Monday, July 13, 2009

Washington Social Diary

Scenes from an interview and two friends cracking each other up. Jane Stanton Hitchcock and Carol Joynt at The Q&A Cafe discuss who's who in Jane's mew "Mortal Friends."
By Carol Joynt

As I sit here writing this story it is 15 hours until I close my business for all time. For forty years, Nathans was Washington’s corner pub, in the heart of Georgetown, hang out for the neighborhood characters, the high rollers, the scoundrels, the dowagers and the party girls, the powerful and famous and, as these stories always say, just plain folks.

Truth is, no one in Washington is “just plain.” Having to close Nathans is sad, but in our business death throes we found out what love looks like in the seemingly heartless nation’s capital.
Goodbye to all that.
The week began with our closing announcement and a $10,000 overdraft at the bank. The tax office called up and said they wanted an immediate $22,000, which was past due from February, or they would put liens on my house, my bank account and Nathans bank account. They made good on that threat. Meanwhile, the landlords expected $15,000, or else they would take me to court and go after my house. Already, I had taken an almost $200,000 loan against my house to get out of the lease. (This is what the recession looks like down on the ground, not up in the skyscrapers of Wall Street).

DPC and Jerome Wiley Segovia at the 94th White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
A customer and NYSD reader, Jerome Wiley Segovia, suggested that if 220 people gave us $100 each we could dig out of the hole and get the city their money, and maybe have some left over for the last rent check.

I took his idea public, was granted a weekend stay of execution by the city, and since then it has been the most heart wrenching and rewarding experience - literally person after person walking in the door with checks made out to Nathans; or the mailman arriving with a stack of envelopes holding checks, ditto FedEx and Express Mail. The contributions started rolling in on Thursday and by Sunday morning we had almost $19,000. The smallest check was $50, the largest $5,000 – and I kiss each one. They are a lifeline, and help to save my house, my only remaining asset after 12 years of trying to keep an inherited small business afloat. In the end Nathans was a victim of so many challenges, but chiefly high rent, changing times and the market crash. Also, we ran it legit, usually the kiss of death in tough times.

Little guys don’t get federal bailouts. Little guys have to go to the people, and in this case the people came through, and it will be the lasting proud legacy of the little pub that almost could. Think of the last ten minutes of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and you’ll know what my Washington week has been like.
The scene at a packed Cafe Milano.
But on a bright note, we hosted our last Q&A Café at Nathans and the guest was just right: Georgetowner (and New Yorker), and friend, author Jane Stanton Hitchcock. We sat on barstools across from each other, before the cameras and audience, to talk about her new high society murder mystery, “Mortal Friends.”

We had a packed house, including good sport Jim Kimsey, who is undeniably the model for her character “Bob Poll,” a mysterious, newly rich, man about town with a taste for women, strip clubs and letting his life be run by others. Even his chauffeur, Kissingeur (“Maxwell”), his number two, Nancy Merritt (“Felicity”) and his ex girlfriend, Holidae Hays (“Melody”) are characters in the book. His signature Bentley, however, has become a Rolls Royce. Jane’s husband, columnist James Hoagland, comes out the best, naturally, as the very cantankerous but wise and charming “Sen. Grider.”
Jane gets a kiss from Susan LaSalla. Jane spent the entire party doing just this ... signing books with her big red pen.
Clockwise from top left: Jane Hitchcock's latest murder mystery takes place in her new hometown, Washington, DC; Jane enjoys a moment of laughter between signings; Alexandra Borchgrave gives her writer friend Jane a hug; Jane signed every book and every book got sold.
I can’t figure out whether characters “Violet and Grant Bolton” are Izette and Neil Folger or George and Liz Stevens, or some combo of the two, but when I suggested this idea to Jane she gave nothing away, only a Cheshire grin. “Roland and Peggy Myers” are clearly Vernon and Ann Jordan. “Gay Harding” is Katharine Graham. “Jean and Sander Herrend” are Jane and Sidney Harman. “Braden Boyd” is Boyden Gray, and, with a lovely turn of name, Carolyn Peachy is “Carmen Appleton.” I’m “Joy Croft.” Even Assistant DC Police Chief Peter Newsham is in the book as “Norman Peterson.” But who in the hell is “Corinna Huff?” Maureen Dowd if she had a husband? Or is she Sally Quinn with a powerful husband? Clever readers will decide.

