Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington Social Diary

The full moon at twilight over some fine old architecture in Richmond's "Fan" district.
by Carol Joynt

Let’s see, what to do with a collection of priceless treasures when the 17th century museum that is their Paris home must close for an extensive renovation? Hmmm. Maybe pack them up and put them on the road? Possibly to three American cities that aren’t typically the first stop for a major exhibition? That’s precisely what happened with more than 175 works considered to be “Pablo Picasso’s own,” which have traveled to our shores from the Musée Picasso. After an initial stop in Seattle, the museum’s director, Anne Baldassari, brought the entertaining exhibition to Richmond, Va., where it opened last week with a lively, colorful and socially-charged gala at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Pablo Picasso
would be impressed with the exhibition. Scarlett O’Hara would have been impressed with the party.

Scarlett is mentioned because even though she was from outside Atlanta, she would feel at home in Richmond. Richmond proudly retains a considerable regional gentility while still opening the windows to the breezes of today. Not a wind, but a breeze. In this regard it has a lot in common with Charleston, SC.
Richmond's Virginia Museum of Fine Art, celebrating 75 years, a new wing and Picasso.
Where Jefferson Davis lived when he was President of the Confederate States of America.
Richmond, as the capital of the Confederacy in the Civil War, was home to the Confederate White House, where President Jefferson Davis and his family lived until the city fell. Today the building is the Museum of the Confederacy, one of several Civil War-era landmarks. Though the War Between the States is its most notorious stretch in history, Richmond was vital too in the 18th Century, during the Revolutionary War, and was where Patrick Henry proclaimed, “give me liberty or give me death.” For fans of period architecture there is a lot to appreciate, particularly in the “Fan” district, which is also home to contemporary music clubs, restaurants and the VMFA.

I asked a local gentleman if the people of Richmond had much in common with “northern Virginians,” the comparatively moderate to liberal and hard-charging folks who live in the suburbs outside Washington. “No,” he said, with that distinctive accent of marbles and Bourbon, “We are Virginians.”

Of the almost 700 people who attended the gala, the home addresses for the majority were Richmond, with others from Charlottesville, Norfolk, Berryville, Bristol, King George, Chesterfield, Midlothian, Orange and only a token few from New York and Washington. They had a gorgeous southern night of mild temperatures with a full moon hanging in the twilight.
Andrew Mullins, Deborah Garrison, Cathy West Mullins, Donald Sultan, Ebba Grumieaux, Georges Grumieaux, and Bill and Pam Royal (by Aimee Koch).
The VIP reception for guests who gave $250,000 or more to the VMFA.
Among the VIPs, Rose Marie Bogley of Upperville A closer look at a Picasso from Picasso's own collection.
Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell upon arrival at the reception before dinner.
The invitation said, “Inspired Black Tie.” In a town where tradition matters, that meant men in proper dinner suits and women in their best dresses and jewels, with the exception of Pamela Reynolds, who thrives on inspiration and has the courage to stand out as a happy fashion eccentric. In this respect she is to Richmond what Helena Bonham Carter is to Hollywood.

