AFTER WATCHING two days of testimony in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, I've reached one firm conclusion.
No, it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. As a responsible journalist, I leave that to the jury. Besides, the real smutty stuff hasn't come out yet.
But I had always heard that Palm Beach, with its many filthy-rich people and their groupies, was a discreetly wild and crazy place.
As a student of all things wild and crazy, I listened closely when a witness testified about a joint called "Au Bar."
This is where young Willie, on his Easter break, met the young woman who we can only call Miss NoName.
In the testimony, "Au Bar" was described as being the "trendiest" bar in Palm Beach.
I've never been sure what "trendy" means. But I had assumed that trendiness would include being in the presence of The Beautiful People doing gracefully weird things. And, of course, having clean washrooms.
But what do we hear about Au Bar at the trial?
As a friend of Miss NoName testified, she and the alleged victim had dinner at a restaurant, then went down the street to Au Bar bTC about midnight.
The first thing they did was drop $10 each as cover charge to get in.
A ten-spot seems like a stiff price to pay to get into a saloon. But if it is the "trendiest" place in town, I suppose that isn't out of line.
As soon as they were inside, they ordered a bottle of champagne. I believe the price quoted was somewhere between $40 and $60, which comes to about $6 or $10 a glass. In a chic, trendy bar in Palm Beach, blowing that much on a bottle of cheap bubbly is probably routine. But if any thirsty winos were watching the trial, that might be enough to turn them into Marxists.
Now, you have paid a $10 cover charge and dropped another $50 for a few drinks. What would you expect to see and hear? Maybe a cool jazz combo? And cool people right out of Suave magazine?
The witness, an attractive blond lady, said that she saw her father sitting at a table with several male friends.
"How old is your father?" she was asked.
"About 57," the witness said.
"How old were his friends?" she was asked.
"About the same," the witness said.
Well, I don't know about you, but when I was a young dandy, if I had gone into the trendiest joint in town only to see my 57-year-old father sitting at a table with his cronies, I would have demanded a refund.
Not that my father went in trendy places. Nor did I. But if we had, we would have both been shocked to see each other and would have immediately left in a huff.
But the two young women sat down with the father and his pals, and soon they were dancing.
Dancing to what, you might ask? According to the testimony, to music played by a "disc jockey." That means some stiff is sitting there running a stereo system, just the way you do in your own rec room.
I mean, not even an accordion player? Or somebody beating on an old piano? Or at the very least, a good jukebox?
So there they were, in wealthy Palm Beach's trendiest joint, drinking overpriced hooch and dancing with the woman's 57-year-old dad and his buddies to recorded rock music.
Finally, though, we get to the highlight of the trendy evening.
The young woman has stopped dancing with her pa and is sitting alone at a table. Two men plop down at the table. One is Sen. Ted Kennedy. The other is his son.
There may have been a time when Ted Kennedy could have been included among The Beautiful People. In early photos, he was a fine-looking lad, although a bit on the overfed side.
But now one would look into his pink-tinged eyes and at his beet-red honker and say: "Excuse me, pal, but have you had your blood pressure checked lately?"
At 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, in a gin joint, it is not unusual to run into someone who looks like his head might explode at any moment.
But that isn't what I would expect if I had dropped $10 at the door and had blown $50 for one bottle of low-octane gargle.
And then, the witness said, Kennedy haughtily told her: "You don't know anything about world politics."
Is that the kind of snappy repartee one would hope to hear in the trendiest bar in Palm Beach? I have heard better lines than that in a place bluntly called Stop and Drink on Clark Street, in Chicago, where there is no cover charge and for $50 you could destroy your liver twice, if you lived that long.
Besides, people in the trendiest of bars aren't expected to know anything about world politics. They are supposed to be experts in pantsuits and orange-tinted hair and the 10 questions to ask a stranger about safe sex. So it wasn't even a sharp insult. If it were really that trendy a bar, he would have said: "I'd offer you a snort of my white powder, but you look like the sneezing kind." (A trendy young friend told me that is a trendy putdown, and I'll take his word for it.)
Anyway, that's an evening at Au Bar in Palm Beach. So if you are one of the many curious tourists who are planning to stop there for a drink because of the publicity generated by the trial, save your money. Buy a 6-pack and drink it with your old dad. Then you won't have to dance with him.