Tony Orlando could not have dreamed how far this yellow ribbon business would go.
There's an 800-foot-long yellow ribbon all the way around the National Geographic building on M Street NW in Washington. There's another one around the air traffic control tower at National Airport, and another stripped across the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn. In a Lynchburg, Va., shopping mall, there are 10,000 yards of ribbon , so much that bushes and trees are droopy with yellow bows.
The release Tuesday of the 52 American hostages in Iran has sparked an infectious spread of yellow ribbons, yellow masking tape, yellow striped newspapers and yellow dyed bed sheets. The whole darn country, like the bus passengers in Tony Orlando's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," can't seem to stop cheering.
"We had to do something to show our respect for these hostages," said Helmut Knipp, general manager of the Key Bridge Marriott, which created its 200-foot-long yellow ribbon out of 80 standard-issue Marriot double-bed sheets.
"We brought in a seamstress about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and she spent six hours sewing them together. The next day we dyed them," said Knipp. The bed sheets, adorned with a bright yellow papier-mache bow, were hung from the hotel's 10th floor Tuesday afternoon, following news of the hostages' release. Facing the Potomac River, the bed sheets are clearly visible from Washington.
The National Geographic stuck up its yellow homage to the hostages yesterday morning. It took a crew of mainenance men 2 1/2 hours to run 800 feet of 4-inch wide construction tape around the first-floor columns of the building. The tape, costing about $300, was paid for by the National Geographic Society.
The helicopters of network television news crews have been buzzing by the control tower at National Airport shooting footage of a 3-foot-wide, genuine cloth, yellow ribbon that was paid for by contributions from the 70 air traffic controllers at the airport.
"A fellow named Gary Wolfe, a controller, had the idea a few weeks ago. We all chipped in," said Victor Makela, assistant chief air traffic cocntroller. "We plan to keep it up there until the hostages touch down here in the United States."
The wildest festooning of yellow ribbon seems to have occured south of Washington in Lynchburg, in central Virginia. There at the River Ridge Mall, hundreds of garden club women and sesnior citizens converged on Tuesday afternoon to stick yellow ribbon anywhere it would stick.
"It's dripping from the trees," said Barbara Copeland, the mall's promotion director.
The shopping mall, in conjunction with the city of Lynchburg and hundreds of local businesses and charitable groups, is planning a hostage homecoming party and inviting all of central Virginia. Local church women and bakeries are baking hundreds of apple pies. Caterers are donating thousands of hot dogs. Patriotic song books with "God Bless America" have already been printed.
The party is scheduled for the day the hostages return to the United States.