"Sure, I take requests," says Gene Donati, "but I don't play them." As a society dance band leader, Donati sees his job as sizing up an audience in the first 20 minutes or so, then giving them what they want. He's had a lot of practice. With several orchestras working on some nights, Donati played nearly 500 weddings in 1985 alone. Donati will have his clarinet and 17 of his 120 musicians at the Springfield Hilton this evening from 6 to 10 for dancing, kicking off a monthly series, "Singin' and Dancin'," which continues into June. Lou Capolla's new "Salute to Broadway" with the Stereo Strings will provide the 8 p.m. floor show, and WMAL's Tom Gauger will emcee. Call 971-8900 for further information.
Donati arrived in Washington in 1951 to do a Capital Theatre show with Eddie Fisher, and in the years since Donati's work has included playing for every president from Kennedy to Carter. "Johnson was the most dancing president, always made sure he danced with all the ladies," recalls Donati. "Nixon wasn't a big dancer; he was a loner and not the type of man who went out of his way to be friendly to the troops. Jack Kennedy was a great guy and came from the blue bloods, strictly society, and loved to dance."