They came, they saw, they danced. At nine official Inaugural Balls and two Young Americans balls, President and Barbara Bush and Vice President and Marilyn Quayle flew through their most gala of nights. A report from the fronts. First Couple's First Dance They were high above the crowd like conquering heroes. George and Barbara Bush, appearing before a roaring throng of 5,000 at Union Station, walked up the steps of the mahogany kiosk in the middle of the station's grand entrance hall and waved to the onlookers who were packed in elbow to elbow below them. As the new first family came down the stairs back into the crowd, the president leaned over the staircase grabbing hands and Barbara Bush sailed by with a teasing smile. "Mrs. Bush! Mrs. Bush!" shouted Susan Finn, who works for Equitable Financial Services in Fairfax. Barbara Bush quickly turned around and said, "It is a pleasure to be here tonight." When they finished their quick walkabout, while the Marine band played one of those irresistible American marches, Bush ran up the stairs to the stage and breathlessly introduced the cochairs of the Inaugural Committee, Penne Korth and Bobby Holt. "The one in the dress is Penne," said Bush. He thanked the crowd for its support and introduced his own turn at dancing. "You can say you saw it first here, a lousy dancer trying to dance his first dance with the first lady of the United States of America." With the romantic strains of "I Could Have Danced All Night," Bush embraced his wife and moved around with his left arm stretched out. He kept looking over his shoulder pointing to people, the consummate politician, if not the consummate dancer. In about 10 minutes, the Bushes were gone, on to the next ball. Union Station's ball, dance home to the Maine and Indiana contingents, was emceed by former baseball great Steve Garvey, and celebs in the crowd included Wayne Newton, George Hamilton, Bob and Elizabeth Dole, Phyllis Schlafly, the president's daughter and son-in-law Dorothy and William LeBlond. As the evening started winding down, the Gene Donati Orchestra suddenly struck up "Shout," the Eisley Brothers' classic. People who were already heading out dropped their coats to the floor and started twisting the night away. -- Jacqueline Trescott Quayle's Comedy Hour At the Shoreham, Vice President Dan Quayle, with a slip of the tongue, succeeded in getting what had eluded him through the hard-fought campaign: a spontaneous belly laugh. Arriving shortly after 9 p.m., he went first to the ballroom set aside for overflow from the main ball and spoke briefly. Moving on to the main ballroom, he launched into a nearly identical set of remarks. But when he reached the part about how thrilling it was to take the oath of office, he varied slightly in his explanation of how strange it had felt to have former president Reagan stand aside for the new president and vice president. "I'm not used to walking in front of President Reagan," he said, then continued: "So we went out behind the Bushes." The double-entendre was immediately apparent to Marilyn Quayle, who blushed bright red, and to the guests, who laughed loudly. After a brief pause, Quayle himself laughed and said, "Johnny Carson could do no better." Another pause worthy of Johnny himself. "There's not any press in this meeting, this is a closed meeting, isn't it?" he asked. Then mugging toward the cameras at the back of the room, he went on. "There is? I'm sure they won't report it because they like me so well." That got the biggest laugh of all. Quayle ended the moment by saying, "Anyway, I think it's time to dance," sweeping his wife off with a slow step. One of the chairmen of the ball, held for residents of Alaska, Kansas, New York, Oregon, North Dakota and South Dakota -- was Meredith Dale, wife of Edwin L. Dale Jr., who was designated last week to serve as counselor and director of external affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. Said she of Quayle, "I thought he was delightfully amusing -- that he kept his sense of humor." -- Marjorie Williams The Minute Men Lucky Seven. President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle managed to cross paths -- a nexus of power -- within minutes of each other at the Second Young American's Ball at the downtown JW Marriott. It was one of the cheaper tickets in town (costing $35), but it managed to get the most bang. It was the seventh stop for Bush and sixth for Quayle. Most of the 1,000 young Republicans strutted quietly like well-dressed sheep, until they were briefly ignited at 10 p.m. first by Quayle and immediately after by Bush. "This is the most enthusiasm," Bush told the suddenly jubilant crowd of young revelers, with wife Barbara at his side. "Enthusiasm into action, that's what put us into the job we're in now." Elapsed speech time: one minute. "Our hearts are full of gratitude," Bush said as he left, and signed "I love you" with his left hand. Quayle just minutes earlier also was greeted by whoops and cheers, and he stayed 10 minutes addressing the group. "We were in the building and heard a noise