Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Washington Social Diary

Marjorie Post's descendants at Hillwood's annual gala: Sam and George Iverson, Ellen Charles, Ellie Rose Iverson, Anna Rose and Andrew Iverson, and Nedenia C. and Stanley H. Rumbough.
by Carol Joynt

The weeks of late May and June have felt more like March and April in Washington, and not only due to the flukey and often cool weather. The calendar that marks the capital’s social life did not take a break nor did it slacken with the Memorial Day holiday. 

Much like the major league hockey and basketball play-offs, which go on and on and on, the party and gala whirl has kept up a swift pace. Presumably it will calm after July 4th. It has to, because the summer scenes demand a population of willing and eager revelers, too. 

Since so few people who live in Washington are actually from here, the town scatters in every possible direction — the beaches, the lakes, the mountains and a lot of home towns. Which means, happily, less congestion on the streets and in the restaurants, and the social gatherings that happen turn toward the more personal and private. It is a welcomed respite.  My goal for the summer is a simple one: social detox.

But since happenings are still happening, here are some of note from the last week or so.
Bipartisan baseball: Republican congressmen Jeff Denham of California and David McKinely of West Virginia listen to Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado.
Bipartisan Baseball

Even though it’s not a laughing matter, it’s easy to make jokes about the dysfunction of Congress. Set the jokes aside for a moment to at least appreciate two House members who took it upon themselves to try to come up with an antidote. Republican David McKinley of West Virginia and Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado felt the antidote was an evening out at the ballpark. And it sort of worked.

McKinley approached DeGette with the idea of getting their colleagues over to the nearby Washington Nationals Park, where they could nosh on franks, sip sodas or beer, enjoy a game and talk to each other, become better acquainted, perhaps even communicate more amicably. Invariably, on the night of the game, votes were called both before and after the first pitch, but still about 40 members and another 400 Congressional staff found time for several innings of the Nats vs the Mets. They paid about $35 a piece for their own tickets.
DC's House representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, with Bob Tanenbaum, whose family owns the Nationals.
Nationals VP Gregory McCarthy greets New York congressman Eliot Engel.
Congressman John Barrow of Georgia with Nats GM Mike Rizzo.
The Nationals pulled out all the stops. When the bus arrived from the Capitol, there  was a group of greeters that included MLB officials, team VP Gregory McCarthy,  and Bob Tanenbaum, whose family owns the team, and who said the event was a dream come true for him. There was a brief reception (in the Roosevelt Room), with a cash bar and a buffet of ballpark fare. That’s where the group was joined by Tanenbaum’s wife, Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, and General manager Mike Rizzo, who shook hands and stayed for quite a while. The members signed a base that could be used later for an auction, if they wished. On the field, before the first pitch, McKinley and DeGette were introduced and presented with a bat by manager Davey Johnson
Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Diana DeGette of Colorado.
DeGette signs a base.
Reps. David McKinley, Diana DeGette, and Jeff Denham in the President's Club after meeting with wounded warriors.
Handing out Nationals caps.
At the bottom of the 3rd inning, members of Congress give a wave with wounded warriors.
DeGette considered the game only a first effort. She believes the old patterns of Congressional socializing — weekend dinner parties — are just that, old patterns from a bygone era. “Back then all the members of Congress were men with stay-at-home wives, and the wives organized the dinners. It’s never going to be the way it was again.” Now, she said, the members of Congress are women as well as men, everyone works, and there’s a lot of weekend travel back to home districts. “We have to find new ways to get together, and this is one of those ways. We want to grow this, do it annually, and eventually get the whole House here.”

Most of the members returned to the Capitol before the game ended, dismally for Nats fans, with a 10-1 Mets win.
A beautiful night for a baseball game, even though the Nats lost to the Mets 10-1.
The Tudor Place Garden Party

The Tudor Place Garden Party has changed  over the years but it’s still one of Georgetown’s best parties, drawing out even the most reclusive of cave dwellers, core Washington society. And hats, lots of hats. It is a fundraiser for the historic Tudor Place mansion, which sits on a hill overlooking the village. The setting is lush, breezy and serene. Even though it’s distinctly American, the landscape and straw-colored stucco of the mansion makes it appear as if it was transplanted from Tuscany.

