Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Washington Social Diary

Toasts are a tradition among spies, apparently. The OSS Society dinner has many, as well as standing ovations.
BOO! All Kinds of Spooks In Washington
by Carol Joynt

Washington has been getting its spook on, and in more ways than one. Last weekend brought all kinds of pre-Halloween parties, if sidewalk encounters with ghouls, goblins and one-night-only S&M devotees were any indication. On Friday night, Georgetown’s Bill Dean hosted his annual Dodge Mansion Halloween extravaganza, with “Shutdown” as this year’s theme. Saturday night featured no costumes but genuine “spooks” at the annual gala of the spy and special ops crowd, also known as The OSS Society William J. Donovan Award Dinner.

Did the OSS plan their party for Halloween week on purpose? We don't know, but kudos for marvelous timing. No costumes were necessary for people who at one time or another lived their lives in deep cover. Carl Colby, son of a former CIA Director, the late William Colby, is a regular at the dinner. He jokes that no one gets too hung up on names because it's impossible to know if it's the person's real name.
William J. Donovan (in statue form) looks out over the annual dinner that honors him, also known as the "spy prom."
The dinner was interesting on a number of levels. There was the opportunity to hear Maria Riva talk about her mother, Marlene Dietrich, and her love of being an American citizen.

"The freedom of this country is never more apparent or more precious than when you flee and need her to house you," she said. There was the Director of the CIA, John O. Brennan, who praised his agency and claimed essentially that this era has delivered an espionage renaissance. "Seeing the people here reminds me why we are in this business," he said. "At no time previously in our history has there been a greater need for intelligence." 
"I give you my word I will maintain the great standards of excellence and professionalism that are represented in this room tonight," CIA director John O. Brennan told guests at the annual OSS Society dinner.
Fisher Howe, one birthday shy of 100, is a legend in the founding of the OSS and CIA. He made a martini toast to his mentor, William "Wild Bill" Donovan, embodied in the statue in the foreground. Army 1st Sgt Huber joins one of the evening's nine toasts. The details on his uniform tell you he's a paratrooper and special forces. A gin martini was served to every guest.
The first toast of the evening was to the United States, the last toast was to "the ladies."
And there was Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, the special ops master famous for the successful Osama bin Laden mission, who delivered remarks that had the fervor and language of a political stump speech. He was the night’s big star and the recipient of the Donovan Award.

Not that McRaven could scare anybody in that room, but his words had a fright quality: "Today we are fighting extremism of another type. An intolerance. A bigotry. A medieval mindset that doesn’t recognize any civility, and it is international and it is a threat to our global humanity. As a result, today the intelligence, law enforcement and defense communities stand as vanguards of our security, fighting this barbarism as far away from our shores as we can engage them."
The man of the evening: the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. William H. McRaven, also known for overseeing the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. He received the Donovan Award. Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, chairman of the OSS Society, introduced and presented the Donovan Award to Adm. William H. McRaven.
Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, USA (ret.), the one with all the gold braid, is joined by friends at the VIP reception before the OSS Society dinner. A decorated member of the OSS, he also helped found the CIA.
In the audience were some of the living legends of the Office of Strategic Services, now mostly in their 90s and one, Fisher Howe, who will turn 100 on his next birthday.

For the spy class, these are the treasures of the of what became the Central Intelligence Agency. It was all pomp — loads of toasts, one standing ovation after another — a dinner that began at 6 and ended just minutes before midnight, and that included an inferred slap at Edward Snowden, though he was not mentioned by name. Certainly not. It would have started a food fight. Nonetheless, John R. Basehart, who received the John Singlaub Award, said, the OSS were "quiet professionals who knew what the word quiet meant. Something we need more of today."
Phillip Greene, who wrote the book on making gin martinis the Ernest Hemingway way, "To Have and to Have Another," gives a brief and entertaining seminar on the Hemingway recipe, which includes frozen glasses and frozen onions.
Another highlight was Philip Greene, the author of “To Have and Have Another,” a definitive look at Ernest Hemingway and his cocktails, particularly the gin martini. Greene gave the traditional “Hemingway toast,” after a brief demo on how to make a martini Hemingway’s way. For one thing, freeze the onions. Every one of the few hundred guests in the room had a martini in hand — waiting for them at each place setting — which meant in the grandest possible way “martinis for the house.” 

With the real Halloween upon us tomorrow it has to be noted that Georgetown embraces this ghoulish occasion with increasing creativity. Homeowners go out of their way to decorate, some to such a realistic extent that I would imagine the little children get spooked to tears and nightmares. But, hey, as the OSS folks were reminded repeatedly, we live in a scary world and its probably best to get toughed up for it at a tender age.
The presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the OSS Society dinner.
Enjoy the photos I shot mostly in Georgetown — and one or two at Markoff’s “Haunted Forest” in Maryland — using a variety of fun Hipstamatic film stocks. 
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt