When Marion Barry arrived for a party at Jerry and Midge Valley's house on North Portal Estates Friday night, there was uncertainty about what kind of welcome he would receive.
Here off upper 16th Street NW, on the "Platinum Coast," as North Portal is called, many people do not take kindly to those who remind them of "young Negro militants," as Barry is referred to by the older, more conservative residents who see this as Washington and Tucker territory.
"It could get hostile," Barry's co-campaign manager Lilian Sedgewick, said with a half smile.
"I know," said hostess Midge Valley excited. "But damnit. I'm not going to let it get out of hand," she snapped back, lighting a cigarette. She knew how much work and money she and her two girl friends had put into bringing Barry into her living room and she was intent on getting "gross returns" for her effort.
So, with the party about to begin, there was Midge, an aggressive, up and coming young socialite, whose lawyer-husband Jerry, had given her carte blanche to make this a "smash" and Barry, trying to put a dent in his rivals' stronghold.
Both had a lot on the line.
Barry arrived at the Vallery's split level home on Verbena Street NW about 1 1/2 hours after the party began, pausing in the foyer to survey a crowd accustomed to being not easily impressed.
"I guess I'd better go around to introduce myself," Barry said almost to himself.
As it turned out, this was one of his finer in-house performances. Quickly, he sensed that he was dealing with the staid Old Guard of Upper Northwest. Here was a newer black middle class, typified by jerry and Midge Vallery.
Free swinging, independent minded, they are grabbing for the brass ring, shooting for a spot, perhaps, on the venerated Gold Coast farther down 16th Street NW.
North Portal, which is near 16th Street and the Montgomery County District border is a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of large brick and wood split level homes where children seem to know instinctively that front yards are for looking good, not playing upon. It is said of resident that they have purchased more than a home; they have bought a lifestyle. The cost of three-piece suits, Sunday brunches, summer camps and private schools can easily match a mortgage.
The men here are employed as "fighters," working as supervisors, co-ordinators, office managers, lawyers and doctors. They are in their mid-30s and 40s and looking ahead.
heir wives are tough infighters, too; women who in many cases have endured mental anguish working to help put their husbands through law and medical schools, gambling that the men would keep them after becoming successful, living for that day when they can revel in the big pay-check, together.
"As far as parties go, wine and cheeses are the thing in D.C." Mrs Vallery said, explaining the new trend in local campaign parties. "And it is important to get cheese that goes with the wine. Very important. Some combinations can make your gums tight, lock your jaws," she said.
It was feared that having Marion Barry mix with North Portal residents would be such a combination. Instead, he blended with them like the Canadian black diamond cheese and the fine chablis that he was served.
"I am polished," Barry said, slightly adjusting his necktie, when asked about his image. "And I've had enough formal education to speak King's English, too."
During a break in the party, Barry addressed the crowd of about 100. "If you don't mind what you have, keep what you got," he said, referring to Mayor Walter E. Washington.
The candidate then went on to enumerate a litany of the city's woes: housing, unemployment and education. He said if elected he could improve these.
From the crowd, Audrey Johnson asked him, "Are you sure you're not going to turn out to be a black Billy Carter?"
"You mean Jimmy Carter," someone clarified. Barry did not understand.
"Are you promising one thing, then going to do something else," someone else interpreted.
"I make no promises I can't keep," Barry said. "The things I say I'll do are do-able."
"He's so mature," interjected Dolores Sams, a registered nurse.
"Why don't you give us something positive to look forward to?" asked another party goer, Yvonne M. Andrews, who says he is publishing a new black TV guide with "nothing but positive news inside."
"Why don't you give us some bubbles?" she asked the now wrinkled-browed candidate, explaining later that she thought people in D.C. were tired of hearing about how messed up things were.
Barry smiled as his supporters began mumbling "Bubbles? Bubbles?" Finally, someone concluded that if Barry got elected, and took care of the city's woes, there would be bubbles.
However, Jerry and Midge Vallery had their bubble now. "The money we spent for this thing we ought to get back when Barry gets in and lowers the property taxes," Jerry Vallery said.
And his wife had established herself as a premier party giver, and a good social contact in the best voting precinct on the "Platinum Coast."