Usually it's Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. (Jack) Herrity who's dishing out the groan-evoking puns, the acerbic critiques and the bumper-sticker comments.
Saturday night, however, the sharp-tongued Herrity was the butt of the jokes, puns and catty comments. They poked fun at his addiction to publicity and catsup and his uncanny penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
The sponsors of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Third Annual Turkey Roast said it was all in fun, that it was really intended to honor the Republican politician for his "outstanding contribution to Fairfax County and the quality of life we all enjoy."
There may have been more than a hint of truth in them thar jokes.
Take County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert's assessment of Herrity's negotiating techniques, labeled "The open-heart-surgery-with-an-axe approach."
Lambert, frequently seen rolling his eyes over Herrity's continuous commentary during the weekly board meetings, outlined a few of the chairman's basic negotiating rules.
*If the facts and statistical data don't support your position, immediately say: "What idiot dreamed this junk up?" If a complex agenda or formula is to be negotiated, say: "Let's cut out this crap and get to the bottom line." If you are aware that you have a winning position, never hesitate to gloat over the loser. Always be late for a meeting, but upon arrival, scream: "It's time to start -- what's the holdup?"
Then Lambert proceeded to point out what he said were a few true-life examples.
In a tense moment of sensitive negotiations with former members of the Fairfax City Council, Herrity sputtered: "You guys are dumber than a bunch of clams."
Commenting to television reporters on the matter of a Spanish diplomat who was keeping numerous barking dogs on his property with diplomatic immunity from county zoning ordinances, Herrity suggested: "The guy's a bum and ought to be thrown out of the country."
After several inmates escaped from Lorton Reformatory, the District-run prison in southern Fairfax County, Herrity told the media: "They should name that place Walkaway Village. Those D.C. cops couldn't even catch a cold."
And during a series of delicate negotiations with District officials, he remarked to the press: "Those guys couldn't manage a two-car funeral."
When negotiations over water supplies reached a standstill between city and county officials, Herrity said in a loud aside to then-D.C. Council member Jerry Moore: "Come on Jerry, give in before the food gets cold."
"It's been more than enlightening to see numerous high-placed officials choke, sputter and stare at these delicately placed intellectual spears," Lambert told the more than 600 local business, civic and political leaders who turned out for the black-tie affair at the Springfield Hilton.
Lambert was only one of a long line of Herrity friends and colleagues who took turns grilling the guest of honor. Herrity, in turn, took it all in good humor. After all, he follows in the footsteps of other famous Chamber "turkey" honorees -- influential developer and attorney John T. (Til) Hazel and Jouett Filene Shouse, a local cultural leader and major financial supporter of Wolf Trap Farm Park.
The roasting came only two days after the Washington business magazine Regardie's published a story titled: "The Pleasure of Being Jack Herrity," subtitled, "After years of battling Fairfax County's antigrowth forces, the conservative Irish pol has become a force unto himself."
Taking a snipe at that growth and the resulting massive transportation headaches, Channel 5 television reporter Brian Williams observed, "They built Tysons Corner; now Jack wants to put some roads out there."
Virginia House Minority Leader Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), a classmate of Herrity's at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, noted: "Fairfax had its most successful year in the 1985 General Assembly. He stayed home and we did better than ever."
According to Lambert's testimonial, Herrity is best remembered in Richmond for his tact before a Senate subcommittee a few years ago when he stated, "The Commonwealth would be better served if you guys never met."
Citing Herrity's love of media attention (last year he allowed one local television station to film an entire operation on his knee), Channel 5 News Director Betty Endicott said one cub reporter assigned to interview Herrity asked, "Where do we find him?"
She replied: "He'll be the one in front of the camera."