If Ronald Reagan wants any free-lance advice for next week's summit, he need not look very far. Kremlinologists and statesmen should step aside for Washington's hairdressers, Redskins players and some of the area's most conspicuous capitalists. In these final days before Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives, everyone seems to have an opinion or plan to offer.
Bernard Portelli, hairdresser to former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole, was worried that the president might not be strong enough to deal with the Soviet leader. "It will be hard and tough for Mr. Reagan to achieve what he wants to do," said Portelli, whose mind was clearly tuned to politics and not hair.
Investment manager Julia Walsh echoed the feelings of several when she said the "summit is an excellent idea. There is a whole ream of problems, and if they make progress on any of them, it would be great."
John T. (Til) Hazel, the Northern Virginia developer, said the whole affair "is over-staged, over-emphasized and over-everythinged" because "most of what happens is already resolved." Hazel thinks Gorbachev should spend more time traveling the country to "see what people are like. It does not do much for his education to see it from a limousine."
Redskins center Jeff Bostic had another thought. Perhaps the Soviet general secretary should stick around until Dec. 13 for the Redskins game with arch-rival Dallas Cowboys, presuming, of course, that Gorbachev is a Redskins fan. "After all," said Bostic, "red is his favorite color."
Washingtonians, both well-known and little known, appeared to have the summit on their minds, according to a small sampling by telephone and in front of the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street NW.
Many took a middle ground, saying that no matter how much or how little was accomplished, the meeting was a step forward for peace.
"It is better . . . to talk than fight," said John Lutley, whose office at the Gold and Silver institutes is near the embassy. "I'm not sure I believe a huge amount will come out of it, but talking is positive, not negative."
Others could not disagree more. Lillian Potter-Saum, who lives in Rockville and works at the Overseas Education Association, said the summit "is a waste. I don't think it accomplishes anything. They just sit there and flap their lips about it and nothing gets done."
There was advice galore for the president, often from opposite poles. "It sounds like Gorbachev has an open mind . . . and it's just a matter of us letting down our prejudices, opening our minds and hoping for the best," said Charles Deaton, a 26-year-old research assistant at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Anna Knoll, a 78-year-old retired government worker who said many of her ancestors perished in Russia, said, "The Russia leaders, you cannot trust . . . . I hope everybody goes into this with their eyes open and doesn't believe everything they hear."
A lobbyist strolling by the wrought-iron enclosed embassy at lunchtime couldn't care less about what happened in the negotiations. His main concern was whether the event would mess up traffic.
"Traffic?" said developer Giuseppe Cecchi, shocked that anyone would bring up such a trifling concern. "What is traffic and a little inconvenience compared to the tremendous positive things that can be achieved?"
Nearly everybody had kind words for Gorbachev, regardless of their political bent, and even kinder words for his wife, Raisa.
"He has personal poise and charm," said Joseph Norbury, who teaches Russian at St. Albans School for Boys and met Gorbachev in Moscow during a cultural exchange in August. "I was surprised at how much of a twinkle he had in his eye," said Lutley, who watched the Gorbachev interview on television Monday night. "Those kinds of things are hard to feign."
One passer-by at the embassy called Raisa "a heck of a gal." Even summit naysayers agreed. "She is terrific," said the woman who had called the summit a charade. "Do you remember ever seeing Brezhnev's wife, or any Russian leader's wife?" said Bobbi Kahlow, who was jogging past the embassy at lunchtime. "She tends to shed a whole new light. She is an attractive, charming and delightful human being."
Aniko Gaal, former fashion director at Garfinckel's and now its director of public relations, said the Soviet first lady's elegance and the sudden world attention turned on her could open up a new fashion industry in the Soviet Union. "Not only are we in the Western world curious about what she is wearing, but people in the Soviet Union are looking at her and suddenly focusing on clothes. That is good for their industry, too."
Even comic Mark Russell tossed in a compliment, so to speak. "Mrs. Gorbachev already made history," he said, "as being the first wife of a Russian leader to weigh less than he does."
Many thought her very presence added a new dimension to the summit. "I think when two parties who are past adversaries meet, and they have a nice relationship with wives and family, it does add a more human touch to the proceedings," said PortAmerica developer James T. Lewis. "I think it is very good."
Maureen Downs and Marjorie Edmondson, who work nearby and walk past the embassy at 1125 16th St. NW each day, have watched with some bemusement the sudden frenzy of activity the summit has wrought. "They were out here trimming the hedges today," said Downs. "Now who does that in December?"
They speculated that the flagpole, which they said is usually bare, might even sport the Soviet flag for the occasion next week. And as they looked up, they noticed the camera protruding from the embassy's roof, trained on the sidewalk. "I think we're being watched," said Downs. "Perhaps it's time to go."