Monday, April 14, 2008

Washington Social Diary

The Newseum on Friday night, as guests in black-tie gave their cars to the valets and lined up for entry to the opening gala.
By Carol Joynt

There are small parties and there are big parties, and there are parties that are huge. Washington’s newest monumental addition, the Newseum, gave itself an opening party the other night that was huge – so many (one count had it at 1800) that they had to stand in line. Men in black tie, women in evening dresses, getting checked off the guest list.

By nature, this is a cynical crowd, and so there was some tut-tutting and line jumping at the door. But once inside, an enthusiastic mood prevailed. What they found were seven floors of party, a delicious menu of Wolfgang Puck’s greatest hits -- everything from pizza to lamb chops to stir fry; bars in every direction with a choice of wines, martinis and all kinds of top shelf brands; plus a band to dance to, and room after room of captivating exhibitions and other over-the-top attractions.

Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, in search of his wife.
There were so many people -- many of the city’s media elite -- that it was impossible to see everyone, or even keep track of the one you were with. Throughout the evening, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff searched for his wife, Washington Post writer Mary Ann Akers. At 9 o’clock he asked, “Have you seen my wife?” An hour or so later someone asked, “Michael, have you found your wife, yet?” He said, “actually, no.” And he’s an investigative correspondent.

But he wasn’t alone. One couple text messaged each other in order to reconnect in the confusion of floors, people, and diversions. Many looked for New York Times Sunday Magazine coverboy and MSNBC star, Chris Matthews. “He’s over there.” “He’s one floor down.” “He’s one floor up.” “I know he’s here somewhere.”

It was easy to get carried away, whether by an interactive display that pulled clips from TV news throughout its history, or heartbreaking relics, like the crumbled antenna tower from one of the World Trade Center’s towers, or the 4-D theater, with seat and sound thrills, or talking to friends on one of the high outdoor terraces with gorgeous views of the Capitol in one direction and the Washington Monument in the other.

Later this month the Washington press corps have their big hoedown, the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. All of the city’s major players attend. Some compare it to the Oscars because of the influx of Hollywood people. Paparazzi and after parties thrive well into the wee hours.
Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth with her good friend and college roommate, Nicole Chapman
Casey Murrow, son of Edward R. Murrow, with his son, Ethan Murrow and Ethan's wife, Vita Weinstein Murrow
Once upon a time the WHCA dinner was rather subdued and media-centric, and quite an elegant evening out for the fourth estate. The Newseum opening had some of that old-school glamour, with many of the industry’s titans, old and young, making the scene.

What stood out was an impressive presence of families. From the New York Times: Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., his sisters Cathy Sulzberger Perpich and Karen Sulzberger Lax, and their husbands, Joe Perpich and Eric Lax. From The Washington Post, its new young publisher, Katharine Weymouth, niece of her predecessor, Donald Graham, and granddaughter of his predecessor, the late Katharine Graham. Katharine was beaming, and rightly so, with the Post having just won six Pulitzers at the beginning of the week. Her “date” was a dear friend, college roommate Nicole Chapman. Katharine’s goal for the night: “to have some fun.”

Found at a banister overlooking the swarm in the Great Hall was Casey Murrow, son of the late Edward R. Murrow, one of the most influential broadcasters in history. With Casey was his son, Ethan Murrow and Ethan’s wife, Vita Weinstein Murrow. Nearby, looking at the wall of international front pages from 9/11 was Carl Rowan, Jr., son of the late Carl Rowan, one of the first and most influential African American columnists. Carl was with his wife, Leslie Rowan.
James Polshek, whose firm designed the Newseum
Joan and Ev Shorey
The Newseum family, too, was out in force, lead of course by Gannett and USA Today patriarch, Al Neuharth, whose Freedom Forum got the project going in the first place. The museum’s architect, James Polshek, walked the corridors with a satisfied smile, undaunted by a negative New York Times review. “Oh, he wasn’t bothered by that,” said good friend Ev Shorey, who with wife Joan Shorey were hosting Polshek at their Georgetown home.

Despite declining circulation for newspapers, the tug of war between print and Internet, and something similar in television between network and cable news, the media community has been enjoying a good run this year. The ’08 Presidential campaign has prompted an increase in the numbers registered to vote. There’s an increase in the numbers who consume news also.
The party, with a vintage news helicopter hovering (actually, suspended from the ceiling).
The noise of the tabloids and TMZ can be deafening, but the Pulitzers awarded on Monday remind us of what makes real journalism. They honored Dana Priest and Anne Hull’s reporting in The Post on the mistreatment of war wounded at Walter Reed Army Hospital, The Post’s coverage of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech; a Milwaukee Journal Sentinal story by David Umhoefer about county workers padding their pensions; Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker’s New York Times report on the toxic ingredients in everyday items exported from China; a prescient early warning by Steve Pearlstein in The Post of the coming sub-prime loan disaster, and a riveting exploration of the White House power of Vice President Dick Cheney, reported by The Post’s Barton Gellman and Jo Becker. Becker’s now with the Times, but Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr., at the party with wife, Janice, promised he will get her back.

Bernard "What's Your DNA?" Kalb, with his wife, Phyllis
There were those who felt the Newseum was “news-lite,” and more ode than thorough examination. Still, the Newseum is meant as a tourist attraction. For the $20 admission, people who know very little about the roots and reason of journalism will come away with perhaps some understanding and a little bit of awe, and have some fun in the process.

For the crowd on Friday night there was the undeniable glow from being in a building where every corner is a validation of your work. As the bigger party wound down, many in the great ink-stained wretch tradition, went around the corner to Puck’s restaurant, The Source, and bellied up to the bar. Near the door I saw veteran journalist Bernard Kalb and his wife, Phyllis. Asked to pose for a picture, Kalb said, “I don’t know. First, tell me, what’s your DNA?” Reporters! Having no good answer, I took his picture instead.

Others among those at the Newseum: Ben Bradlee and son Quinn Bradlee, Tim Russert and Maureen Orth, John Seigenthaler, Sr., Peter S. Prichard, Mary Kay Blake, Shelby Coffey III, Terence and Susy Smith, Victoria Clarke and Brian Graham, Scott Sforza, Kathryn Kross, Finley and Willee Lewis, Colleen and Loren Evans, Mark Indre, Paul and Meris Sparrow, Wolfgang Puck, Italian opera star Vittorio Grigolo, Al Hunt, Doyle McManus, John and Sarah Mashek, Robin and Donna MacNeil, Bill Kovach, Wolf Blitzer, Shane Wolfe, Marissa Newhall, Tony Powell, Kevin Chaffee, Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell, Sharon Rockefeller, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Rhonda and David Cohen, Anne Groer, Toni Lee Aluisi, Linda Douglass and John Phillips.

For more on the Newseum, please take a look at Carol Joynt's earlier behind the scenes tour from the NYSD archives here.
Clockwise from top left: The evening went smoothly, but for the line to get in. Washingtonians, though, are like the British about lines ... patient; The exhibition space honoring the September 11 terrorist attacks drew the most attention. This is the antenna mast that stood at the top of the World Trade Center's north building; Photojournalist Bill Biggart was killed when the second tower collapsed. An exhibition case at the Newseum holds the personal effects that were with him when he died: glasses, press credentials, cameras, cell phone; Looking down at the Berlin Wall exhibition.
Anne Groer and Toni Lee Aluisi
Rhonda Cohen, David Cohen, Brian Graham, and Victoria "Torie" Clarke
Karthryn Kross with Scott Sforza
Ann Fleming and husband Gordon Peterson, one of Washington's most beloved and veteran television news anchors - known to friends as "Bill."
On the second floor, overlooking the dance floor, Kelly Adams and Dorian Soto.
Finley and Willee Lewis
Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, and Scott Sforza
Paul and Meris Sparrow. Paul is a Newseum vice president.
Joseph Casper, Ellen Terry, Loren Evans, and Colleen Evans
Janice Downie, with her daughter, Sara Glick of New York, and her husband, Leonard Downie, Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post
Hansel Perez, David Lennon, and Bob O'Brien
Carl Rowan, Jr., with his wife, Leslie Rowan
Linda Douglas of National Journal
Catianne Tijerina
Kevin Chaffee, who wore a suit, not black-tie, on purpose
Charles Stone pauses before one of the Newseum's interactive exhibits
Vittorio and Roshanak Grigolo
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.