It was the night of the long knife, all right.
And the lady's black lace symbol was for burning.
Los Angeles Councilwoman Joy Picus and her supporters and family, relieved that she had overcome five challengers to win a third term representing the West Valley, celebrated her victory with a burst of vengeful humor late Tuesday night.
Called Too Liberal for District
Picus, the most vocal feminist on the council, was criticized by her conservative opponents as being too liberal for the district, which has often voted for conservative candidates and causes in recent years.
Challenger Jeanne Nemo and other Republicans were especially incensed that Picus, a Democrat, was endorsed by Maureen Reagan, daughter of Republican President Reagan. Nemo said Picus got the endorsement because Picus and the President's daughter knew each other from "their feminist bra-burning days together."
The "Maureen affair" was the subject of much joking during the long election night vigil by the Picus camp, about 80 strong, at the Woodland Hills home of Sharon Schuster, Picus' chief deputy.
Waiting on the dining room table was a large cake, elaborately decorated with frosting flowers and the words "4 more years," for the celebration that would begin when Picus claimed victory.
Close Loss in First Race
As the night wore on, and her vote total held steady at about 55%--comfortably above the majority she needed to avoid a runoff election--Picus held back. She still has vivid memories of her first council race 12 years ago, when she lost by 500 votes in the final returns, and remains reluctant to trust partial returns, said her husband, Gerald, a Hughes Aircraft Co. physicist.
By 10:55 p.m., with 29% of the vote in and 56% of it hers, she and the cake could wait no longer.
Cautioning reporters that "this is just a private victory statement, not a public declaration yet," Picus picked up a long knife.
One of her supporters suggested that she think of the cake as her opponents, among them Nemo, Gilbert Eisner and Matt Lynch.
"Love to," she replied, and sliced the cake from end to end, saying, "This is for Nemo."
Up came the knife.
"This for Eisner."
"This for Lynch."
The cake was drawn and quartered.
Politically speaking, so were her opponents. Picus wound up with 56% of the vote. Nemo came closest to her, with 21%; Lynch got 12%; Jon Lorenzen, 5%; Gary Klein, 5%, and Eisner, 2%.
It was not until almost midnight, with more than half the vote counted and her percentage holding, that Picus accepted that she had won.
"That's it," she said. She began thanking her staff and volunteers.
"Now, now," Picus' office staff prompted her campaign manager, Betsy Eaton. "We've been saving this," Eaton said, hauling a gift box out of a closet.
In the box was a black lace brassiere, sized for what TV commercials call a "full-figured woman."
With it came a large box of matches.
Picus and her fans howled with laughter.
"Are you going to send that to the Republican National Committee?" someone asked.
"Hang it on your trophy wall in City Hall," suggested another.
"No," Picus said, barely able to speak for laughter. "This goes in the district office."