Gosh. Bodies actually moved in the seats. People clapped along. Shimmied their shoulders. Signs of life at a political fund-raiser! Loosen up, Tom Foley! Get hip, George Mitchell! Good going, Pam Harriman, you wild thing!

This sort of thing started last night during the Gipsy Kings' number -- after some of the really old Democrats had gone out for the intermission and never returned. Eight guys with guitars were onstage at the Kennedy Center, stomping their feet and pumping out up-tempo flamenco tunes. A shimmy here.

A shimmy there.

It was happening.

For a hour or so -- after Dana Carvey had relaxed them with his George Bush impression, after Rodney Crowell had played country, after Roberta Flack had serenaded and killed them softly -- the Democrats came alive.

"Oh God, yes. It was great," said Rep. Dante Fascell (Fla.) of Carvey's impression.

"Oh, yes!" said Senate Majority Leader Mitchell, when asked if this was better than an evening of political speeches.

"Absolutely," said Kathy Smith -- a lone, young Republican in their midst. "This is much, much better than the GOP President's Dinner a couple weeks ago. That's for sure."

And this was before Crosby, Stills & Nash came on and sang -- you read it here first -- their own clear, harmonized version of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Way back last year, at Pamela Harriman's party -- the annual fund-raiser organized by Democrats for the '90s -- a sparse, restrained group of 250 talked about the French Open and the nice weather, over dinner in the sort of gloomy Madison Hotel ballroom.

This year it was 2,500 people at the Kennedy Center. To raise more money than ever for Democratic Senate and House races, it was a show-bizzy concert to celebrate whatever it is that Democrats believe they have to celebrate.

"One of the reasons for having this gala was to usher in a new age of Democratic Party successes," is how Harriman explained it, "and the active participation of a new generation of voters is critical for that success."

Who knows how Clark Clifford, Frances Howard (Hubert Humphrey's sister) and Sen. Howell Heflin (Ala.) enjoyed the music. But Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer Jr. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown seemed to be liking it, and the sound guys in the back wearing surfer T-shirts. The three-hour show was produced, after all, by Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of "Saturday Night Live."

It was a young crowd -- if you're not counting all the sleek-looking senators and Teddy Kennedy (Mass.) strolling around. There was hugging and hipness and kissing. And there were occasional good vibes, despite the fact that the evening was inexplicably billed "Democrats: The Party of the Decade."

"A guy just walked up," former presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) was overheard telling his wife, "and asked what my name was. How quickly they forget."

"Don't worry, Tipper. Nothin' obscene tonight," Dana Carvey from "Saturday Night Live" said in his George Bush voice. He was wearing his Bush get-up: blue suit, preppy plastered hair, wire aviator glasses. He opened the show in front of an enormous American flag hung from the ceiling of the Concert Hall.

"Old Glory here," he said. "Don't want it desecrated. Don't want anybody burning it. Don't want anybody freezing it either. Wouldn't want anybody putting it in the freezer, ya know."

As soon as Carvey finished, the flag dropped down to a crew that carried it -- lickety-split -- offstage. And the backdrop became something more appropriate -- one has to assume -- a huge earthy, friendly, organic, rooted, peace-loving, low-tech, natural and mighty oak.

"That tree up there," Carvey/Bush said. "Symbol of the environment. Difficult problem. We gotta be prudent. I'd love to take care of that greenhouse effect in one fell swoop up here, but wouldn't want to sacrifice jobs down here. Want to do something about the rain forests. But we gotta be prudent. Don't want to offend Brazil down there."

Comedian Al Franken did an impression of Sen. Paul Simon (Ill.), and then it came time for Crosby, Stills & Nash.

"Let's bring out three of the finest young people in America today," Carvey introduced them in his Bush guise.

This is when Clark Clifford walked up the aisle and disappeared.

Just as the trio was finishing up "My Country 'Tis of Thee," on the street outside the Kennedy Center, "Starlight Express" was letting out. A black limousine waited. A crowd formed. A huge crowd. A young crowd. Fine young people. A roar broke out -- a huge roar. And then applause. Cheers.

"It was Dan Quayle!" a teenager shouted. "Can you believe it! I saw Dan Quayle!"