The most notorious character of the book, one of Jane’s great signature sinister rich girls, is socially carnivorous, boudoir-obsessed home wrecker “Cynthia Rinehart,” who without doubt is based on controversial Washington philanthropist Catherine Reynolds. The word around town is don’t invite Jane and Catherine to the same event. I tried, but Reynolds did not respond. We’ll never know if she’s read the book. However, Kimsey did. Or, at least he says, he had his “reader” read the book for him and give a report.
Mike Peabody, Lisa and Leslie Crawford, David Corn, and Tom Carver.
Lining up to buy "Mortal Friends."
The busy bar at Cafe Milano.
So no surprise that the book sold out after our Q&A, and then again later that evening at Café Milano, where Jane’s official Washington book party drew just about everybody who is still in town this deep into the summer, many of them characters in the book. Some said they hung around just for the party and would be taking off for their summer luxuries immediately after.

If a thinly veiled tell all is measured by whether the author can eat lunch in her hometown again, I would say Jane’s safe for the most part, but she should watch her back on certain days at Milano.
Jane Stanton Hitchcock and Carol Joynt at The Q&A Cafe.
The guests included co-hosts Hoagland and the Jordans, as well as Rima Al-Sabah, Jennifer Barth, Michael Beschloss, George Gregory Boyd, Linda Burgess, Jim Brantley, David and Mary Boies, Sally Bedell Smith and Stephen Smith, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Leslie and Lisa Crawford, David Corn, Tom Carver, Bill Cafritz, Conrad and Ludmilla Cafritz, Dwight and Toni Bush, Bitsy Folger, Amanda Downes, Susan Eisenhower, Janet Donovan, Ina Ginsburg, Anne Groer, Michael Getler, Amb. and Mrs. Fujisaki of Japan, Edie Emery, Nini Ferguson. Len Depas, Comte Renaud de Viel Castle, Alexandra Borchgrave, Richard Braunstein, Juleanna Glover, Sara and John Hagar, Rep. Jane and Sidney Harman, Susan LaSalla, Winston Bao Lord, Emmanuel Lenain, Jim Lehrer, Jane Hechinger, Inga Guen, Capricia Marshall, Topher Mathews, Joe Miller, John Newhouse, Mike Peabody, Bob Schieffer, Lady Sheinwald, Oliver Sheinwald, Brad Ney, Mac McLarty, Dorothy McSweeny, John Walker, John Vardas and Randall Proctor, Miquel Toulier, Liz Stevens, Debra Simon, Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, Aniko Schott, Amb. Klaus Scharioth of Germany, Tim and Dana Rooney, Roxanne Roberts, Alla Rimvurg, Gerald and Eden Rafshoon, and Mark Whitaker.
Buffy Cafritz and Ann Jordan laugh about their characterizations in Jane Hitchcock's book. Topher Mathews, publisher of "The Georgetown Metropolitan" website.
Sally Bedell Smith, Stephen Smith, and James Hoagland. NBC's Mark Whitaker.
Shayne Doty and Judith Terra. Freelance writer and realtor John A. Vardas. Rima Al Sabah.
Inga Guen and son Kip Guen. Two of the main characters in "Mortal Friends," playboy Jim Kimsey and and good friend Ann Jordan, aka Bob Poll and Peggy Myers.
Jim Kimsey and Ben Bradlee. Ludmilla and Conrad Cafritz.
Juleanna Glover and David Corn. Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan.
Dwight Bush and Emmanuel Lenain. Aniko Schott and Nini Ferguson.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.