WASHINGTON — California State Sen. Tom Hayden embraced pal David Crosby outside the Rock the Vote party and asked, "So what's going on in there?"
"Schmooze," Crosby replied. "Heavy schmooze."
Indeed, it's been several days of heavy schmooze as myriad special interest groups have thrown parties to raise funds and grab a moment in the spotlight for their cause.
Thousands of out-of-towners (including copious celebrities) on an inaugural high have fortified the events.
Tuesday at 4 p.m. there was a crush to get into one of the ballrooms at the Sheraton Carlton, where Rock the Vote was holding its $250-per-person cocktail-and-appetizer affair.
Rock the Vote strenuously campaigned to register 18- to 24-year-olds, with help from MTV-broadcast endorsements from Madonna, Aerosmith and En Vogue, to name a few.
"I think this week is a culmination in many people's minds of all the years of work," said Patrick Lippert, the group's executive director. "We're here to celebrate the fact that more young people turned out to vote in this election than in previous years, and that (they're) turning back on to the political process and participating."
Among the celebs vying for breathing space were Christopher Reeve, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Melissa Etheridge, Quincy Jones and Nastassja Kinski, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Carole King, Linda Lavin, Christie Brinkley, Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, Mary Steenburgen, Henry and Stacy Winkler and entertainment execs Peter Guber, Jack Valenti, Mike Medavoy and Jeff Ayeroff, Rock the Vote's founder.
"There is almost too much excitement to be prolonged for this many days," said Etheridge, moving through the crowd on her way to an abortion-rights event.
What else was the singer doing while in town?
"I'm going to the ball. Which one? I don't know, it just says 'The Presidential Inaugural Ball' on the invitation."
Said Arkansan Mary Steenburgen, "It's my friend who was elected, so yeah, I'm having a good time."
As guests filtered out of the party and into shuttle buses to the Presidential Inaugural Gala, across the street at the Capital Hilton there was more revelry.
Supporters of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund were crowded into the Presidential Ballroom for "A Salute to David Mixner," honoring the Angeleno who is the senior Clinton adviser on gay issues. The group is made up of donors who aid gay and lesbian candidates in winning elections.
They watched a video of Mixner talking about issues, intercut with footage of anti-gay rallies. Some wiped away tears as Mixner talked about "being able to live with the person you love," as well losing his lover, Peter Scott, to AIDS.
When he took the stage, Mixner was emotional. Of the persecution of and ban on gays in the military, he said, "It's over. It's not going to happen anymore." That statement was greeted with loud cheers.
Offstage, Mixner added, "I think the more successful we are, the more the opposition will surface. But I think it's a tide, like it was in the '60s, that can't be turned around. I think we're here to stay and we're moving forward and we're going to take control of our own lives."
"There's no doubt that change is blowing in the wind," said William Waybourn, the Victory Fund's executive director.
"Tomorrow is the end of 12 years of American holocaust in my opinion," he continued. "We've had to live with this for so long that having someone in the White House who is not uncomfortable with gays and lesbians is a major difference. Who knows what that will do to this country?"
Spirits were also running high at the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) fund-raiser blocks away at the Willard Hotel.
"NO FURS UNLESS ON ORIGINAL OWNERS" read the sign at the lobby coat check.
Greeting guests downstairs was a person dressed as a partially eviscerated rabbit; inside the press room a dog named Helmut scampered about. And waiters wore nothing but aprons that said, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur."
The press and celebrities descended about the same time, causing serious human gridlock. Kathleen Turner, Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, k.d. lang, Chrissie Hynde, Jane Wiedlin, Elvira, Kevin Nealon, Christie Brinkley, Sara Gilbert and Lindsay Wagner were among the barraged.
"I am in Washington just for PETA," said Basinger, wisps of blond hair poking at her face. "And I've never seen so many furs. It's a frightmare.
"I used to take justice in my own hands, and when I'd see someone wearing a fur I'd go like this," she said, pretending to fire a gun. "But that's really wrong because some people just need the education."
Jane Wiedlin, late of the Go-Go's, had this reaction to the number of furs: "It's sickening!"
Said k.d. lang on the issue: "It's just a matter of educating people, and maybe persuading people that human beings aren't the only living species on the planet."