Did you happen to notice Mayor Marion S. Barry's car parked down in the 14th Street red light district Christmas-time, 1981? Did you think, perhaps, he was personally leading the police in raids on the various establishments, scolding the owners of the porn shops, telling the naked dancers to get some clothes on and, while they were at it, repent, repent, because the end--or at the very least Reaganomics--was near? Nothing of the sort. He was in one of the strip joints himself, attending a party.
This little nugget of local political lore was contained in a recent Washington Post story that dealt with the mayor. Among other things, it said that in 1981, the mayor went to a Christmas party at a place called "This Is It" where ladies dance around in nothing but their dimples. In fact, it seems the mayor went to the party, left and then came back. Sometimes our mayor cannot get too much of a bad thing.
Now you may wonder--at least I do--what it must have looked like to a cop on the beat outside "This Is It." There is the mayor's limo, purring at the curb, while his honor is inside with the exotic dancers, their exotic keepers with their exotic pinky rings and other denizens of the exotic world of naked ladies--some of whom are not registered voters. Who could blame that cop for thinking that this sleaze-ball of a club enjoys if not the protection, then certainly the patronage, of the city's highest elected official? And who could blame the cop for confusing the two?
Ah, but the mayor has an explanation for his behavior. He says he was at the club to pick up or solicit a campaign contribution. From whom? A naked lady? If that is the case, then may I ask where they keep their money? And may I ask further if the mayor is in the habit of cruising the city at night, stopping at places to pick up campaign donations? If that is the case, and it is not too much trouble, could he drop a pizza off at my house? Pepperoni.
All these things remain mysteries. The mayor will not talk about the matter and he will not say why this particular potential contributor could not, like everyone else, use the mails. After all, the Christmas rush was almost over and the campaign was still many months away. It is not possible that the mayor personally was going to pick up cash! No, it is not possible.
The explanation, such as it is, has a dismissive quality to it. The mayor is doing his W.C. Fields number, treating both the press and the citizens of the city as little kids: g'way kid, ya bother me. It does not deal with the fact that the owners of the club were--and are--under investigation by a grand jury nor with the fact that simply by going to the club, the mayor is sending a message to both the grand jury and the cops--not to mention feminists and all the nice ladies at all the church socials he attended during his campaign. But the mayor does not want to answer and so the mayor will not answer. This is in keeping with the mayor's view that there is one standard of behavior for him and another for everyone else. This is the same mayor, after all, who leased a bigger car for himself (a Lincoln) and then cut city services, who froze city hiring but awarded his closest aides (including the police chief) bonuses of up to $10,000.
This is the same mayor who told city employes that they must agree with him or keep their mouths shut and who recently explained the city's fiscal plight by saying that since the details would only confuse the people, he would spare them the information. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Big numbers make me faint.
This is a mayor, in short, who has no appreciation for the appearance of things, who thinks he was elected to enforce the rules for others but break them himself. What he wants, is what he should get. This is what the ancient Greeks called hubris, an arrogance that was fatal to both men and gods. Marion Barry is clearly the former, but he has himself confused with the latter. Either way, the cloak of arrogance ill becomes any public figure, Marion Barry included. As they say down at the "This Is It" club, "take it off."