Monday, January 11, 2010

Power, Provenance, Means & Discretion

Guests at the preview night of The Washington Antiques Show.
Power, Provenance, Means & Discretion
by Carol Joynt

It would be helpful to say Washington sprinted back into action after the holidays, but no matter how much we try to act northern, this is a southern town and like the birds and the bugs and the fish in the ponds, we go dormant in cold weather. Mother Nature hit hard with what CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid called “Global Freezing.”

Washington’s “Cave Dwellers” are a stoic group, though, and, even more than the Post Office, aggressively undaunted by any form of weather. A mash-up of old money, Grand Dames and the men who walk them, and the Chevy Chase club set, they launched the post-holiday social season Thursday evening with the unveiling of the 55th Washington Antiques Show at the Katzen Center for the Arts. Last year it was virtually a tropical rainstorm that greeted the preview party, washing out the dinner tent. This year it was sub-freezing temperatures and a forecast of snow. Co-chairs Hannah Cox and Skippy Miller didn’t bother with a tent.
The 55th Washington Antiques Show's theme was "Flights of Fancy."
Dressed to party at the preview night of The Washington Antiques Show.
Beautiful flowers made a cold night seem light spring.
Doing the math.
There were actually two parties that spanned the Antiques Show weekend. The lively opening party Thursday, which included a buffet dinner, and then another, a cocktail reception Saturday evening for the “new” (meaning younger) collectors, which was anything but robust in terms of attendance. The Saturday party struck me because back in the day – 70s, 80s and early 90s - the young collectors had a heavily attended dinner dance. What happened?

My smart friend Elizabeth Powell, a quintessential young collector, provided a wise answer: “Could it be, in the age of Pottery Barn and Ikea, there isn't the appreciation for the quality and provenance of antiques among the younger set? The mentality of why pay more for something ‘used’ when I can pay less for something I can assemble at home? Also, people don't really collect like they used to; even with little or barely-there funds, people used to collect linens, silver, books, pretty porcelain, etc. It wasn't necessarily a sign of great wealth. Now, no one has time or the interest to collect - too busy.”
Ben DuPuy, Jeff Powell, and Andrew Travers.
One of the young collectors, Scott Anderson, with the youngest collector, his one-month-old son, Lars. Amy and Bret Baier, host of FOX News "Special Report."
A pair of 19th century Fiske cast-iron Newfoundland dogs from Roberto Freitas of Stonington, CT.
Who could resist those eyes? From Charles L. Washburne Antiques, Solebury, PA. A late 19th century French cast iron Eagle from G. Sergeant Antiques of Woodbury, CT.
It echoed what I heard from another smart friend, and a sponsor and veteran of the opening night preview party, Ellen MacNeille Charles, who said, “I am afraid old brown furniture is out for the moment.”

Both women nailed it.

The Thursday preview party was definitely the A ticket. The old guard showed up, paying either $500 or $250 per person for the privilege of getting a first look at the goods from forty-four dealers in a show themed “Flights of Fancy.” They were warmed by a jazz combo and multiple bars throughout the three floors of exhibition space; also, a hearty and tasty buffet from Susan Gage Caterers.
A video tour of the preview party for the 55th Washington Antiques Show, with Susan Gage Caterers bringing in the food and the honorary chairman, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, making his rounds.
Everyone seemed to be in a partying mood. The evening started early and ran late. I don’t know if there was a lot of buying – serious collectors tend to return the next day for buying – but there was much eating, drinking and catching up.

What was talked about?

One well-informed guest whispered to me that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is about to quit his job to move back to Illinois to run against Sen. Roland Burris. We’ll see.
Busting the post-New Year diet: tiny grilled ham & cheese sandwiches; A green bean and apple salad from from Susan Gage Caterers; Delicate sponge cake.
The party offered two kinds of tables: stand up, or sit down.
Ellen Charles, Elizabeth Powell, Myra Moffett, and CJ.
Others talked about the memorial service earlier in the day to honor Smith Bagley, who died Saturday, January 2, from a stroke. He was 74-years-old. Bagley would probably want to be remembered foremost as a father and husband and loyal Democrat, but he was notably an heir to R.J. Reynolds, and used his fortune generously in the service of Democratic candidates he believed in – Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, to name a few at the top.

Bagley arrived in Washington in 1977 with a glittering social bang, at the beginning of the Carter Administration, and never left or let up on his enthusiasm for the political game. His Georgetown (and Nantucket and St. Simons Island) political fundraisers and policy dinners were legendary. Kevin Chaffee, who works with Bagley’s daughter, Nancy, at her Washington Life magazine, said President Clinton’s extemporaneous, 20-minute eulogy was “extraordinary.”

Smith Bagley, along with everything else, was an authentic socialite, if you accept the premise that being a blooded member of Washington society is based on power, provenance, means and discretion. Which brings us to another topic of discussion at the Washington Antiques Show: Politico’s list of the new “leaders of the pack” of social Washington. It was published Wednesday and instantly emailed around at the velocity of a wild fire with subject lines like: “OMG! Have you seen this???”
Old Lyme, CT's Oriental Rugs, Ltd.
"Lion Aquamanile," German, Circa 1400, at Michael Whitman Antiques of Port Washington, PA.
A 19th Century toy cradle with patchwork quilt at G. Sergeant Antiques of Woodbury, CT.
Discovered at the booth of R. M. Worth Antiques of Chadds Ford, PA.
To the Cave Dweller class, who are fundamental Washington society, the list was a mystery or simply the focus of some guffawing. It listed ten young women, who in an earlier era would have been known as “party girls,” but thanks to blogging, networking and the modern trend of bold self-promotion, are a new breed of not really “society” so much as social professionals, or So-Pro’s. With a combo of unabashed ambition and entrepreneurial pluck, they’ve made social life into a paycheck, a new business model where Paris Hilton is the prototype. They pitch, they promote, they organize, they show up, they blog about it and they get paid for being, well, themselves.

Here’s the list: Kate Michael, Angie Goff, Amanda Polk, Katherine Kennedy, Anna Kimsey, Pamela Sorenson, Andrea Rodgers, Courtney Caldwell, Ashley Taylor, Kelly Ann Collins.

I know most but not all of the young women. I see them out a lot. A lotta lot. We should all be taking their vitamins. They are, to a one, energetic, enthusiastic, hard-working and generous, and almost always smiling into a camera lens, often in the service of one charity or another.
A touch of spring from Dawn Hill Antiques.
Dealer Roberto Freitas of Stonington, CT, wearing his "new" collectors night drink beads. From George Subkoff Antiques, an English Queen Anne walnut wing chair with "exceptional shape." Circa 1710. Price: $35,000.
The clipper ship "Reindeer" off Manila Harbor, 1852, at Running Battle Antiques of Newagen, ME.
Former Virginia Senator John Warner. Former Virginia Senator John Warner studies a book at the booth of William Hutchison of Mendenhall, PA.
If anything in the Politico story made me laugh out loud it was the first sentence, which declared, “Washington may never again see a day when a few Grande Dames in Georgetown rule the social scene.” Like it or not, Georgetown is as much as ever the hub of Washington society. As old Grande Dames wither and fade, new Grande Dames rise up in the ranks, with a Georgetown address and the quiet clout of power, provenance, means and discretion. Perhaps that’s why Politico’s owner, banking and communications scion Robert Allbritton, bought himself the grandest mansion in the village.

Some of the folks at the Washington Antiques Show preview party were: David Abshire, Norman Asher, Royanne Chipps Bailey, Louise Beale, Jane Dana and David Aufhauser, C. Tucker Battle, Sr., Clark Bavin, Gretchen Birkle, Winnie Blatchford, Myra Moffett, Douglas Nellis Beatty, Ruth Buchanan, Wiley T. Buchanan III, I. Townsend Burden III, Linda Courie, Murray Belman, A.G.W. Biddle, Weedie and Roger Block, Mongatue Blundon III, Mimi Conger, Helen Burnett, Elizabeth Cantcuzene, Jane-Scott Cantus, Jay Adams, Peter Driscoll, Elizabeth Powell, Louise and Bill Eaton, Steven B. Gewirz, Peggy and Jim Graeter, Barbara Gordon, Patrick Gross, Thomas U. Dudley II, Rosemary and Bill Dircks, Morgan Delaney, Sally Davidson, Martha Crosland, Philip and Sara Davis, Daniel Dowd, Celia Greenberg, Diana and Stephen Goldberg, Outerbridge and Georgina Horsey.
Matching Staffordshire "Horse and Foal" at the Janice Paull booth.
A summery suite of stick wicker at Antique American Wicker of Nashua, NH.
Offered by W. M. Schwind, Jr., "Heavy Seas" by Constance Cochrane (1888-1962), one of two painted by the artist.
Also at Schwind, "Desert Cloud," by William Galen Doss (1873-1957).
A pin for every occasion.
At Busch & Fielding of Saint Joseph, Mo., a 19th Century American cast iron urn filled with antique copper molds.
More: Cindy Jones, Martha Westin Johnson, Marjorie Hulgrave, Harry Marshall, Jr., Sandy Langdon, John Arundel, Susan Kasper, John Peters Irelan, James M. Johnston III, Malcolm Matheson III, Richard Mattingly, Jr., Tim and Jane Matz, Camilla McCaslin, Frederick and Diana Prince, Philippus Miller, Pollyance B. Mitchell, Robert L. Montague IV, Theodore Proxmire, Diane and Peter Schaefer, Emil Ruderfer, Nicholas Ruffin, B. Francis Saul II, Carol Baxter Somerville, Wendy Somerville Wall, Kevin Chaffee, Kyle Samperton, Haas Wallace, Paul S. Van Nice, Edward Symes II, W. Swift Martin III, Maj. Gen. James G. Randolph, Malcolm M.B. Sterrett, Howard W. Smith III, Aimee Whitelaw, Curtin and Deborah Winsor, Ken and Dorothy Woodcock, Roslyn D. Young, Richard and Amy Zantzinger.
Michael Herrald, Cornelius Kerwin, Skippy Miller, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, Hannah Cox and Forrest Pragoff.
Tutti Webster, Sally Kaltmann of Sallea Antiques, and Jocelyn Linke.
Alan and Kim Summerville with Anne Saer Driscoll. Diana Goldberg and Helen Curtin.
Linda Mattingly, Patricia Montague, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, the show's honorary chairman; Catherine Nottingham, and Betsy Nottingham.
One Stop Health Shopping

