Monday, November 3, 2014

Washington Social Diary

Bill Dean, and friends, photographed in the living room of his home, the Dodge Mansion, in Georgetown.
by Carol Joynt

It was a week in which one notable Georgetowner, 93-year-old Ben Bradlee, was laid to rest and another notable Georgetowner, 49-year-old Bill Dean, held his annual Halloween party. It may elude the elders, but there's a connection between the two. Washington can't help itself but be pathologically nutty about showing up at only the "right" parties. There's a lot of silly snobbery and tut-tutting about Dean and his bacchanalian soirees, but seriously, among quite a chunk of the social realm the mold is getting musty. It's likely had Dean's parties happened in the '70s and '80s, Ben Bradlee would have dropped by and The Washington Post would have had colorful page 1 Style section coverage with Sally Quinn's byline attached. Why not the same today?

Bill Dean's haunted house ... er ... mansion.
Why would Ben Bradlee have cared? Because Dean owns a Virginia-based electrical-systems engineering company, M.C. Dean, that earns within hailing distance of a billion dollars a year and whose principal client is the federal government, including (and this is important) the national security and defense wings. He – and his 3,000 employees – provide services for the feds and private companies here in Washington, in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and in altogether some 40 countries. He takes his work seriously, which is why he doesn’t apologize for his partying or his yacht or other homes, including a lavish spread in Miami Beach. He’s a nice guy, and generous, but also an enigma.

His parties are intriguing because they are so Hefneresque, and the host, like Hef, is a rich bachelor with a mansion and arms full of very young women, including, sometimes, actual Playboy playmates, and there’s so much gossip about him. That it all happens in Georgetown is incongruous and delightful.

Yes, many of the women guests don’t appear to be members of the Sulgrave Club and their costumes fulfill male fantasies of naughty school girls, naughty cops, naughty nurses, naughty maids, naughty angels (you get the drift) and nice devils—and those are the ladies whose costumes aren't painted on their bare skin. The men, Dean's pals and colleagues, come to play. Neighbors are invited, too.
Bill Dean, devilish with two like-minded guests.
There’s no point in overthinking it. The music was good. The Veuve Clicquot always icy cold, and per usual there was a photo booth and a jail cell, several bars, a big dance floor, lots of food, members of his security team keeping discreet watch. Unlike past years, one of them blocked the stairs to the rooftop bar, firepit and hot tub. “Too dangerous,” he said. Hmm. There has to be a story behind that.

We stopped by on Saturday night and snapped some pics. The theme was “Eden,” which was apparent in a few of the costumes – Adam and Eve, of course, and body snakes, but, just because, also Marie Antoinette. My partners in partying were Joe DeFeo, Shane Harris and Dave Singleton. Joe was a Saudi sheik, Shane was Andy Warhol and Dave channeled Foxy Brown as played by John Travolta. My costume – “Real Housewives of New York” star Bethenny Frankel wearing her child’s “Hello Kitty” pajamas – may have been too high concept, but at least I had an excuse to wear fuzzy slippers. Shane, referencing Frankel’s divorce judge, kept intoning, (and tweeted), “stop wearing your daughter’s clothing!”

We had fun.
Joe DeFeo, Dave Singleton, and Shane Harris, upon arriving at the Dean Halloween party.
Andy Warhol, Sheik Joe, and "John Travolta" as Foxy Brown.
Andy, "Bethenny," and the Sheik.
We weren't sure whether he was Mama June or a lost Ebola patient. It wouldn't be a Bill Dean Halloween without a jail cell and a painted guest "locked" inside.
Not clear whether he was on or off duty, but a member of the DC Police stayed discreetly in a back room at the party. A costume? Nah, don't think so.
The social scene here had an international flavor recently with the Meridian Ball at the Meridian International Center, drawing many of the city’s ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps, followed later in the week by a dinner at the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China. The Chinese Embassy dinner was for the Points of Light Foundation, started by President George H.W. Bush and was hosted by his son, Neil Bush and Ambassador H.E. Cui Tiankai. Its purpose was to honor individuals and organizations with tribute awards.

It was a stunning evening – it’s almost impossible for an event to be anything less than stunning in the I.M. Pei-designed embassy – but the spotlight, not too surprisingly, was focused on a talented Chinese family, in particular the extraordinary 8-year-old violin prodigy Jun Yu. He traveled from New York with his mother, Chinese composer and conductor Ziliang, and his father, Korean pianist Rho Aera, who accompanied him on stage.

Yu was not an honoree, but the principal performer, and he wowed.

