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Amid the lavish Orientalia of Anna Chennault's penthouse at Watergate, the talk is hearty, hawkish and very Republican indeed. Mrs. Chennault, the petite Chinese-born widow of General Claire Chennault of the World War II Flying Tigers, was a major money raiser for Nixon's 1968 campaign, and the hard core of her guest list includes some of the top members of the Administration. Her parties are also frequently attended by visitors from Asia, where her connections are said to be excellent—particularly in Saigon. Just before Nixon's election, in fact, she was accused of trying to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations by advising the Thieu-Ky regime to hold off in hopes of a better deal with Nixon. These dark rumors, which she denies, threatened her status as a hostess for a time, but today "the Dragon Lady of Watergate East" is very much en rapport with such men of power as Attorney General Mitchell, Secretary of Defense Laird and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
The only Republican thing about Barbara Howar is her famed friendship with Henry Kissinger, Washington's most sought-after bachelor. A stunning blonde zinger from North Carolina, Mrs. Howar, 36, got her social start as a Johnson campaign volunteer in 1964 and as the wife of a rich Washington builder, from whom she was divorced three years ago. Since then, she has lived largely by her wits (which are considerable), doing TV interviewing and being an exciting presence at parties along the Potomac—many of the best of which she herself gives in her small house in Georgetown for an eclectic, politically liberal guest list.
An invitation to Ethel Kennedy's Hickory Hill is still almost as coveted as it used to be. Perle Mesta, eightyish, the hostess who is a household word, is back on Washington's social barricades again after an eclipse during the Kennedy years brought on by her support of Nixon in 1960. Also back is Mrs. Mesta's onetime social rival, Gwen Cafritz. Atop the whole pecking order, as she has been for so many decades, is Alice Roosevelt Longworth—daughter of President Teddy, widow of a noted Speaker of the House.* She rules the roost with her crisp wit, her well-nurtured intolerances and her long memory.
That Martha Elizabeth Beall Jennings Mitchell should find herself, at the age of 52. one of the most noticed women in such puissant company has been a surprise to herself and just about everyone who knew her—certainly in Pine Bluff, Ark.