Monday, July 25, 2011

Washington Social Diary

The gates of Evermay on Sunday, July 24th, 2011.
by Carol Joynt

Saturday night John Irelan and I went to dinner at a Georgetown restaurant named Fahrenheit. It seemed the perfect choice to cap a week of temperatures in the 100s. Fortunately for us, the heat was only in the restaurant’s name.

The room was cool and calm; candles cast a soft glow on the antique brick walls. It was good for quiet conversation, and so we dished and ate our dishes, Roasted Salmon for him and Chilean Sea Bass for me. We sipped a cold Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, and pondered the world out there in the heat.

An ideal dinner partner, John Irelan with Gail West
John is an ideal companion for Saturday night dinner off the grid. He’s on the town a lot, at all the best galas and dinners, but even though he shows up with a smile the social circuit is a form of work.

Our dinner was off the clock and off the record, sort of, which is too bad because as one of the city’s most popular interior designers and dinner partners, especially among cave dwellers and the establishment, he knows lots of secrets, the kind that are great to hear on a Saturday night over a long chatty dinner in a cool retreat.

John talked and I gaped, often exclaiming, “No! You’re kidding? Oh My God, I had no idea!”

Part of our dish was about the recent sale of Evermay estate, which sold for $22 million, less than half its original asking price, but still one of the most expensive real estate transactions in Washington ever. The historic Georgetown property had been in the family of the late DuPont Chemical heir F. Lammot Belin since the 1920s, passing from generation to generation. When Harry Belin put it on the market more than two years ago the asking price was an eye-popping $49 million. The only person rumored to be interested was Oprah Winfrey.
A tribute to the original owner, Samuel Davidson, describes him as "a Scot of original character."
The brick wall of Evermay runs to the top of this hill, more than half of a long Georgetown block.
Evermay is Georgetown's grandest estate. Evermay was first built between 1792 and 1794 for Samuel Davidson, who provided the land for the White House.
Plenty of space for a prized car collection.
Evermay's ballroom.
Everymay's dining room.
The buyers are two of the most private people in Washington, but I know a little about them because in 1999 they bought a handsome P Street townhouse from close friends of mine, Mark and Trish Malloch Brown, who moved to New York for Mark to take a very high position at the United Nations (he then joined the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the U.K.).

But back to the buyers of Evermay. According to my research they are gifted biochemists with a pharmaceuticals fortune, Dr. Sachiko Kuno and Dr. Ryuji Ueno, husband and wife, and founders of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, R-Tech Ueno, Ltd., and S&R Technology Holdings. Their individual bios are packed with impressive accomplishments in pharmaceutical research and development. From the Sucampo website: “Their joint efforts resulted in the successful launch of Rescula® eye drops, the first bioactive lipid ever used to treat glaucoma.”
APS President Gary Sieck, Ryuji Ueno, and Sachiko Kuno present Alexander Staruschenko with the S&R Foundation Award in this 2010 photo from the American Physiological Society.
Philanthropically they support The Washington Opera and the Smithsonian, and Dr. Ueno has a passion for hot cars. He’s ranked as a “Class A” racing driver and is a member of the Ferrari Club.

Evermay is a mansion designed for entertaining – there’s a ballroom, and the dining room seats 40, and it has expansive gardens – so perhaps this intriguing couple plan to become slightly less private. Or not. Either way, the 3.5 acre estate has plenty of area for Dr. Ueno to park his car collection.
More views of Everymay ...
While we’re on the subject of real estate, and John Irelan and I laughed about this, but the only party that drew me out this week was for an unoccupied house. Seriously. It was the first time I’d been invited to a party for a house and so had to go. Why not? To my mind a rebuffed house meant working air conditioning, and I was right, everything was cool, bright and shiny, prompting all kinds of new home envy.

The host was realtor Nancy Taylor Bubes, who was mentioned in this column only a few weeks ago for distributing American flags to every Georgetown home for July 4th weekend. Real estate is a tough game and Nancy has a knack for innovative sales tactics, which are essential even in Georgetown, where houses still sell.
A new kind of "house" party. Last week there was a cocktail party for this house, which can be bought for $3.5 million.
Even though spacious and tricked out, this particular house was modest compared to Evermay, but at $3.5 million, a possibility only for the rich. The renovated rooms had been “staged” by Kelly Proxmire. Staging is no longer a trend but a fixture in big-ticket home sales. A home cannot look like someone lives there; it has to look like no one lives there. The trend may be the pre-sale cocktail party. Nancy offered drinks and canapés and Georgetown Cupcakes and even swag – for humans and their dogs.

Money money money. To buy a $3.5 million home there has to be some lucre in the bank. Because the purchase is just the beginning. Property taxes in Washington are monstrous. For Evermay, for example, they are about $150,000 a year.

Plop into the water supply: the anti-anxiety med Lexapro.
Wouldn’t it be great to know what it feels like to be rich right now, to not have to fret on an almost hourly basis about the dysfunction between the Obama Administration, House Republicans and disgruntled Democrats, and what their ideological intransigence could mean to the average American’s feeble finances? Even if the current impasse is resolved, it won’t scrub from memory the way various elected leaders have played fast and loose with our money and our trust these recent weeks. On top of the heat wave, it’s made the atmosphere in Washington absolutely leaden. And this is at only the threshold of the billion dollar presidential campaign to come.

The idiotic political drama makes me yearn for the 80s, and the relationship of President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Even as ideological opposites, they got together, shut the door and worked it out.

A Saturday morning “emergency” meeting at the White House produced not much more than this great line from the pool report: “Strained body language suggested a school principal's office with a handful of sullen suspects sitting grimly.” That’s it right there: high school, with Speaker John Boehner reportedly huffing out of meetings, and later not returning the President’s phone calls. Boehner accused the President of also walking out of a meeting with him, which Obama denied. He said. He said.

As John Irelan and I finished our sympatico dinner, I had this suggestion: maybe Dr. Drew Pinsky can come to Washington and host a weekly “Political Rehab” starring President Obama, Speaker Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Michele Bachman, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Imagine the group sessions “live” on C-Span? The ratings would kill. And for the rest of us: put Lexapro in the national water supply to numb the anxiety.
Carol Joynt's new memoir, Innocent Spouse, can be ordered from Amazon, HERE.