Monday, May 24, 2010

Washington Social Diary

The Brady Center gala at the National Museum of Women In the Arts.
by Carol Joynt

Apart from the President and First Lady hosting their second state dinner — and apparently without a hitch except for the new Social Secretary falling, literally, on her tush — and the notorious Salahis doing a planned or accidental White House drive by — complete with an on-camera police encounter — the past week in Washington was relatively routine. That said, the routine here is always anything but.

It’s possible in any given week to choose among a range of fundraisers; most have to do with politics, the arts, diseases and the good life. This past week, the gala that was most remarkable had to do quite simply with death. Death by guns. Or, if not death, then serious injury. It was hosted by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which was founded by Sarah and James Brady after he was shot in the head by John Hinckley during Hinckley’s 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. At the time, Brady was Reagan’s gregarious and popular press secretary. The wound left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
On the way to dinner, Erica Moorehead, Mariella Trager and Adriana Gluski. Frank Mankiewicz, public relations executive, political veteran and one time press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy.
James Brady, Sarah Brady, and Helen Thomas.
The Brady’s have never let up on their efforts to win stricter gun laws across the United States, taking their misfortune and building it into a movement and an organization.

Their lobbying efforts led to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Still, the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths by gun of anywhere on the planet. According to the Brady Center, “in the average year more than 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun.”

As of this past weekend, here in the U.S. this year, approximately 42,400 people have been shot. The number is always rising.
Guests, some of them the parents of the Virginia Tech shootings, come to dinner at the Brady Center gala.
The menu from Ridgewell's caterers. The Brady Center Gala at the National Museum of Women In The Arts.
The dinner was held in the marble and chandeliered Renaissance Revival building that is home to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It was packed and intimate, with a guest list that included a sampling of gun violence in America. For example, the families of students who were shot at Virginia Tech in 2007 and the families of ten people who were killed or wounded two months ago in Washington in one night of drive-by gun violence. There was also Frank Mankiewicz. He was press secretary to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968.

Paul Helmke, the Brady Center’s president, welcomed everyone with some cold thoughts on the uphill struggle to reduce gun violence, particularly in states that allow the “open carry” of firearms and what he considers lax background checks at gun shows. In the United States, Helmke said, “you can be on the terrorist watch list and we’ll stop you from getting on an airplane, but you can still buy a gun.”

Donna Dees-Thomases,
the founding organizer of the Million Mom March, talked about the importance of grass roots volunteerism and education to keep the “movement” strong in the face of the powerful gun lobby. “We’ve put millions of brochures in schools across the country.”
Paul Helmke and Eileen Shields-West.
The beautiful seasonal centerpieces of peonies and hydrangea.
The view from above.
In the end, the evening’s spotlight turned to the principal honoree, the indefatigable White House correspondent Helen Thomas. She was presented with the Sarah Brady Visionary Award. Helen made her feelings quite clear.

“I hate guns,” she said. She revealed, “Two members of my own family were murdered with guns.” Also, Helen’s UPI colleague, White House correspondent Merriman Smith, who won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the Kennedy assassination, committed suicide with a gun in 1970.
Paul Helmke makes his opening remarks.
Paul Helmke: "We're here because each year too many people get killed by guns." Donna Dees-Thomases, organizer of the Million Mom March.
Donna Dees-Thomases: "Volunteers are who really make things happen."
Helen Thomas, Sarah Brady, and Paul Helmke.
Helen Thomas addresses the Brady Center Gala.
An interesting endnote, for those who may not be aware, is that John Hinckley is quietly and slowly being prepared for release from Washington’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he has been incarcerated since the Reagan shooting. Hinckley is 54 years old.
Helen Thomas: "I hate guns."

The invitation from Elise and Marc Lefkowitz said, “please join us for dinner to welcome Steven Stolman to Washington.” Hmmm, I wondered, is Steven giving up Palm Beach for Washington?

Well, not exactly. After arriving at the Lefkowitz’ well decked out Kalorama townhouse, and after Steven made his grand entrance in blazer, pocket square and stunning plaid shorts, I cornered him on the sofa. “I’m just visiting,” he said, “doing some stuff with my relatively new job.”
The courtyard outside the townhouse of Elise and Marc Lefkowitz.
The den in the Washington townhouse of Elise and Marc Lefkowitz.
Lefkowitz family photos.
Stolman, who once had his own clothing line, is now creative director for Jack Rogers, the half-century old brand best known for sandals but now also producing an apparel line that goes with the shoes. The “stuff” Steven referenced was a Jack Rogers trunk show at Georgetown’s chic Sherman Pickey store.

So, why not have a dinner party? Elise spent the day in the kitchen, preparing gazpacho, irresistible mac n’ cheese, stuffed veal chops that were finished on the grill, fresh asparagus, and homemade profiteroles that were served with magnum sized strawberries and blueberries. The guests included Sherman Pickey’s owners, Ethan and Lindsey Drath, David Deckelbaum and Robert Higdon, Mark Lowham and Joe Ruzzo, with their young son and daughter; and Adam Ozmer.
Adam Ozmer, ready to take his seat at dinner.
Veal chops on the grill.
A view to the dining room from the garden.
Elizabeth in her girlie girl Jack Rogers sandals. Joseph Ruzzo.
Lindsey Drath and young Elizabeth.
Steven Stolman admires the evening's host and chef, Elise Lefkowitz.
Marc and Elise Lefkowitz with David Deckelbaum.
Adam Ozmer, Lindsey Drath, David Deckelbaum, Steven Stolman, and Joseph Ruzzo.
Lindsey and Ethan Drath, and Adam Ozmer.
The next day I stopped by Sherman Pickey to check out the Jack Rogers apparel. Steven showed off a shirtwaist that may soon be seen on a certain Washington woman who he would not name, but suffice it to say she’s photographed a lot and has unique and stunning style. Steven plans several trunk shows to give attention to the Jack Rogers dresses, tunics, tees, shorts and capris – all staples of the beachy (or wannabeachy) good life.
The Sherman Pickey store, left, is in a row of quaint shops in Upper Georgetown.
Steven Stolman with a Jack Rogers dress that could soon be seen on a certain well known Washington woman. The day after the dinner, Ethan and Steven at Ethan's Sherman Pickey store.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C.

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