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An Unfunny Thing Happened to Raisa G. on Way to White House

December 18, 1987|ANN CONWAY

Calling Raisa Gorbachev a "very handsome woman by European standards," Rep. Robert E. Badham (R--Newport Beach), a member of the welcoming committee when the Gorbachevs arrived in Washington last week, said he witnessed a "funny thing" when the Soviet Union's First Lady exited a limousine after it purred up to the White House.

"Mr. Gorbachev got out on one side and was greeted by the Reagans, and Mrs. Gorbachev had to let herself out on the other and walk around the back."

It was an excruciatingly awkward moment, Badham said, and made him wonder whether the procedure was part of Soviet tradition or simply a bad botch.

Both of the Badhams, Bob and Anne, are in Washington this week to attend the White House Christmas party staged for members of Congress.

"A huge tree is always placed in the Blue Room," Anne said. "Members of the military, in full dress, greet everyone, and poinsettias are everywhere . There's always a lovely buffet dinner and an unbelievable gingerbread house on display in the State Dining Room. And, at one point during the evening, the Reagans descend the staircase, mingle, and have their pictures taken with everyone near the tree or in the State Hallway."

Undecided about what to wear to the black-tie affair, Anne said she was going to tote two choices, a red-sequin Travilla and a bead-studded white silk by Victoria Royale. And, her almost-to-the-floor Blackgama mink, of course.

"It's such a thrill to be there," she said. "We pinch ourselves from time to time to think we're a part of history and able to do these things. It's terribly exciting."

Residing Garbo-esque: Quietly and very privately, the former Barbara Kent Cooke has taken up residence at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach with her husband of four years, Thomas Berwald--a commercial graphic artist. In 1977, she divorced Jack Kent Cooke--then owner of the Forum, the Los Angeles Kings, the Lakers and four-fifths of the Washington Redskins (he still owns the Redskins)--dividing assets in 1979 estimated at $100 million. Moving to Orange County from Bel-Air, the Berwalds live in three rooms of the hotel while they await the completion of a home they're building in the Rancho Santa Fe area of San Diego.

Royalty's Date With the Desert: When the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) hit Eldorado Polo Club in Indio on March 5 to watch Fergie's "Dads" (as she calls her father, Major Ronald Ferguson) swing the mallet, one Newport Beach resident will breathe a royal sigh of relief.

Joanna Murphy is busy, busy drumming up an audience for the benefit polo match that will pit the British Guards Polo Team of Windsor Great Park against a yet-to-be-named U.S. team. Proceeds from the event will go toward rebuilding London's legendary Globe Theatre.

Murphy, director of special events for Eldorado (which played host to Prince Charles in a match two years ago), has been brushing up on protocol with the British Consulate in Los Angeles.

"You have to be very careful of titles," Murphy said. "And how the couple is approached."

Is she nervous? "No. But very excited. It's going to be a lovely day. Cartier is going to host a by-invitation-only lunch for 350."

And the rest of the world is welcome to lunch, but not with Fergie and Andrew. "General admission for 7,000 will be within seeing distance," Murphy said, "across the polo field."

How They're Celebrating: Gaye and Art Birtcher--co-partners of Birtcher, the country's ninth-largest real estate developer--will toss a Christmas bash for friends on their eight-acre Rancho de Dios in San Juan Capistrano.

Cookies and "spiked" cappuccino are on the menu, Gaye said, as well as entertainment by the All American Boys' Choir and the Chapman College quartet.

After mingling outdoors for more than an hour, guests are invited into the Birtchers' 17th-Century French home, a manse so large that Gaye doesn't know the square footage.

The showplace is furnished with Louis XIII and Louis XIV furniture, breathtaking pieces acquired during the couple's many trips to France. "People are invited in to get warm, and then they go home," Gaye said.

The Birtchers share the family acreage with Art's brother Ron, his wife, Joanne, and F.E. and Mary Louise Birtcher, their parents. "We all live here," Gaye said. "In three homes. Art's parents live in the middle house and the brothers live on each side."

Sorry, sir: A reference in Thursday's Party Hopping column to Thomas and Judy Morr should have read Thomas Kendrick and Judy Morr.

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