Monday, June 1, 2009

Washington Social Diary

The Lutyens-designed British Ambassador's residence on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, a wide boulevard also known as "Embassy Row."
AT THE BRITISH EMBASSY: A Bruce Family Legacy
by Carol Joynt

On a late May evening, there’s little in Washington that can beat the British Embassy. The 1920s-era red brick and stone house, British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens’ only house on this side of the pond, is easily the most impressive on Embassy Row.

Grand, elegant, with tall chimneys, it is unquestionably of, by and for England. As stunning as the street front may be, it’s the columned back portico, the expansive and swoon-worthy sloping lawn, and the eye-popping roses that carry you into an Evelyn Waugh country house fantasy of lords and ladies, high society swagger, upstairs/downstairs intrigue, the chilliest champagne and one’s very best manners.

The current residents, since 2007, are Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald, a career diplomat, and Lady Sheinwald (also known as Dr. Julia Dunne, a respected physician). They are a low-key couple but deal quite affably with the instant celebrity that is bestowed here upon the British Ambassador and wife of, just as happens with the French and Italians.
The gate at the British ambassador's residence. It's one of several.
The gate at the British ambassador's residence. Winston Churchill stands guard outside the British Embassy residence. The William McVey statue was erected in 1966. One foot is on American soil, the other on the Embassy grounds, "a symbol of Churchill's Anglo-American descent."
The actual entrance into the residence building.
Where all guests enter the residence.
Guests cluster on the terrace.
The rear of the residence, with its grand portico and terrace and incredible roses.
This past week the Sheinwalds hosted what has become a tradition at the Embassy – the annual dinner to benefit Sasha Bruce Youthwork’s College Preparation and Scholarship Program. On the terrace during cocktails butlers wearing white gloves passed silver trays with glistening flutes of chilly Mumm’s. Dinner was at fairly large round tables but the delicious meal was served in the increasingly rare French style, rather than plated, and the wines were premier cru. It’s impossible to sit there and not wish the walls could talk about other not too distant occasions that included the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, presidents and other royals and dignitaries too many to mention.
On a marble table in the residence's main hall, a woman who needs no introduction, the Queen. The upstairs main hall. To the left is the portico and terrace, to the right ballroom where large dinners are held.
Amb. Sheinwald, Mayor Fenty, Michelle Fenty, Anthony Ross, Denyce Graves, Dr. Robert Montgomery, and Lady Julia Sheinwald.
Sasha Bruce was the daughter of a legendary Washington – and global – couple, Evangeline and David K. E. Bruce. The sensational Bruce family story could fill books – and has – but what’s relevant here is that David was ambassador, among other postings, to Great Britain and was generally, like his ex-brother in law and good friend Paul Mellon, an anglophile throughout his life. The Bruces had three children, Alexandra “Sasha,” David and Nicholas. Nicholas is the only member of the family still alive. David died a year ago in Charlottesville after an illness.

Sasha died in 1975, in a notorious and mysterious incident, after she was found shot in the head outdoors at the family estate in Staunton, Va. At first ruled a suicide, a few years later the case was reopened and Sasha’s Greek businessman husband was charged with murder, but he had fled back to Greece and avoided extradition and prosecution. To honor the memory of her daughter, who did volunteer work with troubled youth, Evangeline donated the funds in 1977 to start what became Sasha Bruce Youthwork, and today it claims to be “one of the largest and most experienced providers of services” to disadvantaged and trouble young people in Washington.
Ekatrina Rozenbaum, Ben Sheinwald, and Lady Julia Sheinwald. Lisa Gunty and Tracy Bernstein.
Deborah Shore was there at the beginning, working with Evangeline as Executive Director of the project, as were Evangeline’s good friends Liz Stevens and Ann Jordan. Liz and Ann are on the board and Liz is its chair. Other board members include Roscoe Dellums, Tracy Bernstein, Tommy and Connie Bruce, Jane Rosenthal Cafritz, Christopher Addison, Chris Simmons, Toby Moffett, Michael Mandel and Capricia Marshall, who is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s designee as Chief of Protocol. So, you can see, it’s a tight, connected and diverse group. For his “day of service” during the inaugural festivities, President-elect Obama chose to visit the Sasha Bruce charter school to help paint walls.

The theme of this year’s fundraiser was “Denyce, Dinner and Diplomas,” the first “D” being opera star Denyce Graves, a Washington native, who donated her after-dinner performance. Her voice soared in the Embassy’s gorgeous ballroom, with its crystal chandeliers, faux Sienna marble columns and Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth over the mantel. Graves’ performance, which included opera and gospel, was moving, but equally so were remarks made by a graduate of Sasha Bruce Youthwork.
Dinner is served.
Anthony Ross stood at the podium and looked into the eyes of the top tier of Washington’s social elite, “Have you ever been homeless, thought about what it would be like to grow up without at least one parent? When I was 16 my social worker introduced me to the only shelter in DC – Sasha Bruce House. I moved in and could study for SATs, got my driver’s license and became a youth advocate. As a result I was able to pursue my dreams and get accepted at college. In my first semester I achieved a 4.0 GPA. I resolved never to go homeless again. Sasha Bruce helped me to become the best man I can be. Sasha Bruce deserves a standing ovation for what they’ve done for youth, especially me!” And with that 106 people rose to their feet and gave Anthony his ovation.
The guests listen to Denyce Graves.
In addition to those mentioned earlier, the guests, some of whom paid upwards of $750 a piece to help raise approximately $130,000 for Sasha Bruce Youthwork included Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Teresa Berger and Travis Brown, Adam Bernstein, Marc and Nancy Duber, Jackie Davies and Kay Kendall, Myra Moffett, Sylvia Ripley, Bitsey Folger and Sidney Werkman, Dwight and Toni Bush, Rhoda Glickman, Margot Hahn, Cynthia Helms, John Irelan, Kevin Chaffee, Polly Kraft, Keith Lerner, Maureen Orth, Mike and Pam Peabody, Mary and Mandell Ourisman, Patricia Sagon, Stuart and Wilma Bernstein, Susan and Donald Rappaport, Molly Raiser, Eden Rafshoon, George Stevens, Jr., Rob Marshall, Suzy Trees, Henry von Eichel, Mei Xu, Riley Temple, Chris Simmons, Sheri Rosenfeld, Marie Ridder, Brie Owen, Christina and Maggie Mangano, Jim Beck, Andrew Athy, Ben Sheinwald and Ekatrina Rozenbaum, Avideh Shashaani and Ken McNeil.
Vanessa and Thomas Reed. Tracy Bernstein, Adam Bernstein, Vanessa Reed, and Thomas Reed.
Lady Julia Sheinwald, James Hudson, and Sasha Bruce Youthworks Foundation Executive Director Deborah Shore look out over the lawn and assembled guests at the British Embassy. Denyce Graves congratulates Sasha Bruce Youthworks Foundation scholarship recipient Anthony Ross.
The Honorable Tommy Wells, Deborah Shore, and Anthony Ross. Jack Davies and Kay Kendall.
John Irelan and Riley Temple. British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald, U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, Lady Julia Sheinwald, and Dr. Rob Marshall.
Bitsey Folger and Liz Stevens. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Polly Kraft.
James Burns, Jane Rosenthal Cafritz, and Deborah Shore Ann Jordan and Liz Stevens.
Deborah Shore and Anne Ashmore-Hudson. Eden Rafshoon, Margot Hahn, and Wilma Bernstein.
George Stevens and Jr. and Beth Dozoretz Capricia Marshall and Lady Julia Sheinwald.
REMEMBERED: BROOKE SHEARER

Saturday at the Maret School there was a memorial service for Brooke Shearer. Perhaps not an instantly recognizable name, but a woman who was well known, loved and respected in Washington. Sherear was a person of many parts; mother, wife, friend, political operative, activist, public servant, writer, organizer and volunteer. In her adult life she was a long-time and close personal aide to Hillary Clinton, especially during the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.

Brooke Shearer
She became head of the White House Fellows program, and in the second Clinton term worked at the Interior Department. Later she was the founding head of the Yale World Fellows program and worked with the Brookings Institution. Shearer’s husband, Strobe Talbott, a former State Department official and journalist, is president of Brookings.

Shearer was 58 years old when she died May 19 at her Washington home. According to Brookings, the cause of death was “liver failure, a complication of her long fight with cancer.” A native of Los Angeles, Shearer was the daughter of Parade Magazine’s Lloyd Shearer, who used the pen name “Walter Scott.” His daughter occasionally wrote for the publication under the name “Connecticut Walker.” Her brothers are her twin, Cody Shearer, and Derek Shearer, a former ambassador to Finland. She and Talbott have two sons, twins Adrian Talbott and Devin Talbott.

A friend who attended the memorial service gave this report: “The service was absolutely packed, for openers. Both President and Secretary Clinton spoke. Also, Justice Stephen Breyer, both sons, and Anne Taylor Fleming, her oldest and best friend since teen years together. A senior at Maret sang … quite beautiful voice. There was a reception at Maret. I think it was exactly as Brooke would have wanted it.”
All photographs by ©James R. Brantley & Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.