Pack into a room 1,000 adults wearing Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirts and Pirates caps. Add 105 cases of Iron City beer and 300 pounds of chipped ham and kielbasa. Spin old records by Pittsburgh bands, such as "Blue Moon" by the Marcels and "Gypsy Cried" by Lou Christy.


A party for Pittsburghers, of course. Or, as was the case Wednesday night, a party for "X-Pittsburghers." What's the difference, anyway? "Once a Pittsburgher, always a Pittsburgher," said one partygoer after another.

"You can spot a Pittsburgher in a crowd," offered Shannon Lettere, Washington correspondent for radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, who went to the crowded room at the Cannon House Office Building to cover the event for the folks back home.

"It's in the eyes," she said. "The eyes are friendly. The eye contact is immediate. The eyes say, 'Hello. What's your name?' "

In addition to talking eyes, Richard Sablowsky, a lawyer and one of the party organizers, said, "People from Pittsburgh have a unique sense of belonging. You were made to feel embarrassed about being from Pittsburgh, so you bonded together."

They were literally bonded together Wednesday, standing toe to toe on the red carpeted floor. "We started out planning a cookout in my back yard," said Joel Skirble, an attorney and fellow organizer. "It just grew a little too big for my back yard."

"The idea hit me during the second half of a Steelers game," explained Stan Kaufman, a contract officer for the U.S. Department of Energy. "We put a small, innocuous ad in the Washingtonian magazine in May. We got over 300 responses."

Then the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Press newspapers carried articles about the upcoming party, and Kaufman went on a nighttime radio talk show in his old home town. "We got letters, cartoons; hysterical, enthusiastic mail," Kaufman said.

They also got home town companies to donate cash, food and beer. About the Iron City beer, Bill Maloni, another party organizer, said, "It's the breakfast of champions. It cleans your car, removes paint, serves as an aphrodisiac and tastes good, too."

To get a ticket to the party, a person had to donate money for the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. The party raised $2,000 for the facility.

It was strictly a for-Pittsburghers-only affair. As Kaufman explained it, "This is for people who lived there, went to school there or are married or engaged to a Pittsburgh person. Of course, we don't have blood tests or any way of telling," he admitted, "but if we're suspicious we'll ask them a Pittsburgh trivia question."

Chuck Brinkman, a deejay from Y97FM, a radio station he described as "Pittsburgh's DC101," was on hand with his book, "Pittsburgh Trivia," in case questions were needed. A typical question: Where was the "Maurice Salad" invented? You guessed it -- Pittsburgh.

The ex-Pittsburghers said their city is known as a city of neighborhoods, so it was only fitting that the room was divided into communities. At first, guests went willingly to the spot designated as their old neighborhood -- places such as Dahn Town, Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Lebanon. But two hours after the party began, there was no space for such divisions. The room was one big jovial neighborhood of 1,000.

Everybody was singing the praises of the Steel City, and the conversations got so loud they eventually drowned out the Pittsburgh rock 'n' roll.

"If I could go home tomorrow, I wouldn't wait for the furniture," offered one ex-Pittsburgher who said he didn't want to give his name because he was "in public relations."

"There are no former Pittsburghers, they're just displaced persons," the man said before disappearing into the crowd.

"I came for a weekend to visit friends in Georgetown," offered Bonnie Cunic Caldwell. "That was in 1966. I stayed, met my husband here and got married. But Pittsburgh is a unique city of unique neighborhoods. When I go back to the old neighborhood, everybody's still there."

If Pittsburgh is such a great place, then why are there so many Steelers fans in Redskins territory?

"I came for a job," offered Mike Sommer, a recent arrival who works as a printing assistant at the Government Printing Office, repeating the answer most often given that night.

And one ex-Pittsburgher after another politely brought up the fact that the 1985 Rand McNally "Places Rated Almanac" named Pittsburgh as the best city in the United States to live in.

Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri of Pittsburgh alluded to that rating in his proclamation designating last Wednesday as "Pittsburghers in Washington Day." According to the proclamation, the mayor wanted "to focus attention on the unique and festive get-together of ex-Pittsburgh residents, pausing this day to reflect on the advantage of having resided in America's most livable city . . . while cheering on our Steelers in their games against the Redskins."

By the party's end, the Iron City beer was gone, the kielbasa was gone and the chipped ham was gone. But Steelers fever was at its height, just in time for their game here today.

While filmed scenes of Steelers games flickered on the walls, the crowd broke into song: "Defense, defense, make them scramble, intercept the ball! Defense, defense, keep the Steelers always best of all!"