Monday, January 13, 2014

Washington Social Diary

More than 350 patrons attended the preview party of the Washington Winter Show.
by Carol Joynt

New Year’s resolutions, like the missives in fortune cookies and the numbers on lottery tickets, are fun, often fleeting, and allow us a moment to believe anything is possible.  The fortunes collected over a few recent Chinese meals have included, “You should be able to undertake and complete anything,” “Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century,” and “You are going to have some new clothes.” Make of those what you will. But, wow, the optimism.

Among the fortunes was also, “Accept the next proposition you hear.” The writer had a sense of humor and maybe knew it would land in the hands of a resident of the nation’s capital, where so many propositions rise and then promptly fall. I’ll save all of them because on the flip side they have lottery numbers. Wouldn’t a random fortune cookie be a sweet way to come into millions of dollars?

I don’t know how they picked their numbers but in the last month I’ve heard of two lottery winners who are remotely in my orbit. One of them is a friend’s aunt, who won $2 million and, according to my friend, “spent almost all of it on jewelry.” Now don’t go making a judgmental sad face. Just think of the happy jewelers.

The other, a man who is a cook at the downtown Palm restaurant, also won $2 million. He reported to work the next day and told his bosses his plan was to keep working in the job he’s held for 30 years. Could lottery luck be moving geographically closer? I’ll let you know if my fortune cookies produce a fortune. What would I do? That’s easy. Disappear.

For now it is New Year’s resolutions. In particular, social life New Year’s resolutions. I was able to put some of them to use right away with the preview party this week for the annual Washington Winter Show, which used to be known as the Washington Antiques Show. It’s almost adjusted comfortably into its new name, though all the regulars still call it simply “the antiques show.” Regardless of the name, it begins the city’s winter social season, which more or less ambles along until it hits a trot by the time of the February thaw and then a gallop by the arrival of spring, when the hard core party people return from their winter holidays.
There are more than a few bars at the Washington Winter Show and the first one, here, is right inside the door. 
The theme of this year’s show was Southern Celebrations: Traditions Handed Down, and included – along with booths of antiques from 45 dealers – an exhibition from Robert E. Lee’s birthplace, Stratford Hall.

Resolution number one is to attend social occasions with at least one friend, and that’s exactly how it went down at the antiques show. As in past years I went with two of my best friends, Ellen Charles and Myra Moffett. Myra and I were Ellen’s guests. Ellen is a collector, Myra is working on graduate studies in interior design and decorative arts, and I am, I guess, a former collector who is now an appreciative observer. Whatever we three do together we have fun doing it and laugh a lot. At the antiques show, Ellen looks and buys while Myra and I look, comment, possibly drink too much, laugh, and follow in Ellen’s wake. Myra noted how “the crowds part” for Ellen. The dealers are happy to see her, just as they are several other serious collectors who attend opening night.
Cave dwellers, out of hibernation for a night, Bruce Larson and Ellen Charles.
Myra Moffett with restaurant entrepreneurs Bo and Meghan Blair.
Can someone please tell me the date when old brown wood will come back in fashion? It was alarming to hear a dealer say that even those who can afford the finest are content with the “disposable” trendy and mass-produced because “they want drawers that are easy to open,” and I think we can all relate to that (the secret is a bar of soap, folks), but also, “when they move they want to leave the furniture behind and get new furniture for the next place.” Yes and no.

The party met another resolution, too, which is to limit going out to parties of fewer than 500 people. Better still fewer than 300. The antiques show preview was about 350. It always draws a classic mix: the sincerely charitable, because it benefits good local causes; the cave dwellers, who are eager to come out of hibernation for a moment; the purely social, because the A-list is there; collectors of all ages, because there are treasures to be ogled and/or bought; and the ambitious, who wouldn’t dare miss a good party. The age range is Millennials to Baby Boomers and beyond. There’s always an ambassador attached as “honorary chair” – this year Switzerland’s Manuel Sager – but it’s not a political event. The guest list rarely if ever includes elected officials from Capitol Hill or high profile administration people. It’s a different world.
Tudor Place executive director Leslie Buhler with Phillip Legett, a new addition to TP's executive staff.
Another resolution – meet new people – was handily achieved at the preview party, thanks to professional southerner and artful writer Julia Reed, who was booked by the show as a featured lecturer. She has many titles but was there as an author and contributing editor of Garden & Gun magazine, which has become the haute insider publication of the haves and, in its own stealth way, stalks both Vanity Fair and Town & Country (and Black Card Mag, too). That said, I marvel at the engaging reinvention of T&C. It’s not unlike what David Remnick did for The New Yorker. But Garden & Gun is unique.

