Monday, April 26, 2010

Washington Social Diary

The top of the first as the sun sets and fans start to arrive for Washington vs Los Angeles at Nationals Park. I ended the week in the best possible way, with my first game of the season (Nats 5, Dodgers 1).
by Carol Joynt

For people who are social or who are, like me, professionally social, spring is the Christmas season but with rhododendron and dogwood in bloom. In other words parties stack up on top of each other, an embarrassment of invitations. The urge is to do them all, but it’s not possible. So you pick and choose and hope to make the right choices.

Thankfully, here in Washington, some event hosts invite me to bring a friend. With a friend along, the whirl becomes more fun, a shared adventure, strategically timing each drop by, dinner, performance, and after-party. The pace is dizzying. You bump into people you haven’t seen in ages and yearn to catch up but there’s no time, or the room is loud and you can’t hear. A hug. A photo. A trail of barely sipped cocktails is left behind, and, as with the high calorie canapés, it’s important to keep track just how many.

Late afternoon turns to twilight, twilight to dark and then its midnight and time for Cinderella to leave the ball, hang up her little black dress, get a good night’s sleep and start over.

Here are just some of highlights of the past spring week in Washington.
Guests arriving at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for N Street Village's annual gala.
N Street Village: At the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, my NYSD colleague Ned Brown and I dropped by the annual gala for N Street Village, a social services agency that provides shelter and support to homeless women in the Washington area. Multiple bars to the quench the routine after-work thirst, tasty hors d’oeuvres, good music.

The Honorary Chair was Carol Wheeler. The guests included current and former members of the House and Senate: Patrick Kennedy, Ben Nelson, Tom Daschle, Jim Ramstad, John Tanner, Paul Hodes, Jack Reedy. The awardees included Elaine Webber, Joe Horning, Barbara Parker and Carlita Walker. According to Allison Putala, with the help of a “mystery donor” who matched the money raised in a raffle, the gala raised $644,050 – not bad in a recession.
The pre-dinner cocktail party.
Former Rep. Jim Ramstad presents Rep. Patrick Kennedy with the "Founders Award."
Awardees Elaine Webber, Barbara Parker, and Carlita Walker.
D.C. City Council member Jim Graham. Honoree Joe Horning with his wife, Lynne Horning.
Rep. Dennis Moore with Betty Ann Tanner and Rep. John Tanner.
Rep. Paul Hodes, Peggo Hodes, Betty Ann Tanner, and Rep. John Tanner.
Caroline Croft and Ned Brown.
Caroline Croft. Anna Lazlo.
Tom Daschle.
Mary and Alex Barth. Kara Kennedy.
Rep. Tom Moran of Virginia. Janet Donovan.
Tom and Carol Wheeler.
Allison and Chris Putala. Sen. Ben Nelson.
The jazzy entertainment during cocktails. The table setting up close.
The Mandarin Hotel's ballroom before the N Street Village dinner began.
The Apollo Theater – Well, not literally the Apollo Theatre, but the opening of a culturally uplifting Smithsonian exhibition - “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How The Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment.” The party was hosted by American History Museum director Brent Glass.

His guests, especially those of a certain age, stared sentimentally at Sammy Davis, Jr.’s childhood tap shoes, dresses that were worn by The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald and Celia Cruz; Elvis Costello’s glasses, and Michael Jackson’s fedora, among many other totems of the Apollo’s 75 years. Guests at the party included actress and singer Leslie Uggams, dancer Savion Glover, Jonelle Procope, head of the Apollo Theater Foundation, and Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
National Museum of American History at party time on a beautiful night.
Its like arriving at the Apollo itself. American History Museum Director Brent Glass welcoming guests to the Apollo Theater exhibition opening.
The way up to the party and the exhibition.
Scanning the photos and memorabilia I recalled my own indelible memory of a first visit to the Apollo.

Brand new in New York, 21 years old, my editors at Time sent me to cover an event at the theater on 125th Street. I was welcomed backstage by Honi Coles, interviewed Cab Calloway in his dressing room, and then in her dressing I watched as designer Giorgio Sant’Angelo helped Lena Horne organize her colorful but complicated Sant’Angelo dress. “Does it go this way, or this way?” she asked, pulling the fabric one way and another. “No, that way,” he said, pulling it the other way.

Peter Duchin, sitting at his piano, said, “hey kid, if you need any help, let me know.” After the incredible show, as I stood out front trying to get a cab, a Cadillac convertible pulled up with four Super Fly’s who had apparently been backstage. They offered me a lift downtown. As we sped through the park I was clueless about our route but they graciously delivered me to my door.
Clockwise from top: The Apollo's one mic, one stage...; Michael Jackson's fedora; Elvis Costello's glasses; The Beastie Boys boom box, used on stage at The Apollo; LL Cool J's hat.
Celia Cruz, the pride of Spanish Harlem ... Nothing subdued about Celia Cruz or her Havana style.
Sammy Davis, Jr.'s childhood tap shoes. He first appeared on the Apollo stage in 1947.
The jacket and hat of DJ Afrika Bambaataa, who helped promote hip-hop culture at the Apollo. Ella Fitzgerald wore this performance gown in 1977.
Clockwise from above: Note the names of the Apollo's "amateur night" winners; "Shake, rattle and roll" with Big Joe Turner; The Supremes, live from the Apollo.
Most of the costumes are normal human size. Not the Supremes. Their outfits are made for stick thin figures. Surprising his fans, the King of Soul endorsed President Richard Nixon for re-election in 1972.
The Folger Gala - The Folger Shakespeare Library is nirvana for lovers of words and theater. On Capitol Hill, in a marvelous deco building, it houses a trove of Shakespeare and other rare Renaissance literary treasures.

Back in the 1930s, it was a gift to the nation from Standard Oil president Henry Clay Folger and his wife, Emily. They did not have children, but they did have a love of Shakespeare, which they nurtured into the library’s founding collection.
C. Boyden Gray and Julie Folger.
Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) and Folger Shakespeare Library Director Gail Kern Paster.
“Hamlet” was the theme of this year’s annual gala, and featured a “sequel” to the Bard’s original, crafted by playwright Ken Ludwig and performed by the Elsinore Players: Holly Twyford, Catie Flye, Cody Nickell, Kate Eastwood Norris and Will Gartshore. The finale was Washington troubadour Mark Russell, with his variation on “Let’s Do It.”

A sampling of Russell’s lyrics:

Mr. Coward we know wrote a song or two to show
Love was here to stay.

Cole Porter its true took a sentimental view
Of that sly biological urge;

But Shakespeare was the first
To really make the whole thing merge.

He wrote that:
Danes do it, Thanes do it,
Sovereigns, senators and swains do it—
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Gala chairs Carol and Gene Ludwig. program detail.
Barbara and Joe Allbritton.
Ken Ludwig.
The ensemble salutes comedian Mark Russell (left).
Garland Scott of the Folger was proud that the library’s deco spirit carried into the featured cocktail, the potent Cognac-based Sidecar, and the dinner’s entrée, Beef Wellington. The 240 guests included Mary Weinmann, Stanley Temko, Maria and Robert Burka, Barbara Wainscott, Joan and Dan Mulcahy, British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and Julia D. Sheinwald, Joan and Ev Shorey, Albert Small, Boyden Gray and Kathleen Parker, Jim Johnson, Howard and Gail Paster, Joseph Albritton, Thad Cochran, Carol and Earl Ravenel, Charlene Barshefsky, Twiss and Patrick Butler, Patty Brosmer, Donald and Lori Riegle, Peter Rose, Arnold and Louise Sagalyn, Doris and Brian Matsui, Andrea and Stephen Weiswasser, Pat Tomczyk, Chan and Paul Tagliabue.
Sharon Buchanan, Carl Behrens, Lila Behrens, Terry Beaty, Anne Mehringer, and Robert Buchanan.
Todd Etter, Ann Etter, and Margaret Gardner.
Courtney Pastrick, Scott Pastrick, Folger Shakespeare Library Director Gail Kern Paster, Henry Brem, and Rachel Brem.
Lady Julia Sheinwald and British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald.
Molly Meegan and Abbe Lowell.
Amy Arden, head of External Relations for the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger Shakespeare Library reading room made up for the gala.
Carol Ludwig, Lori Riegle, and Charlene Barshefsky.
The dessert evokes the Hamlet and Elsinore with its' crowning touch.
A Rachel Pearson Dinner Party – A welcomed midweek pause was a dinner party unrelated to galas or fundraising, even though our hostess, Rachel Tinsley Pearson, earns a living raising money and attends quite a few galas. Her clients are republican politicians. She’s an ace on the job but has the added virtue of remaining loyal even if an election doesn’t turn out the way the client hoped. There’s always the next time. She doesn’t limit her skills to politics and steps up to help several good causes divine the largesse of the rich and generous, particularly the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Washington Ballet. For some folks, this would be enough. But not Rachel.

Fortunately for her guests, Rachel ignores reports that the Washington dinner party is dead. Hosting them is an essential part of her life. She keeps them small, cozy, relaxed, delicious and interesting (gossipy). She mixes her friends from politics, media, literature, art and society. The mood is festive and affectionate; she could teach a master class in how to make a toast. This week her guests included a former senator and his wife, a corporate lobbyist, a democratic political consultant, a litigator whose timely specialty is going up against the SEC, and an art world entrepreneur. Over dessert, Rachel asked each guest to answer: “What concerns you in your life and the world as you start each day?”
Rachel Pearson.
A Syrian Cultural Evening – The Library of Congress and the Embassy of Syria joined together the other night for a celebration of Syrian culture. The 400 guests gathered first at a reception in the Library’s main hall followed by a program that began with a lecture about Syrian antiquity by MIT professor Nasser Rabbat.

The final act of the evening was a performance of a 3400-year-old song (“the oldest song written by mankind,” according to a Syrian official) by clarinetist Kina Al-Azmeh and soprano Dima Orsho. Guests included Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Brian Baird, Adeeb Mayyale, head of the Central Bank of Syria, Arab League Ambassador Hussein Hassouna, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, David Ignatius and, according to the official, “a large number of the expatriate community.”
The reception in the main hall of the Library of Congress. (courtesy Embassy of Syria).
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Dr. Adeeb Mayyale, and Syrian Amb. Imad Moustapha.
Syrian and American musicians playing new and ancient Syrian compositions.
Tap-Dancing By The Potomac – Each year the Washington Ballet’s Jete Society holds a dance party for patrons who fall in the age range of “21 to 45.” Its always at an embassy and is reliably lively and seriously a dance party. This year it was at the Swedish Embassy on the banks of the Potomac River in Georgetown, one of the city’s prettiest settings.

Between dances the guests sipped champagne and cocktails and nibbled on meatballs. But they set all that aside and stood back in awe as the spotlight landed on one particular dancer, talented hoofer Ryan Johnson, a cast member from the Ballet’s production of “The Great Gatsby.” His moves were exhilarating as the band backed him with “Billie Jean.” He made it look easy. Later, with a smile on his face, he joined the party, with his tap shoes jauntily perched in his back pockets.
The Swedish Embassy.
The Swedish Embassy with security parked outside.
The guests included co-chairs Ashley Taylor, Winston Bao Lord, founder Michael Saylor, Washington Ballet director Septime Weber; also Meghan Blair, Charlie Adler, Erin Barnes, Amir Benesh, Molly Simonson, Richard Scully, Jad Boustany, Kate Michael, Stephanie Green, Coventry Burke, Michelle Cortabitarte, Emma Dinzebach, Raissa Durrani, Kellen Dwyer, Mark Ein, John Ennis, Quinn Johnson, Kelly Kavcsak, Jacqueline Lagoy, Charles Blair Long, Kate Neff, Mosh Mosbacher, Laurence O’Halloran, Tara Palmieri, Sunanda Patel, Morgan Roach, Katherine Potaskie, Johanna Salmin, Sally Stiebel, Kiki Ryan, Tim Ritchie, Austin Bryan, Micha Weinblatt, Alex Wynne, David Willingham, Allison Brooks, Peter Brady, Ryan Cunningham, Meredith Cymerman, Matt Fierce, Alexandra Konieczny, Stacey Miller, Tim Owens, Joy Elena Robertson, Tanya Taylor, John Van Meter.
Organizers of the Jete Society Dance Party - Winston Bao Lord, Ashley Taylor, Michael Saylor and Septime Weber.
Ryan Johnson tapes out "Billie Jean" ...
And later, joining the party, shoes at rest.
Kitty Kelley Gives Back – These weeks are the heavy phase of Kitty Kelley’s book tour to promote her new bestseller, Oprah, but she took time to give some love back to her neighborhood, Georgetown. She used her drawing power to sell books but also to help raise funds at an event for the DC Public Library Foundation. In particular, the Georgetown Library, which is recovering from a fire.

