I'm not surprised that you wonder why I keep mentioning Georgetown in my letters when I don't even live there. Georgetown is a district of Washington where you can walk your dog, peer into a candle-and-pillow shop and try and figure out where one house ends and the other begins. The average Georgetown dweller must have some money because even the brick row houses sell for a sum that Sonny Goldstone, the Gilded Bachelor, wouldn't deride.
But there is something about Georgetown that provokes a curl of derision on the lips, a tone of suspicion in the voice of many a Washingtonian who doesn't live there. At first I thought it was because the houses looked so inconspicuous and cost so much. It's not only that, Beverly. Georgetown has become kind of a myth for those who dwell within as well as out.
I've heard phrases like "Georgetown Elite," "Georgetown Snobbism," "Georgetown Has-Beens," and even "Georgetown Conspiracy." I've also heard of "Georgetown Chic" (although I must admit the last phrase is mostly used by those who dwell within). I'm not sure why this innocent-looking neighborhood arouses such strong feelings, Beverly, but I'm doing my best to find out.
I was lunching with "wife of" Thistle Jr. from State and her 8-year-old twins at Armand's Pizzeria (not far from her home in Cleveland Park) when she used the phrase "that Georgetown set."
"I take it," I said, "you're not a Georgetown- ophile?"
"Too much faded chintz and uninformed gossip," she said shortly, helping herself to the last wedge of deep-dish pizza.
I wondered if she was referring to the fact that Dexter Tribble is lobbying for her husband's job and had invited a few of the Upper Media (Lionel Portant and the likes) for dinner to leak Thistle Jr.'s problems.
About the chintz, Beverly, "wife of" Thistle Jr. may have put her finger on something. When Popsie Tribble redecorated her Georgetown house she put down her $80-a-yard fabric in the sun for three weeks, "for maturation." It's the same method Thistle Jr.'s teenage daughter uses to fade her jeans.
Anyway, the next day I lunched with Popsie at the Jockey Club (not too many children eat there) and I repeated what "wife of" Thistle said.
"Sheer jealousy," Popsie sniffed. "Don't you know her background?"
"No," I said. "What is it?"
"She was actually born in Cleveland Park," Popsie replied.
Cleveland Park, Beverly, is a nice family neighborhood where a lot of young congressmen and senators live. You know the kind of place. No fences around the houses and perhaps a few too many purple azalea bushes.
"ope with a civilized dinner party even if she had the entire Protocol section of State helping her. Eat at the Thistles' in Cleveland Park and come to the Tribbles' for dinner in Georgetown. Then you'll see the difference. In Georgetown, we know how these things are done. I wouldn't live anywhere else. It's so cozy. And I can walk to all the parties, except when I have to fly to New York."
It's a queer thing, Beverly. Popsie talks about walking in Georgetown. I walk there all the time, but I never see Popsie strolling in front of her house. Or anyone else I know. Maybe Georgetown dwellers don't want to be confused with the tourists.
About a week after my conversation with Popsie, I sat beside Senator Pod at the Washington Hilton at the annual meeting of the Dermatologists Association of North America. The Senator had to be there because he was trying to corner the market on dermatologists' campaign funds in his state. We were there because of the word "North" in North America.
I asked the Senator what he thought about Georgetown.
"I don't think about it. It's Eastern Establishment. Who thinks about Eastern Establishment these days? No power there since the Kennedy period. The Democrats like Georgetown, except for Lyndon Johnson, of course. I agree with Johnson. It's a low-lying place and becomes dank in the summer. I call it Washington's Mosquito Belt."
"Do you ever go to Georgetown parties?" I asked.
The Senator changed his tone a little. "Sometimes I cross the moat," he said a little defensively.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because of the parlor-room access."
"Parlor-room access to whom?" I asked.
"To the Upper Media," the Senator replied. "It's more agreeable to set things right with the Upper Media over the fingerbowls. They still use those things in some houses in Georgetown. A few 'Used-to-be- Close-to's' and former Mr. Secretaries live there along with members of the Powerful Press. In Virginia they gossip about horses at dinner. In Georgetown, they gossip about politicians."
Beverly, I don't know if setting things right over the fingerbowls means that Senator Pod is leaking information. Or giving his version of the story, off the record, of course, to Lionel Portant. I just hope there are no listening devices in all those faded chintz settees.
Your best friend,