At inaugural, best friends can be made in seconds

ROGER SIMON

January 25, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Three True-Life Inaugural Vignettes in Which Your Correspondent Sees Three Famous People and Learns an Important Lesson:

1. I am at a fancy cocktail party that is supposed to be crowde with members of the Clinton administration, but is mostly crowded with members of the media cadging free drinks.

I am standing and hugging my 7-Up, not talking to anybody, when I see Art Buchwald across the room.

I have never met Art Buchwald, but from his columns and his speeches, I figure he must be a nice guy and so I go up and introduce myself.

He shakes my hand and then instantly turns to a group of people who have come up beside him and says: "I'd like you to meet my best friend, Roger Simon."

The people are very impressed with meeting Art Buchwald's best friend and one, a woman from Arkansas, asks me how long I have known Buchwald.

About 10 seconds, I say.

She now thinks I am just being clever. And she takes me around the room introducing me as "Art Buchwald's best friend and a very funny fellow."

After about a dozen introductions, a well-dressed, portly gentleman asks me if Buchwald would consider speaking to his investment club.

No problem, I say. I'll handle it.

"Really?" the guy says. "How large is his speaking fee?"

Forget the fee, I say. I'll waive it.

"You can do that?" he says.

Hey, I say, I'm his best friend, aren't I?

I really don't know whether Buchwald will be amused by what I have done. But I do know that at 7 p.m. on Feb. 11 he's got a speech to give in Altoona.

2. Even though reporters carry credentials certifying we are harmless, we still must go through magnetometers and be checked for weapons when we cover the president.

So at the swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday, large white tents were set up near the Capitol, and we all had to stand in line and then walk through the metal detectors.

After I emerged from the tent and was about to walk to my seat, a small woman stopped me.

"Vot are zey doink in ze tent?" Dr. Ruth asked me.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the famous TV sex doctor who goes around using clinical sexual terms without embarrassment. Or so I am told. I have always been too embarrassed to watch her

show.

"In zere, vot are zey doink?" she asked again, pointing to the white tent.

They are magging the press, I said, using the shorthand term for a magnetometer.

"Megging?" she said. "Megging?"

Yeah, I said, they always mag the press.

Later it occurs to me that Dr. Ruth may have had no idea what I meant by "magging."

And so if she comes out with a new book titled "Magging Your Way to Ecstasy" you can blame me.

3. The day after the inauguration I go to the Zoe Baird hearings and during the lunch break, I walk over to the Supreme Court cafeteria.

Actually, I didn't know the Supreme Court had a cafeteria, but Lyle Denniston, the Sun reporter who has covered the building since 1958, longer than any current justice has been working there, invites me to come along.

The inner corridors of the Supreme Court are what you might expect: quiet gentility. Nothing is very fancy, but everything is nice and comfy.

And the justices, themselves, take responsibility for the place: // One justice monitors the food in the cafeteria (again, nothing fancy: eggplant Parmesan, Irish stew, pepper beef on rice), another picks out the wallpaper, etc.

The cafeteria is rarely crowded. This day there are a few school kids on a tour, some staff, and a few reporters.

We are sitting and eating when a white-haired gentleman in a dark suit walks past us carrying his red plastic tray and looking for a seat.

This gentleman just happens to be Warren Burger, former chief justice of the United States.

And you know what? The current justices who use the cafeteria also carry their own trays.

So here is the important lesson:

As long as America is the kind of country where the justices of the Supreme Court carry their own red plastic trays through the cafeteria line, we will remain strong and good.

I just wanted to share that.

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