Her many Georgetown fans packed St. John’s Episcopal Church for a Kelley lecture about Oprah, but also her other bestselling biographies on the likes of Frank, Nancy, Liz, Jackie O, the Bush family and the Windsors of Great Britain.

In addition to the swarm of Georgetowners, guests at the talk included Gwen Ifill, Susan Stamberg, Sidney Blumenthal, Randy Roffman and Erica Jong.
Kitty Kelley lecturing about "Oprah" at St. John's Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
Kate Michael records Kelley's talk for her Washington blog, "K Street Kate."
Books for sale.
Setting up for Kitty Kelley's after-lecture book party.
A Lovely Night at the Ball Park – Thank God Washington has a major league baseball team and a still shiny new stadium. I wonder sometimes how we survived before the lure of an afternoon or evening game at Nationals Park. I ended the week in the best possible way, with my first game of the season (Nats 5, Dodgers 1).

It’s always a kick to bring a friend who is seeing the park for the first time. Sally Hosta, in town from her home in Middleburg, was wide-eyed, especially when we took our seats practically on home plate. Well, second row, but still – we could hear the crack of the bat and the hard smack as the ball hit the catcher’s mitt, and beyond that a glorious spectacle of light and color, cheers and jeers, and cold beer and hot dogs. In other words, summer.
Sally Hosta sits down for the first inning of her first game at Nationals Stadium.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre gives the Ump some line-up changes.
If baseball players are the boys of summer then Stan Kasten is the man of summer. He’s the Nats President, and was a fixture in major league sports long before he arrived in Washington from Atlanta. He was with Ted Turner for years and was President, at one time or another, of the Hawks basketball team, the Braves baseball team and the Thrashers hockey team. Still, baseball is his sport.

Stan’s a highly visible presence at the stadium and especially during a game. He’s generally in motion but did sit with us a couple of times and each time Adam Dunn scored a homer. Stan may have seen a thousand baseball games in his career but a home run still thrills.
Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten.
Early in the game, the Nats Adam Dunn takes a swing.
I was curious if they use a fresh ball with each new at bat. “It depends,” Stan said. “It's up to the umpire. If the ball is clean, it stays in play. If it’s dirty, he gets fresh balls from the bat boy.” So, what happens to the used balls? “Some are used for batting practice and some are sent down to the minors.”

We enjoyed watching 24-year-old rookie pitcher Luis Atilano on the mound. It was his MLB debut, and a sweet one at that, which he celebrated later over dinner with his wife. All the buzz in town these days is about another pitcher, “phenom” Stephen Strasburg, 21, who’s with the Nats farm team in Harrisburg, Pa., but is expected to be called up to “the show” next month. Exciting for him, the Nationals, and Washington.
Wave your hats.
A standing ovation for soldiers who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Team mascot, "Screech," yuks it up with some fans.
Clockwise from above: A fan moves in close to take a photo; A picture to remember; Ballpark food. Let's see, who has the fries, the cheese fries, the hot dog, the hamburger, the cheeseburger?
The Dodgers have one at bat and one on deck.
The view from row 2 in the "Presidents Club."
What's not to like about a night at the ball park?
Inside the Presidents Club at Nats Park. The far doors lead to the prize club seats behind home plate.
Another view inside the club.
The club walls are lined with photos of Presidents enjoying the national pastime.
Follow-Up – A month ago I wrote about a blind tasting of the top Virginia wines hosted by Flavor magazine at the Georgetown home of Beverly and John Fox Sullivan. The judging panel included some of Washington’s top sommeliers. The results have been announced and here are the wines that ranked first place in their varietal:

Sauvignon Blanc – Veritas 2008

Chardonnay – Gadino 2007

Viognier – Rappahannock 2008 Noblesse

Cabernet Franc – Rappahannock Cellars 2007

Cabernet Sauvignon – Sugarleaf 2007

Meritage – Boxwood Winery 2007

The original story is here.
Flavor magazine's blind tasting of Virginia wines in early March.
Gadino, left, and Rappahannock Cellars, center, were among the first place finishers in the wine tasting.
Photographs by Carol Joynt, James R. Brantley (Folger). Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C.

Visit her at: Follow Carol on Twitter.