, in loafers, white corduroy pants and pink pin-striped shirt, squatted at the finish line for the "Two and Under" lane, urging the tykes to get their eggs rolling.
"Right here, buddy," he cheered. "Buddy," an athletic 2-year-old, hurled the egg straight at McKnew. It was less like a roll and more like a shot put. "You win!" McKnew exclaimed. Spider-Man Takes a Nap
Spidey took a break, stretching out on an army cot in the First Aid/Lost and Found tent.
"Can I have your autograph?" a little lost one asked.
"No!" Spidey barked. "No. I would, but my hand is broken. I just punched out the Green Goblin yesterday." That Old Trick Again
Rules are rules are rules, and there is always some way to get around them. Even at the White House Egg Hunt.
The object of the game: to scramble across a straw-covered area in search of wooden eggs. The eggs, painted red, purple, yellow and blue, are autographed with famous names. Last year the hiders ran out of eggs, so this year there was One Big Rule: one egg per child.
But just how do you define "child"?
One father brought his sleeping child through, picked up a glossy egg, and walked out.
Another, Mike White, took the word "child" in the loosest sense. "This is going to sound kind of dumb, but my wife is pregnant. Can I get one for the baby?" White said to an egg cop who stood inside the straw-filled egg hunt pen. Her job was to enforce the one-egg-one-child law.
The wife, Robin White, said she was "four months pregnant. No. I mean two months pregnant."
But they got the egg. The Eggatha Twins
It's so much fun! It is just soooo fun to be an egg.
"I went into the bathroom and some lady yelled at me," said Cathy Glenbocki, 15, holding her orange beak in her hand. Her legs were planted in rubber chicken feet, her torso in a giant eggshell and her head in a cap of bright yellow fuzz. She and her best friend, Laura Cavallini, were impersonating eggs for the American Egg Board. Both were calling themselves Eggatha. "We're twins," said one.
"The costume is really heavy. But it's so much fun," Glenbocki said.
Even the dumb questions, are they fun?
Oh, the dumb questions. "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Giggle. Titter.
More dumb questions: "Are you hot in there?" (Yes!) "What are you?" (An egg!) "What are you going to have for lunch?" ("Egg salad sandwiches! Ha. Ha. No. Really, ham sandwiches.") Where's the President?
President and Mrs. Reagan were in Santa Barbara, if anyone wondered. But they left behind a lot of signatures on wooden eggs. And, of course, their back yard. Where's the Transformer?
This is what really matters. Forget the Reagans. Forget the eggs. Forget the Easter Bunny. Larry Johnson had only one thing on his 12-year-old mind: the Transformer.
Mr. Peanut told Larry that he had seen the Transformer. Larry was not interested in talking to anyone who couldn't tell him where the Transformer, a giant robot, was. He saw Uncle Sam and hollered up the red, white and blue stilts: "Have you found that Transformer guy?"
Uncle Sam, teetering and tottering on his stilts, called back: "No."
Sam said he was nine feet tall "when dressed," but otherwise declined to discuss his stilts. Asked how long he had been standing around on them, he rested his hand on the questioner's head, gained his balance, then bent down and firmly said, "Don't break the bubble, honey. Positivism. Positivism. That's what this is all about."