Monday, February 25, 2008

Washington Social Diary

A sold out opening night for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center; note the man lower right, checking his PDA. He was not alone.
By Carol Joynt

When it comes to tossing a successful party, we hold this truth to be self-evident: it starts with a good list. Long gone are the days when a host or hostess could do it alone, especially if the goal is to cast a wide net among a city’s top people. In Washington, if you want to have a party, attract the most influential people, get some attention, have it be smartly glamorous, fun, run smoothly and, in the process not spawn any fresh gray hairs on your own precious head, the person to call is Carolyn Peachy. You want her proven skills but, let’s be honest, you want her well-honed list. And, if you’re eager to be at the best parties, you want to be on that list.

  Bennett Rink and Carolyn Peachy
Carolyn’s company is called Campbell, Peachy & Associates, “a firm that specializes in the coordination of special events.” To Carolyn’s credit, the very fact I mentioned her name will leave her mortified. One of her virtues is discretion. “It’s all about the client,” she will tell you. “We stay behind the scenes.” I had to have a friend put her in an arm lock to get her picture. But ask any one of her friends or clients, and her clients usually are friends, they will say, “oh, she deserves some attention.”

Carolyn and her company have stayed behind the scenes and got it gorgeously done at some recent fully A-list Washington soirees, including the opening of the Harman Center for the Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors (an event she’s handled for years), the PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction gala and, just last week, the 9th annual gala for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

On the same Tuesday night as the Wisconsin and Hawaii primaries, dozens of Alvin Ailey fans put on evening dress to fill the red velvet seats of the Kennedy Center’s Opera House for the company’s opening night of a week-long Washington run. Even though many in the audience took advantage of the intermission and “pauses” to check their Blackberry’s and I-Phones for election returns, when the action was on the stage they were riveted by four compelling Ailey productions: Firebird, Night Creature, Treading and Revelations. The applause was strong, and long, between each dance. At the end, the audience was standing. In a clever twist of party planning, “Firebird,” reappeared later as a potent cocktail.
Clockwise from top left: Waiters ready with a "firebird" martini, with ingredients guaranteed to make guests dance with abandon; The table settings and starter salad; The band; The party ... in full swing.
The dancers joined the guests upstairs for a dinner that was delicious and pleasant but really just another pause before more dancing -- but this time for the invited patrons as well as the professionals. A few brief speeches were made by Alvin Ailey icon and Artistic Director Judith Jamison, among others, to thank The Southern Company and Altria for their support, and to commend the gala’s committee leaders, Bea Welters, Carolyn Brody, Debra Lee, Chris Cowan, Gina Adams, Riley Temple, and Katharine Weymouth, who in early February was named the new publisher of The Washington Post, as well as chief executive of a new division called Washington Post Media. Katherine is the granddaughter of the late Washington Post Company chairman, Katharine Graham, daughter of Mrs. Graham’s daughter Lally Weymouth, and niece of the paper’s President and CEO Donald Graham. Following family tradition Katherine was groomed for the job over the past decade. Her new role is exciting for The Post and Washington because she, like the new mayor, Adrian Fenty, is a force of a younger generation who are taking the reins of power here.

If anything, what Carolyn Peachy tapped into with this party was an arresting mix of demographics that showed an exciting face of new social Washington, where all in one room were the New Guard, like Weymouth and Fenty and his wife, Michelle, Vanessa and Thomas Reed (close friends of Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle), Christopher Addison, Debbie Harmon and Dr. Bob Seder, Ken and Judy Bacon, as well as some revered old guard like Ann Jordan, Justice Stephen Breyer, Dick and Julia Moe, Gerald and Eden Rafshoon, and Mark and Jacqueline Leland. Maybe every single person didn’t get up and strut their moves to the hot music, but it felt like they did because the floor was vibrating with the dancing.
The after dinner dancing made the floor bounce.
Others having a good time were Leezee Porter, Peter and Judy Kovler, Michael Kahn, Aubrey Sarvis, David Gregory and Beth Wilkinson, Roy Ellis, Peter Edelman, Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Gina Adams, Heather Previn, Stacey and Jarvis Stewart, George Vradenburg, Jane Cafritz, Zemira Jones, Ann Walker Marchant, Robert, Mary and Laura Haft, William Roberts, Andrea Snyder, Jon Palmer Claridge, Stanley and Gloria Plesent, Tom and Carol Wheeler, Bennett Rink, Judith Jamison, the company’s fabled Artistic Director, plus all the dancers, including Gwynenn Jones, Courtney Corbin, and Alicia Graff and Renee Robinson, both from Washington; Alvin Ailey Executive Director, Sharon Luckman, the company’s senior director, Calvin Hunt, trustees Deborah Holmes, Guido Goldman, Bruce Gordon, Tawana Tibbs, Eleanor Applewhaite; artistic director Masazumi Chaya, and gala vice chair Christopher Cowan. The proceeds from the evening help young Washington dancers afford the Alvin Ailey school and, presumably, a shot at joining the company and returning to their hometown to appear at a future gala.

As for Carolyn Peachy, this is likely the last time I’ll mention her name in a story about one of her parties or I’ll risk not being invited again.
Jahari Dodd, Stacey Stewart, and Maryland democratic congressman Elijah Cummings
Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and Carey Smith
Fannie Mae's Ken Bacon; when one "firebird" isn't enough
Dancer Vernard J. Gilmore
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Julia Moe
Al Crawford, Gwynenn Jones, and Courtney Corbin
Tony Powell with Riley Temple, vice chair of the gala
Suzanne and Tom Gibson
On the left, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
Ann Jordan, Leezee Porter, and Heather Previn
Artistic director Judith Jamison pays tribute to the Alvin Ailey dancers
Renee Robinson, a native of Washington, thanks the Alvin Ailey dance company's patrons
Judy Kovler and Jane Cafritz
Dancer Renee Robinson and Peter Kovler
Stacie Turner and Joelle Myers
Aubrey Sarvis and David Hall
Fine art dealer Christopher Addison, with Ann Jordan and Roy Ellis in the background
Riley Temple and Tony Powell
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.