For a number of years the party was truly a lawn party, with guests standing on the sloping expanse of green, sipping cocktails under the giant old trees, with a view of the handsome house in the background. There was a tent, but it was planted on the grass. There were many tables arrayed about the lawn, huge flower arrangements and several bars serving premium brands. 
The front entrance of Tudor Place, which appears transported from Tuscany.
Thomas Peter, the homes original owner, was Scottish -- thus the bagpipers.
Guests check in at Tudor Place.
Name tags for the taking.
Now it is a more formal and structured affair — less garden party and more routine tented fundraiser, with the tent erected on a raised floor, limited use of the lawn and fewer tables under the trees. There were some who grumbled, and I guess I’m one of them, but most didn’t. When I mentioned to another guest that I missed partying on the lawn, she observed, “it has to be done this way or else all the old people would go rolling down the hill.” 

The party raised a record $250,000. It honored Phillips S. Peter. The home was built in 1816 for his ancestor, Martha Custis Peter — granddaughter of Martha Washington — and her husband, Thomas Peter.
Phillips Peter, the evening's honoree, and board president Timothy Matz, greet the guests.
Phillips Peter addressing the guests.
Jane Matz and Fran Kenworthy.
Jessica Zullinger of the Tudor Place staff talks with a guest.
Jack Evans, DC council member who is running for mayor, with his wife, Michele. Tudor Place board member Elizabeth Powell.
Bob Berendt and Ellen Charles, a former Tudor Place board president.
Guests check out the green-themed cocktail at Tudor Place.
Myra Moffett with her son in law, Dr. Terrence Keaney and her daughter, Mary Moffett Keaney. Marcia Carter.
Paul Frazer, Dr. Tina Alster, and Rev. Stuart Kenworthy.
Barbara Crocker and Christian Zapatka.
Dr. Tina Alster and Barbara Crocker.
Tudor Place garden party co-chair, Page Evans. Frederica Valanos.
Pam and Powell Moore.
Leslie Buhler, executive director of Tudor Place, and Phillips Peter.
Kevin Chaffee. Kevin Chaffee with some of the more colorfully attired guests.
Shane Harris talks with Paul Fraser and Dr. Tina Alster.
The forma, structured tent at the Tudor Place Garden party. Look through at the center and the mansion is slightly visible. No fear of any old people rolling out of it and down the hill.
It was a beautiful tent, but it was a lot of tent.
Tables on the lawn near the mansion.
Where once there were many tables on the lawn, now only a couple.
The sloping lawn under the big trees.
Hillwood Annual Gala

It was one of the prettiest evenings of the spring for the annual gala at Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Washington home, Hillwood, which, like Tudor Place, is a popular museum and tourist attraction. Like Tudor Place, the evening was very much in touch with nature and history and drew the swells. Unlike Tudor Place, though, we did, literally, party on the lawn, and it was splendid — thanks to the weather, colorful table settings, exuberant flower arrangements, good food and good wine. 

This year’s gala opened a new exhibition, “Artfully Living,” which features examples of how Post enjoyed the good life. For example, her pink bomb shelter, which is open to the public for the first time. As those things go, it is spacious and, for its era, equipped for every possible subterranean need. Of course, after all the dire warnings of the '50s and '60s, we learned soon enough that bomb shelters weren’t going to save us from much more than the rain.  
Waiters with trays of drinks at the entrance to Hillwood estate.
A jazz combo accompanied the cocktails on Hillwood's front drive.
Cocktails on the front drive at Hillwood.
Welcoming the 400 or so guests was Post’s granddaughter, Ellen MacNeille Charles, who is also president of the board. She was also celebrating her birthday, which included the presentation of a cake and a bouquet of flowers as well as a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from guests.

Several of Charles’ children were there, too, as well as some cousins. Also board members, including Amy Bondurant, John Palmer, Barbara Boggs and Aubrey Sarvis, supporters Nancy and Richard Marriott and Phillips Peter, and Sophie Delattre, wife of the French ambassador, who Charles was meeting for the first time and called “a real delight.” Delattre was one of the last people to depart, walking with Charles through the gardens and past the greenhouse and commenting on how much she likes to take a break from the city’s hectic pace with a walk around the Hillwood grounds.  
Among other refreshments the bars offered French rosé Champagne. The cocktail fare included rare roast beef on toast.
And pimiento sandwiches.
Marjorie Post's rose grade and greenhouse.
Susan Gage Caterers served a meal geared to Marjorie Post’s tastes, including salmon en papillote. There was rosé Champagne, too, as a nod to the pink bomb shelter. The flower arrangements were created from Hillwood’s own gardens and greenhouse because, along with the plane and the cars and the staff and the yacht and homes in Palm Beach and the Adirondacks, that’s part of the art of artfully living.

