A photograph of the inauguration of Charles S. Robb as governor of Virginia, published on the front page in Sunday editions of The Washington Post, carried an incorrect credit line. The photograph was taken by staff photographer Gary A. Cameron.
At 1 a.m. today they switched on the overhead lights at the Richmond Coliseum, destroying the glittery illusion that for four hours had transformed the concrete sports arena into a gala ballroom.
On Friday, the Coliseum hosted a professional wrestling match; a trade show was scheduled for Monday. But last night the cavernous center court and assorted banquet halls were decked out in 6,000 yards of gold and copper Mylar and the building belonged to 10,000 happy, party-loving Democrats, here to celebrate the inauguration of Gov. Charles Robb and his two running mates to the state's three highest offices. Not since 1966 have Virginia Democrats had such a good reason for a big party.
"Robb, Davis and [Attorney General Gerald] Baliles are the only act that can match the Rolling Stones in the Richmond Coliseum," said Lt. Gov. Richard Davis from the podium during the ball's official ceremony.
There had been those, such as Del. Al Smith (D-Winchester), Democratic fund-raiser and inaugural chairman, who thought the ball should be smaller and more expensive. There were others, such as House Speaker A.L. Philpott (D-Henry), who thought that even the $20 admission price was too much for "the party of the people." But with the Coliseum filled to capacity, most agreed last night that the guest list was about right.
"After 16 years, I think we're entitled to do this, don't you?" said Senate Majority Leader Hunter Andrews (D-Hampton), over the din of music by the Kings of Swing and the murmuring of milling politicians, pollwatchers, campaign contributors, husbands, wives and friends.
It was a mob scene, albeit a mob in black tie and satin and taffeta evening dresses. People found it dangerous to lose sight of their friends and spouses. Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington) spent half an hour looking for his wife. Former congressman Joseph Fisher, who starts today as a member of Robb's cabinet, said he was waiting for "the right moment" to venture onto the dance floor.
Throughout the evening, elegantly dressed couples sat in the bleachers watching the crowd and the dancing below. But, Smith said later, "not one soul complained. Hundreds have come up to me and told me those were the best seats in the house."
Those crammed into the 1,360 $100 box seats, arranged along the sides and down the middle of the basketball court, found conversation limited because of the noise. But crowds are what politicians love most and, as could be expected, there were politicians working the crowd.
Former state Attorney General Andrew Miller, a possible candidate to replace Harry F. Byrd Jr. in the U.S. Senate, was busy shaking hands as friends dropped by to whisper political advice. And, in little pockets around the room, rumors about the Senate race came and went like vapors above the crowd.
The talk was interrupted only once, when Robb, Davis and Baliles made an appearance on the stage, which was festooned with blue satin. Robb promised not to give another speech and the guests applauded.
Given the occasion, few seemed to care about the discomforts of concrete floors, stadium seats or crowded restrooms. Lady Bird Johnson hadn't even noticed that her box seat was on a basketball court. "Is that what it is?" she said sweetly. "They've got it all dressed up with wonderful decorations."
There was music for all sorts, scattered in different corners and passageways of the huge Coliseum, including blue grass by the Arlington-based Seldom Scene, rock and roll bands, even the Charleston for high-stepping Del. Archibald Campbell (D-Wythe).
The new governor and his wife also showed themselves to be spirited dancers. Cordoned off by a ring of state police troopers, they jitterbugged to "Mame" and "Cabaret." The spotlight stayed on the Robbs, he in white tie and she in a sparkling red chiffon dress, as they made a triumphant tour through the various dance floors, pausing to greet friends from the campaign trail.
"I'm high just from the atmosphere," said Arlington Democrat Mary Margaret Whipple. For others, there was the thrill of the celebrity entourage that has made Chuck and Lynda Robb the state's most dazzling couple. Hollywood star Carol Channing never made an expected appearance, but flash bulbs were popping around Lady Bird Johnson, her daughter Luci and Luci's escort, Los Angeles attorney Howard Krom.
If there were Republicans at the ball last night, they were hard to spot. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), recently separated from Elizabeth Taylor, whose star quality in Virginia politics was a match for the Johnsons, said earlier in the day he would skip the ball because "I'm without a dancing partner."
But the Democrats were just happy to be together and to be in power. "It was big party, Al," said one guest to Smith as the lights went on. "It was great."