Monday, April 20, 2009

Washington Social Diary

The Putala home at twilight, with the party inside at full swing.
In An Ellington Mood
By Carol Joynt


The other day, virtually with horns wailing, I received a wildly enthusiastic email from a man I’d heard of but never met. He wrote to invite me to not one, not two, but three springtime events to honor the late great composer and bandleader Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in Washington, Ellington’s hometown, for eleven days beginning June 5th.

“Dear Ink-Stained Wretch," he wrote, “I cannot wait to meet you in person! Won't you come to this great kickoff?” The writer was Steven Stolman. The kick-off was to be at a Georgetown townhouse around the corner from my home. I knew about Steven from his now-defunct clothing line. In its heyday, his label was on the backs and, well, hips of many Washington residents. I had a neighbor who wore him almost head to toe. I wondered what his connection was to Washington, particularly with his home base in Palm Beach. Almost immediately, another email arrived.
The Putala home at the beginning of the Duke Ellington party, with Steven Stolman at the door, ready for some action. Steve Stolman, doing his job as president of festival's The Ovation Society.
The party on the inside ...
For one thing, he told me, he is the new president of the Festival’s Ovation Society – a group of generous donors – and whose honorary chair is sports and spa businesswoman Sheila Johnson. “I was brought on to build a special support group for the festival. Why I know so many people in DC is a mystery to me. I guess there is some symbiotic relationship between DC and PB - and in my old life, I had many great customers from your terrific town.” That’s reason enough.

And when people are as cash strapped and tight fisted as they are right now, how smart to have a friendly live wire like Steven serving as a charming pick pocket. I would imagine he knows how to help people find the money they don’t know they still have to give away. The younger generation of the Festival’s supporters gathered for the kick-off party at the home of Christopher and Allison Putala. It was a gorgeous, cool, crisp spring evening with an assortment of pretty tulips in bloom right outside the Putala’s front door.
The guests reflected. The colorful swag bags - from Sherman Pickey, Amano and Hysteria, among other stores - posed on the stairs just inside the front door.
Even with Passover happening in full and Easter only three days away, meaning lots of food on tables at home, the guests still feasted eagerly on sliced tenderloin, crab cakes, tuna tartare and abundant other canapés provided by Capital Grille. “Performers Committee” member Winston Bao Lord greeted guests by the bar and out on the long wood porch. Steven was everywhere at once.

Steven remained in Washington through the weekend, and it seemed at each of his stops we exchanged email. He was in Georgetown at lunch, at Dumbarton Oaks touring the gardens, at the Smithsonian to see the First Ladies gowns and Julia Child’s kitchen, at La Chaumiere for dinner. “Those oysters!!!!” He reported who was in the room. Many well-known names, but one stood out for him. “I have to say, seeing Helen Thomas MADE this trip!” His Saturday night? “Superb! Bombay Club!” I was delighted with each missive. A vicarious tour of my own city.
The garden.
Winston Lord puts the back porch to good use. The party heats up on the outside.
As the weekend wound down, Washington lost some of its energy as Steven headed home. But not without writing, “3pm flight - but I'll be back May 7, 18 and June 15! Just had a lovely REGULAR bkfst at Four Seasons before they set up the big brunch. Now - maybe a walk by Tidal Basin before checkout. I love this town!” Phew. We can’t wait.

Here are some of the young Duke Ellington Jazz Festival supporters who were at the Putala’s: Lindsey Drath, Ethan Drath, Hadley Gamble, Kendall Arney, George Alafoginis, Andrew Adler, Becca Glover, Katie Donohue, Dina Davalle, Michael Baum, Lyz Bridgeforth, Courtney Cohen, Blair Dunlap, Rebekah Gee, Fletcher Gill, Alexandra Hersey, Amar Goli, Heather Guay, Jeni Hansen, Dave Kranich, Frankie Lucostic, Gabrielle Malman, Marissa Mitrovich, Matthew Gorman, Krista Johnson, Anne Lee, Donna Lee, Gideon Lett, Heather Fierce, Sunny Sumter, Kimberly Warfield, Whitney Williams, Tate Yost, Neena Kumar, Charles Fishman, Angie Goff, Allison Priebe Brooks, Whitney Dunn, Victor del Villar, Ryan Triplette, Wright Sigmund, Mandy Scarborough, Shira Toeplitz, Hank Torbert, Irina Petrossian, J. Roby Penn IV, Adam Ozmer, Ashlee Reed, Rachel Eddins, Brian Farrell, Gideon Lett, Christiane Megy, Shawn Miles Carrie Keelty, and Windy Shepard.
Duke Ellington Jazz Festival executive producer Charles Fishman with party hosts Christopher and Allison Putala. Winston Bao Lord and Ali Hershey.
Christopher and Alison Putala, Christos Christou, and George Alafoginis. The bartender in profile.
Clockwise from top left: Capitol Grille chef Bryan Thomas in the kitchen with colleague Jose Pereira; Beautiful tenderloin from Capitol Grille; Mozzarella and tomato with basil - a classic; A server with tuna tartare from Capitol Grille.
Tenderloin on toast. With all that rare tenderloin being passed around, the dog did not get to join the party.
Neena Kumar and Adam Ozmer. Becca Glover, Pepper Watkins, Frankie Lucostic, and Adam Ozmer.
Steven Stolman and Heather Fierce talk with Kyle Samperton. Steven Stolman with Heather Fierce.
Shilpa Pesaru and Katie Donohue. The Heathers - Heather Guay and Heather Halsey.
Adam Kahn and Anna Palmer arrive at the Putuala's. Roby Penn. Karen Tanabe with Dave Kranich.
Adam Ozmer, Carly Pippin, and Liz Bridgforth. Keith Blackman, Heather Fierce, and Neena Kumar.
Whitney Williams with Christos Christou. Steven Stolman with Frankie Lucostic. Sunny Sumter.
Kaan Pazarbasi, Kimberly Warfield, and Wright Sigmund. Lindsey Williams Drath, Allison Putula, and Mandy Scarborough.
Rodrigo Garcia and Kate Michael. Two friends take time to catch up at Duke Ellington party.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.