When the 50 newsmen of Washington’s exclusive Gridiron Club recently admitted their first woman member—veteran UPI reporter Helen Thomas—they hoped that a counter-Gridiron movement, launched last year by protesting female journalists, would wither away. Fat chance. Miss Thomas’ inclusion was cause for only a minor celebration at this year’s lively counter-Gridiron party, where a number of buttons grumpily noted that “One Is Not Enough” and “Tokens Are For Subways.”
The party raised an estimated $5,000 for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and, as before, upstaged its black-tie rival. Instead of steak and wine, the counter-Gridiron menu was chili and beer. Costumes ranged from tuxedo T-shirts to blue serge. Oddly, one of the few over-dressed participants was liberation leader Gloria Steinem in a sleek black dress, heels and nylons. For 50 cents she signed pardons for men who had committed male chauvinist sins in the past, then later was auctioned off for $65 as a dancing partner.
As usual, megamouthed Martha Mitchell held forth in a telephone booth, dialing numbers anywhere for a mere $5 per call. Barbara Mandel, who until recently shared the Maryland governor’s mansion with her ex-husband Marvin Mandel, ran the “Pin the Tail on the Pig” game. The pig wore a top hat and was named Marvin.
Puckering for 50 cents per smooch were Washington Post columnist Nicholas von Hoffman and gadabout Barbara Howar—who stole the show with a technique that frequently left her customers open-mouthed. For covering the Bingo numbers announced by Sen. Ed Muskie, Treasury Secretary Bill Simon earned the crowd’s gratitude and a WIN button. Writer Sally Quinn donated two dozen lemon squares, about one for every week of her aborted CBS-TV career in 1973. The evening was not a total victory for feminism. When Bill Simon introduced the new HUD Secretary Carla Hills to a friend, the response was an oink: “Oh, how nice, you’re Bill’s secretary?”