Richard Berendzen didn't have his encyclopedia. Mark Russell didn't have his cello. And David Lloyd Kreeger certainly didn't have his 2,000 records.
But then last night's party aboard the Cherry Blossom Paddlewheeler was a far cry from a desert island.
American University President Berendzen, comedian Russell, Washington Opera Board Chairman Kreeger and about 30 other "castaways" were being honored by WETA-FM at a reunion of local celebrities who have been guests on the station's "Desert Island Discs" show. Before going on the show, each had had to answer the question, "If you were stranded on a desert island, which five recordings would you like to have with you and why?" They were also asked what "luxury item" they'd like to take along, which explains -- sort of -- the encyclopedia, the cello and the 2,000 records.
"No desert island was ever like this," said Kreeger.
Since January 1985, well-known Washingtonians have been sharing their favorite music and chatting it up on the Saturday morning show, for which Martin Goldsmith and Robert Aubry Davis share the job of host.
According to Kreeger, cohost of this "castaways reunion," the most popular composers of desert island music have been Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Symphonies have been the most popular type of music, although one castaway did list Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" among his five faves.
The festivities reached high tide with the presentation of party favors: gag gifts based on the castaways' choices of luxury items.
"Mark, we thought what you really meant to say was jello, not cello, so here's some jello," said Goldsmith, handing the comedian a small wrapped package. About 150 assembled guests watched with amusement.
"Cello, cello," Russell said later to Martin Rubenstein, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "Well, this is PBS."
And he added, "My cello's a planter now anyway."
The luxury items -- and the presents -- were more varied than the musical selections.
Washington Ballet Director Mary Day wanted a jar of peanut butter. Goldsmith gave her peanut butter. Espionage novelist Rod MacLeish, who loves to cook, asked for "The Penguin Book of Sauces." Goldsmith gave him "The Source Book of Penguins." Dr. Albert Sabin said he'd like a mermaid. He got a jar of caviar.
"You can always ask ..." said Sabin. "You don't always get ..."
Journalist Jeremy Levin, who was kidnaped in March of 1984 by Moslem militants and held for 11 months until he escaped, set aside music and party favors for a moment to comment on two current events -- the detention of journalist Nicholas Daniloff in Moscow and the hijacking of the Pan Am flight in Pakistan.
"Every time one of these new situations arises, it brings home the perilous times that we live in," said Levin, "but ... it brings home the fact that our longest running hostage crisis still remains the one concerning the Americans still being held hostage in Lebanon."
What was Levin's luxury item?
"And here she is, suitably wrapped," said Goldsmith, who then pulled Lucille (Sis) Levin out of the crowd with a big green bow stuck to her chest.
Levin seemed very happy with that.