Ken beattie is a man who knows his conventions. San Francisco, 1964, Miami Beach, 1968 and 1972, Kansas City, 1976 -- the Hartford County customer relations specialist has seen them all. As far as he's concerned, this Republican blowout just isn't up to snuff.
First off, Beattie, a tall solid, jovial alternate delegate, can find no excitement in the politics. "It's so dull here," he said before the speculation about a possible Reagan-Ford ticket spun through the convention hall.
But what's worse, the frills are gone. "Things have changed," he said morosely this morning munching on a danish and waiting for a Maryland delegation meeting to get under way. "The big companies can't throw those parties or give those gifts like they used to.
"Used to be, you'd come back to your room and there'd be wine from the wine merchants or flowers from the mayor or flowers from the governor. Even if it was a Democratic governor. Not any more."
Like a true convention veteran, Beattie got right to the heart of the matter. For many of the members of the Maryland delegation, politics is really beside the point right now. Ronald Reagan's campaign forces, with their tight control of each session's events have seen to that. The Maryland delegates have no more role in the workings of the convention than extras in an MGM spectacular.
For them, there didn't seem to be any reason to worry about politics, so by today they were concentrating on perks and parties, on tanning marathons and 4 a.m. socials.
When the Tuesday evening convention session opened, in fact, so few delegates had arrived that the group's logistics commander, Tom Buckmaster, sent an aide out to the far-distant parking lot to see if both delegation buses had actually arrived. They had.
In fairness, it must be said that at least half of the delegation members are where they belong during the lengthy convention sessions -- in their seats on the floor or in the alternate section, except when they get up to get a soft drink, or take a quick sidetrip to the Michigan delegation's hospitality room in the basement.
It was Mike Egan, an alternate elegate from Timonium, who discovered this social center. "He came up to me last night and said that we should go down there," said Jeanette Wessel, the party's secretary and an alternate for Sen. Charles McC. Mathias. "They had spare ribs and chicken livers wrapped in bacon. I met someone from the Wisconsin delegation there who said he's still sending (former president Richard) Nixon cheese from his farm twice a year. I wanted to get on his cheese list, but I don't remember his name."
Others, like Reagan supporters Joe Ayd, Frances Eagan, Virginia Church and Gloria Baumagaertner -- not to mention Rep. Robert Bauman and his wife Carol -- never seem to leave their seats at all. Ayd, a Reagan whip, wears a white baseball cap with gold brim, stands next to the delegation's seats, and does little besides gossip.
"I would much prefer to have the responsibility without the work," said Ayd, who won a delegation spot by a whopping three-vote margin in his Baltimore district. "I don't like standing there and looking officious."
James P. S. Devereux, a former member of Congress from Baltimore County and a retired Marine Corps brigadier general, does not stand, he sits. One row behind the Maryland stanchion, one seat in, he gets up only to usher other delegates past him into their seats with a courtly gesture. He says little, but the actions of the man known as the hero of Wake Island speak for him.
On Tuesday, for instance, when a television soundman was backing into his spot, he tapped the man lightly on the back. Receiving no response, the 77-year-old stood and planted two quick rights into the soundman's kidneys. The television man turned, his own fists cocked, then took stock of Devereux's diminutive stature, his cane, and his hearing aid, and turned away. d
"Did you see that? I don't believe it," muttered an astounded Tom Buckmaster.
"Don't mess with Gen. Devereux," Bob Bauman whispered back.
For Charlie Mitchell and Audrey Scott, delegates from Baltimore and Bowie, it's disappointing to have to depand on Gen. Devereux's pugilistic displays for excitement at this political event. Scott, a moderate who is Bowie's mayor, spends her time on the floor talking about anything but politics. But she stays sprightly. "I'm a good loser," she says.
"I've seen prize fights with more dignity than this convention in terms of order," said Mitchell, a 26-year-old public relations consultant and lobbyist. "Everybody's milling around.' Mitchell included. During the Monday night session, he decided to combine business and politics by lobbying for Sen. Robert Dole's support on the Alaska lands bill.
"That's one of our accounts," Mitchell said. "I figured this was a good chance to talk to people . . . But Dole just said, 'Talk to my staff.'"
Meanwhile, Ed Mason, Glenn Beall, his wife Nancy Beall, and Ed Thomas spent much of their time lobbying bartenders. Mason, a state senator, and Beall, a former U.S. senator, are delegates who have seen many conventions before, and they are moderates who have little interest in this one.
But even a man in his political element at this convention -- like De-Corsey Bolden, a car-wash owner from western Maryland who believes "Walter Cronkite is a pinko," finds distractions like Detroit's Greektown restaurants occasionally lure him off the convention floor.
But not, he said, for too long. "This is all new to me, this is like Christmas morning," said the 55-year-old Bolden, who is attending his first convention. "There's a mysticism and an excitement in being able to partake of an event of this magnitude. It only comes once in a lifetime."
As for partying, well, he may slip off the floor and out of the Joe Louis Arena a little early on some nights but, "if I were 30 years younger, I'd really be swinging."