Monday, May 12, 2014

Washington Social Diary

Monica Lewinsky and William Ginsburg, her attorney at the time. (Dan Loh, The Associated Press)
Everyone Has a Monica Story. Here’s One More
by Carol Joynt

There was a media riot of conspiracy theories this week as Graydon Carter and his Vanity Fair magazine returned Monica Lewinsky to front pages and the top of the trending cycle. Everyone had an opinion. All I have is a letter, and an anecdote.

Monica Lewinsky, photographed by Herb Ritts for the December 1998 issue of Vanity Fair.
Monica at 40, photographed by Mark Seliger exclusively for Vanity Fair.
The date was April Fool’s Day 1998 and so I was certain it was a joke when the manager at my restaurant, Nathans, phoned me at home at 7 p.m. and said “Monica Lewinsky and her lawyer are on their way here and they want you to join them for dinner.” But my instinct of being punk’d gave way to a memory. Monica, her then-lawyer Bill Ginsburg and I had met recently at a cocktail party and I made the invitation. This could be real.

I fast-walked the few blocks from my home to Nathans at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets, and it was very real. I arrived to quite a sight; paparazzi and TV cameras crowded the large windows of the pub. It was frenzy. Inside, in the quiet back back dining room, at cozy table 26, opposite each other in the booth, were Monica and her then-lawyer Ginsburg. She had her back to the windows, meaning to the faces of the media plastered against the glass, gaping at her. I slid onto the red leather banquette beside her.

I was the owner of the business that was hosting the most notorious celebrity in the world, and I was a television producer, but I was a mother, and I viewed her with that lens. Due to the aggressive scene outside, the sensational circumstances of her life at the moment (it was the early height of the scandal) and her very young age, my feelings toward her were protective and sympathetic.

She seemed happy to be out. She talked about Nathans and seemed flattered to be there as my guest. Her hair was a rich dark chestnut, wavy on her shoulders, and she wore a short-sleeved fuzzy pink sweater. She was beautiful and fresh, but in her eyes was quandary. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, tell her it “would all be okay.”

We had as normal a dinner as possible under the circumstances. Ginsburg was garrulous, entertaining me – the “big game” producer for Larry King Live – with background details of the pursuits of other network stars who were after him, namely Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters. “Diane wants to spend some time with me. She calls me so often.” I wanted to say, “that may be, but I have you right here.” I didn’t.
Monica Lewinsky, in a news photo dated April 1 1998, wearing the same pink sweater and pearls she wore to dinner at Nathans.
I urged him to order as he wished off the wine list and he chose a grand cru Bordeaux, telling me he had a passion for wine. Monica, though, had a different obsession. Her mother had just called on her cell to tell her daughter she looked “fat” on the nightly news, as cameras caught her walking from her Watergate apartment to a black sedan. This caved her already fragile spirits. Ginsburg tried to buck her up. I did, too. Someone needed to say, “Mom, I know you love me, but this isn’t the right criticism for this moment.” But she didn’t. She took it and slumped.

Did we talk about Bill Clinton? Yes, we did. Not specifically, not in detail, but he was on Monica’s mind. She was still in love with him and clearly didn’t know what to do with the tug in her heart. Hate him? Protect him? My hunch was the latter. They were in this scandal together, their names forever tied to a piece of history that would be dark or light, depending on your agenda. So much was happening so fast and, again, any time she stepped out of her door she was stalked by an insatiable pack of hounds.
This official White House photo of Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, taken Nov. 17, 1995. AP.
Because I had a responsibility to my show, I had an agenda of my own. As the clock ticked toward our live broadcast at 9 p.m., I had to ask: would Ginsburg phone in and chat with Larry King? “Of course,” he said. Monica seemed fine with it. Looking back, it’s possible she hadn’t yet learned that she could object. I suggested we head down to my basement office where it would be quiet and there was a landline.

Ginsburg sat at my desk as I dialed into the control room and handed him the receiver. Monica browsed the cluttered office and, at a bulletin board of photos of my then 7-year-old son, Spencer, she stopped still and stared. That’s where her head went while her lawyer talked about her on global television. As if that other conversation wasn’t happening, she asked me questions about Spencer. I randomly mentioned that his school class would be coming to the restaurant in a few days to learn about restaurant work. She thought that would be a blast for them.
The Clintons and their loyalists were scorched earth toward Monica Lewinsky's reputation.
“May I write him a note?” she asked. Having spent an hour and a half with her, talking about life and love and the mess she was in, this didn’t seem odd. She’d connected with someone, even if only in a photograph. She was a child in turmoil and was moved by my child, who had his own turmoil because his father had recently died and now it was just the two of us alone in the world. She felt alone in the world, too. She took the piece of Nathans stationery I got for her and sat at the manager’s desk. Ginsburg, across the small room, yakked about her to Larry King. She put her head down to focus on writing to my son. Done, she folded the letter and handed it to me.

“Can we give you a ride home?” she asked. “We have a car outside.” I accepted the offer. “Can I ask you a favor, though,” she said. “May I wear your jacket?” She understood the drill ahead, that she had to walk a gauntlet of cameras to cover the short distance from Nathans front door to the security of the sedan. She thought my Navy Armani blazer would look slimming over her pink sweater, and possibly calm her mother. I took off the jacket and helped her slip it on. “There. You look just fine,” I said.
Ginsburg, finished with his call, escorted us up the back stairs and into the bar where he organized our move out the door and into the car. “We’ll put her between us,” he said. Roger that. It was a crush, blinding flashes in our faces, shouting, and then just as quickly leather seats, closed doors, quiet, smoky windows sealed tight, hitting the gas. The driver shot up Wisconsin Avenue but we weren’t alone. There was a loud motorcycle inches from the rear bumper, and it wasn’t a police escort. “They do that,” she said of the paparazzi.  “He let’s the others know where we’ve gone and they follow.”

I directed the driver to my street and my house. Inside the car, in the dark of the back seat, Monica removed my jacket, and handed it back to me with a sigh that spoke volumes of understanding about how absurd her life had become. It would become more absurd soon enough, as the Clinton loyalists ramped up their scorched earth treatment of her; otherwise sane adults who were politically programmed to not accept that it took the two of them, Bill and Monica, to have the love affair, both equal in guilt and glory. “Thank you,” she said, sharing a hug. I stepped out on to my street, empty but for the Town Car and, a few feet away, the anonymous, helmeted rider on the idling motorcycle. Both zoomed off into the night.
Monica Lewinsky making her getaway with her then lawyer, Bill Ginsburg.
Aba Kwawu’s Celebration

Aba Kwawu thought she would follow in the footsteps of her late father, Dr. George Bonney, and make her career in medicine. “He was the director of the Human Genome Center and a world class cancer researcher,” she said. Instead she decided to follow her own passion. “I moved to London to do an MA in marketing for fashion and design.” She moved back to DC for what she thought would be a few months before heading to Paris, however fate had another plan. “I met my husband on M Street. We got married in a year and I’m still here."

Still here, and booming. The other night, with 50 or so of her friends, clients and staff, Aba celebrated a dozen years in business in Washington and the rebranding of her company as TAA Public Relations. She’s not the only PR czarina in DC, but she’s the only one to recently host a splashy dinner party. The girl knows how to celebrate. We sat at a beautifully done yards long table on the terrace at the most talked about restaurant in town, (and TAA client), Fiola Mare. (If it seems like there’s a party there every week, it’s because there is a party there every week).
Very good friends: Jimmy Lynn, Aba Kwau and Winston Bao Lord.
They are at type of gang, too: Jimmy Lynn, Aba Kwawu and Winston Bao Lord at Fiola Mare.
Aba’s other clients include Cirque du Soleil, chef Jose Andres, Rag & Bone, All Saints, Fashion Week Miami, Celebrity Cruises, Mercedes Benz and a couple of high end shopping malls, just to name a handful. At our little piece of the table we were good company: sports marketing expert Jimmy Lynn, Winston Bao Lord of Venga, architect and photographer Theo Adamstein, lawyer William Shawn and his equestrian wife, Glenna Shawn, and TAA’s Krystal Yoseph.

Aba and I do business from time to time, but more than that I relate to her story. As a woman who also thought she was making a pit stop in Washington before exploring the world, and also met her husband on M Street, and also is “still here,” I say hats off. They made a movie about this scenario. It’s called “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Shirley Gordon and Aba Kwawu.
Glenna Shawn and Winston Bao Lord.
Krystal Yoseph of TAA, CJ and Theo Adamstein, architect-realtor-photographer.
The crew at TAA Public Relations: Nicole Schade, Isobel Kuchinsky, Mia DeSimone, Aba Kwawu, Robyn Dixon, Krystal Yoseph, and Ashley Arias.
The table for 50, just before Aba Kwawu's dinner.
The menu celebrating TAA Public Relations.
My view at dinner, to the right, lawyer and Aston Martin dealer William Shawn.
Deep in convo across the table, Winston Lord, with Jimmy Lynn beside him, and CJ.
This went on all night at Aba's party - In part because it was beautiful and also because that's the world we live in.
A serene moment between courses.
Gotta check out and check in.
Oil poached Spanish Branzino with butter lettuce, radish and shaved onion.
Maine lobster ravioli with ginger and chives
Dessert.
Bloomin’ Georgetown

A favorite moment on New York Social Diary is when DPC posts photos taken from his apartment, usually depicting the street below in the grip of extreme weather – blizzards, nor’easters, and hurricanes. They show a slice of life of the UES. The storm-less photos here aren’t from my front window, but from out back, showing my favorite slice of life in Georgetown: my garden, my sanctuary. May is when Georgetown blooms, as you can see from the dogwood, azaleas, rhododendron, ferns and lilac. Also, note the “mint julep” mint, an essential for the herb garden and delicious summer cocktails.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt