Petey Greene was a guest at the White House Tuesday night to honor Yugoslavian President Tito.
He arrived with Gracieta Oliveras, director of the Community Services Administration. They rode in a long limousine chauffeured by a dude named Mills, one of Greene's ex-confuddies from Lorton Reformatory.
Upon entering the White House, located only three blocks from where Greene was born and raised, Greene said he at first became excited.
"Then I start wishing I'd gone to the Mark IV Super Club (a disco) because I probably would have had more fun," Greene said.
It was a quip characteristic of the 50-year-old Greene, who is a local television and radio personality with an intimate knowledge of Washington, its history and street life.
How a man like Greene - who was first thrust into public view in 1965 when he talked a fellow prison inmate at Lorton out of jumping off a flagpole - managed to get invited to the White House may be hard for some to understand.
But, for others it is all too simple. You see, it was Petey who talked that "suicidal" immate into climbing up the flagpole in the first place. And this "life-saving" accomplishment - along with generally good prison behavior led to the reduction of his 15-year-armed-robbery sentence.
"Yes, I'm a master player," Green said yesterday during a telephone interview. "But please, don't mess me up. Let me tell you the truth."
Here we go.
"Grace Oliveras is a fine and lovely woman, and she thought that by my being a community worker and Mrs. Carter being interested in Washington, then I should meet her and her husband. So she reached down into the bottom of the barrel, yes she did, and she picked up Petey Greene. Yes, she took him from the jail-house to the White House. I wish my grandmother was alive to see it," he said.
An armed robber, drug user and wino at one time or another, Greene was first sentenced to jail when he was 17. He spent his last day in prison after the flagpole "rescue" in 1965.
Since then he has become something of a celebrity in Washington - not that Washington of diplomats and senators sipping cocktails at soirees in Georgetown but the Washington of the Pentagon mail clerk, the practical nurse doing the hustle at the Mark IV.
Greene is a community consultant for the city's antipoverty agency, the United Planning Organization, host of a radio show and a television show, both called "Petey Greene's Washington,"
He grew up around 23rd and L Street NW, not far from the White House, and went to Stevens Elementary where President and Mrs. Carter's daughter, Amy, goes.
"When I got inside the White House, it was my first time in 50 years. I would say I was most impressed with myself. I was so clean you should have seen it," Greene said yesterday.
"I told the president he better get those farmers straightened out or else we're not going to have lettuce and tomatoes on our hamburgers. And who likes hamburger without lettuce and tomato?
"Truly, it was very nice. I even stole a spoon."