Monday, May 5, 2014

Washington Social Diary

The best view in town: the nation's capitol on Sunday afternoon, May 4, from the rooftop of the Hay Adams Hotel at a party hosted by Thomson Reuters, with the White House and Washington Monument in the foreground, the Jefferson Memorial in the background, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the right.
by Carol Joynt

The fits and starts by which it came to life gave no indication that a party co-hosted by Dom Perignon would turn out to be the best of the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner weekend. But it was. Any one of the lucky few guests would likely back me in singing the praises of its charms. It was small, only about 50 people; it was a groovy mix of New York and L.A., heavy on the handsome young men, with just enough Washington to keep it real for the occasion; there was great music; and the location, the new Fiola Mare restaurant, was ideal on a beautiful night with all the doors open to the balmy air and shimmering Potomac river outside.
Yes, this was late in the evening: CJ, Brad Ellis and Myra Moffett.
It was such a rollicking party that anybody who thought they may just “drop by” ended up scrapping other plans and staying for the evening. What an interesting result, given that on Thursday it looked like a party without a home. Literally.

When the invitations went out a while back they were for a reception and dinner at the Georgetown home of Greg Connors. But he bailed on it at the 11th hour. The public reason given was the guest list had grown too big. The organizers, the PR firm Sunshine Sachs, were put in the challenging position of having to scramble for a new location, and only a day before the busiest party weekend of the year. They tried here and there with no luck, until Fiola Mare owners Maria and Fabio Trabocchi said “yes,” and made their handsome back room available.
Just some of the treats from the Trabocchi kitchen. Eric Podwall, Renee Puente, and Matthew Morrison.
The co-host of the evening was talent manager Eric Podwall, who shot to success on the boy band phenomenon and whose notable client list is called “Camp Podwall.” Some of those clients were at the party, in particular Matthew Morrison of “Glee,” who was with his fiancée, Renee Puente. Also there: actors Will Poulter, Jeremy Irvine and Patrick Stewart, with his wife, Sunny Ozell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, with his husband, Justin Mikita; and music producer and former ‘N Sync star JC Chasez. But the group was a good mix beyond actors. Hanging at the bar and looking like a matinee idol was Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, with his beauty queen wife, Candice Crawford. Her brother, Chace Crawford (a Podwall client) was expected but didn’t make it because he wasn’t feeling well, she said. Chace has become a regular at the WHCA dinner over the years.
Tony Romo and Tom McMillan. Maria Trabocchi, keeping on top of things.
A must-have photo for the NFL superfans: CJ, Tony Romo and Myra Moffett. Celebrity chef Jose Andres, spooked by the camera, but otherwise a smiling fella.
The L.A. and New York guests seemed particularly at ease and that may be because the groupie factor that defines this weekend was not apparent. Sure, there was some posing for photos (as an NFL superfan I wasn’t going to miss a shot with Romo) but there was none of the grabbing and fawning that has become a staple of the way Washington greets people who are in show business, especially at most of the routine parties that occur on this particular weekend. Though, again guilty as charged, I did enjoy luring former congressman and NBA superstar Tom McMillan across the room to meet Romo. They “huddled” in conversation for a long time, McMillan being the only man in the room who loomed over the Cowboy.
Mayor Philip Levine of Miami, Daniel Benedict, Andrew Saffir, and Jason Binn.
Maria Trabocchi, Tom Quinn, and Lynly Boor.
Lyndon Boozer, Lynly Boor, and Luke Russert.
The Washington contingent was not too much of any one category – a diplomat, some lobbyists, a politician or two and as far as I could tell, precious few media people, the standout being NBC’s Luke Russert, who, appropriately, looked dressed for party in Malibu. Arriving later, with chef Jose Andres, was Richard Wolffe of MSNBC. There was the attractive new ambassador from Qatar, Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari, who chatted with Stewart; lobbyists Tom Quinn, with Lynly Boor, and Lyndon Boozer, who arrived with Tonya N. Williams of Vice President Biden’s staff, and Hilary Rosen; also Judge Ann Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit (Illinois and Wisconsin).

Yes, the Dom Perignon flowed. No one’s glass was left to go empty. Servers passed oysters, crudo and clams, later followed by platters of rib eye. Tables were hauled in and set up on the outdoor terraces overlooking the river. Everyone was accessible. In an era when many star athletes can’t go out without handlers, Romo was on his own. After standing at the bar for a while, he and Candice sat with Morrison and Puente.
Tony Romo in conversation with Matthew Morrison.
As the evening went on, tables were brought in, guests took at seat, and food followed. On the left is Will Poulter, listening to Jeremy Irvine.
Some guests sat on the terrace, overlooking the Potomac.
Justin Mikita, his hand on Hilary Rosen's chair, with Jesse Tyler Ferguson over his shoulder.
Myra Moffett and Daren Thomas spent some of the time gathered round the piano, and that was because of the man at the keyboard: Brad Ellis. You see him on “Glee” as the show’s piano player, but he’s also that in real life, as well as a composer and orchestrator. He’s part of Glee’s production team. His resume is deep and includes “Forbidden Broadway,” collaborating with Billy Joel, working with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Oscars, and work on other TV shows and films, including on one of my favorite scores, the Cole Porter biopic “De-Lovely.”

For the party Friday night he played standards, and took requests, and several of us gathered round and sang along – just like at a New York or Hollywood party in the movies. During a break, Myra, Daren and I took a table in the main dining room to have dinner, and asked Brad to join us. He told us a little about his own incredible story as a heart transplant recipient almost 17 years ago. Without betraying any trust, he also had affectionate praise for his friend and cast mate Cory Monteith, who died of a drug overdose last year. While this was a sobering moment for a rollicking party, it felt right, gave it some balance, and contributed to the quality of the evening. People connected, and that isn’t always a given.
Maria Trabocchi and Lyndon Boozer. Pamela Sorensen and Eric Podwall.
Washington always likes to cut Tony Romo down to size. Here, Tom McMillan does his part.
Back inside the party and at the piano, Myra and I sat on the bench with Brad. He urged us to sing. I can’t sing and I told him so. But he cajoled. I said, “Okay, I know the words to ‘Where Is Love’ from Oliver.’” He played while my voice tortured the lovely lyrics. He smiled. “See, you’re singing. Singing is telling a story.”  That was nice and I’ll take his word for it, but will still leave the music making to the musicians.

Here are others who were spotted at the party: Adam Garber, Alyse Nelson,Andrew Saffir, Aureta Thomollari, Bradley Jakeman, Charles Ortner, Christian Angermeyer, Daniel Benedict, Danielle Zapotoczny, Darnell Strom, Diana Barone, Dwayne Brice, Eric Kuhn, Erik Maza, Grant Allen, Greg Calejo, Hunter Biden, Jason Binn, Kate Kennedy Allen, Marshall Heyman, Mayor Philip Levine of Miami, Michael Tammaro, Pamela Sorensen, Phil Daman, Aba Kwawu, Rene Jones.
Brad Ellis at the piano with his new DC fan club.
Brad Ellis with Greg Calejo of AMPLIFY.
A trio of sorts: Daren Thomas, Brad Ellis and Myra Moffett.
I spent February and March reporting and writing a comprehensive report on the challenges that define efforts to create a Washington memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower. It's been an epic struggle, mired in disputes that mostly center on the design by Frank Gehry. The article, "Tug of War," which appears in the May issue of Washingtonian magazine, is now also online, here.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt