Denny Bly was on assignment. Like the rest of us, the television cameraman had been told to head out to Belle View Condominiums in Fairfax County, just over the Alexandria line. A big story, it was whispered. Hundreds of people camping out to be first to slam down their dollars for a chance at a condo.

As it turned out, only seven would-be buyers spent the night. And Bly was one of them.

"I got there at about nine o'clock and said, 'What's this? Five people? This is a story?' Then I started talking to this guy -- this salesman -- and asked how much the units were running.

It seemed like a good deal (for a 2-bedroom condominium). So I thought, 'What's there to lose?' I stayed.

Twenty-four hours later and one $50,000 condomium happier, Denny Bly tucked his checkbook away and bid a sleepy adieu to his six comrades-in-waiting: a journalist, a lawyer, an economist, a pharmaceutical salesman, a civil servant and a "professional."

All six had put their names on a mailing list to be notified when the 121 condos at the federal-brick Belle View complex would go on sale. And all had been told they were among 1,000 people hoping to buy one of the condos. aBut they had little competition -- by morning, they had joined Bly as new condo owners.

"I don't spend 12-16 hours waiting in line every night, but I had a feeling I should be here . . . What would I be doing anyway? Watching 'Dallas'?" asked 28-year-old Betsy Roberts, an economist with the Federal Reserve Board, as she pulled her Burberry look-alike around her body and stuffed tax schedules into a foler. Roberts, No. 3 in line, had spent the evening working out everyone's soon-to-be-found tax deductions. A home was not the only new addition to Roberts' life. In between exemptions and deductions, Chinese food and beer, No. 3 put her head together with No. 1 and No. 2, and by the end of the evening had formed a carpool. "We'll have to break a few bottles of champagne over the window sills," Roberts shouted as she left.