TEXAS ON THE POTOMAC
THE TOSTADAS WERE ( LET’S BE honest now) kind of stale, and the chile con queso was soggy, but, well what the hell, it sure was good to find some real Tex-Mex food.
Purists could grumble if they wanted to and point out that the frijoles were little more than mushy pinto beans, but you can only expect so much. Given that it all started out at a Dallas El Chico’s in the first place, and then got flown 1500 miles on top of that, it was a borderline miracle to have been edible at all.
As it was, The Washington Post’s food editor came by to marvel at the whole spread, and some 2000 folks laid out $5.50 to get the best $1.95 Mexican Special Dinner that you could find in just about 1500 miles.
It was just those crazy Texans again, and Washington has learned by now to take them in stride.
There was even “country music”: a crew of failed rock’n’rollers who ranged somewhere in between the Everly Brothers and John Denver, didn’t have a steel guitar and never heard of Willie Nelson, and altogether bore about as much relation to country music as the airlifted El Chico’s did to genuine Mexican food.
And Shiner Beer. They even had Shiner Beer. And Pearl. And Lone Star. The only place you can find Pearl Beer within that same 1500 mile radius of the nation’s capital is at an expensive third-rate Mexican restaurant in Maryland where (are you ready for this?) they sell it for $1.50 a bottle and call it an “import.”
Yet here it all was, cases and cases of Pearl and Lone Star and even good old Shiner, all of it you could drink and absolutely free. It had all been flown in with the El Chico’s, compliments of Dick Cory, king of the Texas beer lobbyists, who came along with it. Which was nicely appropriate. It’s well enough to fly in some Mexican food, and to bring along as well some Pearl and Lone Star, and even to round up some pseudo-country music, but if you really want to have an honest-to-goodness downhome Texas celebration, you naturally ought to import a lobbyist or two to give it that final touch of authenticity. The Texas State Society had really outdone itself.
Every state, you should know, has a state society in Washington. Every one of them, even puny little states like Nebraska and Vermont, or states that are just a stone’s throwaway anyway, like Delaware. But none of them, nary a single one—even any two or three of them put together—can throw a bash like the Texas State Society. Be proud, fellow Texans, Be Proud.
About four times a year the Texas State Society will get it all together to produce a party. There was well-nigh universal agreement, though, that this fall’s ersatz fiesta—organized under the tutelage of Connie Kazen, wife of Laredo Congressman “Chick” Kazen—rated four stars even by Texas State Society standards.
Texans just came pouring out of the Washington woodwork, emptying smoke-filled rooms by the score to pack into the cafeteria of the Longworth House Office Building. About half of the Congressional delegation showed up, plus the D.C. contingent of the Texas press and bureaucrats and factotums by the hundreds, some of them still hidden away in jobs they’d burrowed into during Lyndon’s Administration. Oh, and lobbyists. Just as Minnesota and Wisconsin are the proving ground for the superstars of ice hockey, Texas has managed to provide far in excess of its fair share of Washington lobbyists, and all of them turned out for the party. As one cynic noted, it would have been a grand blow for democracy and liberty to have poisoned every enchilada in the house.
Nobody realized that sufficiently in advance, though. Between the non-stop tequila bar and El Chico’s unmeditated best efforts, there were quite a few casualties in any case, but none of them appeared either serious or particularly permanent.
One of the noticeable characteristics of all the Lone Star exiles is that none of them looked much like Texans. Cowboy boots and Western-cut suits have been declassé in Washington ever since Lyndon left, and there wasn’t even a single Stetson in evidence. Nor, even more surprising, was there a single pair of white shoes.
Just because they didn’t look like Texans, though, didn’t mean they weren’t. As Houston Congressman Bob Eckhardt observed, “Only someone whose ancestors were inured to hardship at Goliad and the Alamo could put up with all of this.”
Washington’s large and festering colony of Texans, like first-generation immigrants remembering the Old Country, are a surpassingly sentimental lot, possessed of an allegiance to the old home far exceeding the bounds of reason or sober good taste. Notwithstanding the fact that some have been away ten, 15, even 20 years, those old Texas ties are hard to break.
All it really takes is a couple cases of Pearl and a few soggy tacos to bring it all back home.
THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS
IT WAS A SUPER-PARTY, TEXAS style. Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs rented the Astrodome, threw an extravaganza, and just about everybody in the nation attended. Society nabobs in fancy dress, celebrities of the stage, screen, and picture tube; professional football players; the media crowd garnished with the electronic tools of their trade; dedicated women’s libbers; neighborhood bridge clubs; the nice young couple next door; entire families—anybody with strength enough to turn a dial dropped in to check the action.
There hasn’t been anything like it since the late Mike Todd threw a birthday party for himself in Madison Square Garden during the bleak-out fifties. Like Bobby Riggs, Todd was a champion hustler with a flair for profitable flamboyance. His celebration displayed his splendid wife, Elizabeth Taylor; ballyhooed his film, Around the World in Eighty Days; and gave us an abiding image of Marilyn Monroe riding an elephant. Gaudy and garish as it was, Todd’s tribute to Todd provided a flash of color during a