and wanted to come see what it was all about," he joked flatly. But everything he said managed to get uproarious approval from the crowd. Perhaps it was because Quayle looked so much like the young Republicans gathered -- uncannily, he even looked as youthful. There is nothing quite like being in a ballroom full of young Republicans. Tuxedos with sneakers, taffeta with braces. Coiffed and curled, primped and pumped, the Bushies-to-be strolled around the room in what seemed to be practice for the Bigger Balls of the future. Young women wore designer dresses and many sported minks -- mini-minks really, short jackets, capes and muffs. But it was a start. The young men mostly wore formal wear, though the invitation for the ball called only for coat and tie. And everyone -- even if they were brunette -- seemed blond. Of all the things they were, what they weren't was unruly. In fact, they were eerily polite, as they stiffly sipped cash-bar drinks and munched pretzels. "Look at them, they're so uptight," said 25-year-old Laurie Christopher, a local high school teacher and Republican, who confessed that she had voted Democratic this year. "It represents what America has become -- a who's who of being seen." But a close friend of Christopher's, 30-year-old Judy Hatch of Vermont, was deeply affected by Bush's "new breeze" in the air. "George Bush is for bringing back morals, family and all the things that are important," she said. "It's wonderful, this new energy." -- Kara Swisher The Pride of Texas Beer bottles and Stetsons waved high as a cheering crowd of Texans, and supposedly some South Carolinians, watched a tired-looking President Bush dance with Barbara. But the cheers exploded when the band struck up "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Before the Bushes' brief stopover at 10:45 last night at the Inaugural Ball in the National Air and Space Museum, Bill Harrington's Orchestra blared and Crystal Gayle belted out "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" while thousands of Texans decked out in boots and diamonds and low-cut sequined ball gowns mixed and mingled joyously. "It beats losin', George," said one ebullient well-wisher to George W. Bush, who stood not far from the model of the Spirit of St. Louis. "No kidding," said Bush as he stood there autographing programs. "It feels great! Absolutely terrific!" said incoming Secretary of State James A. Baker. Besieged by a crowd of handshakers, Baker quickly moved into a closed reception room, where he shot the breeze with incoming drug czar William Bennett and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Said Bennett, the former education secretary and before that chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, "I'm beginning to feel I'm getting tenure around here. This is my seventh year. There's nowhere to go but up." He added, however, that his new antidrug job is "the big one. This is the one to do right. I have no ambivalence about the federal government having a role." As he spoke, the Princeton Footnotes were singing humorously "Come Go With Me," and the audience wasn't laughing. Scalia leaned over to Bennett and said, "These people here are taking it seriously. This society is doomed." In general, a leading topic of conversation seemed to be Georgette Mosbacher, the social bombshell wife of incoming Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher. Patsy Barker from Houston recounted that at the swearing-in ceremony everyone was whispering and pointing to Georgette Mosbacher. But, Barker said, "she's going for the title of queen of New York, she's not a part of the River Oaks crowd," the old-money Texas elite. "Somebody wanted to take her picture at the gala last night and she struck this amazing pose for the camera," said Betty Lou Carter of Houston to a number of her friends, imitating the comic pose. "She's incredible. All the ladies are jealous yet there's no animosity toward her. We just admire her, and Bob's such a neat guy." -- Phil McCombs Kennedy Center Gridlock No one could move at the Kennedy Center. Seriously. By 8:15, people were body-to-body trying to push through the Grand Foyer, where thousands of people from five states were gridlocked. By 8:45, the area in front of the stage where George Bush was to appear was at an absolute standstill. When guests were told the president would not be arriving for more than three hours, no one seemed to believe it. "I was told that there would be chairs for us to sit on, " said Natalie Meyer of Denver. "Come to find out the chairs are only for people who paid a lot of money." "Natalie, there's a step over there you may want to sit on," offered her husband Harold Meyer. "A step?" she asked. "I paid $350 to sit on a step at the Kennedy Center? I'm just about ready to go back to my hotel and order dinner." "When they said Inaugural Ball, I expected a little more dispersion among the different locations," said Patrick Nesbitt of Los Angeles. "I expected it to be a ball setting," said Nesbitt's date Lisa Barfield. "You really can't even dance." Indeed, there was a dance floor as big as a handkerchief at the far end of the foyer. Word had it that there was another dance floor at the other end. But darned if anyone could get to it. "It's clearly oversold, and it's been a real disappointment," said Carl Woie of Minnesota, who said he was a bomber pilot with Bush during World War II. "But I did march in the parade today, and that was certainly a thrill." Bush finally showed up at 11:30 -- an eternity for an immobile crowd of 5,000. He gave his standard thanks, and then joked of his new quarters: "Don't worry about the housing. We spent a couple of hours in the White House and it's pretty darn nice." He and Barbara stayed at the Kennedy Center three minutes, tops. Said a dismayed man from California: "Not even a dance? For this we waited three hours." Everyone's sentiments exactly. -- Lois Romano Young at Heart The Inaugural Committee had gelled the lights (red, white and blue) and covered the walls with red, white and blue drapes, but the D.C. National Guard Armory last night still looked less like a ballroom than a gymnasium. Ten thousand revelers attended the Young Americans Ball, young in this case being a word kind enough to embrace Helen Daniel, 62, who had taught school for 38 years in Louisville, Ky. She said the ball reminded her of a senior prom. Limousines were rare, minks rarer, but the gathering nonetheless presented a perceptibly Republican character. Sonya Zepeda, 13, said, "Republicans are more formal." Rebecca Gaveis, 19, of Lancaster, Pa. -- who wore pearls, white gloves and a floor-length dress of pink silk and white lace with a hoop in the skirt -- said, "They are more classy, too." James A. Dalrymple, general manager of the Armory complex, said he'd seen Democrats and Republicans partying for years, and "the Republicans let the guys lead." President and Mrs. Bush arrived at 8:57 to a roar of affection. "Barbara and I just wanted to pop in here, say hello," he said. "As we rode down that historic avenue, it was the young people that brought that thing alive." The bands were the Malemen, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and the Bus Boys, whom many of the dancers knew from the Eddie Murphy movie "48 Hrs." There was more milling around than dancing. Tickets cost $30. The paper cup of beer that Lee Teague, 26, of Greensboro, N.C., was drinking cost $2.75. "This is like a high school dance," he said, "but I hope after a while it'll have the feel of a college fraternity party." Vice-President Quayle and his wife arrived shortly after 11 p.m. He said their families "have 117 relatives that are here, but that's a small family compared to the Bush family, I want you to know that." He added that his son was among the family members at the Armory. "I hope they're all behaved." "What a great day for America!" said the vice president. "President George Bush! It has a great ring to it, doesn't it? Vice President Dan Quayle -- that's not too shabby either." -- Paul Richard The Grand Walk-Through It was one of those moments that make you wonder if the world is choreographed by a writer for "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." There was Joan Rivers at the Washington Convention Center, standing at attention while George Bush and his entourage, shielded by white curtains, departed for the next ball. Then Bush, drawn by the cheers of a small group of the faithful, broke through the curtain, spotted Rivers and embraced her, to the delighted gasps of ball guests who didn't know whom to look at first. "All right!" grinned a military aide, patting Rivers on the shoulder as if her hug with Bush was some sort of athletic victory. Asked later what she was doing there she said, "I kissed the president." Was it better now than when he was vice president? "Oh, yes," she said. "More power. A power kiss." But all of this came after two hours in which nobody famous hugged anybody at all. Attending an Inaugural Ball at the Convention Center is less like going to a party than signing up for a marathon walk. Men in tuxedos and women in shiny/spangly/tufted/gathered/bustled constructions walked up and down, back and forth, from band to band and bar to bar to bar in Ballroom B, waiting for that magic moment when something -- anything -- would happen. They waited a long time. "It's been real exciting," said Jack Kay of Framingham, Mass., there with his wife Ellen as guests of a friend. "I love walking around convention centers. I'm going to put it in my memoirs." "I think they could at least have had tables," said Ellen. "But we'll tell our grandchildren about it," said Jack. "And we'll even vote for George Bush next time, if he does a good job," said Ellen. The Kays and other weary guests seemed a bit relieved when movie star Kevin Costner appeared on stage -- but some at least were in for one more little disappointment. Costner introduced his wife. "He's married?" one woman was heard to ask. There was an audible sigh from the crowd. -- Elizabeth Kastor Souvenirs and Surprises The more than 5,000 people at the Sheraton Washington Ballroom knew something was up when the Marine Corp Herald Trumpeters lined up on the grand staircase to the ballroom. Within a few minutes there was a trumpet flourish and there were Vice President Quayle and wife Marilyn, at their first stop of the evening. "This sounds like a good group, we might just stick around for a while," he told the crowd. For Arlene Stier of Omaha, coming to the inauguration was a Christmas present from her husband David. They were standing by the souvenir photo stand where they had just had their picture taken in front of an Inaugural Seal. The couple estimated that, keeping to what they called a bare-bones budget, this trip was costing them about $3,500. Both said they also were not disappointed or surprised there weren't any big political celebrities in the packed ballroom. "We did see our former senator David Karnes," Arlene Stier said. It isn't cheap to go to one of these balls; it cost $175 a ticket and you don't get any food and you have to buy your drinks at one of the many cash bars at prices of $3.50 for beer and wine, and $3 each for soft drinks. One local couple, Frank and Dorothy Farfone of Vienna, sat in one of the high-priced boxes on the balcony overlooking the ballroom. Frank Farfone, a lobbyist for Dow Chemical, said his company had given the Republican Party an interest-free loan of $100,000 that gave them the right to the box. Dorothy Farfone said she was an ardent Bush supporter while her husband, a Democrat, had been an early supporter of Rep. Richard Gephardt. When her husband was asked how he voted in the presidential election, he paused and then said, "I voted for Bush." His wife looked up with surprise and said, "Did you really?" He smiled and answered, "Yes." Even at an Inaugural Ball it's possible to learn something you didn't know. As the evening wound down, the crowd waited in front of the bandstand for the president's arrival. Shortly before midnight, he and the first lady showed up and thanked everyone. In all, they had been there about three minutes. Almost immediately there was a mass exodus for the doors. -- Chuck Conconi Biding the Time At the Pension Building the main activity was Waiting for George, as ballgoers settled into a kind of existential ennui waiting for the president to arrive. A circular platform in the center of the great columned hall had been built for his appearance, and from the start of the ball people had staked their turf around it, even pulling up tables and chairs. By 9 p.m., 40 minutes before his arrival, that section of the building was nearly impassable, the two dance floors deserted, and the Woody Herman Orchestra was belting out swing to standees. The Bushes arrived, waved, thanked, danced, and four minutes later were gone. But no matter how brief, their visit seemed to release the ballgoers into a livelier mode. "If you can stand to dance after watching Barbara and me, you have passed the test," Bush said before guiding his wife around to a few bars of "I Could Have Danced All Night." Earlier, lavishly-dressed supporters from Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Alabama and a few outlying territories seemed blissfully unaware that their ball was considered one of the less chic. "It all seems very glamorous to me," said Pam Myers, an account executive with MCI in St. Louis, who flew in with a former sorority sister, Mary Risse to attend the event. Others were not as cheerful. "Actually, this is a great way to make money," groused one tuxedoed gent as he passed a line for the cash bars. "Charge people $175 and give them absolutely nothing." There was some confusion as to the relationship of the first family host, William H. T. (Bucky) Bush, to the president. "I think he's a nephew or a cousin or something," said one press aide. "I think he's a second son," said another. Bucky is actually Bush's younger brother, the president announced. "You're probably outnumbered by Bush family," he told the crowd of about 3,300. Two families from New Rochelle, N.Y., came with children in tow. Bill and Jill Stump brought Kelly, 11, Stacy, 9, and Billy, 5, and their neighbors Bob and Donna Bongiorni brought Bobby, 10, and Glenn, 18, who seemed somewhat less interested than the others in being there. "We thought it would be such a historic occasion we wanted to bring the children," said Jill Stump. The kids looked around somewhat shyly but said they were glad to be there. After a while they said they might even dance. -- Megan Rosenfeld Short and Sweet He was in at 9:56 p.m. and out by 10 with just enough time in between to say thank you once again to the people of New Hampshire, "because I don't think I'd be here without them," and dance "a little show biz dance." George Bush's stay in the Stripes Ballroom at the Washington Convention Center was brief last night, but greeted enthusiastically nonetheless. Little wonder. The only action that occurred before that was when an irate ballgoer took a swing at a news photographer. The assailant was smuggled into the crowd by the inaugural staff who accused the stone-cold sober cameraman of being drunk. The Stripes Ballroom