As her car wended
its way through the hotel grounds heading back toward the White House, Mrs.
Kennedy had the driver halt for a moment while she waved to Allie Ritzenberg,
who gives her tennis lessons on the White House court.
—WASHINGTON STAR, May 19, 1961
when a person is said to be "in town" the geographical designation is
precise. The Capitol- Library of Congress-Supreme Court complex is in town, but
Union Station and the Central Post Office are not. The federal buildings along
Independence, Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues are in town, but nearly
everything on New York, Michigan or Georgia is not. Chevy Chase, Md. and
McLean, Va. are in town, but Falls Church, Va. and Hyattsville, Md. are
Spreading out to
the northwest from the walled gardens of the old port of Georgetown along both
banks of the Potomac is a three- or four-mile-wide belt of botanically and
culturally remarkable forest. It is a gaudy growth of magnolias, camellias,
rhododendron, azaleas, dogwood, redbud, quince, crab and cherry, grape leaf,
hollies, yews, passion and clematis vines, boxwood, larch, birch and bamboo.
Deep in this exotic and hybrid wood live established Senators and long-term
Representatives, the better class of judge, attorney, diplomat and military
officer, influential journalists, consultants, lobbyists, spies and gossips.
This is in town in the Washington sense.
Somebody who does
not live in town might consider Allie Ritzenberg obscure. But in the ways
Washington measures influence—unlisted phone numbers in one's address book,
first names one is legitimately entitled to use, and the quality and clout of
the professional and social company one keeps—the 56-year-old tennis
professional ranks with the bureaucratic best.
morning three summers ago Ritzenberg was sleeping late in his home in the
forest. The phone rang. It was a tennis pupil who wanted Allie to come out and
play. Ritzenberg suggests that he was mildly surprised by the call because
everybody in town knows he does not practice his profession on weekends.
Admittedly, the circumstances were special. Just the night before, the caller
had accepted the Democratic nomination for President.
George I'd be glad to hit a few with him," says Ritzenberg. "I said we
could play here on a neighbor's court or we could go down to the club [the St.
Albans Tennis Club, a tennis complex on the National Cathedral grounds that
Ritzenberg has organized and operates].
every reporter in Washington was looking for him, and what with that and
security we needed some place more private. We ended up going out to Virginia
and playing at Ethel's.
"I saw George
a few times during the campaign, spent a week with him in the Black Hills. That
was when the Eagle-ton thing was breaking so it was hectic but we were able to
play and talk occasionally."
talking in confidence. Later in the fall George called one afternoon from a
hideout on the Eastern Shore. I drove down and George and Eleanor were the only
ones there. I'll take that back, I think an NBC fellow was down there too, but
in any event we had a very pleasant afternoon."