Back to Julia. I met her over the phone last week in an interview for Washingtonian to preview her scheduled Washington Winter Show lecture: “Ham biscuits, hostess gowns, and other Southern specialties.” She also planned to pull from her new book, But Mama Always Put Vodka in her Sangria. I asked her about the success of Garden & Gun and she did not equivocate. “Thick paper, great photography, great writers like Roy Blount. They cover stuff that, at the end of the day, is about how people live. It’s a window into a soulful place, but it’s entertaining.”
Author, and professional southerner, Julia Reed, with Will Feltus. Jeffrey Powell, ready to re-supply.
Evie Rooney and Peggy Beers, the show's director, make themselves at home.
Julia and I share affection for the writing of the late John D. MacDonald and in particular his character Travis McGee. I don’t meet many people with whom I can discuss the finer points of Travis, or whether Leo DeCaprio can adequately portray him, which reportedly is in the works. The last time an actor gave it a try was Sam Elliott in 1983.

Myra and I had a nice chat with Julia and her friend Will Feltus before we resumed following, losing, finding again and wandering after Ellen. We didn’t sit down to eat until 9:30 p.m., joined by John Irelan and Hannah Cox, as the caterers from Susan Gage were carrying away the dinner courses. Fortunately we were adjacent to the curtained off catering kitchen and Francisco, one of the helpful servers, brought us plates of chicken pot pie, barbecued beef, sweet onion pie, grits, Brussels sprouts, and biscuits. This part covers two more resolutions: eat wisely at social events, even if that means having only two helpings of the salad course and sticking to fruit for dessert. Also, end the evening with a smile. And I did, though I still have to figure out how to undertake getting to the moon in the next century and with my new clothes.
Jonathan Cresswell of the Philadelphia Print Shop waits patiently for a customer. William Hutchison of WM Hutchison of Mendenhall, PA., goes over an item with Myra Moffett.
Myra Moffett discusses a fine point of decorative arts with her friend, Alexandria, VA., dealer Christopher H. Jones. 
The preview party of the Washington Winter Show is as much a time to browse as it is to talk and catch up. On the far left, Gary Saragent and Donald H. Dewey.
Here are some of the folks who attended the Washington Winter Show preview party: Tom Adams, John Akridge, Hadley Allan, Geoffrey Baker, Adelaide Barrett, Edmund Bartlet III, Jane Battle, Dick Beatty, Margaret Beers, Robert Benton, Mary Bird, Bo and Meghan Blair, Albert Biddle III, Leslie Beuhler, Wiley Buchanan, Buffy Cafritz, Michael Cantacuzene, Brice Clagett, Gina and Brooke Coburn, David Deckelbaum, Bessie Doffermyre, Meaghan Donohoe, Thomas U. Dudley II, Edmond Fleet, Nancy Folger, Eric Fraunfelter, Steve Gewirz, Michael Gewirz, Letitia and Will Grant, Elizabeth and Jeff Powell, Thomas Higginson,  Robert Higdon, Noah Hirsch, Marcus Jaffe, James M. Johnson, Melissa McGee Keshishian, Knight Kiplinger, Dan and Martha Korengold, Matthew Lee, Ted Lee, Katy and Bill Magruder, Karen and Chris Louvar, Tim and Jane Matz, Nina McLemore, Claire Parker, Mary Plumridge, Kathy Prendergast, Jack Rasmussen, Simone Rathle, Alan and Joan Rizek, Howard and Page Smith, Reg and Ted Stettinius, Peter Sturtevant, Martin Sumner, Sarah Wallerstein, Jonathan Willen, Gary E. Young, Amy Zantzinger.
David Deckelbaum, Buffy Cafritz, and Robert Higdon.
Bitsey Folger and Tony Powell.
Reg Stettinius, a member of the preview party committee.
The Washington Winter Show is a night for fashion, too. Here, Simone Rathle. Dealers Robin Kaplan and Polly Senker of Arthur Guy Kaplan Antiques & Fine Art.
Jeffrey Powell, Elizabeth Powel, and CJ.
After the looking and the buying, Myra Moffett and Ellen Charles assess the show.
John Irelan, Myra Moffett, Ellen Charles, Hannah Cox, and Susan Gage.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt