Monday, May 2, 2011

Washington Social Diary

At Katherine Bradley's place setting, a gift from one of her Anglophile guests.
by Carol Joynt

Twenty four hours after enjoying the biggest party of the year,
many members of the White House Correspondents Association were back at work last night, reporting the biggest story of the last nine years: the breaking news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Because it was such an intricate and well-planned assault that resulted in the killing, one can’t help but wonder if Saturday night—as he sat on the dais at the annual WHCA dinner—whether President Obama knew that the plan was about to be underway. It will tell us so much about the man and how he conducts the business of national security and war. The details will surely come out today and through the week. This much we know: most of the capital’s media were exhausted from a weekend of partying and believed that Sunday night would be early to bed.

Here’s the report I filed earlier Sunday, before history was made in a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan:

In the end it was a week of parties, all kinds of parties, enough to make up for a long dry spell. Many of the best, but not all, were related to the White House Correspondents Association dinner, which occurred Saturday night. The dinner was remarkable because, as predicted, it broke no new ground in terms of famous faces but it did have this: Donald Trump sitting still in the middle of 3000 people, mouth closed, while both the President of the United States and Seth Myers, the hired comedian, landed their best punches. Whether it was an embarrassment or a triumph for Trump depends on how serious he is about wanting to run for president. Most of the evening his expression was, at best, dour.

The Donald, not amused, at the White House Correspondents Association dinner.
If one bit summed up how Washington views Trump at the moment, it was this from Myers: “Donald Trump has said he’s running for president as a Republican — which is surprising because I thought he was running as a joke.” Will Trump have the last laugh? He can test the waters for only so long. It’s one thing to say you are running, to make a lot of noise, and another thing altogether to mount a viable campaign.

Other thoughts: The three stand-out beautiful people of the night—in rooms that included Mila Kunis, Melania Trump, Scarlett Johansson and Jon Hamm—were Joan Rivers, soft, natural and relaxed at a private cocktail party hosted for her by Robert Higdon at his Connecticut Avenue apartment; Lara Logan, the CBS News correspondent who kept a low profile since she was attacked in Tahrir Square while covering the Egypt uprising, radiant at a CBS News pre-party and later at the French Ambassador’s; and Sarah Palin, the former republican vice presidential candidate, trim and tan in a fitted suit and stilettos, who moved about with her husband, Todd Palin, and a posse that at various times included Greta van Susteren and husband John P. Coale and media maven Tammy Haddad. Wherever Palin went a pack of photographers followed.

The actual White House Correspondents Association dinner was the same script as previous years—with the exception of President Obama in take-no-prisoners campaign mode and Myers timely wit.
The three stand-out beautiful people of the night: Joan RIvers, Sarah Palin, and Lara Logan.
Except for first timers—who should see from inside the Hilton ballroom to believe it—the extravaganza, like some sporting events, was best watched from home on C-Span. Watching from the comfort of home is also an opportunity to rest before the after-parties, which don’t begin until 11 p.m.

For the third year, the French Ambassador’s residence was transformed into an oasis of light, music, champagne and beautiful people for the Vanity Fair and Bloomberg party, with VF’s editor Graydon Carter and Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the premises. The freshest face on the scene, though, was that of Francois Delattre, who arrived from Canada only two months ago to be the new French Ambassador. He and his wife, Sophie Helias-Delattre, appeared to have a particularly good time as they greeted arrivals in their new home’s main entry hall.
At the French Ambassador's residence, Todd and Sarah Palin, flanked by friends.
The new Ambassador of France to the U.S., Francois Delattre.
Poolside at the French Ambassador's.
Part of the terrace as it began to fill up.
From "The Daily Show," Assif Mandvi with Susan Toffler.
An individual who exemplifies the occasion for me is actor Chace Crawford, one of the stars of “Gossip Girl.” We don’t know each other except for meeting once a year at the VF/Bloomberg party, but I think we’ve become good acquaintances. For three years I’ve talked to him longer than almost any other out of towner at the fete. We catch up, chat about his family home in Texas, my son, his work, my work. It’s casual, easy small talk, and always ends on the same note: that he never gets tired of coming to Washington, the dinner, and the associated parties. “I love this,” he said, looking around the residence’s elegant avocado-hued dining room filled with the most random mix of people. For example, this year, after greeting me with a sweet smile and a tight hug, Chace gestured to the big fellow beside him and said “Let me introduce you to my friend, Tony Romo.” The Dallas Cowboys quarterback said it was his second White House Correspondents dinner.

While seeing Tony Romo was unexpected, seeing Sarah Palin wasn’t. The surprise was her relaxed demeanor. I arrived early at the French residence, as did Palin and her group. We were out on the terrace alone for a full five minutes. Like anyone would, she took in the breathtaking and romantic view, and was clearly at ease and at home in this highly sophisticated setting. She seemed approachable. I pondered whether to walk over and introduce myself when, BOOM, the photographers found her. Flash, flash, flash! Just like that, the other guests began to arrive and the moment passed. So, maybe next year I’ll get to ask her how France compares to Alaska.
From across the street at well past midnight, the French Ambassador's house -- all lit up.
David and Katherine Bradley’s annual dinner the night before was, as expected, a civilized beginning to the weekend. Their lawn was made over into a tented spring fantasy, and they served a delicious meal, whose culinary derivation was explained between courses by The Atlantic’s esteemed food writer, Corby Kummer.

Susan Gage prepared the dinner designed by DC-based celebrity chef Jose Andres. The appetizers were foodie fun, particularly foie gras in cotton candy and liquid olives. It was a serene evening and many of the guests lingered over coffee before climbing into limos, town cars, SUVs or buses to head off to the spirited after-party at the downtown Longview gallery.
A chef from the team of Jose Andres explains a caramel corn small bite that has been chilled in hydrogen. The bite, up close.
At the Bradley's, freshly sliced Iberico ham with caviar.
Another Jose Andres treat: chunks of foie gras swirled in cotton candy.
Tables on the tented lawn, before dinner.
Spring flowers were everywhere at the Bradley's home. Coming to dinner.
One of the centerpieces.
CJ with Chef Jose Andres. Jose Andres making a face.
The Bradley's welcome their guests to dinner as David talks about the fun and importance of the annual gathering.
The first course: Boquerones, Fennel & Preserved Lemon Salad
The second course: Ancho Crusted Hanger Steak with Salsa Verde, potatoes mashed with Manchego and spinach with pine nuts, raisins and apples.
Dessert (with one bite missing): Chocolate & Hazelnut Mousse Tort.
Caitria Mahoney and Kit Yarrow. Atlantic Media executive John Fox Sullivan explains the transportation from the Bradley's to the National Journal's after party.
Lingering over coffee after dinner at the Bradley's.
At the after-party at Longview Gallery.
At Longview, John Fox Sullivan and Elizabeth Keffer of Atlantic Media Group with Tom and Barbara Haas.
The scene outside the Longview gallery at close to midnight on Friday.
As noted at the top, there were other good parties this week that were not directly related to the WHCA. In particular a book party for Garrett Graff, known around town as "boy wonder."

He zoomed out of Harvard into jobs in communications and politics before becoming the editor of Washingtonian magazine. Even with that time-consuming day job, he produced his new book, The Threat Matrix, a look at the FBI in a time of terror.

The party was at the home of Washingtonian's publisher, Cathy Merrill Williams and her husband, Paul, with Bryce, their son, greeting arrivals at the door, urging them to buy books and attempting his own Evil Kneivel stunt, on a tricycle, in the middle of the guests.
Bryce Williams eagerly leads guests into the family home.
Garrett's party was heavy with lawyer power, both famous and notorious. For example, Williams & Connolly's Brendan Sullivan, who doesn't show up at a lot of parties. Abbe Lowell, who was Chief House Minority Counsel in the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings, and Scooter Libby, infamous for his role in the "outing" case of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. Sullivan's colleague, Bob Barnett, spent almost as much time on his phone -- pacing in the rear of the garden -- as he did talking to people at the party. In his line, there’s no such thing as down time.
Ellie Merreill with her daughter, and the party's host, Washingtonian magazine publisher Cathy Merrill Williams.
John Fox Sullivan with Threat Matrix author Garrett Graff.
Garrett Graff's book, The Threat Matrix, and the dayjob, Washingtonian magazine.
Solid Washington power: William's & Connolly's Bob Barnett and Brendan Sullivan. John Fox Sullivan.
Jack Davies on the left, Ed Mathias on the right (and that's not a political statement).
The secret-keepers, Abbe Lowell and Brendan Sullivan, and the investigative reporter, Michael Isikoff.
Scooter Libby, former Bush Administration official, forever linked to Valerie Plame Wilson episode. The FBI's Jeffrey R. McCrehan.
Scooter Libby, on the right.
Susan Davis, Denise Wills, and Marisa Kashino.
Bill Hughes, Ann Compton, and Francesca Craig.
Bob Barnett and Michael Isikoff.
Bryce decides to arrive at the party in style. Garrett Graff heads off a calamity on the stairs.
Dad Paul Williams says, "maybe not right now." "Okay, Daddy."
Bob Barnett shows how to party and take a call at the same time ...
Looking back at the party from the Williams' garden.
A few days later, Perry and Leslie Morgan Steiner opened their red brick Georgetown home for a Patrons Party for the annual Georgetown House Tour.

Frida Burling, a life devoted to Georgetown and charitable causes.
The tour has been in existence for ages, its godmother is one of Georgetown's grand dames, Frida Burling, who famously but gently coerces a dozen or so Georgetowners to open their homes to the public from Saturday morning to evening.

The Steiner home itself had been under renovation for a while -- not for the party, but for themselves. Among other elements, they transformed the back garden into a spectacular spread of terrace, lawn, pool, pool house and play area.

Jack Evans, who represents Georgetown on the DC City Council, gasped "wow" when he first caught a look at the view.

A guest standing nearby said, "just another typical Georgetown garden." Steiner is a bestselling author whose works include the recent Crazy Love, a memoir, and Mommy Wars.
Guests arrive at the home of Perry and Leslie Morgan Steiner.
Swag bags fill the garden in front the house. Steiner and Georgetown House Tour matriarch Frida Burling.
Many at the party took a moment to pose for photo with Frida Burling, who is 95 years old.
"A typical Georgetown garden," laughed one guest upon seeing the Steiner's near urban estate. Music for a lovely evening.
Enjoying cocktail food with an Asian flare.
John and Holly Caldwell with Paige Kevill.
Steiner: pleased with a good party.
A neighbor, watching the party from over the fence ...
In the midst of all the other events there was one party that couldn’t be missed: The White House Pet Correspondents benefit. Sorry to report that none of the four legged guests are actual reporters, but that could be an idea worth pursuing. For now, they and their owners came to Art & Soul restaurant on Capitol Hill on behalf of P2V, a group dedicated to providing pets as a recovery aid for active duty military, veterans and emergency first responders, their spouses and survivors.

According to the organization, this is how it got started: “P2V was founded by Dave Sharpe in October 2009. After serving in the U.S. Air Force Security Forces in Pakistan, Sharpe became violent towards family, friends and himself. He suffered from cold sweats, random crying, and uncontrollable outbursts. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD. One day, Sharpe adopted a pit bull puppy, Cheyenne. Soon after, Sharpe’s family and friends noticed a significant change in his behavior – fewer outbursts, a better attitude. ‘Cheyenne,’ he says, ‘is my savior.’”
A guest at the White House Pet Correspondents party honoring Pets2V, which is "Helping Heal our Nation's Heroes and Sheltered Pets."
The red carpet is for the dogs.
The buffet at the pet party at Art & Soul restaurant.
Waiting for a drink ...
Getting to know you ...
a little too well ...
but walking away friends.
Carol's upcoming memoir is Innocent Spouse, excerpted at