Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork didn't make it to the Meridian House ball last night, although he did grace the dinner at the Swedish Embassy, one of the 42 embassy dinners preceding the 19th annual ball.
Social leader Bennetta Washington said, "I heard him say he was going straight home after the dinner." Another guest at the Swedish dinner, William F. McSweeny, Washington chief of Occidental Petroleum, said, "He and his wife seemed to be very relaxed and enjoying themselves."
If Bork had come, he might not have found a parking place on Crescent Place NW. Last night Meridian Hill was one solid parade of cars, mostly long black limousines, which ball perennials have learned are the only way to go. A number of guests said they saw ball-goers give up and go home after their umpteenth circuit of the hill.
"Valet parking rejected us. But soon it will all be better," said Meridian House's Nancy Matthews. "Now that we've bought the White-Myers house, we'll be able to put parking there. But not next year."
Do not deduce from the condition of Crescent Place that no one managed to get in. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Reagan appointee who did make it to the court, also made it to the ball. Fending off questions about the court's vacancy, he said it doesn't look as if it's going to get any more help right now.
The ball, in the magnificent beaux arts house designed by John Russell Pope, was a true "squeeze," as such parties were called in the last century. The crush was such that people would aim at kissing one cheek and come perilously close to a different one.
Guests entered one of the town's grandest great halls, with its sweeping double stairway, to the music of a string ensemble; greeted ball chairman Mary Johnston, wife of Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, and Joseph John Jova, Meridian House president; took turns at enough desserts to ruin anybody's cholesterol level for a year; danced in the ballroom; and then wandered off to the terrace to cool off under the linden trees. "We were able to have 450 guests this year," said Peggy Johnson, a ball committee member, "because more embassies than ever gave dinners."
Earlier, Johnson dined amid the Dutch Old Master paintings at the Netherlands Embassy, where Ambassador Richard Hendrik Fein and Monique Fein had 20 around their long table.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and his wife Rose made the dinner just in time for the fish course. Those guests who were afraid his lateness meant war had been declared in the Persian Gulf were relieved to hear him say that the Senate was taking yesterday's missile attack on the U.S.-flagged Sea Isle City very calmly. "There was hardly any talk about it," he said.
During toasts, the senator paid tribute to the Netherlands' pioneering adventures in world trade. "I hope we can learn from them how to enact a trade bill that doesn't restrict trade, and encourages free and open commerce."
And then it was on to the ball. Cochran got the last parking place on Meridian Hill.