A sell-out guest list of more than 1,000 well [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Democrats were scheduled to attend $1,000-a-plate "Salute to the President" fund-raising dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel tonight at which the President was the featured attraction.
But the party might have fallen short of expectations had it not been for a gaggle of show business celebrities who agreed at the last minute to show up.
It is the President's first out-of-town political appearance since his election last November, and that by itself would seem to be enough attraction to fill the hall.
But the Democratic National Committee, sponsor of the dinner, reportedly found itself short of ticket-buyers until it put out the word that actor Robert Redford had shelled out $10,000 for one table at the gala affair, and that other celebrities were following suit.
Arthur Krim, United Artists board chairman and coordinator of tonight's dinner, then put the arm on other crowd-gatherers, including Andy Warhol, David Susskind and millionaire socialite Sam Lefrak, and ticket sales took off, party sources said.
The result was that the grand ball-room of the Waldorf was completely sold out, bringing in more than $1 million for the Democratic Party. Even after expenses, the party will still have nearly $1 million to apply to its $3.1 million 1976 campaign debt.
What the Democratic Party seemed to be selling was exclusivity, along with its menu of smoked trout, rack of lamb, asparagus and raspberry sherbet.
Tonight's event is the party's first big $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in more than eight years, and party veterans immediately began comparing it to the extravaganzas arranged by President Johnson.
What the party-goers might notice however, is that some of the celebrity attractions will be conspicuously absent.
Redford, for example, sent word to the DNC that he was tied up producing a movie in California and couldn't make it. Charlotte Scott, a party spokeswoman, said Redford sold his 10 tickets to other friends of the party.
Party officials stressed that the evening is meant to be a social affair, with lots of dancing and only a modicum of speeches.
In fact, the only scheduled speakers were to be Carter, Vice President Mondale, Krim and party chairman Kenneth Curtis. The President was scheduled to speak for only 20 minutes, with barely five minutes alloted to the others.
The committee even dispensed with the traditional head table, instead seating the President and the other headliners at small tables at the front-of the banquet room.
Most of the evening, according to the party officials, was to be devoted to dancing to the music of Peter Duchin's band, and the Manhattan Transfer.
Virtually every member of the Cabinet was scheduled to attend, along with White House staff leaders Jody Powell; Hamilton Jordan; Margaret Costanza; Stuart E. Eisenstat; Zbigniew Brzeznski; Carter's outside media adviser, Gerald Rastshoon; and his pollster, Patrick Caddell.
Also scheduled to attend from the Carter family were the First Lady, oldest son Jack Carter and his wife, Jody, the President's sister Ruth Stapleton, and cousin Hugh Carter Jr.
By flying up to New York for his brief appearance at the dinner, Carter will end a self-imposed moratorium on political appearances, and may have smoothed over some ruffled feathers among party professional who have been upset because the President has refused even to sign his name to fund-raising letters since his election.
Carter had asked the DNC to leave him out of all political activities until he could get his administration programs underway, and he has limited himself to only occasional talks with Curtis and other party leaders.
The appearance here follows an unusual pact between the White House and the party on how political appearances of the President will be financed. The DNC had agreed to pay for the cost of the President's trip - including the $2,000 an hour cost of Air Force One - in exchange for Carter's appearance.
Privately, party officials said they could never have sold 1,000 tickets to tonight's event without a commitment by Carter.
Mondale came to New York recently to generate support for tonight's dinner, along with Joel McCleary, the national committee treasurer.
Under a formula conceived by McCleary, the highest members of the party council agreed to donate $5,000 each and raise an additional $5,000 each from nine friends. The next level of party functionaries agreed to donate $5,000 each while the third tier of supporters simply purchased the $1,000 dinner tickets.