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Even Bevo Came to This Shindig

Parties: It's a night for longhorns and Lone Stars as Texans whoop it up for a favorite son. In fact, all across town, Republicans put on the glitz for Bush.

January 20, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — At one hotel, the smell of quesadillas and barbecue mixed with the odor of livestock, and the fashion statement was tuxedos and ball gowns--with cowboy boots.

Hootin' and hollerin' was not just allowed but encouraged at the Texas Black Tie & Boots Ball, one of several parties Friday night to celebrate the presidential ascendancy of George W. Bush, the former Texas governor.

Bush's fellow Texans were putting on the party of the night, with 9,000 people chomping on 7,000 pounds of beef brisket, 6,000 pounds of smoked ham and 60,000 pieces of jumbo shrimp. A Texas longhorn steer named Bevo, mascot of the University of Texas at Austin, chewed hay nearby inside the Marriott Wardman Hotel as visitors posed with him for photos.

"If you aren't proud to be a Texan tonight, something is wrong with you," said Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who was beaming as bright as the sequins on a ball gown.

The Texas flag was everywhere, and spotlights shone on two giant papier-mache Texas boots. The hotel lobby was festooned with quotations extolling the Lone Star State. "Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word," read a quotation attributed to author John Steinbeck.

Traffic outside the hotel was so dense that taxicabs had to drop some people off a couple of blocks away; the party-goers had to hoof it the rest of the way.

Across town, about 14,000 people, mostly teenagers in blue jeans or leather pants, clapped and danced wildly at a 2 1/2-hour concert celebrating Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney. The all-girl band Destiny's Child sang in cutoff shirts, showing off band members' bellybutton rings.

"This isn't just a celebration for the old people," said Caroline Wicker, 17, whose father is Rep. Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss). "In a few years, we're the people who are going to be running the country."

Pop singing sensation Jessica Simpson, a Texas native, modified the lyrics of her song, "I Think I'm in Love With You," making it, "George, I think I'm in love with you." The crowd went wild.

Bush spoke briefly about bringing peace to the world, and Ren Bressinck, 18, of Little Rock, Ark., said afterward, "He has an appeal to teenagers. He seems like he's on our level, not a politician."

Other parties for Bush were being held by state societies, organizations that represent residents of particular states who now live in Washington. Both the Illinois and Wyoming societies were holding balls.

The Wyoming one was a particularly popular choice because Cheney hails from Wyoming. People oohed at Laura Bush's gold sequined dress. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson presented Bush a fly fishing rod and a pair of branding irons. One said "GWB," and the other bore the Bush name.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was mobbed by supporters and heckled by protesters as she made the rounds of inaugural parties. She and her husband had two bodyguards as they entered a gathering at Florida House, the state's Washington office.

Harris, who played a critical role in the troubled vote-counting that ultimately gave the presidency to Bush, met three protesters on her way out. They asked how it felt to have "stolen the election."

Harris said she didn't believe she had and was whisked into a waiting car as the protesters shouted: "Shame! Shame!"

The hottest ticket of the night clearly was the Texas ball. The party is held every inauguration, and the president of the host Texas State Society, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), said it's a chance for ball-goers to be "outrageously Texan." Hutchison wore an Oscar de la Renta dress that had a purple velvet V-neck top and a purple flower in the bosom, with a reddish taffeta skirt--and fire engine red cowboy boots with gold embroidery.

"I love you and I love Texas and I love my wife, the next first lady. She's looking pretty good, isn't she?" Bush asked the rowdy throng of hundreds. Said Cheney: "The Texas crowd's a little loud under normal circumstances, but they earned it this year."

Several celebrities, including actors Chuck Norris and Bo Derek, were among the guests.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary-designate Ann M. Veneman enjoyed champagne at a much tamer reception at the National Museum of American History. The event featured live music from the 18th and 19th centuries, with guests mingling among artifacts, such as the wooden lap desk on which Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Republican senators and Bush's Latino supporters also were holding galas.

Just down the street from the Texas party, the Hispanic Inaugural Ball kept crowds bouncing to Latin rhythms. Latin singer John Secada performed, and mariachi bands played into the night.

At the National Republican Senatorial Ball, two men were overheard engaging in a bit of political gossip. "Did you hear about Linda Tripp?" one asked the other. Tripp, whose secret tape-recordings spurred the impeachment of President Clinton, was fired Friday after she refused to resign like other political appointees.

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