President-elect Ronald Reagan is planning an inauguration Jan. 20 that will be "snappy, flashy, yet dignified" -- a return to traditions abandoned by President Carter and his self-styled "Y'all come, people's celebration."
There will be no presidential stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue. Only one-tenth as many people will be invited to attend inaugural balls, none of which are likely to be held in private hotels.Military units in the parade will not carry weapons. There will be fewer rows of bleachers along the parade route. The procession will be over in an hour and the whole event will not wind up in the red.
There will also be a new emphasis on television, so that all America can see a soft-voiced, former Hollywood actor-turned-politician become the nation's 40th president.
"I will have succeeded in this job if I make the best seat at the inauguration the one in your living room sitting in front of the television," explained Robert K. Gray, a Washington public relations expert and cochairman of the 1981 Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Following the theme, "America -- A New Beginning," a phrase chosen from Reagan's acceptance speech at the Republician National Convention, the inauguration will "reach millions of Americans from California to Maine without them ever leaving home," Gray said. Most inaugural events are being tailored to television.
The presidential parade, for example, which has run as long as seven hours, will be kept to a precise 60 minutes. Parade coordinator Terry Chambers, who has helped plan 20 Rose Bowl parades, said those few high-stepping bands and colorful floats chosen for the procession will have to be "good television."
"Only the cream of the crop will take part in this parade," Gray explained, in stark contrast to Carter's parade where nearly anyone who wished could join in."The television networks will be afraid not to show it [the parade] because their phones will be jammed by angry viewers if they don't."
No weapons will be displayed during the parade, Gray said. "It would seem out of place to have tanks or missile-launchers in the parade and the governor [Reagan] believes the same is true about sidearms. We are a patriotic nation, not a militaristic one."
The Reagans also plan to host more than 100 presidential balls across the nation via closed-circuit television, with at least one ball in every state, Gray said.
"We will have six or eight exclusive balls here [by invitation only] with no more than 40,000 guests." Gray said. "We want these to be dignified, events where ladies can show off and be seen, where people can dance and where no one will be trampled. In other words, we are setting limits. After a certain number is reached, even my own mother will not be able to get a ticket."
Tickets to the exclusive balls will be offered to a select number of dignitaries and Reagan friends. The cost has not been set. Music at the balls probably will be from "the big band era -- something you could wear a formal gown to," Gray said.
The cost of attending one of the 100 or more satellite balls probably will be $10 per person. At the satellite balls, huge television screens will transmit pictures and music from the Washington balls." The people in Omaha, for example, will be able to see what the Reagans are doing and dance to the same music," Gray said.
The inaugural balls here will be held in public buildings rather than in Washington hotels, he said. So far, the only site chosen is the Pan American Union -- Organization of American States at 19th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Gray said.
Reagan's inaugural festivities are expected to cost $6 million, nearly twice as much as the week-long activities for Carter in 1977, which cost $3.5 million. "But these were Carter dollars," Gray said of the discrepancy in prices. "Inflation makes $6 million a fair price."
Gray said that income from the satellite balls, plus sales of traditional inaugural items such as license plates, souvenir books, medallions, special plates and tickets to the Washington balls and for the limited number of seats along the parade route, not only will raise the $6 million that the committee plans to spend, but also generate a surplus that can be given to charity.
Reagan will be the first president to be sworn in on the west front of the Capitol, where workers are now busy painting the building and constructing a platform.
The west front, which looks out over the Mall, is in bad need of repair. Gray said bright red, white and blue banners will be used to cover the thick wooden support beams now used to prop up portions of the sandstone facade, the oldest portion of the capitol's exterior walls.
"By holding the 1981 inaugural on the west front, a natural ampitheater and a place of great beauty, we can accommodate many thousands more citizens and at the same time save a great deal of money," a spokesman for the joint congressional committee coordinating the swearing-in ceremony said.
After the ceremony, Reagan and 60 congressional leaders will have lunch in the Capitol's statuary hall. In the past, such lunches have been private, but the Reagan meal will be televised, Gray said.
Reagan will attend the parade and then retire to the White House. "After the parade, the bands will march back to the west front where they will perform for 100,000 people on a first-come, first-serves basis," Gray said. "Imagine, 1,400 trumpets and 400 trombones playing rousing tunes."
After the concert, an estimated $300,000 worth of fireworks will be ignited, half at the Washington Monument and the other from the east front of the Capitol. That will allow the audiences on the west front to see "bombs bursting in air around the Capitol dome," Gray said. The balls will be held after the fireworks.
Reagan's inaugural festivities actually will begin Saturday, Jan. 17, with various parties on Capitol Hill for state delegations, Gray said. The Reagans will attend church the next day, probably at National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Ave. NW.
Sunday afternoon, a reception will be held for governors and that night, three concerts will be held at the Kennedy Center. So far, only one concert is set. Reagan has asked the National Symphony to perform.
On Monday, the day before the swearing-in, a reception for Nancy Reagan will be held, followed by a reception for Vice President-elect George Bush. wThat night, the televisied 1981 Presidential Gala will be broadcast from the Capital Centre in Landover, with Johnny Carson as the master of ceremonies and Frank Sinatra as the coordinator.
Other entertainers will include Dean Martin, Rich Little, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Stewart, the Osmond Brothers with Donny Osmond, Charlton Heston, Robert Merrill, Mel Tillis, Debby Boone, Charley Pride and the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club.
A special appearance will be made by Gen. Omar N. Bradley, the nation's only five-star general.
Gray said Reagan's inauguration will set a symbolic theme for the Republican's administration.
"We want people to realize that Reagan has new ideas and will offer no-nosense solutions," said Gray, who served as communication advisor during Reagan's campaign.
An example, according to Gray, was the decision to reject most of the 400 bands that already have asked to march in the parade and select only the nation's best.
"We think it will be fairer in the long run to let these bands, many of them small high school bands, play in the summer on the lawn of the White House for tourists. That will be better for everyone than a seven-hour parade."