White House Shines for Gala State Dinner : Society: Luminaries from Hollywood, media and politics honor Gorbachevs.
President Bush invited Hollywood stars, media moguls and political luminaries to join Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev for an evening of Maine lobster and opera arias at Thursday’s glittering state dinner.
The White House was decked out in white peonies and red roses, with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s flower-edged china in place for guests at the biggest social event of the year in the nation’s capital.
The Gorbachevs arrived for the black-tie gala evening dressed simply, Soviet style--the Soviet president in a dark business suit, Raisa Gorbachev in a tea-length black, pink and green floral dress with a flowing skirt.
They stepped from their limousine onto the red carpet at the White House front steps where they were greeted by the tuxedo-clad American President and his wife Barbara, who wore a sapphire blue gown, with fitted bodice and sweeping skirt.
Bush, in remarks prepared for his toast, praised the Soviet president “for creating within the Soviet Union a commitment to change.”
“Mr. President,” Bush told his counterpart, “it is said that your country is the land of possibilities. You have demonstrated the truth of that statement, and we’ve seen this past year that ours is a world of possibilities, that ours is a time of historic change, a time when men and nations can transform history.”
The Bushes added a personal touch to the menu, serving lobster from their longtime summer vacation state, Maine.
And, in light of the Soviet fondness for opera, they enlisted one of the world’s foremost mezzo-sopranos, Frederica von Stade, to sing for the guests in the East Room following dinner.
Tables were done in red tablecloths with white napkins, with crystal bowls on mirror plateaus filled with white peonies, white ixia and red roses.
Complementing the lobster served en gelee, the menu for the evening featured corn sticks, roasted filet of beef mascotte with green peppercorn sauce, asparagus with sauce aveline, mixed salad, Saint Pauline cheese, and dessert of lime turban with iced raspberries and friandises candies.
Guests invited to mingle with the Soviet Union’s first couple and other members of their entourage included former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Los Angeles industrialist Armand Hammer, who has conducted business in the Soviet Union for many years.
Also holding coveted tickets to the dinner were such celebrities as Academy Award-winning actress Jessica Tandy; Tandy’s husband, Hume Cronyn; Academy Award nominee Morgan Freeman; NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and evangelist Billy Graham. Tandy and Freeman starred together in last year’s Academy Award best picture, “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Others who made the list of invitees, in addition to various Cabinet members and Administration officials, were: Bush’s son Neil and his wife Sharon of Denver; New York Times Chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham; Time Magazine columnist Hugh Sidey; Los Angeles movie mogul Jerry Weintraub; Ford Motor Co. Chairman Harold Poling; National Urban League President John Jacob and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Congressional leaders also were invited.
As a side note to the festivities, the Gorbachevs and Bushes exchanged the customary official gifts. The President chose to give Gorbachev a five-volume biography, “Life of George Washington,” by Chief Justice John Marshall. The Soviet leader’s present for Bush was an antique painting of Russian birch trees.
Barbara Bush chose an elegant Judith Leiber gold-and-rhinestone-trimmed handbag for Raisa Gorbachev. Mrs. Gorbachev presented Mrs. Bush with a decorative enameled tea set.
For table settings, Barbara Bush decided to use the flower-edged china bought during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration. She selected that setting over place settings that Nancy Reagan bought after deciding the Johnson dishes were not elegant enough for a state dinner.
During dessert, the Air Force strolling strings orchestra played for the dinner guests, and the Marine orchestra tuned up for music in the grand entrance hall for after-dinner dancing.