WASHINGTON — Relying on the vanishing tradition of good manners, Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Kelly pulled off the social coup of the year when he escorted Fawn Hall to the White House Correspondents dinner Wednesday night.
The mysterious and beautiful secretary has barely uttered two words to reporters since she was granted immunity in the investigation of the Iran- contra arms scandal. But Kelly used a little old-fashioned maneuvering.
"I called her mother," Kelly said, reasoning that his calls to Hall's attorney, Plato Cacheris, would simply sit in a message pile with dozens of others.
Easy to Talk To
"Wilma Hall (Fawn's mother) is a very nice lady and gets along with everybody and is easy to chat with," Kelly said.
"We chatted about this and that and I told her the dinner was coming up and that the Sun would be delighted if your daughter would be our guest."
Kelly did not inform Mrs. Hall that he is 5-foot-7 and that Fawn would tower over him by three inches, but perhaps that did not matter. A mother wants her daughter to go out with a nice boy. Never mind tall.
Mom thought it over and Kelly called her back again, "which was when I promised to get her an affidavit from my mom, saying I'm a nice guy," Kelly said.
As it turned out, Kelly didn't need the affidavit. "But I think I could have gotten one," he said.
It was always understood that Hall, 27, would bring along her lawyer, even though that is not the normal routine when Kelly, a 30-year-old bachelor, takes a young lady to dinner.
But this was no ordinary dinner date. It was business. And as Kelly said, "When you're going to dinner with 2,200 reporters, many of whom are drinking, and you're in the middle of various investigations, it's probably a good idea to have a lawyer along. He had a good time himself."
Kelly said that he had "a great time," as well, finding Hall to be "charming company and a great talker." But Kelly may have had just as much fun observing the weird rituals performed by the Washington press corps when it finds itself face to face with a famous and beautiful female.
"My favorite thing of the evening was watching a crowd of allegedly hard-bitten newsmen line up to get Fawn Hall's autograph," said Kelly, who remembered seeing representatives of Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the London Daily News with pen and paper in hand.
"There is a certain amount of gawking as she walks through the room. More than I thought there would be. She wasn't bothered by it and handled it extremely well."
Kelly was sort of pushed aside now and then but he didn't mind.
"It didn't bother me," he said. "I thought the whole thing was fun and she was very much the belle of the ball. And when you're escorting the belle of the ball I don't think you expect people to say how nice your tuxedo is."
Kelly overheard Hall tell someone that her multicolored, ruffled and strapless dress was indeed new. No one asked any embarrassing or probing questions of her, he said. Kelly did not get a story out of it, and had not planned to.
When Hall spent a few moments whispering in the ear of former National Security Adviser John Poindexter, "she told him she had shredded 9,000 documents," Kelly said. But he added, "I just made that up. I didn't listen."