Reynolds was madly colorful in an intricate “bib” of hand-made fabric flowers, with a corresponding headpiece, homage, she said, to Picasso’s Spanish heritage. While it would be easy to caricature Pam solely as an eccentric, there’s significantly more going on. For example, two words: Reynolds Wrap. Her husband’s family founded the metals company and together they are among Virginia’s most active philanthropists. She has served on the VMFA board for years, and was chair during the museum’s recent renovation and expansion—resulting in a new wing that would make any city proud.
Pamela Reynolds, known to be shy but not when it comes to fashion.
Portrait of giving: Linda Kaufman with Richard "Major" Reynolds and Pamela Reynolds at the VIP reception.
Suzanne Hall of the VMFA with Linda Kaufman.
From Norfolk, Marc and Connie Jacobson.
Donald Sultan with Bill and Pam Royall inside the exhibition.
Bruce and Joyce Gates.
Another part of the pre-dinner entertainment was palm reading.
VMFA Director Alex Nyerges greets a couple at the VIP reception.
Alex Nyerges having a private chat with the French Embassy's Francois Rivasseau and Musee Picasso's Anne Baldassari.
Francois Rivasseau, Alex Nyerges, and Anne Baldassari.
April Niamtu with Virginia's First Lady, Maureen McDonnell.
Lawrence and Freddie Gray (by Travis Fullerton). David and Leah Muhlenfeld (by Travis Fullerton).
Rose Marie Bogley and Patti St. Clair (by Travis Fullerton).
Monica Rao, Kathryn Gray Nyerges, Alex Nyerges, and Michael Rao (by Travis Fullerton).
Strother and Susie Scott (by Travis Fullerton).
Warren Reitman and Eve Reid (by Travis Fullerton). Pam Royal Jenkins and C.N. Jenkins (by Travis Fullerton).
A work of "human art" beside Altria's Mike and Deborah Szymanczyk.
Robin Nicholson, Francois Rivasseau, and Roland Celette.
Suzanne Hall and Stephen D. Bonadies.
Another distinctive woman who drew almost as much attention as Pam, was her friend—and admitted fashion opposite—Linda Kaufman. It seemed everyone wanted to shake her hand. Only days before she’d announced the National Gallery of Art would be the fortunate recipient of her and her late husband’s renowned collection of decorative arts, which includes remarkable pieces of 18th Century American furniture and other treasures from Boston, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and New York. The gift made big news because collections like the Kaufman’s are becoming extinct. They belong in museums. This donation will make the NGA home to one of the most important collections of Americana. Also included are paintings; Dutch old masters and works by Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam.

Reynolds and Kaufman were among the few dozen or so VIPs feted at a special pre-dinner reception just outside the exhibition galleries. Most of this group had given the museum at least $250,000. Others at the reception included Governor Bob McConnell; Francois Rivasseau, the acting French ambassador to the U.S.; Roland Celette, the embassy’s Cultural Attache; Anne Baldassari; Alex Nyerges, the VMFA’s director; Thurston R. Moore, president of the museum’s board of trustees, and Monroe E. Harris, Jr., who heads its foundation board. A principal sponsor was Altria, the Richmond-based parent company to Philip Morris. Its chairman, Michel E. Szymanczyk, towered over the other guests. He had his arm wrapped around his wife, Deborah, who said she would rather have been taking than posing for photos.
Shrimp served at the pre-dinner cocktail party.
More of the cocktail food.
The pre-dinner party at its height, with Flamenco dancers on stage.
The Governor, with his wife Maureen, turns to thank Alex Nyerges, standing to the left.
Joining Szymanczyk were some of his chief lieutenants: Vice chairmen Martin J. Barrington, a museum trustee, and David Beran, with his wife, Diana Beran; executive vice presidents Denise Keane and Howard A. Willard III, with his wife, Laura. In from Washington was Altria’s head of Government and Corporate Affairs, Bruce Gates, with his wife, Joyce. The other featured sponsors were Frances M. Dulaney, James and Frances McClothlin, Pam and Bill Royall, and Clarice and Robert H. Smith.

Regardless of whether they were included at the VIP reception, everyone at the party was greeted warmly and entertained by jugglers, clowns, Flamenco dancers, violins and accordions, a palm reader, plus servers with trays of wine and champagne and multiple bars serving not one, not two, but three brands of Bourbon.
The guests were serenaded from the cocktail party into dinner.
The flowers were in every way about spring.
The Governor's table. The Governor's place card, among the flowers.
Dinner is served.
From the VMFA's own kitchen, scallops in a cream sauce.
Tenderloin with vegetables.
The centerpiece for Table 21 at the VMFA Picasso gala. The hand painted pieces were clever and attractive but may have to be destroyed.
My hosts were the Clarke County contingent, organized by Millwood’s own Elizabeth Locke and husband John Staelin. She is the jewelry designer, with eponymous boutiques on Madison Avenue and in Boyce, Va., he is the CEO of the company (and buys the gold), but also is chair of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. Their guests included neighbors Laurie Volk, Donald and Mary Shockey, John B. “Jay” Adams, Joseph and Lucia Henderson, and Robin Nicholson, who is the VMFA’s Deputy Director for Art and Education.

