How hot was a ticket to "La Grande Affaire," last night's black-tie bash at the Sequoia restaurant?
So hot that people did almost anything to snag one of the 700 tickets, including hitting up anyone remotely connected with the party, using the old left-the-invitation-at-the-hotel trick, even impersonating waiters and reporters to crash the gate.
"During this period of time, I become one of the most popular guys in Washington," said LeBaron Taylor, vice president and general manager of CBS Records, which cosponsored the annual extravaganza. "It's almost gotten out of hand. When we used to hold it at hotels, people hid in the kitchen and bathrooms hours before the party. Now we sweep the place ahead of time."
The reception, considered the social highlight of the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend, has evolved from an exclusive cocktail party honoring the caucus members into an exclusive standing-room-only disco circus, complete with members of Congress, celebrities, free food, free champagne and dancing girls.
It was the kind of party where the normally restrained Eleanor Holmes Norton walked in the door and immediately jumped onto the dance floor to do the electric slide alongside the Rev. George Stallings Jr.
"I needed that," she gasped.
"I've gotten rusty, but Eleanor inspired me," laughed Stallings.
In addition to the caucus members and key staff members, most of Washington's black leaders showed up. "People coming to this affair know they're going to see a who's who -- at the moment -- of Washington," said Taylor. Last night's guest list included Norton, Stallings, Jesse Jackson, Mayor Marion Barry, Dorothy Height, singer Melba Moore, Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown, D.C. mayoral candidate Sharon Pratt Dixon and Conrad and Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
"Everyone who knows LeBaron knows it's going to be great," said Height. "It's a chance to see people from around the country. It's the party."
"I used to like it because it had a lot of food and alcohol," said Barry with a smile. "Now I like it for the food."
Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City called it "a fabulous party -- but the networking going on was phenomenal."
Taylor, who has hosted the party for 14 years, said the keys to the event's success are the guest list, the music and location. This year's party, held overlooking the river at the site of the former Potomac Restaurant, added a knockout setting to the generous supplies of shrimp, crab cakes and champagne.
"One advantage we have is that we're in the entertainment industry, so we understand what is glitzy," Taylor said. "This is glitz."
He had just spotted the Howard University dancers, poured into turquoise bodysuits with matching feather headdresses -- sort of Jazzercise meets the Cotton Club.
The dancers sashayed onto the floor and performed their version of the vogue. Then they found some willing volunteers, who were quickly joined by another hundred audience members, for a spirited rendition of the electric slide.
"Outstanding," whistled one appreciative onlooker. "They fit the atmosphere perfectly."
Taylor stood on the sidelines watching the crowd boogie their hearts out. "This is one evening where they really relax," he said.
The only person willing for the night to end, it seemed, was the host himself.
"To be honest," said Taylor, "If you're a good host, you're so busy looking out for your guests that you really don't have a good time."