Baby, it's cold outside. But it's not the coldest inaugural celebration that 13-time presidential parade announcer Charlie Brotman remembers.
"One of the coldest was 1985 with Ronald Reagan," the 77-year-old Brotman tells The Beltway Beat. "That was the 50th inaugural, and man, it was cold. They said the wind chill was 35 degrees below zero. In fact, they did not have a parade. That's when we moved it inside. . . .
"That was the coldest. The other cold one was for Jimmy Carter in 1977," says Brotman, who announced his first presidential parade in 1957 for Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"If I remember, Carter was the first to actually walk the entire way from the U.S. Capitol to the White House," he says, observing that presidents normally drive some distance from the Capitol building before climbing out of their limos and waving to paradegoers along Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It was especially hard that year for the musicians, like the trumpet players," he says of Carter's parade. "Their saliva not only froze - their lips actually froze to the instrument mouthpieces. And this was a 3-1/2 hour parade. It was serious stuff."
So, after all these years, does Brotman, a native Washingtonian and former announcer of the old Washington Senators baseball team, still look forward to announcing parades for presidents from his perch atop Lafayette Park across from the White House?
"Absolutely," he says. "Like this one was the first one."
Inaugural week in Washington was summed up perfectly by Vivian Deuschl, corporate vice president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, where, in the lobby of the downtown Ritz this week, Saks Fifth Avenue saw the opportunity to set up a special boutique.
"They are selling fur wraps at a brisk pace to visitors who did not expect the frigid temperatures," Deuschl explains to The Beltway Beat. "Both real and 'fun' furs - all with very high price tags. They were going faster than the wind chill was dropping."
Also turning heads in the Ritz lobby is the country's premier boot maker, Rodney Ammons, whose Texas boot trunk show, sponsored by Saks of Chevy Chase, features matching belts with sterling silver and 18-carat gold custom buckles.
Buyers this week have been personalizing their boots with inlaid initials and logos, says Saks spokesman Andrew J. Blecher, who notes that Ammons' specialty is exotic materials - python, lizard, ostrich, American alligator and stingray (stingray is said to be the newest and hottest material on the market, because it's highly durable and water-resistant and has a jeweled finish).
The boot maker's clients range from cowboys and businessmen to entertainers and presidents of the United States. In fact, he's booted Sharon Stone, Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and George Strait.
Speaking of furs, Ingrid E. Newkirk, founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was trying to persuade President Bush not to wear the beaver-fur hat commissioned for his inaugural.
She noted that beavers share in Mr. Bush's vision for the future: supporting strong family values, mating for life and forming bonds with their young, while being industrious role models and master architects.
Of course, Dick Spencer of Staunton, Va., quickly pointed out: "Beavers also share Mr. Bush's vision for America by cutting trees and building dams on public lands. Can we expect PETA to come out in support of these activities?"
"My feeling is that beavers are nature's engineers," Newkirk responded to The Beltway Beat. "Their dams do not drown whole communities and valleys, and they cut down only enough trees to meet their needs, not for greed."
From beavers to beef, PETA planned to be along the inaugural parade route handing out "Primal Strips" - Texas barbecue-flavored "soy" jerky.
SO MUCH FOR TRADITION
"Let's not fool ourselves; the Republicans didn't plan the string of inauguration events this week to simply celebrate their recent victories. Karl Rove and his friends are hoping these events will energize their conservative base for 2006 and get Republican donors motivated to keep pouring millions into the GOP."
- Senior Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Scores of Christian ministers and lay people in town for this week's inauguration were to start the Inauguration Day with a one-hour thanksgiving prayer service across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court thanking God for the re-election of George W. Bush.
"No president is perfect," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action, "but George Bush has done more than any recent president to champion what is important to serious Christians of every tradition: the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage and the public acknowledgment of God. We're thankful that God heard our cries and gave us four more years of a Bush administration."
The Christians planned to conclude their day with a black-tie soiree, where author David Aikman would autograph copies of his book "A Man of Faith," a religious biography of Bush.
PEEK AT A GALA
We noted that entertainer Tony Orlando, whose song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" has endured for three decades, was on the reservations list at restaurant Teatro Goldoni on K Street.
Orlando traveled from his home in Branson, Mo., to perform at the Veterans Inaugural Gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where talk-show host Larry King was master of ceremonies and Westwood One night owl Jim Bohannon were among the honorees.
Orlando has spent a lifetime supporting U.S. troops. In 2000, Colin Powell presented him with the Patriot Award for "being instrumental in developing Branson into a year-round home for America's veterans."
We're told that gala-goers also were likely to have mingled with World War II veteran and former President George Bush, who has always taken pride in supporting U.S. troops, and perhaps heard political satirist Mark Russell on the piano - that is, as he puts it, if he could get past security.
The evening's proceeds will benefit the Ark Foundation's Hospice for veterans.
If the White House isn't providing a time frame for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the nonpartisan Cato Institute is in its soon-to-be-released 710-page Handbook on Policy, a firm timeline for Americans to withdraw while at the same time defeating al-Qaida.
Copies of the big book are bound for the White House and every office on Capitol Hill.
The handbook also argues for the replacement of federal income tax with a consumption-based law, provides a blueprint of ways to cut the federal government and keep it within the limits prescribed by the Constitution, and suggests how to reform Social Security with individual accounts.
Regarding the war on terrorism, the policy book argues for the repeal of the "Sneak and Peek" and money-laundering provisions of the USA Patriot Act, proposes that the military remain a last resort and not a first responder for addressing the threat of terrorist attacks on the home front, tells how to avoid an amorphous war on terrorism, and shows ways to strengthen the all-volunteer Army.
LETTER OF THE WEEK
"Please accept my apologies as, for the first time, I bought the enemy's fish wrappers," writes Howard E. Halvorsen of Ruther Glen, Va., referring to Washington's other newspaper, where he scanned a special jobs section on homeland defense.
"My son Hunter, 8 years old, who normally reads your paper with me . . . then asked if he could read the comics. Thinking it harmless, I approved. In a minute he asked me who the silly man named 'Milk' was. I realized a comic I had never heard of called 'The Boondocks,' by Aaron McGruder, had disgraced Martin Luther King Jr.
"After explaining who Reverend King was and how the cartoon was awful . . . he tells me there is a patriotic cartoon. I had to see this for myself. My son, despite how bright he is, had misinterpreted the meaning of a cartoon called 'Candorville' by Darrin Bell.
"Mr. Bell was equating the Iraqi insurgents, the same persons involved in beheadings and terrorist bombings to thwart democracy in Iraq, to our Founding Fathers. I then had to explain that to him. To say the least, he was a little upset. To put it mildly, so was I. . . .
"The paper was quickly made whole again in File 13. Thus, my United States Air Force intelligence experience, and my recent bachelor's degree in world history and international relations will have to find another way to serve our great country by another means, even if it means defending the very people who revile what is best about America."