Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Washington Social Diary

Outside Nathans, marked and unmarked Secret Service vehicles, a couple of limos, and agents by the front and kitchen doors.
The Vice President Steps Out in Georgetown
By Carol Joynt

Typically, when a patron walks into the dining room of Nathans Restaurant in Georgetown, the first thing they notice is the big black and white photograph of Hillary Clinton that adorns booth #27. She’s grimacing.

David Kennerly, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld at Nathans, Sunday evening, July 27. Kennerly, the photojournalist, did not bring his camera to dinner.
What they would have noticed Sunday night were the two men staring at the Hillary photo -- Vice President Richard Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both in blue blazers and yellow ties, both relaxed and in good moods.

It was a rare night off and night out in a restaurant for Cheney. He and Rumsfeld and their wives, Lynne Cheney and Joyce Rumsfeld, and Mary Cheney, and lawyer Eileen O’Connor, gathered for a casual Sunday dinner as guests of Pulitzer-winning photojournalist David Hume Kennerly, whose photos of Clinton and a dozen other political notables are the signature décor of Nathans red-leather and wood-paneled back room.

They are friends of more than 30 years, meaning it was “Dick” and “Don” instead of “Mr. Vice President” and “Mr. Secretary.” The Cheneys and Rumsfelds had just returned from their weekend homes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The view upon entering Nathans dining room, Hillary Clinton by David Hume Kennerly. To the left, Kennerly's image of Richard Nixon at the piano.
Washington D.C., 1998 -- U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton winces in the Roosevelt Room of the White House as she reacts in mock horror to the Secretary of Education telling the press he beat President Bill Clinton at the game of "Hearts" on Air Force One during a recent trip (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
Kennerly started to plan the dinner two weeks ago, because even though a night off for the Vice President is essentially that, it requires the teamwork and mobilization of many people, particularly the Secret Service. As Vice Presidential events go, it was low key. For example, it was not on his official schedule. A few agents showed up quietly an hour before the Cheneys, and checked over Nathans building, which sits prominently in the center of Georgetown.

More agents arrived in advance of Cheney and more arrived with Cheney, staking out the bar, the kitchen, the back and front doors and, of course, the dining room. They, too, were dressed casually in blazers and sports jackets. The other customers noticed for a moment and then returned to their meals. Parked outside were DC Police cars, marked Secret Service cars, a Secret Service SUV or two, and a couple sleek black sedan limousines. The Vice President today travels with the level of security comparable to what Gerald Ford had as President.
November 21, 1974. Kyoto, Japan -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and geisha play a Japanese game during President Gerald Ford's visit to Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
November 8, 2000. Austin, Texas -- “Cliffhanger,” The Bushes watch results election night. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
Ford was a sentimental presence at the dinner. David Kennerly met and became friends with the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds in 1974 during the Ford Administration, when he was Ford’s official photographer. Rumsfeld was Ford’s White House Chief of Staff and Cheney was Deputy Chief.

One purpose of the dinner, apart from a reunion, was to celebrate Kennerly’s having been named the newest trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.
Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with Nathans' proprietress, Carol Joynt. Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with Nathans' chef, Loredonna Luhrs.
But before dinner it was all about looking at pictures, which include some interesting and historic shots of Cheney and “Rummy.” Cheney, with his familiar sly smile, at the wheel of a bumper car, an image of her father much loved by Mary Cheney. Cheney and Lynne Cheney on a tense election night in 2000 with George and Laura Bush and the Bush family, but no one smiling.

Rumsfeld, side by side with a Geisha at an official Japanese dinner, with a chopstick balanced under his nose. “That’s not me,” he laughed. “That’s not me.” Rumsfeld lingered before a profile group photo of Presidents George Bush (41), Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon at the dedication of the Reagan Library in 1991. “That’s wonderful,” he said. But when he looked at the picture over booth #26, of the full Seinfeld cast shot by Kennerly at the taping of their last show, Rumsfeld was perplexed. “What’s that?” He welcomed the background information on the show and why the photo is iconic.
October 9, 1976. Dallas, Texas -- During an early October campaign swing with President Ford through Dallas, Chief of Staff Dick Cheney and Foster Chanock (far left) take a spin on the bumper cars. Chanock, a brilliant young staff aide to Cheney, died four years later of cancer. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images).
April 3, 1998. Studio City, California -- The courtroom scene from the final days of shooting the hit show "Seinfeld" including (L-R) Phil Morris, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
Their two-hour dinner included Diet Cokes and iced teas, along with a basket of the house made potato chips, clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, Caesar salads, steamed mussels, grilled calamari, grilled salmon, hamburgers, but no dessert. Conversation centered on stories about the old days. “We talked about all sorts stuff,” said Kennerly, “but no politics, really.”

I should note here that David Kennerly and I are good friends, too, and former colleagues; and that I own Nathans and asked him to loan me great photos from his archives to decorate the dining room so it would look like Washington. You can see more of his work at www.kennerly.com.
November 4, 1991. Simi Valley, California -- Five Presidents at the Reagan Library opening. (L-R) President George H. W. Bush, former presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images).
Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.