A couple of possible Republican presidential candidates, Senator George Allen (R-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), were among the political stars hobnobbing Thursday night high atop the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington–actually the eighth floor–which is "high atop" in a city with strict height limits.
Mingling under a canopy whose plastic sides had been opened to the killer view–The White house is literally right across Lafayette Park–the crowd was there to toast Chris Matthews on the fifth anniversary of his syndicated–NBC Universal–Sunday political show, The Chris Matthews Show, which in the Washington market is teamed with NBC's Meet the Press.
That show's host, Tim Russert, introduced Matthews saying he (Russert) was a bit confused.
Russert said he had been invited to a big party for an Irish Catholic guy who used to work on Capitol Hill, married a beautiful woman from San Francisco, and has a Sunday morning show. " I thought they were talking about me," he said.
Russert talked of NBC's Sunday morning dominance and called the party a celebration of "quality and success."
Matthews thanked his staffers and the reporters who are willing to come on the show and open up their notebooks.
McCain, looking a little tired, exited before Matthews announced the results of a straw poll taken at the party, though he missed no big surprises. The probable Republican nominee in 2008: McCain; the Democrat: Hillary Clinton.
Matthews at one point recounted a story of the Kennedy/Nixon debates, the second of which I believe he said was held at the same Nebraska Ave. studios where he does his show. I say believe because the last time I covered a Chris Matthews talk I took a quote out of context whose reporting caused him some unnecessary grief. Mea Maxima Culpa.
Anyway, he said that John Harter, who works with his wife Kathleen Matthews at WJLA Washington, the ABC affiliate in town, had been a page at NBC when the debate was held. As you will recall, or maybe not, in the first televised debate, Richard Nixon sweated profusely under the hot lights, giving off an oily sheen of dripping nervousness that the cameras captured all too well, perhaps even lingered over a bit.
It may be apocryphal, but I have heard that those who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon had won, while those who watched on TV gave it to Kennedy, swayed by the sweat, as it were.
Anyway again, for the second debate, the studio thermostat was apparently set at "icebox"–presumably thanks to Nixon handlers–to prevent a repeat perspiration performance. Bobby Kennedy apparently was quick to pick up the gamesmanship, heading into the control room and telling them to turn up the heat.
"He was fighting climate control change way back then," said Matthews.
Footnote: I rode down in the elevator with George Allen and Washington Post icon Ben Bradlee (OK, again, it looked and sounded exactly like Ben Bradlee, though I didn't confirm it was him). They were going through the goody bag handed out at the end of the party, which consisted, appropriately, of a classy pad and pen.
Allen said he could give the swag (my term, not his) to his daughter, who was expressing an interest in journalism. "You mean you are going to let her go over to the dark side," Bradlee joked. If journalism is the dark side, he is our Darth Vader.
Postcript: I think if I were starting a hotel for famous comedy teams, I would call it the Hey-Abbott!. badabum. Pish (sound of drum and cymbal riff).
By John Eggerton