proved an easy place to lose one's bearings. "Let's see," said a white-haired, white-bearded man who walked in about 8 p.m. and stared into the cavernous blue-carpeted room. "I ought to be able to get us a drink somewhere in here." That proved harder and probably more expensive than he might have thought. The Republican faithful spent a good deal of their time last night standing in line. Right inside the door there was a doozy of a line stretching almost the length of the room. "Are we supposed to stand in line or something?" asked a bewildered woman who had just arrived. "It's for pictures," explained a bemused woman who was already in line. "Inaugural pictures." "Mug shots?" the bewildered woman's date asked. "Souvenir pictures," the bemused woman's husband said. You know they were souvenirs because they cost $30 a pop and another $30 to place it a frame with the official Inaugural Seal. Never let it be said that these Republicans don't believe in free enterprise. But not free anything else. Usually, when you pay $1.75 for a Coke, they call it a benefit and let you feel good about yourself. At least there was enough food. If you walked all the way around the rectangular shaped bars, scooping cheese snacks out of each dish, you could really fill up. "Anybody find out what time the entertainment starts?" asked a man in the restroom after it had been going for about an hour. As it turned out, the entertainment got going shortly after Bush left and just around the time Dorothy James and Jean Healey, of Hingham, Mass., arrived. They were dressed somewhat casually, because they had gotten their tickets at the last minute. "We probably made out better than anyone by getting here late," James said. She and Healey are big fans of the first lady. "She's so regular," said Healey. "That's why we felt good coming dressed like this tonight," James said. -- Jim Naughton Boy Meets Girl They met in line on their way into the ball at the Washington Hilton. Kathy Roberts of Columbus, Ohio, came because it was her birthday. "I thought it would be my biggest birthday party ever," said Roberts, who is a Democrat. Glen Moore of the District was on his second ball. He had just come from the Convention Center and is a Bush supporter. "He was nice and tall and easy to hang on to," said Roberts, 5-foot-3. "We met at the Inaugural Ball," said Moore, 6-foot-4, with a chuckle. He looked around the ballroom. "Aside from the fact that it's pretty crowded, it's a pretty good party." That seemed to sum up the mood of most of the guests in the ballroom, at least in the early going. Eight thousand were invited. Elyse DePiro, a real estate broker from Naples, Fla., was wielding her video camera with long black evening gloves on. She was recording most of the Naples delegation at the party, as well as her sister, Terry LaForge, also in real estate. They had the good fortune at the inaugural opening ceremonies on Wednesday to be mistaken for members of the Bush and Quayle families. As a result, they were shown to choice seats in the families' section. "When the Bushes came in, they were waving to their family and looking at us," said LaForge. "And after they sat down, I saw Mrs. Bush turn to George and say, 'Who are they, darling?' George Bush looked at us and shrugged." Later on, Tammy Mayeux, 26, a computer programmer from New Orleans, eased herself with a sigh onto the carpeted stairway just outside the ballroom. "Balls are kind of different in New Orleans," she said. "We have tables and food and drinks. I just walked in here and said, 'You mean we can't sit down?' " No, Tammy, you can't sit down -- that is, unless you have bought a box on the periphery of the ballroom. "It's overrated, overpriced -- but it's still fun," said 25-year-old Lisa Loupe, a recruiter for the University of New Orleans and a friend of Mayeux's. But by 11:30 they had no intention of waiting for Bush. "I say we give it up," Loupe said. "He looks the same as on TV." Also seated on the steps was Ron Fuller, a Republican state representative from Little Rock, Ark. He had his commemorative inaugural plates with him -- they were something of a complimentary gift. "Oh, these are very valuable salad plates," deadpanned Fuller, who was also the co-finance chair for Bush in Arkansas. "I think I've spent $5,000 in the last three days to get these plates." As he showed off one plate, a couple of jokesters walked by and dropped quarters into it. George Bush was hoarse by the time he arrived -- "our 13th or 14th event," he told the group. However, his audience looked extremely appreciative. They crowded the dance floor, clicked their cameras above their heads and cheered. "We really wanted to come by to say thank you," said Bush. He described himself as "a little emotional," adding that it was "a little hard to express what's in my heart." He went on to share his first impressions of his new living quarters, the White House: "I know you'll be glad to know it is very comfortable." The guests cheered, and as the first couple walked offstage waving, hundreds of hands waved back. -- Carla Hall