Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Washington Social Diary

The Dumbarton Street home of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
by Carol Joynt

Those who stayed in Washington during the long holiday weekend have a secret: it was a great place to be away from it all. Apart from the hordes massed on the Mall for the annual July 4th celebration and fireworks, everywhere else was quiet. Believe it or not it’s possible to live in Washington and ignore Congress and the White House – that is unless it’s your livelihood. Otherwise summer can be a sweet time to disengage from the “official” city. The politics of the budget notwithstanding, there’s a lot less going on.

As with all big cities we become spoiled by fewer people, less traffic, robust farmers’ markets, the green of our parks and easy-to-get reservations at the choicest restaurants. We eat outside on terraces and in gardens and at sidewalk cafes. Even in the city the scent of the backyard barbecue prevails.

The biggest news in town, apart from the budget, the election and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is a colorful local imbroglio involving proposed city-managed online gambling. It caught some politicians asleep at the wheel and adds fuel to the argument that the District of Columbia should never have statehood, not that it’s ever been close to happening.
The view from DSK's front door in Georgetown.
A Sky News satellite truck has been parked outside DSK's home since he was freed from house arrest.
As for the notorious DSK, his Georgetown home was been under near constant media surveillance since he was freed from house arrest in New York, with the question being whether he would return to Washington – even though the former IMF head no longer has a job here. Little signs were read as potentially meaningful. Yesterday a newspaper landed on his doorstep for the first time in weeks. Did it mean something? I guess not. By evening the stakeout was over.

Nancy Taylor Bubes, a realtor, distributed small American flags to every home in Georgetown. One ended up planted outside DSK’s front door on Dumbarton Street. Was that his call? I doubt it. I doubt he has much fondness for the U.S. right now – but it made for an amusing photo. I wonder, could the ramped up French mockery of our legal system and media be payback for Freedom Fries? On the other hand, French critics should be reminded Strauss-Kahn was released as soon as there was doubt about the accuser. In how many countries would that happen?

Regardless, as of last night, there was no sighting of DSK in Georgetown.

As for news in other parts of town, it was about the water, being near it, on it or virtually in it.
Realtor Nancy Taylor Bubes distributed flags to all the homes in Georgetown ...
... and they got displayed in lot's of different ways.
On the Maine Avenue waterfront, hard by the floating stalls selling fresh seafood, Washington Kastles tennis team owner Mark Ein prepared for his annual extravaganza at a new stadium. The matches begin today and among the celeb players expected are John McEnroe and the Williams’ sisters, Serena and Venus. In advance of the event Ein hosted a cocktail party for friends and supporters. It was a breezy and lovely summer evening, especially with the stadium overlooking the marina. In a nice nod to Wimbledon, guests departed with swag that included British flags and a little book with recipes for Pimm’s Cup, Cucumber Tea Sandwiches and British scones.

Ein’s website calls the event the “hottest ticket of the summer.” With Washington’s reliable humidity, and temps in the 80s and 90s, he’s likely correct.
Mark Ein's cocktail party at the new Washington Kastles stadium on Maine Avenue in Washington.
The party from another direction.
The new tennis stadium features a mini-court at the waters edge.
The new Kastles stadium is perched beside the Washington marina, home to an assortment of boats and stalls that sell fresh fish.
Washington Kastles swag: recipes suited for tea time and tennis.
A few days earlier we were also on Maine Avenue, but this time on the water, aboard “Sea Loafers,” the handsome 112-foot motor yacht owned by Jeff Pfeifle. Jeff and Adam Mahr hosted a party for their Washington friends as the boat made its way from its winter home in Florida to Sag Harbor, where it will spend the summer, serving, as usual, as Jeff’s home away from home when he’s not in Manhattan. There are few people as readily happy as Jeff Pfeifle. He’s figured something out about life, needs to bottle it and share it with the rest of us, because it’s not just about working hard and cashing in the chips. Or maybe it is. I’m not sure, but whatever it is he sails with a smile.

The party had a second purpose, too: a chance for Adam to enjoy his sea legs before hip replacement surgery (which happened a day after the party, went well and he’s recuperating on schedule).
Guests relax on the top deck of Sea Loafers III.
Passing by, captain and "mate."
Jonathan Capehart, center, with friends.
Dan Herlihy, David Helfrich, and Dan Miller.
Jeff Pfeifle with friends.
Happy to be aboard Sea Loafers.
Jeff Pfeifle: What is his secret?
One of a few shipboard bars.
Gifts for the hosts.
Adam Mahr entertains in the galley.
The scene in the main salon.
The view of and from the aft deck.
The view of the Washington waterfront from the bow of Sea Loafers III.
Aboard Sea Loafers III.
Sea Loafers after sunset, and the party continued.
Keeping with our watery theme, the National Geographic Society welcomed guests to a virtual underwater cave for a gala dinner celebrating exploration and explorers. At the downtown National Geographic headquarters, the evening’s party planners transformed an institutional event room into a grotto, with cinematic sea life playing on the walls and table settings formed from the lush depths. Everything was blue and green and serene. Next year they should add a misty salt-water spray to heighten the illusion, and maybe an occasional rogue wave.

The cocktail hour under a tent was fast-paced, loud and crowded; dinner was heralded by uniformed trumpeters who sounded the familiar fanfare that plays at the beginning of every NatGeo production. And this was a colorful production. It didn’t matter that CNN host Wolf Blitzer was tardy for his duties as emcee, because Chevy Chase bounded to the stage and did the job. Chase and his wife were guests of Lindblad Expeditions president Sven Lindblad.
Chevy Chase, Jayni Chase, and John Bull Dau.
At every table there were people with extraordinary talents, meaning not bureaucrats but actual explorers and scientists. The oceanographer who found the Titanic, Robert Ballard, worked the room in the spirit of a college reunion. The man who made Titanic, the movie, director James Cameron, was equally at home in this milieu, where he didn’t come across as a “king of the world” so much as a deliriously happy and humble groupie.

“I’m not worthy,” Cameron said from the stage after being honored as a new National Geographic Society “explorer in residence.” His remarks were spontaneous and heartfelt. “Everybody knows me as this Hollywood guy, but that’s not who I am. My heroes were explorers. It’s a pathology, an insane curiosity, and such an exciting mission. It feeds my soul in a way that none of the Hollywood stuff can do.”
John Fahey, James L. Jones, Betty Hudson, Stephen Schwarzman, Diane Jones, and Catherine Reynolds.
Kenny Broad, Amy Clement, and Bob Ballard.
John Fahey, the group’s chairman and CEO, oversaw other honors as well. The Explorer of The Year honors went to cave divers Kenny Broad and the late Wes Skiles. Skiles widow, Terri, accepted on his behalf. Broad described National Geographic as his “family, but less dysfunctional than most families.” He also paid tribute to Skiles, who died a year ago during a dive of Boynton Beach, FL. “I wanted to learn to cave dive from the best,” Broad said, “and Wes was already the best. We were always aware of the risks, but I didn’t think I’d be doing it without him.”

Skiles shot the photo that inspired the evening’s décor.

On the subject of photography, I consider myself something of an amateur shooter, but at a party hosted by National Geographic, the home of iconic photography, I retreated and left the party pictures to their expert photographers.
Rather than playing a traditional fanfare the trumpeters summoned guests to dinner with the National Geographic theme heard on most, if not all, of their broadcasts.
The room gets a galactic hello from the crew of the International Space Station.
Wade Davis, James Cameron, and Terri Skiles.
The beautiful table settings made the evening like dining in an aquarium.
Guests included co-chairs Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, Gayle and Ed Roski, Stephen and Christine Schwarzman, the evening’s entertainer, singer Jack Johnson, and the chef who designed the “sustainable” menu, Barton Seaver. Also, Heidi Fahey, Gini Rometty, James L. Jones, Diane Jones, Suzy Amis Cameron, Enric Sala, Sam Walton, Spencer Wells, Beverly Joubert, Marcia Carlucci, Johan Reinhard, Bruce Ludwig, Dana Proulx, Fred Hiebert, David Harrison, Zach Gill, Michael Pollock, Wade Davis, Zeb Hogan, Sen. Mark Warner, Lisa Collis, Paula Kahumbu, David Yaun, Grant Yaun, Alton Byers, Sandra Postel, Michael and Marie Elms, Sylvia Earle, Frank Saul II, Gilbert Grosvenor, Graham Grosvenor, Dereck Joubert, Boyd Matson, Cagan Sekercioglu, Reza, Steve and Jean Case, Ashley Murray, Kakani Katija, Jeremy Lindblad, Jose Urteaga, Tierney Thys, Mattias Klum, Vicki Sant, Roger Sant, Carolyn Deaver, Graham Arader, Mike Fay, Luke Dollar, Gerd Schulte-Hillen, Johanna Schulte-Hillen, Dino Martins, Alexandra Cousteau, Megan Reynolds, Emily Lawyer, Maggie Jones, Joan Abrahamson, Jonathan Aronson, Denis Hogan, John Waterhouse, Vathana Tuy, Jennifer Burney, Marianne Lavelle, Juan Martinez, Chris Rainier, Adrian Seymour, Maryanne Culpepper, Lee Berger, Sasha Kramer, Katy Croff Bell, Zoltan Takacs, Thomas Culhane, Robert and Roxanne Fleming, Don Walsh, Jorn Hurum, Rob Kunzig, Jonathan Tourtellot, John Francis, and Hayat Sindi.
Barton Seaver, Jack Johnson, and Reza.
David Margulies, Bruce Ludwig, Mike Matkins, and Ed Roski, Jr.
Kakani Katija, Sasha Kramer, and Marissa Bennett.
Ed Wright, Diane Wright, Jean Case, and Steve Case.
Ed and Gayle Roski, Wayne and Catherine Reynolds, andChristine and Steve Schwarzman.
James Cameron, Lisa Truitt, and Andrew Wright
Chris Johns with Catherine and Tracy Wolsencroft.
Enric Sala and Chevy Chase.
Alexandra Cousteau and Terry Garcia.
Carol Joynt's new memoir, Innocent Spouse, can be ordered from Amazon, HERE.