ATLANTA — Democrats elect themselves party animals this week, celebrating with events all over town. But far ahead in the running for the most touching celebration was Sunday night's reunion between one-time presidential candidate Gary Hart and about a dozen of his former top supporters.
Once upon a time, this was supposed to be Hart's convention.
But here he was--no reserved room, no catered event, none of the dozens of well-known Hollywood faces that once angled for a place close to him when he was the front-runner.
Hart stood near the entrance to Pompano's, an unofficial greeter. The restaurant in the Marriott Marquis, one of the major convention hotels, wasn't very busy, since those involved in convention business were at their individual state receptions or the massive Ted Turner Cable News Network party half-a-dozen blocks away.
Hart looked good--tan and somehow sturdier, filled-out like a football player ready for the season.
"It's been a hard year," he said.
He quickly added that friends had been extraordinary in their support. Media reports of his relationship with a model had put his campaign under. And a surprise re-entrance in the race last winter did little more than pique people's interest as a curiosity.
At the convention, Hart is writing a series for the Scripps-Howard newspapers, and doing a little commentary for Italian television.
But Sunday night there was no work, as he sat down for dinner with friends like Los Angeles Chief Deputy City Atty. John Emerson, Orange County developer David Stein, New York radio station owners Ellen and Peter Strauss, and Beverly Hills exec Rick Allen.
And across town, Democrats celebrated the victory of Michael Dukakis.
SOCIAL CRITIC--So what are you folks in California really missing? Are there great parties, like the ones spoiled Californians like to attend? Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (who gave a party for 20,000 people at the opening of the '84 convention) was asked what parties he was attending.
"Parties? Parties in Atlanta?" he asked quizzically. "I'm going to New York."
ON BOARD--Atlanta is a railroad town, even getting its name from the "zero mile post" where the Atlantic and Georgia Railroads meet. State delegations and special interest groups, wanting to set up parties during the convention, were advised that they could meet in a hotel room or an antebellum mansion or go for a two-hour ride on a historic train. At least 10 groups signed up for the train, including one hosted by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson at a party over the weekend.
It sounded like a great idea--but when the temperature hit 95 degrees with 41% humidity on Sunday, it was like the party train to hell.
Several hundred folks from Massachusetts found the train to be air-conditioned--but first had to stand for half an hour or so on the hot and steamy open-air platform.
And when they piled aboard, what did they find? A train. Just like the train that takes commuters between Boston and Rhode Island, or sometimes to Trenton. An old train. A couple of "classic cars," but mostly just a train that after two hours brings you back to where you started.
The one sight announced by the conductor: "Ladies and gentleman, on your right, the Centers for Disease Control."
POLITICAL PEOPLE--Former People for the American Way president Tony Podesta heads west from Washington to head up the Dukakis campaign in California. Meanwhile, today the group holds an "issues training session" for young stars.
BEST IN THE EAST--Political junkies are also food fanatics--especially when the eats are free. Partygoers claimed that the "peachy back room" at the Atlanta Journal party Sunday (featuring just about everything peaches could be made into) was a gourmet delight. . . . Political consultant James ("Raging Cajun") Carvell said the beef served at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (honoring a host of U.S. senators) was "the single-best food anywhere." . . . Roz Wyman, who chaired the 1984 Democratic Convention (and kept complaining that she was too busy to enjoy the events) announced to San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi that, "It's easier running a convention than going to all these parties."
MORE CONVENTION ASIDES--Backstage at the Turner party: CBS Chairman Larry Tisch, Pamela Harriman, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and a couple of dozen other brand-names meeting with the potential First and Second couples before their appearances on stage Sunday night. Turner turned to Falcon Communications' Marc Nathanson, saying, "Cable has really arrived. Think where CNN was four years ago, and look at this now." When Turner planned the party, he apparently had no idea that Kitty and Michael Dukakis, along with Lloyd and B. A. Bentsen, would be part of the evening.