For years I’ve heard about executive health and fitness programs that typically were handed out by big companies and corporations to their top officers and other management types. The appeal? It’s a one or two day marathon at a major hospital, and when it’s done the patient has touched the bases of all the necessary annual medical markers.

There’s an “exit” interview, a comprehensive “report card,” follow-ups, if needed, are recommended, but otherwise over and out.

Doctors at The Greenbrier Clinic.
The Executive Health doctors at Ohio State Univ.
I have friends who have used these programs at the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and The Greenbrier Resort, but they are also offered at a range of nationally known medical centers, such as Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Stanford’s Menlo Clinic, Ohio State University Medical Center, and even at spas like Canyon Ranch.

The package cost can range from moderate to high, depending on the chosen menu of services, but the average is in the area of $2000 to $2500 (and not usually covered by insurance).

Apart from the luxury price tag, why should these comprehensive health programs be limited to corporate executives? Do you get a better physical or better medical treatment? No, not necessarily. What you do get is all-embracing medical attention, making for efficient use of valuable time.

The Duke Executive Health Program asks, “Have a busy and hectic lifestyle?”

I’d say the universal answer is, “yes.”

They also ask: “Need more time to take care of yourself?”

Don’t we all?

Last week, to start the New Year, I took a comprehensive executive health check-up at a large metropolitan hospital. The hospital did not want its name used, so I’ll call it Big City Hospital, or BCH.
The Duke Health Program's Center
for Living.
The Duke's Executive Health waiting area Health Program's Center for Living.
It was one of the smartest health choices I’ve made in ages. This program may not have been the most luxurious or expensive – there are some that match checking into a 3-star Michelin hotel – but I was evaluated by a team of top flight doctors, the day went smoothly and fast, and I was always under the same roof. Typically, when its time for my annual check-ups, it’s a scheduling nightmare that adds up to at least a week of visiting doctors all over town.

A few weeks in advance of the physical they contacted me with the base menu, which is eyes, ears, bones, blood, lungs, skin, nutrition and, as a woman, mammogram and a gynelogical exam. Since it’s all about YOU, the menu can be crafted and added to as you wish or need. For example, many people add a cardio stress test or a colonoscopy.

Canyon Ranch boats of "renowned health experts" who are available for comprehensive physicals.
An "executive health program" room at Johns Hopkins.
Next I was FedEx’d a range of forms to fill out, where I outlined my full medical history and signed all necessary permissions.

The day of my physical I arrived at the hospital at 8:30 in the morning to be greeted by a cheerful and dedicated escort, who had a folder with all my information and my schedule. He led me from appointment to appointment. At each exam he checked me in. I was seen rather promptly and when I was done there was no check out. He simply walked me to my next appointment. At lunchtime I was taken to a private dining area and served a meal I chose earlier – cottage cheese, steamed vegetables, fresh fruit – while I watched CNN and caught up on some email.

In the afternoon I had a couple more appointments and then met with the doctor who served as the “captain” of the team of doctors who evaluated me. In addition to examining me, we had a long, thoughtful talk about my medical history. The same doctor followed up with me the next day, analyzing the results of the blood work and other tests. Never before have I had this information so fast.

Some executive health programs take two days, especially those that include special testing. BCH, like other major hospitals, has a hotel facility available. This is where the lavish Greenbrier Resort has an advantage – it is hotel and medical facility. Their brochure says, “Visitors to the Clinic have ample time to enjoy all of the resort's luxurious amenities – among them the three championship golf courses and tennis facilities, the Greenbrier Spa, and the renowned Greenbrier cuisine.”

Cuisine? Yes, so long as your “executive” colonoscopy is not the next morning.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: caroljoynt.com.