Friday, October 9, 2009

Washington Social Diary - Signs

Candlelight dinner before the ball: Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom welcomes his guests.
by Carol Joynt

Since the early weeks after the January inauguration, I’ve searched for signs of the Obama Administration. I know President Barack Obama is in the White House, that his appointees are in the Cabinet and running the government. I see him and First Lady Michelle Obama on television, on the web and in the newspapers, I read about Social Secretary Desiree Rogers and Senior Advisor Valerie Jerrett showing up here and there, but what I could not find were signs of the Obama oomph in the city’s general social life – at least not until the Meridian Ball.

Was it the saucy Swedish ambassador’s wife, who greeted her pre-ball dinner guests swathed in serious tangerine with décolletage? That’s new and refreshing, especially as she talked at dinner about how, on any day, she’d rather be out riding a good horse at top speed. I hope the other 39 Embassy dinners were as intimate, delicious and lively as the one tossed by Amb. Jonas Hafstrom and Eva Hafstrom. By our third wine, a Chateau Saint-Michel Sauternes, there were many proclamations of "Skål."
Eva Hafstrom, the wife of the Swedish Ambassador. A hostess enjoying her own dinner party, Eva Hafstrom.
After the dessert course of Sorbet of Honey Crisp Apples, with Fudge, Spicy Crumble and Foam.
Jeannie Rutherfoord listens to her dinner partner.
Swedish Amb. Jonas Hafstrom and Phillip Melville. Swedish Embassy chef Martin Johansson served a three course meal that included Tenderloin of Lamb on a bed of pureed of Roasted Carrot and Shallots with Red Wine Sauce.
Coffee after dinner in the Ambassador's salon.
The Ambassador leans in to Rep. Doris Matsui. Tom Rutherfoord, Rep. Doris Matsui and Amb. Jonas Hafstrom.
Or was it jovial Panamanian Ambassador Jaime Aleman and his wife, who invited a whole bunch of us into their limo for the ride from the Swedish residence across town to Meridian House. One of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top advisor’s, Reta Jo Lewis, and her brother, Charlie Lewis, knew how to raise the roof. Our raucous behavior in the limo put me in a time warp; could it be 1978 and we were either going to or coming from Studio 54? Rarely has such a mixed bag of Washingtonians laughed at so many bawdy jokes.

Maybe that’s why the evening worked so well there was a sense of abandon. Meridian House also had a Studio-ish vibe – minus the basement hijinx – with the city’s rich and powerful actually getting their boogie oogie oogie on. People didn’t just dance a dance, they danced lots of dances, throwing their hands in the air, pouring sweat, knocking back a shot or champagne and dancing some more. Someone asked, “Is this Animal House?” Not quite, but it was a step up in the pace for social Washington.
Diplomatic relations in the limo: The Panamanian Ambassador and his wife and Reta Jo Lewis of the State Department.
Top and bottom: More action in the back of the limo; Charlie Lewis and Jeannie Rutherfoord also enjoying a fun limo ride. Right: Brother and Sister Charlie and Reta Jo Lewis at the door to Meridian House.
No one was tardy for this party. It was jammed with 600 revelers. Official types like OMB Director Peter Orszag, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, and Deputy White House social secretary Ebs Burnough; Hill types like Reps. Ed Royce and Bart Gordon; media darlings like Jonathan Capehart, Howard Fineman and Amy Nathan, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth; show biz glamour from actress Kerry Washington, and social princes and princesses like Jack Davies and Kay Kendall, Jack and Susanna Quinn, Reg and Joe Stettinius, Mark Ein, and Juleanna Glover. The party rocked on till 1 a.m., which is three hours past Washington’s official bedtime.

It was my first Meridian Ball and maybe they all are like that, but regulars told me, “no,” this one was different. They said credit “must” go to Beth Dozoretz, the ball chair, who cleverly imported a New York deejay, DJ Pitch One (Patrick Mondjo), as well as having the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra in another corner of the handsome hilltop mansion. There were bars in every direction, desserts in every direction, and smiling faces that seemed for a moment to be distracted from carrying around the weight of the world, which, for many of them, is a day and night job.
Tom and Jeannie Rutherfoord, upon arrival at the Meridian Ball. Ludmilla and Conrad Cafritz.
James Spellman, Maria Aleman, Reta Jo Lewis, Amb. Jaime Aleman.
Smile! Elizabeth Bagley.
The next afternoon I, or what was left of me, went to the Watergate – yes, that Watergate – for an afternoon champagne soiree at the expansive apartment of Reggie Van Lee who, in addition to being an Obama insider, and a product of MIT and Harvard, is also a top dawg at Booz Allen Hamilton with homes in Washington, Houston, the Hamptons and Manhattan. He also finds time for major philanthropy, supporting a number of groups, particularly in the arts.