Each table in the room where we dined was decorated with a painted centerpiece that riffed on Picasso’s works. They were colorful, amusing and particularly well crafted. On our table it was Picasso’s face beside a vase featuring a naked body. I wanted to take it home. Nicholson explained that due to some French rule, possibly a Musée Picasso copyright, the centerpieces would have to be destroyed after the dinner. What a shame. Hopefully the VMFA will hide them away to be saved for a future special occasion. Or, perhaps France will grant them a reprieve.
Elizabeth Locke. Laurie Volk. Just out of frame is John Staelin.
Laurie Volk and John Staelin.
Louise and Harwood Cochrane (by Travis Fullerton). Gov. McDonnell, Monroe Harris and Fran McGlothlin (by Travis Fullerton).
There were precious few speeches and the few were brief. Nyerges spoke, the Governor said a quick “hello,” there was grateful applause for Rivasseau and Baldassari; the cocktail reception was long, dinner was not rushed, before and after there was time to view the exhibition and other galleries in the museum. Many people returned to the main lobby raving not only about the Picasso’s but also the museum’s Fabergé collection, which includes a large selection of Imperial Easter Eggs.

The Staelin’s gathered up those of us in their group after the dessert buffet and we headed out of the museum at close to midnight—our feet a little achy from hours in heels on marble floors, eager to shed gowns and dinner jackets. Still, we had some energy left. We returned to the Jefferson Hotel, and to the elegant high-ceilinged and marble bar of the Lamaire restaurant, just off the lobby, to relive the evening over cocktails and pimiento cheese dip, a southern staple. It was just us, our laughter, a bartender and a sleeping hotel until we closed the place.
The view of dinner from above.
After dinner, Bruce and Joyce Gates head to dessert. After dinner accordion music.
It's impossible to write this story and not pay respect to the Jefferson. I’d heard about the hotel for years. I knew it was highly rated, and I knew the legend: that the grand staircase was the model for sweeping stairs in the Atlanta home of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. No one really knows, but the carpeted 36 steps are stunning, as is the hotel’s expansive lobby, where live alligators once lived in the interior pools. Now the pools are gone and the alligators are bronze. But this bit of movie lore is solid: Louie Malle filmed My Dinner with Andre in the hotel’s ballroom.

The Jefferson is ten minutes off the highway. It looms over a quiet neighborhood of old and new buildings. But inside is the treat: grand places to wander or repose, a sense of time slowed down, and always attentive service. The day of the gala I arrived in time for lunch at TJ’s, as in Thomas Jefferson, and had peanut soup and brined pork. I visited the indoor pool, worked out in the clean and spacious gym, and relaxed in my room that had every modern convenience, including high speed internet, HDTV, a shower with multiple heads and a bath with whirlpool jets.
First built in the 1890s, the Jefferson Hotel remains much of its original architecture.
Across the street from the Jefferson, a mix of new and old.
Across the street from the Jefferson, columns are a familiar feature in Richmond.
The Jefferson's next door neighbor, the headquarters of the Junior League of Richmond. Thomas Jefferson looms over the main lobby of the Jefferson. Note the bronze alligator at his feet.
The ceiling of the main lobby at the Jefferson.
Relaxing with the newspaper in the main lobby.
The fabled grand staircase.
The "rotunda" with the grand staircase at the far end of the room. Regardless of whether it did inspire Margaret Mitchell, the Jefferson's grand staircase was used for "Gone With the Wind" cotillions, as pictured here in 1967.
From an ancient ad.
Beautiful ceiling and window detail in shades of teal.
Room 526 at the Jefferson Hotel.
A writing desk. There's also free high speed wireless. One of the Jefferson's new marble bathrooms, in room 101, with a whirlpool bath and shower with dual spray heads.
The swimming pool.
One of two restaurants at the Jefferson Hotel. In Virginia, crackers and butter take the place of bread before and with a meal.
Looking in to TJ's dining room.
TJ's Peanut Soup, made from salt roasted Hubbs Peanuts, Bacon and Chives.
Maple Brown Sugar Brined Pork Chop with Cider Braised Cabbage, Sweet Potato Puree and Maple-Balsamic Glaze.
Some of the Virginia beers on TJ's menu.
One of several rooms at Lemaire, the Jefferson's award winning other restaurant, which is open for evening cocktails and dinner. Another room at Lemaire.
The bar at Lemaire
The view from Lemaire's bar out to the lobby, where Jefferson stands guard.
The morning after the gala, before packing up and checking out, I joined the Staelins, Shockeys and Laurie Volk for breakfast back at TJs. They chose to start their day with what Elizabeth Locke declared are the “best eggs benedict.” I opted for a country biscuit with jam and butter. While the waitress refilled our coffee cups, the Virginians told vivid stories of old families, of haunted estates, insanity, incest and misadventure, affairs gone wrong, murder, and suicide. You know, breakfast talk for southerners; but for me a virtual audio book. It was tough to tear away, but Route 95 called. As soon as I got on the crowded highway, though, I got back off and took rural roads most of the way home. A gradual return north seemed appropriate.
Breakfast at The Jefferson Hotel: Eggs Benedict with Country Ham and Cheese Grits.
A biscuit with butter and jam.
Mary and Donald Shockey and Laurie Volk at breakfast at The Jefferson.
The guest list for the Picasso dinner was a total of 674 names. They included: David M. Abbott, A. P. Rowe, Abby B. Ayers, Achille M. Guest, Addison B. Thompson, Adele C. Johnson, Adrienne G. Hines, Agustin E. Rodriguez, Al Gayle, Alan A. Rudnick, Alexander L. Nyerges, Alfonso L. Carney, Alice Tilghman, Allen C. Goolsby, Allison P. Weinstein, Amanda N. Aghdami, Amber Crawley, Amy M. Krumbein, Andrew J. Lucas, Andrew J. Mullins, Andrew M. Lewis, Anita Ledsinger, Anju Cartwright, Ann P. Gottwald, Ann Reed, Ann Tickle, Anne Axselle, Anne Boeve, Anne Garland Farrell, Anne Rohman, Anne T. Chewning, Anne T. Riley, Anne Tilghman, April Niamtu, Armstrong H. Forman, Austin Brockenbrough, Barbara A. Sloan, Barbara C. Joynes, Barbara Catlett, Barbara Faurot, Barbara Pace, Barbara Ukrop, Barbara Voss, Barbara Wright, Barksdale Watkins, Barry I. Griffin, Ben Atwood, Benjamin J. Lambert, Benjamin W. Rawles, Bertie D. Heiner, Beth Spilman, Betty Gannon, Beverly Davis, Beverly W. Reynolds, Beverly Vilseck, Bill Atwood, Blake Hurt, Brad Booker, Brendan McCormick, Brenton S. Halsey, Brian Ford, Brooke Hatcher, Bruce C. Gottwald, Bruce Wingo, Bryan Fratkin, C. N. Jenkins, Cabell S. Harris, Carol Henry, Carol Hurt, Carol Lynn Forman, Carol Price, Caroline F. Denton, Carolyn Bryan, Carolyn K. Snow, Carolyn Lambert, Carolyn Quinn, Cary Epstein, Casper L. Sigmon.

The invitation.
Cassandra H. Carney, Catherine H. Claiborne, Catherine R. Claiborne, Catherine V. Hughes, Cathy Strauss, Cathy W. Mullins, Cecelia S. Howell, Charles E. Agee, Charles E. James, Charles E. Noell, Charles F. Bryan, Charles H. Faurot, Charles H. Foster, Charles L. Reed, Charles M. Stillwell, Charles N. Whitaker, Charles S. Luck, Charles S. Valentine, Charlotte M. Minor, Charlotte Sisk, Christina B. Stoneburner, Christine B. Cottrell, Christopher Lindbloom, Christy Williams, Chuck Ledsinger, Cindy Mabry, Cindy Neuschwander, Coleen A. Butler-Rodriguez, Colette Bernard, Colin G. Campbell, Connie Jacobson, Corell H. Moore, Courtney M. Malveaux, Crystal Wright, Cynthia Haw, Cynthia K. Fralin, Daniel G. Van Clief, Daniel R. Abramson, David B. Bradley, David C. Reynolds, David E. Cottrell, David Muhlenfeld, David R. Beran, David R. Goode, Dawn M. Siegel, Debi Vrolyk, Deborah K. Garrison, Deborah Valentine, Delores Settle, Dennis I. Belcher, Diana Adams, Diana Beran, Dietra Trent, Donald E. Mosman, Donald Sultan, Donna Kelliher, Douglas N. Martin, Drew S. Markel, DuPre Cochran, Dwight C. Jones, E. L. Haskell, Ebba Grumieaux, Ed Grier, Eda H. Cabaniss, Edmund Capon, Edward L. Ayers.

Edward M. Smith, Elaine McCormick, Elizabeth Allen, Elizabeth B. Jennings, Elizabeth D. Darde, Elizabeth Fisher, Elizabeth P. Fraim, Elizabeth T. Valentine, Elizabeth W. Williams, Ellen E. Spong, Elliott M. Harrigan, Eric P. Melzig, Erin Fratkin, Eucharia Jackson, Eugene M. Valentine, Eve M. Reid, Everett B. Howerton, Evie Scott, Farhad Aghdami, Floyd D. Gottwald, Frances A. Lewis, Frank Grier, Frank Qui, Frank S. Royal, Frankie Slaughter, Fred T. Tattersall, Fred W. Palmore, Frederica P. Gray, G. G. Minor, G. M. Cochran, Gail L. Letts, Gayle Miller, Gaylen Reynolds, Geoffrey P. Sisk, George C. Freeman, George Grumieaux, Gerald L. Baliles, Geraldine W. Duskin, Gerard Robinson, Glenn C. Van Tuyle, Gopinath R. Jadhav, Gordon F. Rainey, Gordon Gibson, Greg Cummings, Gregory B. Robertson, Gurpal S. Bhuller, H. B. Dendy, H. B. Peppiatt, H. H. Harris, Harold F. Young, Harry A. Turton, Harry Hamilton, Harry R. Thalhimer, Hazle Konerding, Heather Markel, Heather Turton, Helen Nunley, Helen Reveley, Helen S. Agee, Helga K. Gottwald, Henry R. Miller, Henry S. Carter, Herbert A. Claiborne, Hervé Cassagnabère, Heyn Kjerulf, Holly Hoelting, Horace P. Whitworth Howard A. Willard, Hugh, V. White.

Katherine Cabaniss, Katherine Hill, Katherine S. Clarke, Katherine S. Douglas, Kathi Burroughs, Kathleen A. Luke, Kathryn A. Strawn, Kathryn Watkins, Katie Fletcher, Katie Ukrop, Lisette Currier-Martinez, Lois Clarke, Lonnie D. Nunley, Lora L. Usry, Lorraine V. Bortz, Lorraine Walker, Louanna Goolsby, Louanna O. Heuhsen, Louisa Frederiksen, Louise B. Cochrane, Louise G. Freeman, Lucia B. Henderson, Lydia J. Johnson, M. K. Cox, M. L. Heath, Mabel Baldwin, Macon F. Brock, Mala Kohli, Malou Rawls, Malvin Hunter, Marc Jacobson, Marcia Thalhimer, Marciano Villamiel, Margaret Carreras, Margaret F. Howerton, Richard T. Riley, Richard Trowbridge, Richard W. Fowlkes, Rick Letts, Rita M. Smith, Robert B. Ball, Robert B. Taylor, Robert C. Paul, Robert C. Sledd, Robert E. Goodman, Robert G. Reynolds, Robert L. Burrus, Robert L. Chewning, Robert M. Blue, Robert N. Baldwin, Robert S. Spratley, Robert Vrolyk, Robert W. Cabaniss, Robert W. Shinn, Robin Baliles, Robin Nester, Robin Nicholson, Robin Roberts, Roderick Love, Roger H. Tutton.

Trish Puchko, True Luck, Tully Welborn, Valerie Grier, Vance H. Spilman, Vickie Belcher, Vincent J. Mastracco, Virginia H. Lewis, Virginia H. Spratley, Virginia M. Board, Virginia P. Douglass, Virginia Pye, W. B. Douglass, W. G. Harris, W. T. Reveley, Walfrido J. Martinez, Walter M. Bortz, Warren Weitman, Wasfi A. Atiyeh, Watson Seaman, Wendy Rosenthal, Wendy Sydnor, Whitney Kelliher, Whittington W. Clement, William A. Royall, William Bolling, William D. Baldwin, William D. Spry, William E. Hardy, William Esparza, William G. McClure, William G. Packard, William H. Fralin, William H. Sydnor, William H. Tattersall, William J. Armfield, William J. Hennessey, William J. Howell, William P. Harris, William S. Cooper, Wycliffe G. McClure, Xu Bing.

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.