Monday, May 17, 2010

Washington Social Diary

Chita Rivera lights up the stage in Washington at The Washington Performing Arts Society's annual gala with the theme of “From Broadway to Buenos Aires.”
Howard Stern, Pundit
by Carol Joynt

For a long time the first adult male voice I heard each morning belonged to Howard Stern. He was on the radio as I drove my young son to school in the suburbs a million miles away from Georgetown. We had a lot of car time. I noticed, though, that my son, even in 4th grade, laughed at the same Howard jokes that made me laugh, typically skewering pop culture, and groaned at the same subjects that made me roll my eyes, typically loopy strippers and raunchy porn stars. The shared experience formed a bond that carried us from then to now. My son is 18 and about to graduate high school but on the rare occasions when we’re in a car together, Howard Stern still makes us laugh, groan and think.

Think?

Howard Stern.
You may wonder if I really mean that word in reference to a radio personality who is notorious as the nation’s number one “shock jock.” I do, and I mean it on behalf of my son, too. Raising a male child alone it was helpful to have Howard’s humor and observations available, sticking pins in puffery, mocking the self-important, mocking himself, too, and making light of the “boy” anxieties and fascinations that relate to sex and women. As a male role model, Howard provided a lot of teaching opportunities. He was the bad boy.

But there’s more. When important or scary events were happening in the world we’d hop in the car and turn on the radio, asking, “I wonder what Howard has to say?” What he said, laced with yuks, was thoughtful and perceptive; in particular about Washington. I don’t know if it’s because he briefly worked here, but he gets this town. In fact, he is one of my favorite political pundits – right up there with Harry Shearer – quicker, sharper and more authentic than virtually all the Washington-based pundit class, and including that other bad boy, Bill Maher, and the God to Washington media, Jon Stewart.

Politics are not the principal part of his daily broadcast, but when he’s on them, he’s on them. They vie for attention with naked ladies who will ride the “Sybian” (don’t ask), and the clever sidekicks and bizarre “wack packers” who inhabit his on-air universe Monday through Thursday.

Significantly, Howard has consistently kept a focus on the events of September 11, the wars that followed, the so far fruitless search for Osama bin Laden, and the extent to which elected leaders have squared with us on these subjects. He’s equally focused and merciless when the subject is the economy or politics, and tracked the’08 presidential election as if he was riding the national pulse, especially when he initially backed Hillary Clinton, lost faith in Hillary, largely because of an inept campaign, and moved toward Barack Obama. He skews left but no one is really safe from his fire. Howard’s politics, and his humor, are infused with the adult realities of parenthood and aging parents, plus the fact he’s become a rich and owns expensive real estate in Manhattan and the Hamptons; a 50-something man who pays a lot of taxes. He has become a populist bad boy.

Howard on David Letterman.
For all the hard work speaking his mind for hours on end, what Howard Stern does not publicly promote is that privately he’s a serious man. I learned this first hand in the 1980s, when I booked him for an interview on CBS News “Nightwatch,” where I was a producer. When the higher ups got cold feet, I had to cancel him. Howard and I had a long talk.

He wasn’t surprised by the cancellation but he was disappointed and frustrated. I listened to a man who was self-aware and who knew the difference between being in and out of character, and it rattled him that the bosses at CBS couldn’t do the same.

It must be what Sacha Baron Cohen experiences when the less clued in assume he is always “Borat.” Stern’s appearances on David Letterman prove he can do a provocative interview without throwing stink bombs. Well, not too many.

There’s been talk that Howard could replace Simon Cowell on “American Idol.” What a waste of talent. I would rather he was the replacement for George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” Nothing against Christiane Amanpour, who got the job, but I relish the thought of Howard Stern questioning Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Sarah Palin and hosting the weekly roundtable, with George Will on his right. Oh, sweet delight. Now that would be a Sunday show to reckon with: “This Week with the Wack Pack.” So true.

Chita In the House

The Washington Performing Arts Society held their annual gala the other evening with the theme of “From Broadway to Buenos Aires.” The latter reference had to do with the evening’s honorary chairman, Argentine Ambassador Hector Marcos Timerman. But the Broadway part was entirely in the form of Chita Rivera, who lit up the house. I hope she doesn’t mind my pointing out she is 77 years old. She shouldn’t, because we should all hope to be in the same shape, voice and spirit at that milestone.
Chita Rivera, relaxed, before going on stage in her home town. Chita Rivera performs her Broadway medley.
Rivera was born in Washington (Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero) to a mother who worked at the Pentagon and a father who was in the United States Navy Band. She lived in Washington until her late teens, when her performing career took off in New York. A year ago President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

When she took the stage at the Wardman Park Marriott, Rivera said, “It’s great to be back in my home town.” Then she soared through a medley of tunes from her notable Broadway roles.
The program and the first course. Frank and Susan Mars.
Before Rivera’s star turn, the guests were treated to a performance by the WPAS’ own Children of the Gospel Choir, and some alluring moves by dancers from TangoDC.

The underwriter was Mars Incorporated, with additional backing from Altria, John Marshall and Charlotte Cameron Marshall, Paul G. Stern, Marriott, FedEx, Daimler and The Hay Adams; patrons included Arturo and Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Jay and Robin Hammer, Carl Hobelman, Reginald Van Lee, John F. Olson, James Sandman and Elizabeth Mullin, Marilyn and Stefan Tucker, Daniel Simpkins, Charlotte and Hank Schlosberg, Rachel Tinsley Pearson; and a number of corporate sponsors, among them Toyota, Ernest & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ourisman Automotive, Verizon, Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, MacAndrews and Forbes, Washington Gas and Calvert Group.
Joyce Gates with her husband, Bruce Gates, one of the gala's chairmen.
Charlotte Cameron Marshall and Barbara Gordon.
Annabelle Sielecki and Argentine Amb. Hector Marcos Timerman. David Kamenetsky of Mars Corp., and Anna-Lena Kamenetsky.
Charlotte Cameron Marshall, John Marshall and Vincette Goerl.
WPAS board chairman Jay Hammer and Robin Hammer.
Making a bid at the silent auction.
Chita Rivera greets some fans backstage before her performance.
Karen and Neale Perl, the president and CEO of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Sam and Ellen Schreiber. Daren Thomas and Karen Campbell.
Dan Korengold and Martha Dippell.
Ellen Schreiber, Elizabeth Baker Keffer, and Julie Gess.
Toyota's person in Washington, Josephine Cooper.
Daren Thomas and Jo Cooper own the dance floor.
Christianne Ricchi with Paul Stern.
Bidding during the live auction. We have a winner: Elizabeth Avery.
Children of the Gospel Choir
Dancers prepare to accompany the Children of Gospel Choir.
TangoDC
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C.

Visit her at: caroljoynt.com. Follow Carol on Twitter.