- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

President’s announcer

Baby, it’s cold out there. 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 Mr. Brotman tells Inside the Beltway. “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 Mr. 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 Mr. Carter’s parade. “Their saliva not only froze — their lips actually froze to the instrument mouthpieces. And this was a 3-hour parade. It was serious stuff.”

So, after all these years, does Mr. 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.”

Trunk show

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,” Mrs. Deuschl explains to Inside the Beltway. “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 Mr. 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.

Fur segue

Speaking of furs, Ingrid E. Newkirk, founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has been trying to persuade President Bush not to wear the beaver-fur hat commissioned for today’s 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?”

Ingrid?

“My feeling is that beavers are nature’s engineers,” Ms. Newkirk now responds to Inside the Beltway. “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 today will 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.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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