Monday, August 17, 2009

Washington Social Diary

James Ginty charms his way across the table at Bourbon Steak.
By Carol Joynt

Facebook is not my main street of communication, but I cruise it from time to time, not to report I just brushed my hair or brewed a cup of tea, but to network my work. However, the other day, on a whim, I wrote, “…off to have lunch with James Francis Ginty, which should be fun and so out of the norm for Washington.” Moments later a comment appeared: “OMG, James Ginty is so HOTTTT!!!!!” That put a spring in my step as I headed to the Four Seasons Hotel.

Yes, the Four Seasons, home of just about the priciest eatery in town, Bourbon Steak. I gave James a choice of three restaurants and he chose Bourbon Steak, which should have been my first clue that this young man had the DNA of a politician as well as an actor: when given a choice of meals, always choose the steak. Politicians flow that way because, they’ll tell you, “Who knows when I’ll eat again?” Actors, especially young-and-on-the-rise actors, face the same uncertainty.
Once we slid into a cozy booth James (and yes, at 6’ 1”, lean and blond, he’s certifiably HOTTTT!!!) took charge and ordered oysters for both of us, and they were delicious – briny morsels of ocean air. We had white gazpacho, which turned out to be green and creamier than expected. James had his steak, I had shrimp salad “Louie” and we shared a fruit panna cotta for dessert. Through it all we got to know each other, but his first order of business was the need to learn my birth date. “Ah, you’re a Cancer,” said James, the Sagittarius. This meant we were opposites but, according to astrology, “able to generate positive energy.” A fair enough assessment of our few hours together.
James Ginty, hotel lover. His global favorites, so far, are The Greenbrier in West Virginia, the Halekulani in Hawaii, and the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa. James Ginty regards the twinkly ceiling of the Four Seasons "Royal Suite."
James gives a knock to the suite's bullet-proof glass windows.
The political part of James is not an exaggeration. In fact, during the recent presidential campaign it overlapped with his acting career. While in Boston being an actor, co-starring with Bruce Willis in “Surrogates,” which opens next month, he also volunteered as an intern in Washington for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The film’s producers and director accommodated his schedule of commuting back and forth on the Acela express. “I love the train,” he said. “I love the train.” It gave him time to change gears. “I went from being on set in Boston and having people ask, ‘Mr. Ginty, what kind of coffee can we get you?’ to being in Washington and, ‘Ginty, get me a coffee!’”
James in “Surrogates.” Photo: Stephen Vaughan.
Washington is not an unknown part of the world for James, and is actually the real reason he chose lunch at The Four Seasons. His mother lives in the capital, he grew up here from a very young age, after his parents divorced, and when the family of three would reunite “they brought me here for afternoon tea, and those are special memories.”

His parents, Robert Ginty and Francine Tacker, at the time both actors, met in Los Angeles while shooting the 70s era TV series, “The Paper Chase.”

Francine became a teacher – coincidentally, at the Sidwell Friends School, where the Obama girls are students – and Robert built a long and impressive theatrical resume, including many TV roles and good parts in films like “Coming Home,” “Bound for Glory,” “Exterminator,” and “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.”
James Ginty, delighted to find "Catcher in the Rye" on the bookshelf of the "Royal Suite's" private office.
James on the "Royal Suite's" open deck. The deck in full. Attention TMZ: the Royal Suite's deck is easily observed from across the street.
James, contemplating the "Royal" bathtub.
What that meant to James was an early exposure to acting, directing and writing, as he often joined his father on location. That is, when he wasn’t getting in trouble in lower school in Bethesda, Md., doing two years at the Valley Forge Military Academy (“actually, in part, to play polo”), and then finding his niche in high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, which he called “extraordinary.”

James moved on to Juilliard, but checked out early when he was cast in the Harrison Ford film “K-19: The Widowmaker,” which catapulted him into the company of his childhood hero, “Indiana Jones,” as well as the tutelage of a fascinating director, Kathryn Bigelow. James has no dearth of fascinating people in his life. He now considers Bruce Willis an important mentor – “he loves actors” – joining his friend, Annette Bening, who grew up with his mother. When I asked him what Bening has taught him about surviving and thriving in the acting business, he said, “That’s easy. Pass it forward.”
Brad and Angelina (and Oprah) slept here. Do we or don't we jump on the bed?
The "Royal Suite's" expansive living room.
Our gracious Four Seasons "tour guide," head of public relations, Liliana Baldasarri, illustrates the sophisticated light switch. The view upon exiting the "Royal Suite's" main entrance. Other bedrooms, and even hallways, can be closed off to expand the suite's size, and cost.
In the new film James plays a bad guy, though, he said, “as an actor there are no bad guys. That’s for the audience to decide.” He liked the part because it appealed to his interest in playing “people who are driven to difficult choices. The character is driven by grief.” He, his agent and manager consider it “a star-making role.” It might help if stardom gives him a break until spring, so he can finish his senior year at UCLA, where he’s majoring in history.

James loves history and he loves travel, and he’s also a “hotel lover. One of my first questions contractually is, ‘Where’s my hotel?’” So he didn’t mind at all when the Four Seasons offered us a tour of their new “Royal Suite,” which wags call the “Brangelina Suite,” since it is the first choice of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when they are in Washington. For a cool $12,000 a night (before taxes), the guests’ get one bedroom, one very large living room, a dining room with bullet proof glass, a gym, a catering kitchen, a large deck (in full view of the apartments across the street, so not so bullet proof), and a secret private street entrance that avoids the main lobby.
For $12,000 a night, the keeper of the key to the Four Seasons "Royal Suite" gets a private secret exit to the street. The secret unmarked "Royal Suite" street door, a discreet distance from the Four Seasons main lobby.
James was delighted with the tour, especially a moment in the small office adjacent to the master bedroom. On the bookshelf he found “Catcher in the Rye.” He lit up as he flipped through the pages, “J.D. Salinger also attended Valley Forge Military Academy. When I was at VF my father sent me the book which quickly became my favorite.”

James is dating no one in particular at the moment, but here’s some free guidance for future companions: he grooves to a good hotel room. “Especially on location,” he said. “You need a beautiful place to come home to, to be artistically free. It gives you emotional security.” If we hadn’t been accompanied by a minder I’m certain we would have kicked off our shoes and jumped up and down on the king sized Brangelina bed. Maybe when it’s James suite, and he’s here shooting some Washington blockbuster, he’ll invite me back.
Just another midday in Washington. At the end of lunch and the tour, in the Four Seasons lobby, James Ginty bumps into MSNBC chief Phil Griffin, and "Meet the Press" host, David Gregory.
Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: