Monday, February 15, 2010

Washington Social Diary

For Valentine's: Strawberry Cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake.
by Carol Joynt

When the curtain comes down on the era of reality TV it won’t be a moment too soon for Washington. This is not a dig at the people who star in the shows. In this economy it’s tough to blame anyone for grabbing found loot and taking a shot at fame that might bring more loot. It’s the obsessive need for reality producers to “control” the room that is a strange fit here, a town that wrote the book on control, confidentiality and deception. The delusional premise of the reality TV genre, as explained by some of the stars of the “Real Housewives” franchise, is that “the cameras aren’t there. If anyone breaks the rule and acknowledges the cameras then that blows the ruse.”

Oh, right. Who are they kidding?

In a month when “Real World: DC” is on MTV, and production wrapped on the infamous “Real Housewives of Washington, DC,” the contract was inked for a new DC-based reality series, “Cupcake Sisters,” to star Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontange, the charming and photogenic owners of the small business phenom, Georgetown Cupcake. Shooting began this weekend, which also happened to be the cupcakery’s second anniversary.
The site of Washington's newest reality TV show, Georgetown Cupcake
They do a brisk business in deliveries, as well as shipping nationwide.
The "Cupcake Sisters," Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis.
Katherine and Sophie work to make a mural out of cupcakes. Cupcake co-star, "Mom" Elaine Kallinis.
“Cupcake Sisters” intends to be the anti-“Housewives,” choosing the high over the low road, focusing more on the actual challenges of running a colorful and trendy business rather than faking up personal drama. This doesn’t mean there won’t be some sisterly disputes and flying buttercream.

Nonetheless, when I stopped into the Georgetown shop Saturday to snap a few pics, the production team was positively edgy. “This is a closed set. You can’t take pictures. You can’t show the crew. No one can see that we’re here.” Yet, the cameras and lights were everywhere. The producers all but hustled me out the door and, after I departed, one of them followed me up the street, firing questions at my back. That attitude is potentially off-putting to the legions of Georgetown Cupcake fans, especially out-of-towners, who love to pose for photos in the store. Hopefully a way will be found for reality and reality TV to co-exist at Cupcake.

The tussle isn’t new. During the weeks of shooting “Real Housewives of Washington, DC,” there were many complaints from regular folks who inadvertently entered the vicinity of one of the show’s tapings at restaurants or social events. They, too, were muscled away from the “closed set.” This made the Bravo production unwelcome at most bona fide Washington soirees. Some events were manufactured solely for the situation to look “real.” The quest for authentic Washington drama culminated in the notorious blunder of cast members Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashing a White House State Dinner (though they claim they were invited). Their Bravo crew followed them closely in the before and after of the debacle.
Cupcakes, always made fresh daily.
Tools of the trade: icing and a Blackberry.
The bakers in their logo headscarves. A member of the TV crew that must not be acknowledged.
“Cupcake Sisters” is different. It takes place primarily in Sophie and Katherine’s own domain – the smartly decked out shop in Georgetown and an expansion store in Bethesda. Their mother, Elaine Kallinis, a source of easy smiles and some of the winning secret family recipes, is on hand. The staff* are attractive, mostly college students or professional bakers, some wearing logo headscarves or signature black and white t-shirts. The atmosphere is bright, fun, young and made for the broadcast spotlight.

The producers have no choice, but the sign at the door is intimidating. It advises customers they are entering the “videotaping for a television program” and by doing so are consenting to appear in the show “without compensation throughout the universe.” In bold face it warns: “If you do not wish to be videotaped, please do not enter this area.”

The bad news for Washington is that there are some other reality TV shows in the talk phase, but are too tentative to discuss. The good news is the Georgetown Cupcake sisters’ personalities transcend the rigors of reality TV’s rules, and the shooting is only for several weeks. For people who prefer not to be in a reality show, the store does a brisk delivery business and ships everywhere in the country that UPS has a truck. “Cupcake Sisters” is scheduled to air in the summer on TLC, though its possible the cable channel will flip out that I acknowledged that fact. Remember: they don’t exist.
Some recent press on the Georgetown Cupcake phenomenon.
The note tacked to the front door.
Bright, cheerful, young. Note the TV light on the ceiling. A signature of Georgetown Cupcake: fresh flowers.
The display counter.

Before the Blizzard of 2010 blew into town and wiped out all events, there were a couple of parties that beat the storms. In different ways they honored African American culture and history.

Several hundred of Washington’s loyal fans of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater gathered at the Kennedy Center for the group’s annual gala, including a two-hour show followed by dinner. The black-tie dinner dance was so packed it expanded from its usual one room to three rooms of the Kennedy Center’s rooftop.
A sampling of the opening number from the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater's 2010 gala in
Washington, DC.
Alvin Ailey artistic director, Judith Jamison, a dance legend herself, started the evening center stage, recalling Ailey and praising the loyal audience. “Just think of it, Alvin thought of this 51 years ago. And I know he’s smiling. I know he is, because I’m looking out at you and you’re smiling. You are just a reflection of him. We’re a reflection of him. We thank him so much every day for just having that idea to celebrate the African American culture with spirit and the modern dance tradition of our country.”

Of the dancers, Jamison said, “We are so proud that we represent our country everywhere we go. We hold the banner high of artistic excellence, of understanding that we serve communities across the street and around the world. We gave excellent outreach before it was called outreach. We make sure arts are a community and Alvin helped us understand that.”
The Kennedy Center Opera House during the Alvin Ailey gala. Judith Jamison.
Gala co-chairs Carolyn Brody, Debra Lee and Gina Adams.
This year’s event co-chairs were Gina Adams, Carolyn Brody and Debra Lee. The gala’s other important players included Lyndon K. Boozer, Christopher Cowan, Broderick Johnson, Vanessa Reed, David Sutphen, Riley Temple and Katharine Weymouth.

Gala guests included: Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty, Adrienne Arsht, Deborah Ashford and Kevin Klose, Tracey Austin, Melody Barnes and Marland Buckner, Wayne and Lea Berman, Kathleen Biden, Sherri Blount, Sydney Blumenthal, Jackie Bluementhal, Joyce Brayboy, Martina Bradford, Gregory Spencer, Art and Sela Collins, Melanne and Ronald Dozoretz, Peter and Marian Wright Edelman, Ronni Favors, Howard Fineman, Amy Nathan, Gwen Ifill, Ann Jordan, Sam Kass, Ebs Burnough, Eric Lewis, Sharon Gersten Luckman, Rhoda Glickman, Bruce Gordon, Tawana Tibbs, Polly Kraft, Liz and George Stevens, Jr., Jerry Rafshoon, John Thompson III, Jacson and Stacie Turner, Lori and Benjamin Soto, Nicholas Rohatyn, Cece Rouse, Yebbie Watkins, Donna Byrd, Melvin Watt, Michael Wilbon, Chris Womack, Sissy Yates, Mariella Trager, Erik and Lisa Huey, Jamal Simmons, Ayanna Dunn, Stanley and Gloria Plesent, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Henry McGee, Cecilia Munoz, Amit Pandya, Leezee Porter, Jesse Price and Rhonda Binda.
Mariella Trager and Sissy Yates. Lyndon Boozer.
Debbie and Brad Dockser. Howard Fineman and Amy Nathans.
Erik and Lisa Huey (she gave birth to Aiofe Lucinda Huey three days later), Susan Ryan, and Suzanne Seggerman.
Guido Goldman. Riley Temple, Melody Barnes of the Obama Administration, and Scott Mackoul.
Veteran social shooters James Brantley and Kyle Samperton. (Kyle is striking a pose.) Keith Alexander and Eric Richardson.
The tables were set in shades of blue, green and rose ...
Renee Robinson, in black, with friends.
Jamal and Lisa Simmons. Bert and Gwen Ifill.
Ronnie Favors, Henry McGee, and Eleanor Applewhaite.
Vanessa Reed (with Tracy Bernstein on the left). Hope Boykin and Guillermo Asca.
Dancing shoes!
DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Renee Robinson. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Enid Johnson.
Mayor Adrian Fenty and wife Michelle. Cheryl Fields.
Alvin Ailey board members Riley Temple and Eleanor Applewhaite.
Shirley Gordon. John Tinpe and Riley Temple.
George Stevens Jr. and Polly Kraft.
Andrea Thimm and Ebs Burnough. Dancer Constance Stamatiou.
The band in full swing.
The dancing started early and went late.
Soon to be newlyweds Marion Fischer and Scott Nolan dance late into the night. Swag bags made a comeback.
On another day Brent Glass, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Musem of American History, hosted a small lunch to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In.” A portion of that historic lunch counter, which was in a Greensboro, NC, Woolworth’s, is on permanent exhibition at the museum.

