We arrived in Washington about three in the afternoon, as we had agreed with Warren. We went directly to Winston House, and immediately learned the major problem of townhouse living - especially if your townhouse is only 18 feet wide: parking. We were able to find a place for the trailer fairly near the house, if we separated it from the car. We parked the car about a block further away. We knocked on the door of Winston House and were immediately greeted by Warren, who showed us in and welcomed us warmly. We got another tour of the house, and this time the tour ended with each of us being given keys to the house. Warren got on the phone and in about 15 minutes three young men arrived and pulled everything out of the trailer and car trunk, bringing it into the house. We were not allowed to carry anything. Instead we stood at the door and directed where each box, lamp, or clothes carton was to go. The whole job was done in about 25 minutes. You can't imagine the lift it gave us not to have to carry the stuff in and UP THE STAIRS!
Warren was in good spirits and clearly pleased to see us. He extended greetings from Mrs. Longworth, with the message that as soon as we had settled in at the court and university we were to get in touch with her about a "party."
We asked what he knew about the party. "Oh, she has in mind a pretty grand affair. She wants to do it in early October so that she can use the garden; that way she can invite more people."
"Just how many people is 'more people'?" I asked.
"Indoors at a served meal she can accommodate up to 128. A buffet allows that to be increased to about 150. About 175 at a cocktail party. You can add about 100 to those figures if you go outdoors. I think she's planning a buffet dinner for just over 200 in your honor."
"My God," said Tim. "That's unbelievable."
"Not at all. Mrs. Longworth does a party like that at least once a year and twice in many years. We've been talking about the right entertainment. Mrs. Longworth is dead set on having Chubby Checker. She has him holding two Saturday's in October."
"You have to be kidding!"
"Not in the least. Mr. Checker was delighted with the invitation, and said that he was glad to keep an extra weekend open; he'd like some time with friends in the East."
He continued, "Look, you two. I have to go. There's a complete dinner in the oven, and food for breakfast and lunch in the refrigerator and pantry. After that you're on your own. There's no maid service, I'm sorry to say, but a cleaning service comes once a month for thorough cleaning. With that you won't have to spend a lot of your time cleaning. If there are any problems with the house or furniture, get in touch with me."
Tim remembered what Alice had said about his love of the house. He said, "Look, Warren, feel free to come over here anytime to keep tabs on maintenance and things. Your coming and going while we're away won't bother us, and if we're home we'll be glad to talk and get to know more about Washington. I suspect you're a man that knows a lot of the inside scoop." Warren was delighted, and assured us that he'd drop in from time to time.
Dinner was a superb pot roast, followed by almost drugged sleep. Our new lives started for real the next morning at - you guessed it - 5:30 a.m.
Tim bounced out of bed and announced, "Let's take a run along the C&O Canal towpath."
I knew that it wasn't an invitation, but a command. I obeyed, slowly and sleepily. We ran about four miles, came back for breakfast, and then headed our separate ways. The courts building, right next to the Capitol, was just over three miles and I walked. I planned to walk it every day and depend on Tim or taxis in bad weather. I did discover that it was possible to take a bus, without too much walking on the Georgetown end.
Tim would drive to the university, at least until we could work out public transport. The Metro was under construction, but hadn't opened, so public transport meant buses. They weren't the most satisfactory way to move around Washington.
On arrival at the court Sherm and Chrissy greeted me like a long lost friend. Chrissy was assigned to "show me the ropes" and he did. I met the other new clerks as they arrived - most were arriving the same day. I also met many of the other people in the building. There would be a reception the next day for all the new clerks, and at that time we'd meet the other judges.
That afternoon Sherm invited me into his chambers for a private conversation. "Charlie, your work here doesn't start till the first of October. Spend as much time as you can with Chrissy and learn the ropes, find out what he does, and get briefed on the projects that you're going to have to pick up from him when he leaves in early October. Oh, yes. A week from Saturday night, 6:30 p.m. Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. Dinner as Thelma and I outlined. Tim is the guest of honor. It's all set. I extended the invitation to the judges shortly after you left and they're informing their clerks as they arrive."
He continued, "By the way, there is a reason Tim's the guest of honor and not both of you. I can't really give a party in your honor without putting the other judges on the spot with their clerks. It hasn't been done in the past, and I'm quite certain that my colleagues don't want to get that started as a pattern. Tim, on the other hand, is a celebrity in his own right - one that everyone would like to have the chance to meet. Thelma and I can have a party to introduce him without setting any kind of precedent." I assured him that I understood, and that I was pleased to be at a party in honor of Tim. And that was the truth. Sherm was clearly a pretty savvy guy.
Sherm ended the conversation with, "One last thing, there's an interesting case coming up early in the term. It involves the question of standing to challenge the NLRB in District Court. You want to bone up on everything you can on the issue of standing to sue a Federal regulator."
I knew immediately that while this was offered as an interesting case, it was, in reality, my first test on the job. Sherm was expecting to be briefed, prior to oral arguments, on everything there was to know about standing, including his own opinions. I had my work cut out for me.
Meanwhile, Tim was getting introduced to the University of Maryland at College Park. He'd preregistered by mail, and had gotten permission from the Dean to arrive a week late for classes. He had been quite honest - standard procedure with Tim - and told the Dean that he'd be in Munich for the European Gymnastics championships, and wanted to relax as much as he could before returning to his winter routine. He didn't say so, but I knew that had the Dean said, "No," Tim would've flipped him the proverbial bird - however one does that down a phone line - and looked into enrolling at a different school - probably Howard University. The Dean was smart enough not to have an argument with Tim before he'd even arrived, and assured Tim that he'd be able to work around being a week late.
In his first class the professor made a stupid crack about the week-late prima donna. Tim had responded with, "My partner, Charlie, would be most upset to think that he'd been making love to a woman all this time." It took the class a little while for the significance of that to sink in, but when they got it they burst out laughing. It took the professor even longer to figure it out, but he soon tumbled to the fact that he'd been had. He responded with, "Truce?"
Tim said, "Sure. This is a class I have been looking forward to, and I wouldn't want to get off on the wrong foot with the professor." Tim's self-assurance had won the day again. And it was true; the course was "A History of the University," and Tim had been eager to take it. After class a group of three students invited him to join them for lunch in the main cafeteria, and he gladly accepted. Two of the three knew who he was, but the third didn't have a clue. He said, "People seem to know who you are; you must be some kind of celebrity. But, honestly, I can't place you."
Tim said, "Wonderful. Well, my name's Tim, and I'd rather just be another student than some sort of celebrity."
"My name's Ricky. Ricky Steele. Glad to meet you, Tim."
One of the others couldn't hold it in, "You don't recognize Tim? Hero of the Mexico Olympics. Greatest diver in history. One of the very few two-sport athletes in the history of the Olympics, and winner of so much gold he couldn't wear it all."
Ricky pulled a memory out of the back of his mind and said, "Diving. Weren't you the diver that won two gold medals?"
The other young man said, "And a half-dozen or so in gymnastics."
Tim tried, successfully this time, to move the conversation, introducing himself to the other two and learning that they were Randall and Elliot, both from the Baltimore suburbs. They were both single and living in a graduate dorm, where each was able to have a single room.
Ricky reentered the conversation with, "From your comment in class, I guess you're gay."
Elliot responded with, "Ricky, what planet have you been living on for the past year? Tim and his partner Charlie have been on so many magazine covers it's gotten boring. They're the 'outest' couple in America."
Ricky asked, "What's Charlie doing? Is he a student as well?"
Tim was really impressed, and delighted, with Ricky's lack of interest in his celebrity. He replied, "He's clerking for a judge here."
Ricky said, "He's a lawyer? Where did he go to law school?'
"The University of North Dakota."
Ricky couldn't even be drawn into making some kind of crack about North Dakota or its school. He simply said, "I'd like to meet Charlie; clerking for a judge sounds interesting."
By the time lunch was over Elliot and Randall seemed to have gotten over their fascination with Tim, and Ricky never had any fascination with his celebrity. Tim found that he liked them all, and looked forward to seeing them again after their Wednesday class. That afternoon he went through a very painful grilling from another professor and fellow students about the Olympics, being gay, going to school in North Dakota!, and other such nonsense. Finally the professor realized that Tim was getting quite put out at being the center of attention and got the class back to the subject at hand, Philosophy of Education. Tim wondered if he was ever going to just be Tim?
That evening we realized that we were going to have to go grocery shopping after dinner. We had a huge pantry to stock, and besides, I'd invited Chrissy and Orville for dinner the next night. We rightly guessed that grocery shopping in Georgetown would be expensive and inconvenient at least if you were used to suburban supermarkets. So we got in our car and headed for the burbs, in this case Bethesda and a Giant supermarket. It dwarfed anything we had in Grand Forks, but not Minneapolis. We stocked up, loaded the car, and headed back to Winston House. The whole expedition took more than three hours, and we vowed to do it as seldom as possible. I warned Tim that I was going to need to do some clothes shopping as well!
The next morning we set out to get me some new clothes. Tim would continue to be a student in Washington, and didn't expect to need much of a change in wardrobe. However, I'd need to be in a coat and tie every day, and on many days a suit would be required, not a sport coat. Ties were relatively rare among students in Grand Forks. I'd worn them more than the average student, for various meetings and things. But Washington presented an entirely new environment.
We headed downtown to the department stores: Hecht's and Woodies. That is, The Hecht Company and Woodward and Lothrup. This was the first time we'd ever actually gone clothes shopping together - for more than one item. We discovered right away that we had completely different styles of shopping - and they're the reverse of what you might've expected. Tim spent a long time deciding what he liked: considered, reconsidered. On the other hand, I set out on a mission to find what I needed, bought it, and got out of the store. By the time Tim had picked out two shirts and a sport coat, I had three sport coats, two suits, six shirts, and eight pairs of slacks. Tim came over to look at my stack and began suggesting changes, better matches, a wider selection. "Tim, you can paw over your clothes as much as you like, but I just want to get this job done. These look fine. They'll look fine on me. They suit my situation."
It wasn't an argument, but there was more tension than usual in the air. He backed off, and I took his suggestion about one of the sport coats, and things were fine. Then we looked at ties. We shouldn't have! I quickly realized that I had two choices: spend the rest of the evening at the tie counter or really hurt Tim's feelings. I said, "OK, you pick out the ties."
Twenty minutes later Tim had picked five ties, and seemed uncertain about them. Then he realized that he was driving me nuts as I stood and watched him. "OK, you pick five more and we'll be gone."
I made a mistake. I'd been watching Tim and looking over the ties. It took me exactly 30 seconds to grab five ties that I'd already decided that I liked. That was too much for Tim. "Charlie, you have to pay more attention to your clothes than that." Then he started reviewing my choices and soon another fifteen minutes had gone by. Finally, he gave his seal of approval to the selection of nine neckties. Three quarters of a hour to do five minutes work! This from the kid who was so careful of his time! We all have our little inconsistencies. To this day we shop separately for clothing!
That afternoon Chrissy invited me into his office and closed the door. "Charlie, there's something you need to know before Orville and I come to dinner tonight."
"Orville is very uncomfortable with the idea of sex outside of our committed relationship. I think he could be pressured, but I don't want to do it, and I know that you and Tim wouldn't want to either. Orville quite simply believes in monogamy. It might not be my preference, but I believe that I'm in love with Orville and I'm willing to honor his choice. He's great fun, and I'm not going to be depriving myself by accepting his preference for monogamy."
"God, thanks for letting me know, Chrissy. You're right, neither Tim nor I would want to push sex at all. To be right, it has to involve willing partners who have a relationship that goes beyond sex. I had a good time with you, Chrissy, and so did Tim. But now we wish you and Orville well. We're really eager to meet him."
The two of them did come to Winston House for dinner. Orville was eye candy for us two gay boys. He had to be in his late twenties, but he looked like a mid-teenager. As cute as Billy, and in almost as good shape. Chrissy had quite a catch. I was almost drooling as I contemplated them in bed together. But he was off limits just as much as if he'd actually been fifteen. I could live with that, but nobody could stop me from dreaming! That night Tim confirmed the obvious - his reaction was just the same.
We asked about their plans for the future. They would stay in Washington for the month of October while Orville litigated an important case. Then they were off to Chicago, but Orville expected to be back in Washington fairly regularly as his case ground through inevitable appeals.
I asked, "Your firm is willing to keep you on the case even as you're leaving the firm."
Chrissy said, "You'll have to hear the whole story. And I had better tell it, 'cause it embarrasses Orville."
"Go ahead," said Orville.
"Orville was in traffic court representing the teenage son of one his firm's major clients. It's the type of stuff that junior attorneys are given. It turned out the case was fairly complicated, and Orville had to make a pretty substantial argument to the judge - regarding just what the obligations are of a driver involved in a single car, property damage only, accident. He'd researched the case well, presented it well, and gotten the kid out of a hit-and-run charge that the police had leveled against him - quite unreasonably."
Orville said, "He was a nice kid, hadn't been drinking, ran off the road, and went looking for the owner of the shed he'd smashed instead of staying with the car and waiting for the cops. They'd charged him with leaving the scene of the accident. Stupid."
Chrissy continued, "But it's what happened next that makes the story. Orville was approached by another attorney in the courtroom. The guy asked him if they could go to lunch and talk. At lunch the other attorney tells Orville that he works for one of the largest insurance companies in the country, and he thinks they'd be interested in retaining Orville for a case they expect to go to court in the next few months - this was about a year ago now.
"It turns out the case involves a day camp in Montgomery County; one that serves a pretty rich clientele. An 11-year old kid got hurt on a trampoline - he broke his back. The camp's insurance carrier had paid all the medical bills - under the medical payments clause of their policy, not liability. Back surgery was, everyone thought, successful, and the kid was back in school. Then, all of a sudden, the family stopped submitting the bills - a pretty good sign that they were about to sue. Wham; a multi-million dollar suit based on the fact that the kid was injured for life, and the camp should be assessed punitive damages for not having better supervision of the trampoline."
Orville cut in with, "The camp had really been very responsible, but an 18-year old counselor had been on duty on the trampoline and probably hadn't had enough spotters, though it wasn't clear that that would've avoided the injury to his back. After the accident the medical care was superb. A doctor was on the scene in minutes, an ambulance right away, transport to Georgetown Hospital, best of care, and - we thought - full recovery."
Chrissy took over again: "That's the case in a nutshell. The interesting part is where Orville comes in. The company attorney wants to retain Orville as lead counsel before the jury for the simple fact that he looks like a teenager! He'd proved that he could handle himself well in court, and there was a team of lawyers to do all of the research. But a major issue in the case would be whether the teenage counselor was competent to supervise a trampoline. Having what looked like a teenager practicing law made exactly the statement to the jury that they company wanted to have made - without ever having to say a word.
"The wonderful thing is this: as the case has been litigated - they've been in front of the judge at least a dozen times with preliminary stuff; the jury trial starts in about two weeks - Orville has proven himself. They're really impressed with his legal work as well as his courtroom performance. He's now taken over as chief counsel in the case as well as the first chair litigator. They're really impressed with him. In that position it's Orville, not his firm, that they're hiring, so his firm has no choice but to keep him on their payroll until the case ends. But they're happy, he's piling up the billable hours, and they're making a tidy profit - since Orville is still on salary."
Orville continued, "It's a good deal, I get a full-time salary for less than half-time work, and since I became lead counsel on the case, they're billing for me at the same rate as the senior partners. Everybody's happy, and we're going to win the case. Private investigators have pictures of the kid swimming, riding a bike, running, climbing a jungle gym at school, and even wrestling. The kid's parents and attorneys are basically telling him to lie about his condition in order to soak an insurance company for 3 or 4 million dollars. I'm sure they hoped to settle for about 1/4 of that, but the insurance company said, "No," and they won't give him a dime. I hate to do it to him, but the kid's going to get crucified on the witness stand. I'm hoping that I can make it clear that it's his greedy parents and attorney, not the kid, who's in the wrong. But he's now 13 years old, and he knows better than to be lying. So my sympathy for him only goes so far."
"All because you have a baby face."
Chrissy said, "He does, doesn't he? Never lose it Orville. I love you just the way you are."
We learned more about Orville: he'd grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs, gone to the University of Pennsylvania and then Georgetown Law. He was in his third year with his current firm. He was gay, but pretty well hidden in the closet. Finding Chrissy was the best thing that'd ever happened to him, just as finding Orville was the best thing that'd ever happened to Chrissy. They had Sherm to thank for that. Sherm used Orville's firm for his personal legal work, and Orville had been assigned for some routine matter. They liked each other right off, and Sherm took Orville to lunch. They became friends and finally Orville had trusted Sherm with his secret. The next year Sherm found he had a gay clerk and got the two together.
Their only concern was that for each of them it was a first experience at anything like love, and they were hesitant because of their lack of experience. But they'd fairly quickly decided that that was silly, they loved each other and they'd better act upon it before life passed them by. So it was off to Chicago, a city that neither of them knew, but had read about and which excited them. Tim and I were convinced they would do well.
They did, by the way. We kept in touch over the years, but saw them seldom after that year in Washington when they dropped into town fairly regularly. Their small firm - just the two of them and a couple of paralegals - did well, and they lived happily ever after, as they say. They didn't set the world on fire, but they get credit for refusing to be in the closet, and leading lives as who they were. Given that, it's remarkable that they did as well as they did in law practice in the 70's and 80's. They were two really nice guys. Oh, yes. The kid from the trampoline was crushed on the witness stand, admitted that his parents had told him to lie, and the whole case fell apart. The best the parents got out of the deal was an agreement by the insurance company not to press fraud charges in exchange for no more medical payments on the claim. Orville was the hero. It made for a good start in Chicago, but he made up his mind that even though the insurance company had been in the right in this case, they often weren't, and he couldn't see making a career out of defending insurance companies.
Life took the two couples in different directions. For us it was time to get in touch with Alice Longworth and find out about her party plans. Dinner with her on Friday night took our breath away. On arrival she kissed us both on the cheek and then asked, "How about the third Saturday in October? The weather will be nice, Chubby Checker is available, and the world will line up to get invitations."
Having been warned by Warren we were ready, and we had made sure the date was clear. We told her so. "Good, it's settled. The invitations will be printed tomorrow and mailed on Monday."
"How many people are you inviting?"
"Two hundred and ten."
"My God." It could've been said by either of us.
"Don't act surprised. Warren's already warned you. It's going to be a blast."
It was. But first we had a dinner for about fifty people hosted by Sherm and Thelma at the Congressional Country Club. It was quite formal - though without the tuxedos we'd need for the Longworth bash. We all stood around in a large private dining room, drinking, munching hors d'oeuvres, talking with whomever came up to speak, and being introduced to a whole slew of people that we would be expected to remember. Then we sat down to a served dinner; there were six tables for ten, and all were filled. Our original count of 56 left out Chrissy and Orville, and a couple of other friends of Sherm and Thelma's. In the break before dessert, Tim and I had a chance to visit every table. We noticed that the guests were trading tables as well, in order to talk with different people. Dessert was brought in on carts and we helped ourselves, allowing us to eat at whatever table we were sitting at. Coffee pots and cups were plentiful. Coke drinkers didn't have a chance!
I was particularly glad for Tim to have a chance to meet the people I would be working with, and I enjoyed meeting their partners as well. Needless to say there were no other gay pairings, but a number of the clerks had brought girlfriends, and in one case a boyfriend. I was pretty sure that most of the unmarried pairs were living together, and as I got to know them that proved to be the case. It was an interesting group, and there was no hostility expressed toward Tim and me, though it was also clear that real acceptance of our relationship was generally lacking. Sherm and Thelma were certainly exceptional, though not unique.
Chrissy had been active and had collected a set of magazines that had featured Tim on the cover, with Time being the most prominent. These were nicely displayed on one wall, and proved to be a source of fascination for many of the guests. It was to me as well. Chrissy had been quite thorough, and in addition to Sports Illustrated had found Minnesota and North Dakota regional magazines, campus magazines, a few gay magazines, as well as a whole bunch of various sports magazines - especially those aimed at diving or gymnastics. He had found, and gotten copies of, 65 different covers. If you'd asked me beforehand how many there were to find, I'd have guessed under 40!
Life settled into somewhat of a routine. Tim couldn't find a place for either gymnastics or diving as early in the morning as he would've liked, and we had to set our schedules a little later here. Tim got to his first class at 8:00 and hit the library at that hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he didn't have an early morning class. Most days he was able to be free in the afternoon and he either dove, practiced gymnastics, or both. Both the gymnastics and swim teams welcomed him to their practices, and he found that, like everywhere else he'd practiced, he was as much a coach as athlete. However, he never was able to develop the close rapport with the Maryland teams as he had with his high school team and the North Dakota teams. He always felt there was a little resentment - never overtly expressed - at the presence of an ineligible graduate student athlete with the undergraduate teams.
Life for me was going much as I'd expected. Sherm delighted in ripping up my research and writing, and insisted that I give him the same treatment. Our intellectual battles were wonderful. I'd never been challenged like this by either fellow students or professors in law school. Sherm gave no quarter. If you missed something, you found out. And he insisted that I treat him the same way. I was learning more Federal administrative law than I could've imagined. And while that probably wouldn't be central to my practice when I returned to North Dakota, it was intellectually exciting in its own right.
On the social front, nothing happened - except a dinner at Chrissy and Orville's - until Mrs. Longworth's party loomed on the horizon. We were given little advance information about the party. Warren did warn us that tuxedos would be the dress of the day, and that we should buy, not rent. In his words, "A rented tux looks like a rented tux, and it just won't do." Heavy emphasis on the word do. We were hustled off to a tailor, measured precisely, and told to pick a style. At least that's what the tailor told us. Warren stepped in and gave us no choice; he picked two quite nice single breasted coats for us, Tim's with narrower lapels "to make him took a little taller." We got vests and cummerbunds, and Warren assured us that he'd tell us which to wear when. "Conservative vests for Mrs. Longworth's."
We were also told that we'd better be able to dance the twist absolutely perfectly. We also needed a basic waltz and fox trot in our repertoire. We told Warren that we didn't dance traditional ballroom dances with each other, but he laughed and said, "Yes, but every woman in the place will want to dance with you, and there'll be exactly 106 women present. Be prepared."
Among other things, Warren was a good dance teacher. He arrived late one Friday afternoon with appropriate records and two older teenagers - his daughter and one of her friends. They would be our dance partners for our lesson, in exchange for our taking them to dinner and a movie that evening. It was good bargain! We got to take two very attractive young women to dinner - Warren had made reservations at a restaurant popular with young people in Georgetown - and a movie, and they got to brag to all of their friends about their dates with Tim and Charlie. They insisted on having pictures taken at the restaurant; "otherwise no one will believe us."
They were very good dancers, having been instructed by Warren as youngsters, and soon we were as well. At least we got Warren's stamp of approval: "You'll do." Warren's daughter, Amy, assured us that that was as high an approval rating as any dancer every got from her father.
We had a lovely dinner, saw a popular movie, and drove the girls home afterwards. We'd learned during the dinner that they were students at Catholic University, living in the dorm. As we escorted them into the dorm they made sure that their dates were seen, and Tim was introduced to half the girls present. Some even wanted to shake my hand as well - those few that had any idea who I was. They sure knew about Tim, however. Amy and her friend scored the social coup of the semester! I'll admit it was fun feeling like a college student again, and Tim was even able to look the part. I wasn't, even though Tim and the others assured me that I was.
A week before the party, Alice Longworth dropped her last bomb on us. She telephoned, and Tim answered. "Tim, this is Alice Longworth."
"Good afternoon, ma'am."
"Don't you go 'ma'am' me, young man. I'm Alice."
"Good afternoon, Alice."
"Thank you. I called to talk about plans for the party next Saturday."
"Warren's told us a lot of what to expect."
"Good. I expect to have Charlie paired with me. That leaves you hanging out there, and as you know, that simply isn't done in Washington. Would you be willing to escort Lady Bird Johnson?"
Tim's response to that was utter silence.
"Good. I'll take silence as an affirmative. Here's the plan. The car will call for you at 5:30. First you'll pick up the Clarks. Then you'll go on to Mrs. Johnson's apartment; the Clarks will be along in order to properly introduce you. Lynda Bird and Charles Robb will be there and will be joining you. The seven of you will then come here where I'll join you and the eight of us will be at the head table. I thought you'd enjoy meeting Chubby Checker, so he and his wife - I'm pretty sure she'll be coming - will be joining us. Of course, you and Charlie, along with Lady Bird and me will have to be on duty at the front door from 7:00 to 7:20 to greet people, and you and Charlie will have to be introduced. I hope you can remember 200 plus names and faces!
Tim stammered a little at that.
Alice went on, "We'll forgive a little forgetfulness, but only a little. It should be quite an evening. Oh, yes. There'll be one or two Secret Service cars with you on the trip. And in the coming week you're likely to get a visit from some agent from the Secret Service, since you'll be accompanying Mrs. Johnson and the Chief Justice. Get used to Washington."
Tim finally got in, "Somehow I don't think this is the Washington of the typical graduate student at the University of Maryland."
"Oh, you're so right. And aren't you lucky. In any case, when Thelma brought you to my house, and you agreed, this is what you were getting into. Enjoy the ride."
When Tim told me of the conversation I laughed. "Tim, I've been warning people for years that life with you was like a roller coaster that only went downhill. I think you may have finally met up with someone who rides a bigger, higher roller coaster!"
Tim just laughed. "You really tell people that?"
"Absolutely. All the time. It was Carl's metaphor. You've heard me use it."
"Yeah, a time or two. But, Charlie, I feel like life with you is the same."
"I'm not going there. We're in the front car of the roller coaster together, and that party looks like it's a really sharp curve at the bottom of the biggest hill."
"I'm ready, are you?"
"I'm ready if you are."
Nobody could be ready for an Alice Longworth party - at least not the first one. Tim and I were determined that we wouldn't be tongue tied in the presence of the Chief Justice of the United States and his wife, a former First Lady, and her daughter and her husband.
We were. But everybody was so kind that we got over it very quickly. The Johnson family was delightful. It seemed that President Johnson was in Texas and unable to come to the party, thus the need for an escort, and Tim was it. Then Lady Bird informed Tim that she'd been warned by Alice that we were going to be dancing the twist. "I've taken lessons," she said. "I hope you're ready."
This wasn't the first time that Tim and I'd been warned that we were going to be on display dancing the twist, but it was certainly new that Tim's partner was going to be Lady Bird Johnson. He was really going to be on display. Mrs. Johnson looked at me and said, "Don't worry, Charlie, you'll get your chance as well."
That was what I was afraid of.
We arrived at Mrs. Longworth's and were seated at a table right next to the dance floor which had been set in the middle of her garden. The bandstand was on the opposite side of the dance floor, and a string quartet was playing. Warren brought in Chubby and Catherina Checker and his entire band and introduced them. The band quickly left to get ready. That left the ten of us at the table. It was obvious that Chubby Checker was used to celebrities. Neither the political clout nor the Olympic gold intimidated him or Catherina. He was fascinating, and carried the conversation easily. He particularly seemed interested in drawing in the Clarks, but didn't neglect the others. Alice just sat back and watched the performance; completely delighted. Tim held his own, and had the advantage of being seated between Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Longworth.
Soon Warren arrived and invited Mrs. Longworth, escorted by me, and Mrs. Johnson, escorted by Tim, to join him at the front door, where he announced the arrival of each guest, presented them to Mrs. Longworth and me, and I then had the job of presenting them to Mrs. Johnson and Tim. If you weren't in the line by 7:10 you were let in a side door and weren't presented. Everyone knew that, and everyone was there by 7:01, I think. Since introductions were by couple, we were able to greet the entire line by 7:20, almost exactly when Warren had predicted. We wondered if the rest of the evening would go that perfectly. Alice didn't look like she thought there was the slightest chance of it not doing so. Warren, on whom responsibility for making it happen fell, didn't look in the least worried either. Tim and I didn't share their confidence, and were both wondering when we'd get our chance for the big screw-up. It had to come!
We were led back to our table and, joined by the others, were led to one of six buffet tables. I'm not even going to try to describe the food. It looked and tasted fabulous and there was enough of it to feed every homeless person in the District of Columbia for at least a week. (We learned later from Warren that all of the left overs were sent to three different soup kitchens, and did, in fact, feed a lot of the homeless in Washington over the next few days.)