The party was for VelocityDC and the Evidence Dance Company, for which Lee is board chairman, and the guests included some of the same people who were up late at the Meridian Ball the night before. Lee and Daren Thomas of the Washington Performing Arts Society greeted people at the door with hugs and kisses, made sure they got a flute of icy bubbles, and then aimed them to the wide open doors and the long, long terrace with views of the Potomac River in both directions plus the Kennedy Center next door. The refreshing early autumn breeze and sunshine were made for that terrace and that view. Reggie said he likes living at the Watergate, because with his love of the arts, good entertainment is just a walk across the street.
Guests arriving at the Meridian Ball.
Dancing old school to the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra.
Dancing to the magic of DJ Pitch One. For a night, forgetting the weight of the world.
Taking a break from the dancing.
So, now for the guest lists. Here’s some of the people who were at the Meridian Ball: Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty, Robin and Susan Baker, Stuart Bernstein, Adam and Trace Bernstein, Charles and Wendy Block, Walter and Didi Cutler, Jim and Patti Doyle, Huda and Samia Farouki, Danny and Mirelle Levinas, Mark Penn and Nancy Jacobson, Victor and Julia Tolkan, Wallace Holladay, Morton and Grace Bender, Bruce Bradley, Carol and David Pensky, Rep. James and Jean Oberstar, Ronald Dozoretz, Michael and Debbie Salzberg, Paul and Jean-Marie Fernandez, Colvin and Mary Ellen Matheson, Jon Molot and Hattie Ruttenberg, Rachel Tinsley Pearson, Jim Johnson and Maxine Isaacs, Togo West, Debra Lee, Charles Di Bona, Lloyd and Ann Hand, Mary and Mandell Ourisman, Suzanne Duvall and John Russell Gill, Tom Nides and Virginia Mosley, Jim Valentine and Kathy Kemper, Peter Kovler, James Bankoff, Conrad and Ludmilla Cafritz, Paul Zevnik and Ginny Grenham, Tim Kernan and Lee Cohen, Maria-Elena Tierno, Amy Argetsinger, Ann Walker Marchant, Tommy Wells, Rep. Doris Matsui, Roberta Jacobson, John Bellinger, Neil Turkewitz ...

Lucky Roosevelt, Tom Downey and Carol Browner, Lee Sachs, Ron Klain, Ann Trenolone, Susan Schwab, Gladys Baluda, Rochelle Lipsitz, Patrick Kennedy, Alina Romanowski, John Beaver, Jane Mayer, Carmen Suro-Bradie, Marc Nathanson, Geoff Morrell, Terrell McSweeny, Shaun Donnelly, Nancy-Ann DeParle, Jerry Dutkewhych and Bohdana Urbanovych, Alma Candelaria, Michael Ferrell and Suzanne Aton, Matthew Kennedy, Carmen DeSenne, Dale Lefebvre, Douglas Boggs, Brady Arundel, Alisha Johnson and Todd Hathaway, Doug MaGuire and Savannah Guthrie, Philip Dufour, James Spellman, Aleta Spitaleri, Ina Ginsburg, Shelby Scarbrough and Tom Del Beccaro, Adam Jones and Joan Lamason, Susan Ascher and Paul Kalb, Katti Knowledge and Brooke Christopher, Seth Schermer and Joshua Siegel, William Taft IV and Judith Richardson, Randall Brater and Erin Barnes, Karen Maples and John Williams, Kurt Sodee and Erin Koepke.
David Stark, who designed the Meridian Ball, with ball chair Beth Dozoretz.
Charlie Wilson, James Spellman and Jonathan Capehart.
Michael Chertoff at the dessert table. Jack and Susanna Quinn.
Charles Vincent and Mickey Thompson. The Afghanistan Ambassador, Said Jawad and his wife, Shamim.
Among those on the guest list at Reggie Van Lee’s: Jay Hammer, Marianna Grey, Aileen Richards and Russell Jones, Joe Briggs and Will Wilder, Shigegko Bork, Gigi Winston, Debra Lee, Gina Adams, Hans and Josie Bruland, Jake and Veronica Jones, Jackie Chalkley and Wayne Calloway, Reta Jo Lewis, Shirley Marcus Allen, Ethan Carson, Phillipa Hughes, Greg Albright, Ronald K. Brown, Arcell Cabuag, Clarice Young, Lilli-Anne Tai, Tiffany Quinn, Francine Ott, Waldean Nelson, Rasheed Thompson, Sule Adams, Donovan Herring, Sule Adams, Lola West and Fanuel Motsepe, William Clifford, Pamela Terry James, Annie Totah, Keith Harley, Joe and Kendra Briggs.
One of the dessert tables.
Baked Alaska on a stick.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: