WASHINGTON - The bus tour of the nation's capital began on the rainy Saturday afternoon with ``Yankee Doodle Dandy' ``Over There' and a medley of other patriotic songs played on a tape.A George Bush look-alike portrayed by actor Ed Henley strolls to the front of the bus as it rolls down Connecticut Avenue and instructs passengers to place their right hand over their heart and repeat after him:
``I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States and to the Republicans for which it stands. ...'
Henley holds up a copy of The Washington Post with glaring headlines about the latest development in the Mayor Marion Barry matter and declares:
``Welcome to the Scandal Tour!'
The streets of Washington are always jammed with tour buses carrying school groups, out-of-town visitors, charter buses from all over the nation, buses filled with foreign visitors with commentaries in dozens of different languages.
And a half dozen times a week ever since Aug. 27, 1988, a bus rolls by the famous buildings and monuments carrying people rollicking with laughter in response to an irreverent and light-hearted 90-minute theater on wheels recalling and seeing where political hanky-panky took place.
As the bus passes the Vista Hotel Henley notes, ``That's where Mayor Barry was busted in room 727. So much scandal happens in this city we have to constantly update our itinerary.'
In its 11-mile romp through the heart of D.C. the repertoire at this moment has 120 different scandals to choose from depending upon traffic conditions and other circumstances.
As the bus passes the Soviet Embassy Henley, still playing President Bush, exhorts his fellow travelers: ``OK. Ready. Everybody shout together as loud as you can: WE WON THE COLD WAR! WE WON THE COLD WAR!'
At the White House, of course, there is mention of President Harding's escapades with a mistress in a cloak closet. Around the corner actress Shari Elliker, portraying Fawn Hall pointing out the Old Executive Office Building, exclaims: ``Over there is Shred Center.'
Ollie North is heard testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings over the background of the ``Marine Hymn' played on the tape.
The bus passes the Watergate complex where the bungled break-in at Democratic Party Headquarters in 1972 led to the resignation of Richard Nixon two years later. Actor John Simmons portraying President Nixon walks down the aisle of the bus holding his hands high above his head giving victory signs and muttering:
``I was appalled at the senseless illegal activities. I am the president. I will always be the president.'
Throughout the tour a half-dozen actors and actresses change costumes in the restroom at the rear of the bus to assume the character of someone caught up in a political scandal.
Traveling by the 1852 red sandstone Norman Castle that is the original Smithsonian Building, Henley recalls that one of the District of Columbia's greatest benefactors was James Smithson, ``the bastard son of the first Duke of Northumberland.
``So incensed was the English scientist over his illegitimate birth that when he died in 1829 he left his substantial fortune to America instead of Great Britain to establish the famous institution named in his honor.'
An apartment is passed and the commentary continues: ``That's where a Congressman shot and killed his wife's indiscreet lover.' At the Tidal Basin: ``Remember when Rep. Wilbur Mills was stopped by police for drunk driving and his girlfriend stripper Fanne Foxe, the ``Argentine Bombshell' flew out of the car's passenger door and plunged into the Tidal Basin?'
Halfway into the trip the bus stops and everybody piles out to assemble on the sidewalk outside a three-story brownstone Georgetown townhouse where presidential candidate Gary Hart's political career unraveled when he was discovered spending the weekend here with Donna Rice.
They left the bus to stretch and get a close-up look at the love nest.
The satire goes on and on. As the bus passes the HUD Building, Simmons a la Ronald Reagan is denying that the initials stand for ``hundreds of unethical developers.' Actress Marianne Curan as Jacqueline Bird Roosevelt, head of the School of First Ladies, quips as the bus goes by the Washington Monument:
``He did wear wooden teeth you know. Martha frequently had splinters in her lips. They raised two children by Martha's previous marriage. The father of our country was sterile, unable to produce children of his own.'
Actor Henley holds up a copy of Life Magazine with Barbara Bush's picture on the cover and tells how the first lady gave Dan Quayle one of Millie's puppies. ``He named the puppy Checkers,' Henley says.
It was Rick London, 35, who came up with the idea for the Scandal Tour. ``My relatives were always coming to town asking me to take them to Gary Hart's apartment and to Watergate.
``I was working with John Simmons, who has been doing the Gross National Product satires on Washington politics in Georgetown the past 10 years, and suggested we put together the bus tour,' London explains.
Actors and actresses from GNP portray the various characters on the bus tour. The first full year 3,000 people took the Scandal Tour with gross sales $80,000. From August 1989 to now, 6,000 have come along on the ride with sales this year so far $168,000. At first the fare was $20. It recently was increased to $30.
``The nation's capital is the original theme park. All the buildings are in place. We sent President and Mrs. Bush gift certificates. But they haven't used them yet,' said London, who handles the business end of the operation.