In the exhibition there’s a wall panel that features an interview with Post, where she’s asked whether all the material possessions she has are more trouble than they are worth. Great answer: “It’s no trouble to me. You see, I have done this kind of thing since I was 18, and it rolls right off my back.”
The stairs down to Hillwood's pink bomb shelter.
Inside the pink bomb shelter, where rosé champagne was served during the Hillwood gala.
An array of orchid plants in the entry foyer.
The formal dining room at Hillwood.
Flowers on the table in the grand dining room of Hillwood. The flowers matched the table settings at dinner on the lawn.
All the arrangements were created with Hillwood's own bounty of flowers. At each table were old photographs of Marjorie Post living the good life.
Sophie Delattre, Amy Bondurant, and David Dunn.
Sophie Delattre and Ellen Charles.
Current and former Hillwood executive directors: Kate Markert and Fred Fisher.
Nancy and Richard Marriott.
George Floyd and Ellen Charles.
Guests en route to the dinner tent.
Servers from Susan Gage Caterers receive their last instructions before guests arrive at the tent for dinner.
Inside the tent before the 400 or so guests were seated.
The view before guests sat down for dinner.
Ford’s Theatre Gala

Typically the Ford’s Theatre annual gala is graced by the presence of the President or the Vice President who, with their wives, sit through the whole show. Where the Clintons and the  Bushes were regulars, the Obamas have not attended with regularity, handing the role to Vice President Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden at the Ford's Theatre gala.
But this year Biden, just home from a 6-day trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, was too tired to stay the duration. He sent word to the theater shortly before his arrival saying he would only appear on stage, speak and then depart. When he did appear it was easy to believe he was exhausted. This usually exuberant man was unusually subdued and spoke practically in a monotone. That’s not Joe Biden.

The show he missed hit on themes that are important to Ford’s Theatre, beginning with tolerance and equality. There was some dancing, and some singing — from Brian Stokes Mitchell, Denyce Graves, Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio  — but most of the program was spoken tributes to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, with his parents there; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and basketball legend Bill Russell. Rice and Russell were each awarded the 2013 Lincoln Medal.

The highlight was a tribute to a group of first responders —  David Kullgren of the Newtown, Connecticut, Police Department and Douglas S. Fuchs of the Redding, Connecticut, Police Department, who both responded to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; Matt Patterson of the Lynn, Massachusetts, Fire Department, who coincidentally was on the scene and provided immediate assistance with the April Boston Marathon bombings; and Robert Payne, of the West, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department, who responded to the April feterlizer plant explosion and was only 35 yards away when the biggest of the blasts occurred. 
Inside Ford's Theatre before the gala program began.
First responders who were honored at the Ford's Theatre Gala: Matthew Patterson of the Lynn, MA Fire Department, Sergeant David Kullgren of the Newtown CT Police Department, Robert Payne of the West, TX, Volunteer Fire Department and Douglas Fuchs of the Redding CT Police Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder presents the 2013 Lincoln Medal to Bill Russell.
Sam Palladio, of ABC-TV's "Nashville," with Condeleeza Rice, who received the 2013 Lincoln Medal at Ford's Theatre.
Eric Stonestreet with the parents of Matthew Shepard, Judy and Dennis Shepard, who were honored with a "Lincoln Legacy Project" tribute.
Ford's Theatre Gala master of ceremonies, Richard Thomas.
Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Ford's Theatre Gala.
At Ford's Theatre, a tap-dancing interlude from Omar Edwards (in white suit), John and Leo Manzari and, in the spotlight, Luke Spring.
Before the show, Biden did take a moment to meet backstage with the first responders. In remarks to the audience, he said, they “lost some of their brothers and sisters (and) saw some of the most horrible things anyone has ever seen.”

The audience gave the first responders a standing ovation.

The program was followed by a seated buffet dinner, from Design Cuisine, at the National Portrait Gallery. At our table was the evening’s director, Jeff Calhoun, down from New York with his husband, Michael Alicia, and also joined by his parents, Joyce and Robert Calhoun. Also at the table, John Irelan, scenic designer Adam Koch and singers Gregory Maheu and Kevin McAllister, who said they were disappointed they didn’t get to perform for the Vice President, but were pleased with the show overall and delighted, finally, to be having dinner. 
At the after party, happy to be having dinner: John P. Irelan, Jeff Calhoun, the program's director, Michael Alicia, Joyce and Robert Calhoun, scenic designer Adam Koch, and ensemble performers Gregory Maheu and Kevin McAllister.
At the after party, John Irelan and Denyce Graves, who performed earlier at the Ford's Theatre gala.
Photographs by Carol Joynt (Tudor, Hillwood, and Nationals) & James Brantley and Margot Schulman (Ford).

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt