Monday, June 2, 2014

Washington Social Diary

Intermittent rain made the bar on the lawn a sometimes lonely spot at the Tudor Place garden party, but what lovely green grass.
by Carol Joynt

The spring social season is winding down as both official and private Washington move toward a more laid back warm weather agenda. But it goes out with a bang. Just look at the White House, where on Friday, President Obama shed not one but two high level appointees: press secretary Jay Carney (it was time), and Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki (it was a scandal). Who could be next up for a Friday media dump as the Administration gears up for the mid-term elections? Obama may be a lame duck but no president wants his last referendum to include deep losses in the House and Senate.
President Obama as he announces the resignation of press secretary Jay Carney.
Embattled Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned on Friday.
You may be surprised that it gets that personal here, because its an industry town with “survival” detachment, but people often ask each other what they think of Obama. When I’m asked I’m honest: I’m just fine with him. As a person, as a husband and father, he represents a lot that I admire. As chief executive, he’s made me proud more often than not, and I can't say that about other recent presidents. I’m ashamed of the hatred and racism that has hounded the First Family since they moved into the White House, but I know it comes from principally only one side of the spectrum, driven by ignorance and agenda, and I do my best to tune it out.
If I have any criticism it would be aimed at some White House staff. The press operation is controlling to the point of being a negative. There’s an almost Nixonian cynicism toward the role of journalism and journalists. You won’t hear this from the White House press corps, because that relationship – press corps/press office – is usually too cozy. But if you come in to observe an event, well, you are herded. I don’t believe it comes from him, and that’s been confirmed by friends who are close to the seat of power.

The prize for handling the needs of print and broadcast journalists in an affable and effective way still remains with the White House press team of President George Bush, #41. Shout out to Marlin Fitzwater and Laura Melillo Barnum. And, even with what they were up against (Whitewater, Monica, etc), President Bill Clinton’s front guard were surprisingly open and considerate. Shout out to Mike McCurry. It sets a tone. It matters.
President George Bush with his affable and effective press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater.
President Bill Clinton with press secretary Mike McCurry in 1998, on the day McCurry's resignation was announced.
But back to the subject at hand: what are the big bangs to round out the social season? This past Saturday night was the “unveiling” first gala hosted by Sachiko Kuno and her husband, Dr. Ryuji Ueno, at Halycon House, one of their two grand Georgetown mansions.

Sachiko and Ryuji’s S&R Foundation handed out awards for musical excellence at a dinner prepared by Eric Zeibold, the extraordinary chef of the restaurant CityZen. The menu was crafted to match the music of the honorees, and four of the five performed. There was also, at the start of the evening, a lovely pas de deux from Swan Lake danced by Maki Onuki and Tamas Krizsa of The Washington Ballet.
Guests enjoy a beautiful last-day-of-May evening on the Halcyon House lawn.
Cocktails before dinner. Halycon House in the background.
The award winners were pianist Tanya Gabrielian, cellist Tim Park, guitarist Soichi Muraji and Michael Djupstrom, a pianist and composer. Honoree Ryu Goto, a violinist, was out of the country.

Halcyon House, now S&R’s headquarters, was always a party house, but this was the first soiree held there by Kuno and Ueno since they bought it for a reported $12.5 million in late 2011. It’s been under renovation since. It is to be an incubator for arts, sciences and cultural pursuits, but it performed beautifully as a gala venue, too. Former owner, and sculptor, John Dreyfuss, used the large lower level “garage” as a studio. It has been transformed into a splendid ballroom. Bravo.
Before the dinner, a good look at Halcyon's newly renovated ballroom. Previously it was a garage space used as a studio by the mansion's former owner, sculptor John Dreyfuss.
Sachiko Kuno welcomes guests to the first S&R Foundation gala: "I'm so excited to be able to say this next sentence — welcome to Halycon House!"
Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae with S&R Foundation's Sachiko Kuno. They will be in the gala mode again Saturday night, when Sasae hosts the Opera Ball. Kuno is co-chair. Almus and Elizabeth Thorp, enjoying a Saturday night date night at the Halcyon gala.
The new ballroom of Halcyon House. (That bit of red in the background is a Ferrari, one of the auction items.)
The Washington Ballet's Maki Onuki and Tamas Krizsa perform a taste of Swan Lake. Later, after performing, ballet dancers Onuki and Krizsa joined the party.
David Cooper and Cliftine Jones break for a smile during dinner conversation at S&R Foundation's first gala.
Katie Macko and Thomas Hardy.
Coming up this week are two “musts” of the June calendar. Tomorrow evening, Ellen MacNeille Charles will preside over the annual gala at Hillwood Museum & Gardens, the former home of her grandmother, Marjorie Merriweather Post. (Ellen, who lives in Georgetown, will also get a profile in the morning’s Washington Post. Synergy!) 

Here’s a sign of better times: this year Hillwood upped the ticket price and changed the dress to black-tie, and the gala sold out. Booyah. It is one of the prettiest parties – under a tent, with gorgeous flowers on the tables and ringing the green lawn, delicious food and drink – and this year it salutes Cartier and Mrs. Post’s passion for their baubles, and the guests include the handsome French Ambassador, Francois Delattre, and his smart wife, Sophie. Booyah squared.
Ellen Charles and her family at the 2013 Hillwood gala (this year the men will be in black tie). l. to r. Sam and George Iverson, Ellen, Ellie Rose Iverson, Anna Rose and Andrew Iverson, and Nedenia C. and Stanley H. Rumbough.
Beautiful flowers, and remembrances of Marjorie Merriweather Post, are staples of the Hillwood gala each year.
Next Saturday is the big exclamation point at the end of the gala calendar: the Opera Ball. This year’s host is Japan, and after dinners around town, the guests will sweep into the Japanese Ambassador’s residence on Nebraska Avenue for more eating, drinking and dancing. Amb. Kenichiro Sasae and his wife, Nobuko will be in the spotlight, along with the ball’s co-chair (and more synergy), S&R’s Sachiko Kuno, who clearly is having a gala week.

Here’s an interesting detail about Nobuko: she’s a professional translator, and while she’s worked globally, due to her husband’s post she now typically is assigned to high level events in Washington or New York. So I would advise: if you think you are getting anything by her, as you whisper in one language or another, think again.
The glamorous scene at last year's Opera Ball.
A few weeks back was Georgetown’s own big spring splash: the 22nd annual garden party hosted by the Tudor Place Museum. It was an evening of intermittent downpours but everyone was well sheltered under the tent, where half the real estate was occupied by a massive square-shaped bar. Thus, they were also well served. The crush of bodies and the rain did not disrupt the typically festive spirit of this seasonal ritual that draws Georgetown’s cave dwellers and newer residents who want membership in the club. That’s easy, it takes only about 50 years.

Hair that is inclined to frizz, frizzed, boots were the smart footwear, and the secret was to time one’s arrival and departure for between the cloudbursts. The storms were brief in duration, and besides, they are why the grass was a brilliant green.
The sheltering tent at the Tudor Place garden party.
Each year Tudor Place honors a member of the community who has generously exceeded the lifetime quota of good works, and this year it was Niente Ingersoll Smith, whose passion is preservation of historic architecture and American and English decorative arts. That’s the sweet spot of Tudor Place, the 19th century home of Martha Washington’s daughter, Martha Custis Peter, and her husband, Thomas. Smith has served on numerous museum committees. She also lives only a couple streets down, on P, with her husband, Robert Bland Smith. (We call him “Bob.”)
A massive bar was the central feature of the Tudor Place Garden party, occupying prime real estate in the middle of the tent.
Cocktails in one hand, buffet plates in the other — all part of the annual Tudor Place garden party.
The garden party's honoree, Niente Ingersoll Smith. Former next door neighbors, still friends, Jeffrey Powell and Marcia Carter.
Garden party co-chair Page Evans, Russell Firestone and Eileen McGrath, one of the party's patrons.
Here's a trip who could tell some stories: John Firestone, Amanda Downes and Len Bickwit, Jr.
New Georgetown residents (they moved from Bethesda), Nancy and Marc Duber.
Besties: Niente Smith and Marcia Mayo have been friends since their school days.
Beside "grand dame" in the dictionary is a picture of Ruth Buchanan, here in bright blue, talking with friends.
Dressed for a rain washed garden party — it's all about the boots — Alison Schafer and Kate Davis. A festively attired Susan Rappaport.
Some of the Georgetown braintrust: Advisory Neighborhood Commission vice chair Ed Solomon, Ed's wife, Gerry Solomon, and ANC vice chair Bill Starrels.
Alan Bubes and Bill James.
These ladies are comparing wrist wear: Susan Rappaport, Alison Schafer and Myra Moffett.
Bringing the mean age of the garden party down substantially: Kate Davis, Spencer Joynt, Mary Moffett Keany and Dr. Terrence Keany.
After sunset, as the garden party wound down, a couple depart Tudor Place mansion.
And one more: while not technically a garden party, that is precisely where most guests sipped their drinks at a British Embassy party hosted by Amb. Peter Westmacott and his wife for a new book, The Architecture of Diplomacy, which is not to be confused with an earlier tome, The Architecture of Diplomacy. This was a very proper party; no one mentioned both books in the same breath.

The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington is just out and the co-authors are Anthony Seldon and Daniel Collings, who were at the party. The Architecture of Diplomacy, from historian Jane Loeffler, was published in 1998 and 2010, and she was not at the party. In fact, she apparently asked for a title change and Ambassador Westmacott refused. Whatever.
The British Embassy's back side, if you will, facing an expanse of lawn and gardens.
The residence's drawing room is inside those windows. Outside, of course, gardens everywhere.
A bronze horse relaxes on the British Embassy's lawn.
The Seldon and Collings book is filled with history, design, famous names, gossip and loads of photos and illustrations about what is Washington’s grandest ambassadorial residence, and, noted by Westmacott, “the only house in the entire Western Hemisphere built by Sir Edwin Lutyens.”

The party wrapped with a stirring performance by the Pipes and Drums of The 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
British Ambassador Peter Westmacott does what he does so well: some wit, some charm and an invitation for his guests to have a good time.
The book with the controversial title. Click to order.
Guests watch the slide show as Anthony Seldon tells the embassy's architectural story.
The British Embassy under construction on Massachusetts Avenue.
A big crystal bath of a classic summer British beverage: Pimm's Cup.
The canapés served at the British Embassy almost always are irresistible.
It wouldn't be a British afternoon fete without a pile of gorgeous strawberries and a silver sauce boat filled with cream.
Joann Mason, looking like a spring garden, snaps a pic of the pipe and drum entertainment.
Enchanting: The Pipes and Drums of The 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

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