What the “Greensboro Four” did on February 1, 1960, was sit down at a “whites only” lunch counter, starting a massive protest by hundreds of other African-Americans, most of them students, a violent white response, the result being a landmark event in the Civil Rights movement.

Glass said, “We know the story of the Greensboro Four, but its important that we tell the story again and again.” He said their defiant act “transformed this country for the better (but) it came at a great price these four people paid.”
Clockwise frmo top: The menu; Shrimp and grits; Filet Mignon over a Vidalia Onion Tart; Fromage Blanc Creme Brulee.
Lonnie G. Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said the lunch counter holds deep meaning for African Americans. It “symbolized what dedicated people willing to risk all could accomplish. It’s difficult for people today to understand – it was a visible manifestation of daily insults. As a result of Greensboro, lunch counters throughout the south became the battlefield.”

Guests at the lunch in the museum’s handsome private dining room included Joseph McNeil, Michael Lomax, Riley Temple, David Price, Nell Payne, Edward Rice, Hadelyn Richmond Massenburg, Jackie Trescott, Ronald Walters, Barbara Tuceling, Edward Stewart, Beth Py-Leiberman, Joseph Suarez, Scott Yohe, Scarlet Pressly-Brown, Bonnie Broh-Kahn, Russ Bruner, Johnnetta Cole, Anna Cohn, Kimshasha Holman Conwill, Cassandra Brown, Clayborne Carson, Jere Broh-Kahn, Nancy Gwinn, James Horton, Christine Hoisington, Judy Gradwohl, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., James Hunter, Maggie Webster, Melinda Machado, William Konze, Richard Kurin, Jan Lilja, Harry Rubenstine, Clint Eisenhower.
A section of the Woolworth's lunch counter where the sit-in began on February 1, 1960.
A newspaper clipping.
Riley Temple, Maggie Webster, and Michael Lomax, head of the United Negro College Fund.
Maersk Chairman and CEO Russ Bruner, the Smithsonian's Brent Glass, and Maersk's Clint Eisenhower.
Guests arrive for lunch in the History Museum's Presidential Reception Suite.
Michael Lomax confers with Lonnie Bunch.
Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, telling the story of the Greensboro Four. One of the original "Greensboro Four,"
Jibreel Khazan.
Lonnie Bunch speaks to the luncheon guests.
Harry R. Rubenstein, head of the Museum of American History's division of Politics and Reform. National Museum of American History Director Brent Glass.
Joseph Suarez and Jere Broh-Kahn.
Mr. and Mrs. William Konze.

For 55 years the Washington Antiques Show was a staple of the city’s social calendar. Each January it brought together collectors and cave dwellers in a celebration of the rare, the beautiful, or the simply unusual. Now, it has come to an end. Their governing board, The Thrift Shop Charities, voted not to continue the show in the future. This ends an annual event that while not as grand or rich as New York’s Winter Antiques Show was still a worthy prelude. It drew many of the same dealers.

The rumors of its demise were bubbling up since mid January, after the wind up of this year’s show, which was in its second year at a new home: the Katzen Arts Center. For 49 years before its home was the Shoreham Hotel. While the Katzen Center was a more modern venue, the old crowd adapted well. They bought tickets, but that doesn’t mean they bought goods. Antique sales are down all across the board. In a bad economy, it’s a vulnerable game. Another problem: the young crowd no longer showed up.

The show’s spokeswoman, Helen Burnett, said “over the past 54 years, the WAS has raised over $7 million for the charities supported by Thrift Shop Charities, and, in the past five years, WAS has contributed approximately $1.1 million to the existing four charities.” She also said a group of former volunteers and show chairs “are exploring the possibility of having a show for charity in the tradition of the past shows.” 
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: