Monday, June 15, 2009

Washington Social Diary

A closer look at the W Hotel's rooftop bar. The views are spectacular, particularly of the rooftops of Treasury and the White House and the nearby Washington Monument.
By Carol Joynt

The lush green beauty of Washington’s summer belies the mean subtext that erupted in a blaze of gunfire in the heart of the city’s tourist mecca this past week. The headlines went global - a hate-ravaged gunman, an avowed white supremacist, barged into one of the most popular museums off the National Mall, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, apparently intent on causing bloody havoc, killing an African American security guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, before being critically wounded himself by other guards.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Sunday, June 14th, with the flag at half mast.
Business as usual: in the park across the Holocaust Museum, the regular Sunday soccer match.
In a car believed to belong to the gunman, police found notes listing other possible targets, including the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and The Washington Post. While Washington is far more security enhanced since 9/11, it’s still possible for tourists to enjoy a relatively comfortable ease of getting around, especially at the popular museums and monuments. The shooting rattled that peace, perhaps for some time to come, and opened the floodgates of debate about whether the country is threatened by a stewing domestic hate movement of new era “truthers” and “birthers” and old-school anti-Semites and racists. Certain rabble-rousing prophets of the extreme right said “no,” while almost everybody else, including the Department of Homeland Security, said, yes, we’ve got a problem.
The W Hotel/Hotel Washington, as viewed from Pershing Park across the street. Not the candy-striped awning of the rooftop bar. The newly renovated hotel is reportedly owned by the Royal Family of Dubai, who bought it for $150 million. The Hotel Washington, also known as the "W" Hotel. A breakfast scene from "No Way Out" was shot at the rooftop bar. A critical scene from "The Godfather" with was filmed in one of the hotel's rooms - with Diane Keaton and Al Pacino.
Lush and green, Washington in summer. This is the fountain and pond in Pershing Park, a long block from the White House.
A friend and I got our own taste of the tension upon leaving Georgetown’s multiplex late Saturday afternoon. Literally, right out in front, a lone DC policeman stood braced with his gun out and aimed at the driver of a silver SUV stopped in the middle of the street. Amazingly, a crowd gathered. My friend and I quickly took off in the other direction, putting further curiosity aside, as police cars arrived, sirens off but lights whirling. I don’t know whether it was an actual incident or heightened precaution. But it proved this: we’re jumpy here.

Now, on to something far less serious and much more amusing: adorable Owen Wilson, who has become an almost Chauncey Gardiner-like character around Georgetown. He’s here shooting a James L. Brooks film with co-stars Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon. His behavior underscores how movie acting offers lots of down time. He’s been spotted here, there and everywhere, usually solo, and happily liking to watch.

John McCaslin. Photo: Daily FishbowlDC.
For example, having dinner at Café Milano, lunching at adjacent Peacock Café, hitting Bourbon Steak, admiring the menu outside Mendocino Grill; crashing a Georgetown book party for columnist John McCaslin’s “Weed Party” – begging the question, was it the title and cannabis illustrated cover that drew him in? Then he took a wee field trip to Charlottesville, Va., for a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, where, according to The Washington Post, he had a celebrity “meet cute” with superstar chef Alice Waters. What could they have discussed? Fancy meeting you here?

Back in Georgetown, again alone, he sat at the round table in the big picture window of Georgetown Cupcake devouring two whole cupcakes – a red velvet and a chocolate raspberry. Gotta love a movie star who’s not worried about the carbs and sugar. But I want to know? When’s he actually shooting the movie?

The party invites are dwindling to a welcomed and manageable few on the eve of the summer doldrums, when the pace goes from warp speed to gentle flutter. This past week there was a chatty lunch of the ladies-who-lunch variety – for which I had to take an oath not to report – but I’ll tell you this much: Washington’s top parlor game is about to be who’s who in Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s new murder mystery, “Mortal Friends.” It hits bookstores June 30, with A-list launch parties in New York and Washington.

This time around Jane’s New York friends are unscathed, but here in the capital, there are gonna be all kinds of twisted knickers among certain ambitious social types and the few rich men who like to be frisky hound dogs.
The W logo.
Then there was the party for the new “W” Hotel, which opens to the public next month at the site of the grand old Hotel Washington, a sentimental favorite of almost anyone who has lived or worked here in the past many decades. It had – and hopefully will still have – one of the most spectacular rooftops anywhere, with al fresco seating for food and drink. (Check out the beginning of Kevin Costner’s “No Way Out” for the breakfast scene shot there.)

The party was not at the new hotel, but at the company’s large and stripped down Georgetown office space. They filled it with a bar, a lounge, tables and chairs, a deejay and, new to me at a cocktail party, make-up stations where guests could get touched up or made over.
The W party was held in a Georgetown space that once was a retail store, but now used by the hotel as an employment office. The spring rolls.
Not that makeovers were needed at this party, because the guest list focused on the attractive young social crowd, rather than the geezers, and everybody looked ready for their photo op. What was the talk? Summer, summer plans, summer fun, getting out of town, not getting out of town, not having any money, hoping to have money again soon, and concern the bar might run out of vodka. Though, speaking of money, Jim Kimsey revealed he had lunch with an agent and a publisher about the possibility of putting his success story – there at the profitable beginning of AOL – into book form. “People have been coming to me about this for a while. Maybe its time,” he said. Then Jim, and the pretty young things with whom he arrived, departed into the summer night.

The W Hotel opens July 8. Note to its owners: please don’t mess up the rooftop bar.
Roby Penn, Robert Sabin, and Holidae Hayes. Aryan Raeisian and David Kianni.
Akoko Jacqueline and Vanessa Payne. Lydia and Scott Logan. Charlies Bailey and Akoko Jacqueline.
Kelly Fredrick, Michelle Thomas, and Holly Thomas. Christy Chang and Claudia Kim.
Erica Rios and Tom Melody. Ed Baten, Steve Marks, Julie Ferrell, and Bridget Hess.
Why do your make-up before the party when you can get it done at the party?
Andrea Baker and Gavin McLeman. Sarah Hamlett, Jennifer Jones, and Kelly Meade.
Janet Seminario and Wil Galvez. Pretty women: Ashley Prime, Rochelle Behrens, Jessica Gibson, and Pamela Sorensen.
Gail McClung and Jim Ballas enjoy martinis and each other. Melissa Kuipers and Tara Engel.
Lynly Boor, Roby Penn, and Holidae Hayes. Brad Heller and Daniel Simms.
Jim Kimsey and Lynly Boor. Chillin' and chattin' at the W Hotel party.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.