A well known Washington/Los Angeles lawyer flew to California one night and met several friends for dinner. After a few laughs and a few drinks, the lawyer passed out. When he awoke the next morning in a strange bedroom, he panicked.
"Thank God, there were matches," he said. There, on the night table, was a matchbook: The California Club.
The groggy lawyer groped for the phone and called his secretary. "I think I know where I am." he said, his voice shaking. "But where am i supposed to be?"
Welcome to the zany world of Bicoastiality, the latest in commuter chic among politicians, businessmen, real estate developers, social climbers and status seekers who say two cities -- D.C. and L.A. -- are better than one.
"I have my foot in two worlds," boasted one member of the jet-lag set. "I never have time to get bored," said another.
Why do they do it? Because they're workaholics, plugged into two power centers, members of an exclusive club with command performances on both sides of the country.
Why do we care? Because Ronald Reagan is president. And when the poobah of the Potomac is bicoastal, you can bet your hot tub the California-Washington express will soon be standing room only.
Just think. It won't be long before you too can run into your friends at the White House one night and meet them for breakfast the next morning at the Polo Lounge. (If you don't know where the Polo Lounge is, stop reading and go immediately to the acrostic.)
Imagine the look on your friends' faces when your secretary answers the phone, "He/She's in El-Ay this week. I'll connect you with his/her West Coast office."
What style! What class! What insanity! But bicoastals don't always have it easy. Before going "bi," listen to the people who've been doing it for years, people who say being neither here nor there can sometimes be Nowhere.
"It destroys your sex life," said Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. (R-Calif.) "You don't know where your clothes are, can't remember which garden you watered or which car you put oil in last."
Goldwater, a dimple-chinned 42-year-old legislator who once made headlines as Tricia Nixon's favorite Washington escort, has been "bi" for the past 11 years, flying to the West Coast almost every weekend. Like other members of the California delegation, Goldwater divides his time between his Capitol office and his home district headquarters.
"These shoes," he said pointing to his brown and tan saddle lace-ups, "spend one-third of their time in California, two-thirds of their time here."
Washington, he said, "is a dull, drab, transient city" while Los Angeles is "bright, cheery, a lot of action, a lot of movement." And besides, he said, "people in California have a suntan."
Here, Goldwater owns a townhouse in Alexandria, wears pin-stripped suits and V-necked sweaters, drives a 1960 Austin-Healy and sleeps in an antique four-poster bed. There, he owns a house in Woodland Hills complete with hot tub, sauna and swimming pool, drives a 1965 Mustang convertible,m sleeps in a king-size bed and wears blue jeans.
"The thing I don't like about this is the total disruption of your life," he moaned. "To be a man without a country is a terrible thing."
Goldwater remembers the time he fell asleep on the Senate floor while his father, Sen. Barry Goldwater (r-Ariz.), was giving a speech.
"It was a pure case of jet lag. In fact, my body clock gets so disrupted I've asked Nasa to do research into a better understanding of circadian disynchrosis."
"Jet lag," he said.
The research should help the bicoastals, he said. "There are a lot of us, you know. We're a regular kind of club."
With its own set of rules.
First of all, bicoastals never carry suitcases. Everything they need is duplicated: toilet articles, shoes, tennis rackets, golf clubs, jogging suits, trench coats, even favorite books and records. If they forget to bring something, they buy it.
"The trick is, you don't want to check a bag," said Jean Firstenberg, director of the American Film Institute, which is headquartered in Los Angeles and Washington. Firstenberg is lucky. Her favorite store, Neiman-Marcus, has branches in both cities.
Bicoastals like to brag about how busy they are. But not to strangers on a plane. They never talk to seatmates. Bicoastals like to fly first class (or buy four seats in tourist to stretch out on), have been known or bring their own picnic basket filled with catered foods on board, work or read on the flight and never ever watch the movie.
"I have a funny story for you," said Arpad Domyan in this thick Hungarian accent. Domyan, a 46-year-old real estate magnate, developed the atrium building in Alexandria with Time-Life Inc. and has been bicoastal for years.
Out there, he lives "on the edge of Beverly Hills" with his wife and children. Here, he rents suite 316 at the Watergate Hotel every other week, where his company, Atlantic-Pacific, Inc., does business in Washington. The suite, all soft pastels and plush carpeting, has a few homey touches: a grand piano in the corner, a bottle of bubbly chilling in a silver ice bucket.
"I used to fly American all the time," he said, pouring a glass of wine. "But they kept showing the same film. 'My Fair Lady,' over and over again. Finally, I got sick of it so I switched to United. That night, the stewardess told me they had just gotten a print of a new movie."
You guessed it: "My Fair Lady," which Domyan said he saw 27 times jetting back and forth the country that year. "I wound up singing and dancing in the aisles," he said. "I knew the whole thing."
Domyan came to America in 1956 "without a dime." The Hungarian and his wife had competed in the Olympic games in Australia that year (he was on the water polo team, she was a champion swimmer) before seeking political asylum in this country.
Now, the dapper Domyan owns a dozen properties in Washington and Los Angeles, buys his Italian suits and custom-made shirts at Mr. Guy's on Rodeo Drive and rides in rented limos.
"I'm famous for forgetting cufflinks," he said. "So every time I fly here I buy another pair."
Aren't bicoastals fun? They get the jitters if they're in one city for more than two weeks, anxious about what they're missing on the opposite coast. They celebrate Thanksgiving here and Christmas out there. They go to the Kennedy Center here, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion out there. Lion d'Or here, Jimmy's or Le Bistro there. Racquetball here, tennis there. Car payments here, leasing agreements there. Love affairs here, "touching base" there.
