Monday, July 15, 2013

Washington Social Diary

First Lady Michelle Obama beams while posing with Mark Ein, Venus Williams and other members of the Washington Kastles (Photo: Rich Kessler).
by Carol Joynt

In this town we take the Washington Monument for granted the way Parisians view the Eiffel Tower, San Franciscans the Golden Gate Bridge, and New Yorkers the verve and glitz of Times Square. We pass by it; some of us daily, some of us many times daily, and occasionally even stop and stare. There will likely be more staring from now until about this time next year as the iconic obelisk undergoes work to repair damage done in the 5.8 magnitude earthquake of August 2011.

Making the work possible is $7.5 million from Congress and a matching gift from the man with the ready check book, David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group. The top to bottom scaffolding, woven with tarps, is a stunning sight, especially at night when it is lit from within. Some call it the monument’s “condom,” I prefer to think of it as an homage to Christo.

This shroud actually happened before. The monument was done up in the same apparatus from 1989 to 2000 as part of an earlier restoration project. I’m sure all involved hope this is it, however, for at least this century.

Washington Comes Out For Tennis

Even though the weather has been wet and warm we’ve had some beautiful evenings as July rolls along, and just in time for one of the most splendid events of the summer: World Team Tennis at Washington Kastles Stadium along the Potomac River on Maine Avenue. This is the baby of Mark Ein, a venture capitalist and philanthropist who is mentioned most often (too often for him) as the man who bought the Georgetown mansion of the late Katharine Graham.

There’s a lot more to Mark than his real estate — businesses, boards — but his success with the Kastles could well surge as the bigger headline. And when I mention success, I mean real success: the young team, founded in 2008, was undefeated for 34 straight games over 3 years — more consecutive wins than the Los Angeles Lakers — a streak that was ended only Wednesday when they lost to the Texas Wild in Dallas.

It’s excellent tennis but Mark resolved to also make it a good show, too, with courtside dinner tables and catered food and wine, cheerleaders, a rocking soundtrack. Not to forget the views and the breezes. So, there’s no surprise that in the stands are some of Washington’s best-known faces.
Venus Williams and Mark Ein meet the press.
Just in the last week, the fans have included First Lady Michelle Obama, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the first lady’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen; World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who was with sports marketing impresario Jimmy Lynn; philanthropist Reggie Van Lee with Cora Masters Barry; Washington Nationals owners Ted and Annette Lerner; Sen. Kristen Gillibrand; former senator John Breaux; White House chef Sam Kass; AOL’s Steve Case and Jim Kimsey; Four Seasons general manager Dirk Burghartz, with Tom Healy of Strategic Resorts and Hotels; seniors world tennis champion Danny Waldman and his wife, Joanne Waldman; Daren Thomas of the Washington Performing Arts Society; Steve Olesky of the Washington Capitals; former St. Louis Rams linebacker Rocky McIntosh. Also a gaggle of media people, including Wolf Blitzer, Margaret Carlson, Luke Russert, Bret Baier, Mike Wise, and Brett Haber of the Tennis Channel.
Venus Williams after her press conference.
What do tennis champs snack on? French frieds, apparently.
First Lady Michelle Obama takes in the opening night of the Washington Kastles. Photo by Austin Smith.
The star power on the court is impressive, too. The Washington Kastles roster, headed by coach Murphy Jensen, includes Venus Williams (sidelined due to an injury), Martina Hingis, Leander Paes, Anastasia Rodionova, Bobby Reynolds, Alla Kudryavtseva, Kevin Anderson, and Raquel Kops-Jones. Andy Roddick came to town on Thursday, playing for the first time with the Springfield Lasers, and handed Washington their second defeat in one week. The two teams will meet up again in Washington this Wednesday.

On Thursday, there will be a charity match featuring “bipartisan” members of Congress.  Regular games run through the month, followed by the championship rounds. It’s a fun evening out, and a deep understanding of tennis is not required. Talent is talent; a good show is a good show.
Mark Ein with members of his tennis team, Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes.
The four stages of a live TV interview in sweltering heat: Dianne Russini of NBC wipes her brow as Leander Paes looks on.
A little powder to blot the sweat.
Camera ready.
The interview is a  go.
Cheerleaders at a tennis match? Only in Washington.
The Joint Color Guard prepare for the National Anthem at the opening ceremonies.
With the First Lady, the Mayor, the Commerce Secretary and senior White House staff in attendance, there was a lot of security at opening night.
Enthusiastic fans in the stands.
Winston Bao Lord, playing hooky from his company, Venga, to help out the Kastles. Seniors world tennis champion Danny Waldman, who is a securities litigator with Arnold & Porter in his day job.
Former Louisiana senator John Breaux chats with friends before the match.
Dirk Burghartz, general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel, with Tom Healy of Strategic Hotels & Resorts.
On the left, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, in the middle White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to the right, DC. Mayor Vincent Gray.
Engaged to be married, Sally Stiebel and Mark Ein.
Venus Williams gives a warm hello to DC Mayor Vince Gray.
DC Mayor Vincent Gray.
Cora Masters Barry and Reggie Van Lee.
Danny and Joanne Waldman.
Seated with Penny Pritzer and Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama.
Daren Thomas of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
The first course at the court side tables: watermelon, tomato and goat's cheese salad from Design Cuisine
Dan Knise, in the white shirt, who is working to bring the Olympics to Washington, and his wife, Kathy Knise, in pink. 
Mark Ein sits in for some live TV commentary.
The World Team Tennis tournament is broadcast live on cable.
A beautiful night for tennis in Washington.
The action on the court got competition from the dramatic sunset overhead.
A Party for Monaco at the Metropolitan Club

In a world where the trend is for the super rich to try to pass unnoticed it’s probably not fashionable to declare devotion to Monaco, but so be it. I’m not one of the rich. I’ve always enjoyed that flashy little mini-country, aka “principality.” It’s a lifelong crush, or at least since my early 20s when it was the first stop on a first visit to the south of France. 

It’s a much longer story, but I rendezvoused with a good friend for the occasion of the Grand Prix races. This will date me, but the race was won by the great Nikki Lauda. My friend had excellent rooms at the then Loews Hotel, overlooking the famous hairpin curve in the racetrack that is otherwise city streets. While he did business I wandered through new and old Monaco, falling in love especially with old Monaco.
Monaco Ambassador Gilles Noghès and his wife, Ellen.
Coming from New York and the West Indies, I was struck by the merge of urban and tropical and the gleaming orderliness of it all. Everything was well tended to, especially, of course, the rich, but also the gardens, the buildings, the beaches, the city streets. I’d also never seen so many ridiculous, and ridiculously expensive, cars parked in one place than that small patch of land that joins the casino to the Hotel de Paris and the Cafe de Paris.

I didn’t ponder the controversies and politics of the place. I just liked its size and feel and combination of grandeur and village.

I moved on to live in Antibes for the summer, but took the train back to Monaco periodically, and have visited several times since. To this day, every time I listen hear a tune by Francis Lai or Michel Legrand I am transported back to a little harbor side café with good rosé and an even better juke box.

Photo tribute to Prince Albert and Princess Charlene.
Washington’s Metropolitan Club doesn’t quite measure up to the charms of a European seaside café, but it does have some old world charm, and it was well-used by Monaco’s ambassador, Gilles Noghès, and his wife Ellen, for a party to honor Prince Albert II. Albert was only there in spirit, and a framed photograph, but a lot of Washington diplomats and socialites packed the club to drink Champagne and celebrate the anniversary of his ascension to the throne.

It was also one of the last public appearances by Capricia Marshall in her role as Chief of Protocol. She is stepping down after being in the job since 2009.  There’s considerable speculation she’s resting up before a possible White House run by her friend, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It is quite an honor to be here,” Marshall said. “I’m eking out every opportunity I can in my last few weeks of holding this privileged post, and so I am so pleased that Ambassador Noghès gave me this opportunity to be here this evening to share this special occasion.”

The national anthems of both countries were sung, there were more speeches, including a little bit of marketing from Noghès, who noted that life is good in Monaco. “For a population of 36,000 there are 50,000 jobs,” he said, “and we have no debt.”
Protocol Chief Capricia Marshall makes remarks as Ambassador Noghès looks on.
Ellen Taylor Sisson sang the anthems of Monaco and the United States.
Coincidentally, the Metropolitan Club and Monaco have something in common, and no, it’s not nightlife. It’s age. Noghès said the club was created in 1863, “the same year the SBM — the Société des Bains de Mer, which owns the casinos and all the hotels around the square — was created to create Monte Carlo. So it’s a wonderful coincidence. Long life to the Metropolitan and to the SBM.”

Among the guests: a group of ambassadors, including Claudio Bisogniero of Italy, Sergey Kislyak of Russia, Dino Patti Djalal of Indonesia, Gary Doer of Canada, Cecilia Nahón of Argentina, Mauro Vieira of Brazil, Antoine Chedid of Lebanon; Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and James Risch of Idaho; Congressman Ed and Marie Royce, Susan Eisenhower, Diane Bruce, Tim White, Michael and Susan Pillsbury, Mariella Trager, Randell Bumgardner, Gladys Boluda, Esther Coopersmith, Arturo Sarukhán, Togo and Gail West, Eli Whitney Debevoise II, Kate Irvin, Patricia Ellis, Elizabeth Bagley, James and Carolyn Aldige, Randall and Nancy Roe, James Thurber, John Sukenik, Jeffrey Bader, Rohini Talalla, Douglas B. Shaw, John B. Kelly, Aniko Schott, Charles and Evelyn Di Bona.
Gilles Noghès, Capricia Marshall, Ed Royce, and Marie Royce.
Tim White, Susan Eisenhower, Michael Pillsbury, and Susan Pillsbury.
Shamim and Said Jawad. Rose Rai Djalal, wife of the Indonesian ambassador.
Arturo Sarukhán, the former ambassador from Mexico, and Mariella Trager of Refugees International.
Togo and Gail West.
Diane Bruce.
The upstairs party room at the Metropolitan Club.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a July story without a picture of fireworks. I shot mine from the rooftop of Georgetown’s Capella hotel, which hosted a casual party for paying guests that included an open bar, buffet dinner and a spectacular view. While children splashed in the pool, the grown-ups did what grown-ups do: envied the kids in the pool.
Fireworks viewed from the Capella rooftop.
Pool in the foreground, fireworks in the background.
The July 4th crowd at the Capella party.
ENDNOTE: Several weeks ago I wrote about a new restaurant in town, Le Diplomate (NYSD 5.23.13), that was drawing anyone and everyone who could score a table. I predicted that soon enough the President and First Lady would show up. I still predict that will happen. In the meantime, last night, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, showed up for a Sunday night dinner for two.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

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