"GNP, On the March" proclaimed a blue silk banner at one end of a Statler Hotel ballroom last Tuesday. Underneath it on a raised platform were three long tables, decked with boughs of spruce and fir, and in front of those were row on row of round tables with eight seats apiece. The Massachusetts GOP Finance Committee was holding its $100 a plate dinner, and all the chairs were filled with Republicans celebrating the birth of the Grand New Party.
Some of the celebrants had paid one hundred dollars for the privilege of eating a steak dinner and hearing a bevy of prominent Republicans speak, but many others had gained attendance by collecting the necessary sum in the form of small contributions for the 1952 campaign fund.
As the 1,450 diners began to crowd in, the orchestra--a trumpeter, drummer, pianist, and an accordian player--accompanied their progress with some thumpy renditions of familiar tunes. One of the selections was the "Donkey Serenade," but the Republicans did not seem to notice this. But at 7:14 the head table of dignatories began to march in, and to the tune of "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here," Charles Francis Adams, Sinclair Weeks, Senators Saltonstall and Lodge, Robert Montgomery, and Senator Richard M. Nixon of California, among others, took their places.
The toastmaster, Richard Preston, Chairman of the Finance Committee, opened with a few introductory remarks barely audible above the conversing and chair-scraping on the floor, and an invocation followed. Then the head table underwent a complete change. As the toastmaster read off the names of the dignatories, they rose and, pinpointed by an orange spotlight, walked the width of the stage, down the few steps to the floor, and sat themselves at one of the round tables. Each table on the floor sent one person in return up to the dias. "The backfield should be down there," said the toastmaster, "and the workers up here."
When the long tables had been cleared, the workers ambled bashfully up to the platform and waited for the dinner. The spotlights went off and the waiters trooped in with silver urns full of Cream of Chicken Soup. There were also croutons which the Press Table's waiter managed to spread neatly all over the newsmen. Then came steaks with mushroom sauce, and lastly, "Ice Cream Ring Aux Fraises" complete with liqueur sauce. "You could get drunk on this," warned the reporter sitting next to me.
As the diners finished off their demi-tasses, the toastmaster announced the Grand New March. A blue spotlight blanked on, wandered around the stage, and finally fell upon a heavy woman dressed in black and with long, flashing carrings, who was striding toward the microphone at the edge of the platform. The orchestra struck up a jaunty melody and there was a song about marching on. The audience joined in on the second stanza and a hand stuck out over the balcony to wave time.
Tomorrow: the after-dinner speeches.