Friday, January 27, 2012

Washington Social Diary

Capitol Building against the night sky.
Bipartisan Partying
by Stephanie Green

It was an unseasonably mild evening in Washington. On the night of the President's State of the Union address, a coatless crowd gathered on the terrace of the mammoth Library of Congress and stood in awe of the Capitol's silhouette against the January sky with barely a shiver.

Finally a security guard appeared to allow access to the building, but a few of us lingered a little while longer to bask in the beauty of our environs. No matter how long you've lived here, the majesty of the Capitol at night never abates for you.

The occasion was the pre-speech reception hosted by National Journal and The Atlantic.

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle like Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Tennessee, and Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican from New Jersey, swapped token well wishes, and power players like Debbie Dingell bent the ears of Senators like Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.

A sprinkling of journalists like The Atlantic's Major Garrett, The Examiner's Nikki Schwab, and Washington Life's Kevin Chaffee rounded out the guest list.

The three major contingents were present: Politicians. Lobbyists. Reporters.

The venue could not have been better or more appropriate. Ah, the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress!

The Beaux-Arts style, the symbols of freedom and knowledge, and the fact that you are standing in the largest library in the world all conspire to give this building a momentous feeling.

Sunoco's Albert Baker Knoll saw me looking around wistfully, and so he shared his memories of his youth here in the United States Page School.

"Can you imagine being a 16-year-old student in this place?" he posited.
Inside Library of Congress.
The only thing that was missing from the reception was the food. Real food, that is. It was, after all, the dinner hour, but the federal affairs folks present reminded me of the "toothpick rule", which explained why the fare was so light.

(The "toothpick rule" refers to ethics reform regulations banning lobbyists from buying meals and fancy dinners for politicians, but finger foods or anything you can eat with a "toothpick" are appropriate.)

Spotted: France 2's Laurent Desbois, Ann Walker Marchant, Erik Huey of Entertainment Software Association, Joyce Brayboy of Goldman Sachs, Kate Bennett of Capitol File, Michael Phelps of The Washington Examiner, and Tim Burger.
Major Garrett and Tim Burger.
Debbie Dingell with Sen. Roy Blunt.
Rep. Jim Cooper, Martha Cooper, and Rep. Leonard Lance.
Art collector Heather Podesta. Talking head Bill Press.
Donald McClellan, Yebbie Watkins, and David Culver, all in government affairs.
French journalist Laurent Desbois with Qorvis Communications's Kevin Chaffee.
Bikram Yoga Capitol Hill's Elizabeth Glover and Dawn Langford.
Although I was deterred by the weather from attending the Opera Lafayette performance at the Kennedy Center last Saturday, I (and every other young cave dweller) crept out of hibernation and headed down to the Ritz Carlton for the Washington Ballet's annual Jete Society Dance Party.

We had to tread carefully in our party shoes as the sidewalks were thoroughly frozen over. Ice skates would have been easier to negotiate.

A fundraiser organized by the Ballet's highly motivated young professionals contingent, the Dance Party is always a favorite of mine, because, the spirit of the event is invariably youthful and energetic.
The Jete Society held its annual dance party at the Ritz Carlton.
Champagne on the ready for guests at Ritz .
I always think of it as a wintry prom night: a good DJ blasting 80's classics, young girls in brightly colored dresses and a sprinkling of a few cool "adults" (like our correspondent Carol Joynt) who come along like the evening's "chaperones".

This year's event especially piqued my fancy because its theme was "mad hatter", a nod to the Ballet's upcoming production of "Alice in Wonderland".

Alice is one of my favorite characters in literature. The ultimate child woman, she is wide-eyed, inquisitive, and open to every encounter with every funny creature that crosses her path.
Event Chairs Ashley Taylor and Winston Lord.
Ballet supporter John Tinpe with Alice. Lisa Crawford and Carol Joynt.
Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre (right) with friend.
When I checked in for the VIP reception in the downstairs lobby of the Ritz Carlton, I chuckled at the whimsical décor including mushrooms, flowers, and even tweedle dee and tweedle dum beckoning us to go down the rabbit hole.

I perused the food bar, which, as I suspected, had all my comfort food favorites like pigs in the blanket, loaded potato skins, and beef and turkey sliders.

The doors to the dance party opened at nine revealing a Ritz ballroom transformed into studio 54 nightclub.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The Alice in Wonderland decor.
A nod to the Queen of Hearts.
The Photo Booth. Cheryl Romero and Andrea Rodgers ham it up in photo booth.
Andrea Rodgers at VIP bar.
Ritz Carlton ballroom transformed into 1970's nightclub.
DJ Pitch One.
Cool decor in ballroom.
Before boogying, party goers checked out the photo booth where you could ham it up with feathery boas, and other silly props.

Since this event was dubbed a "mad hatter party", I took a special interest in the hattery choices of the guests.

Although "the fascinator" has been ruled verboten at this year's Ascot and is quickly becoming a thing of the past, "fascinators" of every color and style were proudly perched on the heads of Washington's hipsters Saturday night.
Sliders on the buffett.
The dessert bar.
I also got a kick out of the pork pies, floppies, and other creative accessories (lots of fun hosiery on display).

I left the party with a cupcake and energy drink labeled with the tags "eat me" and "drink me".
The dance floor at Ritz Carlton.
Dancers at Jete Society party. Hats were the accessory of choice for the evening.
Cupcakes with eat me tags provided parting gifts for guests. Drink Me party favors.
A couple days before the "Mad Hatter" party, I ventured down to the French Embassy for a photo exhibition by French photographer Gerard Rondeau, a black and white portraitist and author, whose works have been on display all over the world.

Young and old, French and American, gathered at the La Maison Francaise to see a wide assortment of personalities on the wall. Carla Bruni, Gore Vidal, Patricia Highsmith, and a host of fellow artists have fallen under the spell of Mr. Rondeau's lens. The photos will be on display through March 16.
Gerard Rondeau addresses the crowd at the French Embassy. Monsieur Rondeau in front of his photos on display.
France Magazine editor Karen Taylor with Madame Rondeau.
A guest admiring photo exhibition.
Rondeau's portrait of Carla Bruni.
Portrait of Roy Lichtenstein.
Photographs by Stephanie Green.