Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Washington Social Diary

The bars at the annual Washington Life fling were recession proof: busy and happy.
Wither thou goest the Washington social life
By Carol Joynt


There’s a saying here, spoken either with affection or irony, that “if it’s in The Washington Post then it must be true.” Therefore it’s worth noting the Post recently reported what a lot of us have noticed for several months, that “bleak times” have hit the party circuit. The reporters who pull together the paper’s daily “Reliable Source” column, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, blamed the recession, shrinking PR budgets and tougher restraints on the capital’s highest of high rollers, the lobbyists. Whatever the causes, the parties – regardless of their mileux – are fewer, quieter, and less well attended.

Valerie Jarrett and Desiree Rogers
Nowhere in the story did the Post mention the new President, First Lady or members of their staffs. This is important. It was expected – and more than that, hoped - the Obama Administration would roll into town and rip it up on the social front. It hasn’t happened. White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers discreetly shows up here and there, likewise Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and First Grandmother, Marian Robinson. At the appropriate embassy affairs there is an appearance by the appropriate Cabinet member and members of Congress.

The Obamas themselves have hosted a State Dinner (for the nation’s governors) and a variety of White House receptions. They’ve gone out and about a little bit, but not a lot. For the media grist mill, though, there’s no “swinging bachelor,” like Henry Kissinger during the Nixon Administration, Steve Martindale during Ford and George Stephanopoulos in the early Clinton years, no embassy host-with-the-most, like Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi in the Carter years, and none of the big splashy money that came into town with the Reagan “kitchen cabinet.” Georgetown’s not lit up with glittering little soirees that in turn light up the social grapevine.

What’s particularly interesting about this is the understanding offered by party givers who would be over the moon to have White House people flock to an event. “They’re working,” they say. “They’re trying to save the country.” Or, “It’s only the first hundred days. Give them time.” Ironically, in another era crisis fueled the city’s social scene. It was probably it’s most vibrant during Watergate, when all kinds of otherwise anonymous bureaucrats, lawyers and reporters became celebrity sensations overnight. The hoopla carried into the Ford years.
The scene of the annual Washington Life fling — A vast bare office building space that otherwise would be looking for permanent occupants.
These thoughts were with me upon arrival at what is usually one of the most glittering and over the top of Washington events, the annual Washington Life fling for the city’s young social crowd.

In recent years it has been reliably boozy, glam, loud, overcrowded and A-list. The mix is social, administration, political, media, congressional, international, corporate, military, and some of the fun fringe like sports, music and fashion. This year it was all that but tamped down by the same forces that are tamping down every other event. It was glam and delish and divine and all that, but without adrenaline.
A fresh cold martini and the host publication, Washington Life.
Appetizers and smalll plates with a tex-mex theme.
Michael Saylor at the Tex-Mex buffet. The foods that disappeared the fastest: cakes from Georgetown Cupcake.
Washington Life and its staff put on their game faces, though, and maintained the welcomed and upbeat attitude that it’s better to party than to mope. They even helped out some hapless office building owner and tossed the party throughout one of the empty top floors.

It was a vast bare concrete terrain of bars, buffets, lounges, dining and dancing areas and twinkling views of the city in every direction. (Next year will the setting be an empty bankrupt mall?) The food, even if scaled down, was still plentiful and tasty – Peking Duck, Chicken Arepas, Lobster and Crab maki, Sweet Potato and Portobello fries, a Ceviche bar, baby burgers, a taco bar and – get this – bacon glazed with brown sugar and drizzled with chocolate. Last year the endlessly flowing champagne was Veuve Cliquot; this year’s was Domaine Chandon. Martinis were in demand.
The men ...
The women.
The conversation was happy, about work and friends and, at least in a few instances, just who will be cast in a possible “Real Housewives of Washington, DC.” If the gossip is to be believed, some of the women may be residents of suburban Potomac, Md., and McLean, Va., making the show more accurately the “Real Housewives of the Washington Metro Area.”

Not so hot. Whoever they pick best get their implants and French manicures buffed up now.
A happy group finds their own nook for dinner.
The swag guests took home in their goodie bags. Less than last year but still more than most.
On the way out we were handed the famous WL swag bag – perhaps Washington’s most storied. Still fat, still overflowing with goodies, including gift cards, passes, tchokes, Obama inaguruation commemorative champagne flutes, a chocolate bar I’ll be nibbling for the next month, but also this telling item: the Cartier magazine in my black faux croc bag was from 2006!

Hmmm. Recession swag?
The champagne welcome upon arrival. Rockin Motown from the band BS&M.
Anais and Renaud de Viel Castel. Paul Wharton, a personality of many talents, and almost all have to do with steppin out stylish.
Washington society chroniclers Kevin Chaffee and Michael Clements. MicroStrategy founder, chairman and CEO Michael Saylor. Holly Rich and Aaron Flynn, a specialist on environmental law with the firm Hunton & Williams.
From the Washington Ballet, Laura DiSerio and Sara Lange. "Man About Town" Bob Madigan with BizBash party scribe Walter Nicholls.
Ocean adventurer Phillipe Cousteau with Sarah Elkins. Marielle Shortell and Julie Shanklin, who designed the party for Syzygy Productions. Newly engaged, Politico.com's Patrick Gavin and Anne Bracken.
Coby George, Chris Burns, Star Silva, and Victoria Kurzweg. Justin Long and Michele Salahi look ready for "Dancing with the Stars."
The very popular Washington radio jock, Tommy McFly. The spirit of Gatsby lives in the arch styles of Washington two best dressed: Transplanted Virginian and New Yorker Pepper Watkins with Stephanie Green, transplanted from Indiana to the hot gossip spotlight at the Washington Times. Matt Dornic, one of the two new radar beams handling FisbowlDC for MediaBistro.com.
Matthew Porter with Matt Silverstein of Fox News Sunday. Chris Cattau, Tarik Pierce, and Matthew Porter.
Channeling Michelle Obama, Jocelyn Johnson is dressed beatifully for a spring night. With her is dapper DJ and businessman Adrian Loving. Nicholas Combata, who was a celebrity party guru but now pursues producing full-length documentary and feature films. He's with Fabiana Talbot, who is also DJ Fabiana. Emily Price and Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House.
Roby Penn, Leyla Ballantyne, Lara Herger, and Joe Warren. Sheila Molavi, and film director Karim Chrobog.
Stilettos prevailed ... Even when they didn't entirely fit.
Tara de Nicolas and Pamela Sorensen. Our hosts, and soon to be new parents, Nancy Reynolds Bagley and husband Souroush Shehabi, who publish and edit Washington Life Magazine.
Taking time for games: Ray Dickey, Poppia Ahmed, and Kevin Smoot. One young woman hides her face from my camera? Hiding from Daddy? Hubby? The School head?
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.