Washington -- There she stood, blond as the cream-colored slacks suit, heels and pearls she wore, talking to the press yesterday morning about the "sexual affair" she says she had with U.S. Sen. Charles Robb when he was governor of Virginia.
There she sat, a few hours later, signing autographs and scribbling tidings of "Happiness!" and "Love" to hundreds of Bills, Joes, Arthurs and Jacks who'd lined up at Union Station to meet the 29-year-old model and former beauty queen.
And there she . . . stretched out, generally wearing more square inches of jewelry than fabric, over eight pages of the October issue of Playboy magazine.
Why seek all this exposure?
To put the "Chuck Robb chapter" of her life behind her, said Tai Collins, the one-time Miss Virginia-USA whose claims of an affair with Senator Robb have contributed to the beating the politician's once straight-and-clean reputation has taken recently.
The senator, the son-in-law of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, has admitted that he shared a bottle of wine with Ms. Collins in his room at New York's Hotel Pierre in February 1984 and that after he disrobed, she gave him a massage. But he has denied having sexual relations with her, saying she "fantasized" that their relationship went further.
"The fact is, I had a sexual affair with Chuck Robb when he was governor of Virginia," Ms. Collins said at yesterday's news conference held to publicize the Playboy article, "The Governor and the Beauty." "It's probably Chuck's fantasy that it didn't happen.
"I'm sick of reacting to what's being said about me," she added. "I'm ready to move forward with my life and my career. I feel coming forward with this will let me do that."
She said she initially disclosed the nature of her relationship with Mr. Robb, married to the former Lynda Bird Johnson, after intimidation by members of the senator's staff, scandalous headlines, as well as anonymous death threats and harassment.
In response to inquiries sparked by the Collins pictorial and promotional visit here, Mr. Robb's office issued a statement yesterday saying, "Playboy magazine has always been in the business of selling fantasy, and it still is. . . Tai Collins, a professed devout Christian who has sold nude photographs of herself to Playboy magazine, has made a series of inconsistent and false charges about Senator Robb. . .
"Senator Robb has repeatedly and consistently explained that no affair ever took place -- platonic, romantic, sexual or otherwise."
But Ms. Collins said yesterday she had a relationship with the then-governor for 18 months, beginning in the summer of 1983 when she accompanied him to numerous parties -- often where large quantities of cocaine were present. The senator has repeatedly said that he has never seen cocaine or been around anyone using it.
There was no sexual relationship until February 1984, Ms. Collins said, when the two made love for the first time at the New York hotel.
Although she knew Mr. Robb was a husband and father, she said yesterday she was "enticed" by the attention of such a powerful man. "I didn't plan the affair. In the heat of passion I didn't stop to think, 'What about your wife and children?' "
She said "there was more than one" sexual encounter throughout their relationship, citing two more episodes in the fall of '84, dates she noted on the Girl Scouts calendar she used for appointments that year.
Ms. Collins added that she has placed in a safety deposit box a photograph of the two of them together, and has seen "very compromising" photographs of Mr. Robb, 52, with two other women that she expects to become public soon.
Last weekend, Lynda Robb defended her husband when asked about the alleged Collins affair and Playboy article, telling a Richmond TV station, "I am outraged that this woman would sell her body to Playboy and try to use some fantasy, some spurious fantasy, to do this."
Ms. Collins, married in December 1984 and divorced three years later, said yesterday, "I hope to think I would defend my husband as well."
The Roanoke, Va., model refused to disclose the fee she received from Playboy for posing nude, but said, "I'm following in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe . . . Raquel Welch and many other great beauties. . . . I would have done it for free."
Playboy spokeswoman Elizabeth Norris said the magazine pumped an additional 20,000 copies into the Washington area, zTC expecting great demand for the pictorial of Ms. Collins, the latest shapely woman to make political waves in the nation's capital and then bare all to Playboy.
"Sex scandals come and go in Washington," said Brian Luster, one of the hundreds of D.C. residents and workers -- mostly men -- who lined up at a Union Station newsstand yesterday for an autograph.
In fact, in an ironic twist that only Washington could manufacture, the press conference was attended by Playboy alum Rita Jenrette, ex-wife of former U.S. Representative John Jenrette, whose intimate romp on the Capitol steps with her husband earned her a spot in Washington's hall of sex and scandal.
"I guess I've come full circle," said Ms. Jenrette, now a reporter, who was covering the Robb-Collins story for the TV show "A Current Affair."