Clinton inaugural to snub tradition with Elvis look-alikes, lawn-chair drill team

January 06, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Unity and diversity are watchwords o President-elect Bill Clinton's inaugural celebration, but it is becoming clear that the first theme is more popular in some quarters than the second.

The inaugural's stress on diversity has not been a hit at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., for instance, where the 80-stallion equestrian team, which has strutted in 11 inaugural parades, was bumped to make way for such less traditional parade offerings as Elvis impersonators, a reggae band, a lawn-chair drill team and the Gay and Lesbian Band of America.

Also left out were cadets from the all-male Virginia Military Academy, which has been represented in the parades for decades. Some officials of the school suspect it was excluded because of its all-male admissions policy, although the Clinton camp denies that was the reason.

"What kind of message is Clinton sending to these brilliant young men and women?" grumped Rep. Stephen Buyer, the freshman Republican congressman whose district includes Culver. "That being out of the mainstream is more important than pursuit of excellence?"

Such hard feelings are part of the turbulence that the Presidential Inaugural Committee is trying to weather as it makes final adjustments to its five-day, 20-event program.

With two weeks remaining before Mr. ton makes his grand entrance into Washington, the panel has been expanding some events, filling in details on others and trying to hold down a budget that could wind up $5 million over the original $20 million estimate.

Its biggest problem may be its own success. Tickets already are sold out for many events, while the committee is still trying to complete distribution of 70,000 tickets for the inaugural balls and sort out 35,000 requests for press credentials.

Defending their choice of parade groups, inaugural committee officials say that they were chosen from 500 organizations and individuals who asked to be included. Most of the traditional military-style parade units are from Arkansas and Tennessee, spokeswoman Kathleen McShea said.

"It was tough to get in if your geography wasn't right," she said.

She made no apologies for the committee's decision to include untraditional parade units.

"This is not going to be a repeat of the Bush-Quayle parade," she said.

Among the more unusual entries are chain saw jugglers, and the Lawn Chair Precision Drill Team of Vail, Colo. Its members wear ** sunglasses, khaki shorts and sneakers but drill with lawn chairs.

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