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Hot Tickets, Cool Pros at Inaugural

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Times Staff Writer

The presidential inaugural committee is spending $25 million on festivities and hauling into town everyone from Frank Sinatra to Big Bird. But the hottest ticket in town this weekend is not one of the committee’s events.

The party that has women and even men literally sobbing on the phone for tickets is the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots ball, to be attended by 5,500 lucky ticket holders Saturday night at the Washington Hilton.

The tickets--a cheap $50 by this inaugural’s standards--were sold out in less than 24 hours and thousands have been turned away.

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Meanwhile, at the inaugural committee, a plan to hold a $1,500-per-person dinner at five sites tonight has been scaled down to three locations. The five sites would have accommodated 4,500 guests, but all tickets had not been sold when the committee decided last week to knock it down to 2,500 at three sites. Ed Cassidy, the committee spokesman, noted that the original plans were to have one location. That was eventually increased to five, but then changed to three, because the Bushes “needed to free up some time for personal events and private meetings,” he said.

A Very Different Problem

The Texas State Society ball has the opposite problem: more takers than it could possibly handle. “We just returned $150,000 worth of requests,” said Chino Chapa, a spokesman for the society. “Someone offered one of our volunteers a round-trip ticket to Paris for a ticket.”

Even Texan and future Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and his wife, the social siren Georgette, are reported to be unsuccessful in the hunt for an additional 20 tickets to the Black Tie and Boots ball for fretful friends from Texas.

What could be so appealing about one party?

For one thing, it began as a quadrennial event with George Bush’s first inauguration as vice president in 1981, and the Bushes have attended the last two. They’re expected to make an appearance at this one, and who knows? Maybe they’ll win the door prize: a red Ford pickup truck with a gun rack. The food and decorations will all be heavily Texas-flavored, and the men will wear cowboy boots. Maybe some women will, too.

“Too many times the other balls play too much Benny Goodman and serve too much champagne,” Chapa said. “We’ll be letting our hair down, guzzling beer and dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

Extra help is coming from across the land to cater to the every whim of the 300,000 people who will pack the city to celebrate this week. Florists, limousine drivers and caterers are arriving by the hundreds.

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Ridgewells caterers, one of the biggest firms in town, has hired 700 part-time workers.

And 200 volunteer florists from around the nation, including Redlands’ Derrick Vasquez and Michael Lopez, have come to Washington to arrange 250,000 stems of flowers and greenery into at least 1,500 arrangements for the balls, parade and parties.

(The yellow rose of Texas is not the most requested flower at this inaugural. Red and white roses are, said Charles Kremp, general chairman of the Society of American Florists’ inaugural committee.)

Even Robin Weir, Mrs. Reagan’s Washington hairdresser, has brought in three extra stylists to handle the crush at his exclusive salon.

Michael Kanales, who normally works out of Los Angeles, New York and Gstaad, Switzerland, is coming to do “just coloring and nothing else,” Weir said. Julius Bengtsson, Mrs. Reagan’s Los Angeles locks-keeper, will also be in Weir’s shop, managing the coifs of Maureen Reagan, Joanna Carson, Jane Weintraub, Lesley Stahl, Miss America Gretchen Carlson and others. Lenny Lacour is coming in from Chicago to make house calls on ailing hair, going from hotel to hotel to do celebrities.

The one VIP that Weir’s shop will not be doing is Barbara Bush.

“She told me she does it herself. What can I tell you?” an exasperated Weir said. “My aunt came in the other day and said, ‘I’m growing my hair out gray.’ I wanted to smack her. I hope that doesn’t become a trend.”

Not all the inaugural celebrations are necessarily going to be toasting George Bush. The “Liberals’ Inaugural”--when “card-carrying liberals raise L “--is being sponsored by the never-say-die Americans for Democratic Action on Friday night. And a coalition of activists for the homeless is staging a counter-inaugural banquet for 1,000 people outside Union Station tonight while one of the $1,500-a-head inaugural dinners is taking place inside. The Clean Air Inaugural Ball, given by environmental groups, will take place Friday night in the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory.

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Asians and Latinos are each having their own black-tie balls tonight. The Afro-American Awards reception and dinner is also a black-tie event Thursday, while the American Indian inaugural ball Friday night requests guests to wear dark business suit or tribal dress.

Word has gotten out that the designer of Barbara Bush’s inaugural gown will be Arnold Scaasi. But in a break with tradition, Mrs. Bush will not release any details about the gown until she wears it. “It’s fun” to keep it a secret, Mrs. Bush said. On the other hand, a Bush aide said Mrs. Bush does not want to be heavily identified with high fashion and will resist giving out information about her clothes as much as she can. The guessing around town is that Mrs. Bush’s gown may be her favorite color, blue.

Staff writer Jeannine Stein also contributed to this story.

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