Tim and I had hardly had the first few bites when Alice got up and said to Tim and me, "OK, boys, time to table hop." In the next hour we visited all twenty of the tables set up around the garden. Alice knew every single person by name, and I was impressed that Tim seemed to know most of the names as well. I found that I remembered quite a few from the introductions at the door, but I wasn't keeping up with Tim. I couldn't help but remember Billy's impressing us with knowing every name in the group after his first, quick introduction. I wondered how he'd do here. He'd get his chance one day!
Senators and Congressmen were a dime a dozen in the crowd, as were judges, lobbyists, businessmen, even a few mid-level civil servants. The current administration, with a few exceptions, wasn't present. Alice only allowed token Republicans, one of whom was Senator Barry Goldwater. She whispered to me, "He's entirely too conservative, but he's such a charming man I can't resist inviting him."
When we approached his table he rose, greeting Alice, and said, "My dear Alice, it's so nice to be your token Republican again. It's a role I never tire of playing, especially when the food is this good, the entertainment so delightful, and the honored guests so young." He turned to Tim and me and said, "You must be Charlie, and you're Tim. I'm completely delighted to meet you, even if you do move in these Democratic circles. We folks from off the East Coast have to stick together here in Washington. You'll find that most of these folks haven't a clue where either North Dakota or Arizona is, and they probably think we're neighbors. I'll bet there aren't five people in this room that would estimate the distance between Grand Forks and Scottsdale at more than a thousand miles, but we know it's almost two thousand." He winked.
Tim replied, "And they think it's a three week trip by wagon train."
Goldwater roared with laughter. Alice was beaming. I chuckled, greeted the Senator, and said, "We folks from Indiana are getting used to your wide open spaces, but these East Coasters haven't a clue. They think we can drive from Grand Forks to Chicago in the time they drive from Washington to New York."
"Drive west, young man, drive west. That's where the future is. It was true at the turn of the century and it's true now."
We moved on, but rarely had that kind of conversation. Generally it was "Pleased to meet you," or "How exciting to meet Olympic gold medalists." We smiled at everyone. People seemed delighted to meet us, and meeting Senators and all was just as exciting for us.
Then Alice approached the bandstand and thanked the quartet that had been playing. They got real applause, and clearly were a group that was known to the guests. After they'd left the bandstand, Alice said, "I asked Tim and Charlie what they like to dance, and they both said, 'The twist.' I'd heard of the twist, but never thought it would happen in this house. But they told me I should get with the times. Well, I did. My friends, I'd like you to welcome Chubby Checker and his band. Tonight not only they, but we, are going to twist."
Although a number of the guests had recognized Chubby Checker at our table, I don't think that they'd really come to terms with the idea that Alice Longworth was hosting a twist party. But out on stage came Chubby Checker and his band, and soon we were being invited to, "Come on, Let's Twist."
Nobody did, which was exactly what Alice expected. Alice turned to Tim and me and said, "You two are going to have to show them. Charlie, Lynda Bird will dance with you." So Tim, Lady Bird Johnson, Charlie, and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb walked out on the dance floor and were greeted by Chubby Checker who sang, "Let's Do the Twist."
And twist we did. Lady Bird and Lynda Bird were very good, having known that this was going to happen and gotten lessons. Tim and I did very well indeed. And, thank goodness, before too long it wasn't just the four of us, but others started onto the dance floor. Washington society was doing the twist, senators, judges, politicians, and all. Alice had been very shrewd with her invitations, and had made sure that as many young people as possible were invited, and that the stodgy old folks that often filled the guest list were kept to an absolute minimum. Because it was the twist, partners changed easily, and we weren't sure just who'd been dancing with whom. But I can assure you that, at least in our minds, Tim and I had been dancing with each other. Oh, we loved the twist! Later in the evening we told Chubby Checker that, and he laughed, saying, "Well, I've heard a lot of reasons for liking my dance, but that's a new one. I love it."
Chubby's band took a break and were replaced by a traditional dance band. I immediately invited Alice to dance, and off we went in a waltz. Alice did a simple, but quite gracious, waltz, and soon the dance floor filled again, with Tim and Lady Bird waltzing together quite happily around the floor. The next dance was a fox trot, and Tim and I changed partners. As the next dance started Alice said to the two of us, "If you can manage it, you need to dance with every willing woman in the place. The men know the routine, so as soon as you go very far someone will cut in on you, to free you up to move on. Good luck. Watch your toes."
What an evening! It was exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, and almost beyond our comprehension. Despite the successes that we had had in life, we were still two boys from the Midwest, not long out of college. Evenings like this didn't even happen in our dreams. But we weren't dreaming, we were on solid ground, surrounded by both friends and strangers, getting the eager attention of the cream of Washington society. It was more than we two kids from Minnesota and Indiana could take in. We both wished our parents could've been there with us.
Then Chubby Checker was back on the bandstand, and Alice greeted the guests again. Alice had gotten our permission, somewhat hesitantly given, but given upon the favorable advice of Sherm and Thelma whose opinions we'd come to respect, for what came next. She spoke to her guests, "Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming this evening. Not only am I pleased to introduce Chubby Checker and the twist to Washington, but I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to introduce Charlie and Tim to Washington. These two young men have been incredibly brave over the past four years, since their picture first appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. They came out to the world in Minneapolis, and I'm pleased to say that they're still out in Washington."
Chubby Checker's trademark, "Come on, Let's Twist" sang out and Tim and I, holding hands, walked to the middle of the dance floor, faced each other, and we "Did the Twist." Did we ever. Up till now it'd been the twist, but at a ballroom pace and demeanor. The band was ready, we were ready, and we let loose. Chubby Checker gyrated at the front of the bandstand, and we gyrated on the dance floor. Chubby Checker shouted over the music, "That's the way to do the twist." We ended with Tim in my arms, receiving as big a kiss as he'd gotten beside the pool that day, long, long ago in Minneapolis. The crowd was smaller here, but they were just as enthusiastic. We were applauded and cheered, and Lady Bird Johnson led the parade of guests who came forward, shook our hands, and greeted us warmly. We were in tears in minutes, and nobody thought it inappropriate. When we finally got free we walked over to Alice Longworth, we both kissed her on opposite cheeks at the same time, and said, "Thank you" and "You were right! It was wonderful."
In the Midwest the party would've ended soon after that. But the East Coast functions later. I've often speculated as to whether that has something to do with the television, and the fact that the evening news is an hour later in the Eastern Time Zone. I've also speculated as to whether that means Easterners do everything an hour later, or whether they get an hour less sleep. I think they get less sleep. Regardless, this party went on, and it was just after midnight before the last guest departed. Warren had escorted the Johnson-Robb party home more than an hour before. It had been understood that Tim and I would have to stay until the end, and that Lady Bird wouldn't be staying that late. Warren was now back, and a small group had gathered in Alice's den. It was Alice, Tim, me, Chrissy (who'd flown in for the party), Orville (who was in town working on his case), Sherm, Thelma, and Warren. We'd come to realize that Warren was as much a friend to Mrs. Longworth as he was employee. He opened the conversation. "Well, boys, how do you like Washington high society?"
Tim said, "Hey, this was fun. I understand why Alice is the leading hostess in Washington; she really knows how to give a party. Having Chubby Checker was a master stroke."
Alice said, "And I seem to remember that it was your idea. Besides, it was you two that made the party. You're celebrity, sexuality, beauty, charm, and brains all rolled into one - both of you. Who could resist?"
Sherm said, "Chrissy, you have been on the party circuit some in Washington. How did this compare?"
"Compare? Nothing that I've ever attended compared in social status or in fun. Mrs. Longworth, Oriville and I really appreciate the invitation."
"You have no idea how nice it is to have a pair of men. Two widows got invitations tonight because of you two. When other hostesses figure that out, gay men're going to be in vogue."
Thelma said, "No, Alice, I don't think so. First, most Washington hostesses have neither the chutzpah nor the character to extend the invitations. Tim and Charlie, for special reasons, are going to remain the exception in Washington. I think you boys may be the token gays at parties just like others before you - and regrettably still today - are the token blacks. Usually a much worse word is used, just like I suspect a worse word than gay is often used."
Orville said, "Yes. But it took token blacks to break down the doors, and Tim and Charlie may just have to endure being token gays. It remains to be seen if Chrissy and I even get that far in Chicago."
Alice asked Tim, "Have you found a place to practice your diving and gymnastics?"
"Yes, at the University. I work out with both teams."
Alice continued, "I think we need to organize some kind of charity exhibition. I'm going to have to think on that. Sally Clark is eager to see you perform, and I think would lend her name to some kind of charity affair."
I spoke up with, "When you do, I nominate the Red Cross as the charity."
Sherm said, "Among his success stories are two involving the Red Cross. He wrote a book for them in Iowa and organized a most successful chapter for them in Grand Forks."
I said, "How do you know all that?"
Alice said, "Boys, remember what I have told you about information. And people who play the game well do not, ever, let you know how they found out what they found out. Some things you just know. Well, it's too soon to be planning another affair, but we'll keep the Red Cross in mind."
Alice stood, saying, "Well, it's late. Home you all go. Warren, will you drive the boys?"
I said, "No, no. Warren needs to sleep like everyone else. It's not much out of the way for Sherm and Thelma to drop us by Winston House."
"I'm sure that Warren will appreciate that."
"Indeed," said Warren.
And the evening drew to a close as Alice said, "It was nice when you boys kissed me tonight. Kiss me goodnight as you leave."
We did, both at once, as before.
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