Monday, November 3, 2008

Washington Social Diary

Host Bill Dean makes a TV show out of his party, with a little help from his friends.
By Carol Joynt

In the service of New York Social Diary I go to lots of parties, seeking especially those events that say something interesting about Washington. But amongst the opera balls, exhibition openings, galas, embassy dinners, premiers and myriad fundraisers, there’s been only one party where some guests were bare-chested and others wore clothing that was painted on. You can safely assume it was not an autumn soiree of The Supreme Court. Nope. It was Bill Dean’s Halloween romp.

The host, Bill Dean, flanked by some ghoulish characters.
At a time when John McCain trashes Georgetown parties and others write their obituaries, Bill Dean proves a point I’ve tried to make on several occasions: Georgetown parties are not dead, they’re just not what they used to be. For one thing, the sexy factor. Bill Dean’s parties feature more flesh than ever got exposed in the parlors of Pamela Harriman and Evangeline Bruce.

He owns a gorgeous mansion, The Dodge Mansion, which architect Dale Overmyer renovated in loving and exquisite 19th century detail. When Bill moved in he invited all the neighbors to an open house, which impressed my son to no end due solely to the roof deck (it would be home enough) and the eye-popping young women floating on rafts in the garden swimming pool.

It would be logical to assume, therefore, that Bill must be a hedge fund hottie or a lobbyist with bucks to throw around, but no, and this is the part that says something interesting about Washington. Bill is the young and unmarried CEO of MC Dean, Inc., a very sober and serious electronic systems engineering and telecommunications company that has the electrical contracts for significant parts of the federal government. The Pentagon, for example. He employs more than 2,000 people on the U.S. East Coast, in Europe and the Middle East. He works very hard and, therefore, plays the same way. He also throws one helluva party.
The Dodge Mansion, decked out for Halloween merriment.
The graveyard.
The invitation announced the theme as the “Dodge Mansion Haunted Hollywood Halloween” and it promised “mayhem.” Costumes were required, but “if you’d like body paint, let us know.” The guest list was tightly controlled and the check-in process was worthy of the Secret Service. As guests arrived they walked through a faux graveyard of the departed Hollywood famous, with headstones for Anthony Perkins and George Carlin, among others.

The party sprawled throughout the mansion and grounds. One of the dance floors straddled the swimming pool with a gangway. There was a live band on the terrace; a deejay in the downstairs, vast buffets of shrimp, chicken, meatballs, sandwiches, chips, candy and more in the large kitchen and dining room. At my count there were at least five bars, including an authentic and cozy basement pub with a beautiful varnished bar, wood paneling and large and welcoming fireplace. Nearby was a faux jail cell, where young women climbed inside and, well, performed improvisational prison scenarios.
Carol Joynt. The skeleton in the garden.
The scene.
The roof deck offered another bar, an open fire pit, a hot tub, a large flat panel TV with a college football game, and a spectacular 360-degree view of Georgetown’s rooftops and the city lights beyond. It was a mild autumn night, with stars clear in the sky, ideal for sitting outside. Tom Quinn, in a Keffiyeh and sunglasses, commented on the bawdiness of the costumes. “It’s terrible,” he said, laughing, “but I’ll get over it.” More than one guest asked, “Is this really Washington?” A wide-eyed couple walked into the party in regular street clothes. “You must be the neighbors,” I said. “We are,” said the woman. At least she didn’t ask how I guessed.

It wouldn’t be foolish to believe the female bartenders – dressed as pirates, schoolgirls, milkmaids and cops - were imported from Maxim, but one of them – in a police uniform that could double as a bikini – said she and her colleagues were models from the local area hired for the occasion. “We’re not really bartenders.” Duh.

Bill Dean's neighbors.
For every woman in a cleavage-intense costume there were at least a few men in swim trunks and Olympic medals, a la Michael Phelps, many astronauts, and MicroStrategy Chairman Michael Saylor as David Hasselhoff, complete with his own posse of Baywatch babes. The older the man the skimpier the costume; Chip Dent came in dinner jacket and boxer shorts. There were two Sarah Palins: sexy Sarah and serious Sarah.

My favorite costume, though, was the young woman who came as Angelina Jolie, including tats, sunglasses and infant twins. Bill and his co-hosts, Sherif Abdalla, Mike Kosmides, Anthony Hammock and Tony Hudgins, channeled “Rat Pack” swagger in black tie and slouch hats. Also at the party were venture capitalist Mark Ein, Bennett Zier, Justin Bobby from “The Hills,” Sophie Pyle and Krista Johnson from Lifetime’s upcoming “Blonde Charity Mafia,” Redskins stars Sean Springs and Santana Moss, and rumor spread that Chris Rock was in the house, but how could you tell with so many masks?

At midnight I pressed my way through the 400 strong crush of revelers, along the garden path, down the front stairs, through the gate and back on to the quiet street for the short walk home, where I pulled off my Louise Brooks wig, shed the red fringe “Chicago” costume, washed off the varnish of loud make-up, and slipped between the sheets, hoping that whoever becomes our next president decides to make Bill Dean “host in chief."
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.