Bicoastals prefer the California weather, but say Washington's intellectual climate is superior. As one bicoastal woman put it, "You can't be reading while you're running. And how much intellectual stimulation is there in a hot tub? You talk about a cultural wasteland. Well, my dear."
Bicoastals are name droppers. Their conversations are sprinkled with terms like "red eye," (as in: "I never take the red eye anymore") and "lifestyle" (as in, "The El-Ay lifestyle is more casual").
And if there's one thing they love to talk about, it's their bicoastiality.
"I don't know anyone in Washington who's more bicoastal than me," said diminutive, silver-haired head of the Motion Picture Association. Valenti, whose Gucci-clad toes barely touch the floor when he sits straight up, is a whirling L.A.-D.C. dervish, flying back and forth at least 40 times a year since 1966.
"L.A. and Washington are very much alike, you know. They're both one-company towns. Out there, it's the movie industry. Here, it's government. There are the same emotions, the same ego, the same motivations."
Here Valenti makes his home off Foxhall Road, while out there he resides at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the bell captain keeps his tennis racket, sneakers, jogging gear, toilet articles and open-necked sports shirts for him.
"Sometimes I stick out like a sore thumb in a three-piece suit. They (Californians) look at you like you're an alien," he says. Valenti also said he flies back and forth, first class for free. "I'm a member of the board of directors for TWA, so I have a pass."
In Washington, Valenti enjoys entertaining journalists and politicians. When in California, he dines at La Scala in Beverly Hills and hobnobs with the Kirk Douglases, the Gregory Pecks, the Sidney Poitiers, Dinah Shore, Angie Dickinson and "Chuck" Heston.
In Los Angeles, he said, "everybody I associate with is either rich or famous or both." But in Washington, "wealth and fame are not considered a status symbol. It's the position you hold."
Former White House adviser Barry Jagoda and his wife Karen Bernhardt have recently gone "bi," starting their own "BiCoastal Productions." Jagoda was busy being "bi" and couldn't talk. So was Joe Allbritton, bicoastal TV tycoon and former owner of The Washington Star.
The wife of a bicoastal Washington car dealer said she didn't want her name used. Burglars, she said, would love to know then the "bi's" go bye-bye.
"You do wake up and forget which house you're in," she said. "We spend three months here, then two months there, or one month here, and four months there. I never know which coast I'm on."
Bicoastal couples don't have it easy. Roderick Hills is a former adviser to president Gerald Ford, former SEC chairman and partner in Latham, Watkins & Hills. He's been a member of the bicoastal set since 1969. Carla Hills is Ford's former secretary of housing and urban development and partner in the same law firm. When Rod and Carla see each other, it's mostly waving goodbye on the way to the airport.
"When people ask me where I live," says Roderick Hills, "I say, 'It's where most of my suits hang.'"
The Hillses own a home on Chain Bridge Road with tennis courts and a swimming pool and an apartment in Los Angeles. They're planning to buy a country home in San Diego County.
Hills, a gregarious, silver-haired lawyer who said his life is divided into half-hour segments, doesn't wear a watch. But he does own a Seiko alarm clock which is set simultaneously on two time zones, Eastern Standard and Pacific Standard.
One of his favorite bicoastal stories is the time he was invited to a dinner party at the Pebble Beach Country Club in Carmel and discovered that he would need a coat and tie for the party.
"It had never occured to me. I hardly ever wear suits in California. When I got there I called my tailor Maury at Carroll & co. in Beverly Hills. I told him I was in trouble."
The Rodeo Drive tailor came through with a custom-made suit, put it on Hills' company plane and had it flown to Carmel the same day. s
"Otherwise, I'd have had to use Federal Express," he said.
Hills goes back and forth three times a month and always flies first class. So does Carla Hills, but she was too busy to be interviewed.
"You have to be pretty successful to be bicoastal," said Mike O'Harro, 41-year-old disco king, suburban cowboy and California Guy Stuck in D.C.
O'Harro was "bi" for five years. Last year he went straight.
"I found Washington to be better for my business," he said. That business, which used to be called discos, is now referred to as "Dance-Oriented Nightclubs."
O'Harro started Tramps in 1975, recently opened "Scandals" and has a country and western bar called "Saddle Tramp" in the blueprint stage. In California, he was a disco consultant and did California things like renting a hotel in Palm Springs and inviting 1,000 of his closest friends to party all weekend.
But O'Harro says he's happy now in his Arlington "California contemporary" home. He's got his hot tub, his Ferrari, his Excalibur, his Japanese garden, his redwood decks and his Mexican tiles in the kitchen. Just like Los Angeles.
"I prefer being a celebrity here," he said. "In L.A. I was just another guy enjoying himself. I like Washington, but one thing bothers me. There aren't enough guys like me here to play with."
Washington, he said, is conservative. "Californians are more drug-orineted. They drink less, the're into their bodies and health. The whole lifestyle is freer, less uptight, less pushy, It could be plastic, but it's plastic fantastic to me."
According to O'Haro, people in the West Coast are tremendously interested in the nation's capital right now. And, he warned, we shouldn't be too hard on Californians. The stereotype of the laidback, lobotomized Los Angeles scene is just not true.
In fact, he said before hanging up the phone with a meaningful "Ciao," "If you scratch beyond the surface, you often reality." more drug-oriented. They drink less, they're into their