Hollywood came to Logan Circle yesterday, transforming a drowsy, workaday neighborhood into a temporary Tinseltown set.
Normally sleepy-eyed neighbors, wide-eyed and well-dressed, took their dogs on unusually long walks at 7 a.m. and gawked at the cluster of movie stars and film crews gathered in front of a stately red brick Victorian mansion at 1324 Vermont Ave. NW.
Robert Lewis, a rag-tag, colorful and sometimes disoriented neighborhood fixture known as the Mayor of N Street greeted movie star Harvey Korman and others with light-hearted banter as the stars left the house to enter one of seven dressing room vans parked outside.
A trio of morning rush hour prostitutes at Vermont Avenue and N Street stared down the block at the first competition they've had in years.
The occasion was the filming of a scene for the upcoming movie, "The First Family," directed by Buck Henry and starring Korman, Madeline Kahun, Gilda Radner, Bob Newhart, Richard Benjamin and Fred Willard.
The living and dining rooms of Bob and Connie Maffin's restored 19th-century mansion, with gilded mirrors six feet tall above cherry wood mantels, became the setting in which the injured President of the United States (played by Newhard), his spaced-out wife (Kahn) and nymphomniac daughter (Radner), are secreted away following an accident.
Only one scene is filmed at the house -- the one in which Korman convinces Newhart to sacrifice virgins in a ritual to revive his sagging political carer. It's zany.
Lights, action and the cameras inside sparked the circus of spectators outside and created a scene that is becoming more common in the nation's capital now touted as a fitting place for Hollywood movies.
The city recieved more than $1.5 million from film companies last year, said Richard Maulsby, head of Mayor Marion Barry's recently created Office of Motion Pictures and Television Development. Last year's total already has been surpassed this year with the production of "The First Family," "The First Monday in October" (a movie being shot in Georgetown and starring Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh) and other projects. Two years ago, the late Peter Sellers filmed "Being There" here.
"We're trying to get people to see the city as more than just the nation's capital," Maulsby said. "We would like to encourage producers to use Washington's diverse neighborhoods for other kinds of movies. One producer said that part of the city could pass for London and other places in Europe. Our potential for movie settings is untapped."
"Flattery," was the first reaction Connie Maffin had when a real estate colleague told her that her house might be rented for a movie scene. Hollywood set designers measured the massive bay window, sized rooms and fitted the two rooms with eclectic furniture from local antique shops.
More than 70 production crew members roamed the home the Maffins have been restoring since 1974. Large studio lights were mounted and strapped to the house's plaster crown moldings and Maffin said, "Oh my God!" But set designers assured her that nothing would be damaged. The Maffins were paid for the use of the house, but declined to say how much.
"I wouldn't put up with it if this was my house," said Madeline Kahn, dressed in a pink housedress, fluffy scuffs and an arm cast for her role as First Lady. She sat in Maffin's day room, a temporary make up room for Radner, who also sat there in a robe with her arm held in a sling. Newhart was there, his left ear bandaged. Benjamin was the only one of the actors who appeared to be in one piece.
Henry, wearing a blue baseball cap, sloppy sweater and khakis, told Kahn wryly, "I'm going to heal you all individually."
"We're filming the last couple of minutes to the movie," Henry said. "In this scene, the first family is quarantined in a very strange place for very strange reasons."