Bush Backers Caught Up in Inaugural Whirl

Times Staff Writer

Some are along for the first time and not even sure which events they will attend.

Others are veterans of this sort of thing, and their itineraries are planned down to the minute.

Most had to know at least one influential person to be invited.

Others hope to meet a lot of influential people by the time it is all over.

But it is a good bet that all of them have one thing in common: They have been solid backers of George Bush.

The Orange County contingent in Washington for today's inauguration of George Bush as 41st President of the United States numbers in the hundreds. And for just about every one of them, it promises to be the celebration of the year. (Except, perhaps, for those who slip away to Florida on Sunday for the Super Bowl.)

Those with invitations and tickets will be part of an intimate gathering of more than 100,000 at numerous festivities revolving around the outdoor inauguration ceremony and parade--outdoors, that is, if the weather permits.

At Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1985, recalled Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, "we lost the parade" and the swearing-in ceremony was moved indoors because of bitter cold.

"I'm looking forward to the parade . . . this year," said Wieder, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday.

Newport Beach labor relations attorney Roger H. Schnapp vividly recalls just how cold it was at the last presidential inauguration.

In 1985, Schnapp and his wife, Candice, accompanied friends from Texas to the Inaugural Gala. Their friends provided the limousine and driver, who unfortunately was not very well acquainted with Washington streets.

After dropping off his passengers, the driver never found his way back to pick them up.

The stranded couples, resplendent in long dresses and black ties, finally found their way to a subway station for the return trip to their hotel, said Schnapp, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday night intending to use a local driver this time.

"This is the third inaugural I've been to with my wife, and I was to the first (Richard M.) Nixon inauguration," Schnapp said. "The . . . tickets have been far harder to get to this one. People are coming to this one from all over the country.

"There seem to be more events, not necessarily formal inaugural events. There are more events geared toward families and children."

"And there are probably more non-official events going on," said Schnapp, whose invitations to various functions came "from a variety of different sources," including congressmen with whom he deals on behalf of his clients.

"We generally spend a little time up on the Hill, but it's a social event. It's nice to see them (congressmen) when you're not asking for something or trying to persuade them to vote on a bill," Schnapp said. "The longer you're active in politics, the more friends you make, so it's more fun to be here."

Candice Schnapp met former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) at one inaugural when she stepped backward in an elevator and landed squarely on the one-time presidential candidate's foot.

"She was horrified," Schnapp recalled. "He was very, very gracious, (saying) 'Don't worry about it, darling.' "

Not everyone in Washington this week is a politician like Wieder or even a hobnobber with politicians like Schnapp. Some are politically smaller fries.

"Like so many other people have said, it'll be a really fun trip and a great experience, and I think it will benefit me when I come back to the county in further endeavors," said Richard Schroeder, 20, president of Republican Youth Associates of Orange County.

When Schroeder left his classes Tuesday at UCLA, where he is majoring in economics, he was uncertain exactly how he would spend his time during the rest of the 5-day celebration in Washington that began Wednesday.

"Our understanding is that we will be doing some work at some events just helping people find their seats or taking tickets at the door," he said.

In that way, Schroeder and Rhonda Carmony, 18, a clothing store cashier and vice president of Republican Youth Associates of Orange County, will be on hand for many of the inaugural activities.

"A friend of mine is head of credentials for the Inaugural Committee," Carmony said. "He got the tickets. Hopefully, I have enough for all my friends. He told me he'd get me a ticket to everything, and I'm just betting on that."

Schroeder, who has been a Republican "as long as I can remember," and Carmony, who has been a Republican "ever since I was old enough to know better," both attended the Republican national convention last summer in New Orleans to see Bush's nomination.

"I think it will be a great experience," Schroeder said of the inaugural celebration. "One thing I learned in New Orleans is that you meet a lot of people. It's really good for meeting people and to basically become more active in the party and do bigger and better things."

Schroeder said he might like to hold public office himself, but "later in life, like when I'm 35 or 40."

Newport Beach psychiatrist Bob Amstadter ranks the inaugural activities "among the healthiest priorities" for himself and his family, according to his wife, Barbara, who is president of a real estate sales firm.

"My husband is a psychiatrist," she explained. "My husband is also a rabid Republican. "I'm so excited I can't tell you. It's just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

She added: "I have an 8-year-old son who thinks he is going to meet George Bush. He's told every kid at school he is going to shake George Bush's hand. I hope he is not disappointed."

Wieder, who no doubt has shaken the hand of George Bush, was a bit disappointed at the first inauguration she attended.

"Of course, we were starry-eyed and bushy-tailed," she recalled. "We had our ball tickets stolen out of our envelope. When we picked them up, it was an empty envelope."

Attending her third inauguration this year, Wieder said she has since learned "how to fight for our tickets."

This time, "everything is in hand," she said.

"What is so exciting is that this is turning out to be a bigger turnout than the previous Reagan inaugurations," she said. "Seeing the curtain rise on another Administration gives you a feel for the direction in which this country could be going."

It gives Don Hallman a patriotic chill.

"Just going back there is kind of a patriotic thing," said the 26-year-old field representative for Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove). "It's a 200-year-old tradition. I think it's something I am going to remember for a long time."

For Everett Kaplan, the arrival of this momentous event meant aging overnight.

On Tuesday Kaplan was 15 years old. After one high-speed day of formal functions in Washington, he awoke Wednesday morning 16 years old. OK, so it was his birthday.

Still, he was on a rigorous schedule. By midday Wednesday, Kaplan, a Newport Harbor High School junior, had attended a breakfast meeting and an orientation, visited the House of Representatives, listened to a speech by Congress' youngest member, had lunch at the Air and Space Museum, visited a Japanese exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution and was preparing to attend a black-tie affair at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. And the inauguration was still 2 days away.

Kaplan is one of about 500 high school students from around the nation in Washington as part of the 1989 Youth Inaugural Conference sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.

Even with all the pomp and circumstance, for Kaplan "the most interesting thing . . . is I met a girl from Germany in the Air and Space Museum. We got to talking about high school and the differences between her and me.

"I'm hoping in the summer to spend some time abroad."

But for most, the pomp and circumstance holds center stage. Has all this hoopla grown out of proportion?

"I think it's quite appropriate," said 17-year-old Juan Carlos Zarate, student body president of Santa Ana's Mater Dei High School.

"The sense of history you get . . . engenders in me, at least, a real pride in America."

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