The honorees included Hewlett-Packard for their employees logging 1.6 million volunteer hours; the World Center Kitchen, founded by chef Jose Andres, to aid in crisis areas around the world; and Charles Orgbon III, who created Greening Forward, a “a global environment movement” for young people. Both Neil Bush and Amb. Cui Tiankai made remarks.
A glimpse into the VIP reception, hosted by the Chinese Ambassador, Cui Tiankai.
The Points of Light dinner was attended by just shy of 300 guests. This was the third of the foundation’s tribute dinners, with the previous two being held at the Italian Embassy in 2013 and the residence of the Japanese ambassador in 2012. China is fitting since #41 was President Gerald Ford’s designated U.S. representative to China for 14 months. Because the U.S. and China did not yet have official relations, Bush was the U.S. “chief liaison” rather than “ambassador.”
The Points of Light tribute awards dinner, ready to start in the main entertaining room of the Chinese Embassy. The menu for the Points of Light tribute dinner: King Salmon with Ginger and Jicama, Braised Boneless Short Rib and Twin Tiger Prawns; later there was a dessert buffet.
Before the general reception and the dinner, the ambassador hosted a small VIP gathering, where it was possible to meet members of the Embassy staff. Cocktail conversations at the Chinese embassy are unique, and to the point. “What do you and the American people think of Russia and Putin,” was the opening of one conversation I had with a member of the embassy staff, followed by “what do you want to happen in the mid-term elections?” My answers were polite and vague, because that is how the dance is danced here, but I later clonked myself for not asking her what the Chinese think (or know) of various Putin rumors. (Like she would have sat me down and spilled all.) Worth noting: cell reception was surprisingly good.
The Chinese ambassador greets Gen. Brent Scowcroft at the VIP reception.
Maria and Neil Bush with the evening's honorary co-chair, Yue-Sai-Kan.
TV host Greta van Susteren laughs with Neil Bush.
Jun Yu and his family had a plush room to themselves before the dinner. Yu, though only 8, was entirely calm and ready for his stage performance before almost 300 people.
They could not stand and be in the same frame, so very tall NBA great Dikembe Mutombo hoisted up 8-year-old (and perhaps 4-foot-tall) cellist Jun Yu.
Charles Orgbon III and Jun Yu.
Amb. Xyi Tiankai and Neil Bush.
The Chinese ambassador and Neil Bush watch the stage.
The ambassador's table at the Points of Light dinner at the Chinese Embassy.
The Meridian Ball feels as if it gets larger every year. This year there were 800 guests, who started their evenings at 26 embassy-hosted dinners or, if they were lucky, a seat at the White-Meyer Dinner at the Meridian International’s resident mansion. Nothing against embassy dinners, but they can be hit or miss, depending on the embassy and the guest list. The White-Meyer is consistently a hit. There’s a romantic cocktail hour on the terrace, under the rising moon, overlooking the city, the guests sweep into the beautiful, high-ceilinged rooms to fill 15 to 20 tables of ten, and after dinner it is a short walk along a graveled path to the ball next door.
The Meridian Ball begins with dinners at 26 embassies and this one, on the Meridian grounds, called the White-Meyer dinner.
The theme this year was the 1950s, which seemed most evident in the after-dinner desserts and the dance band, the “original” Moonlighters. There was also a deejay in a separate disco tent erected in one of the gardens. Something for everyone. Due to the beautiful, mild, October evening it was actually quite enough to simply stand in the main garden that feels like Paris, sip Champagne and catch up with friends.
The White-Meyer dinner begins on the terrace with Champagne and cocktails.
Lindsay Angerholzer, Kristin Olson, Gwen Holliday, and Loran Aiken — all ball chairs present and past.
Dressed for a ball. Kate Bennett.
Kate Bennett, Shane Harris, Sue Davis, and Sena Fitzmaurice.
Susanna Quinn. Christine Hairston and Megan Gabriel.
Duck on a taco. Latin guitar with cocktails before dinner, quite fetching under the rising moon.
Said Jawad, the former ambassador from Afghanistan, with friends at the Meridian Ball.
Mary Ourisman, on the right, greets a friend.
The table settings at the Meridian Ball's White-Meyer dinner.
Two of the beautiful rooms used for the White-Meyer dinner.
The main salon at Meridian's White-Meyer dinner.
The Meridian Ball menu.
A sign the recession is over: filet mignon with sea bass.
Our table at dinner: Polish TV journalist Dorothy Wysocka-Schnepf, her husband, Polish Amb. Ryszard Schnepf, Viktoria Metzner, Colombian Amb. Luis Villegas, and his wife, Carmela de Villegas. The long arm of the toast belongs to Shane Harris.
The Colombian Amb. Luis Villegas, and his wife Carmela, assess a point made by David Metzner.
Broadcaster Dorothy Wysocka-Schnepf, and her husband, Polish Amb. Ryszard Schnepf, who could introduce himself as Robert  DeNiro, if so inclined.
A strong sign of a good dinner party is animated conversation. Hopefully, friendly.
The garden of the Meridian International Center as guests began to arrive from dinner for the ball.
The '50's theme dessert buffet.
For those who were still hungry for protein, the ball featured an outdoor hot dog bar.
The "indoor" band, the "original" Moonlighters.
Dancing to the Moonlighters.
A deejay got them dancing in the back tented disco.
At the Meridian Ball "disco," a break from dancing to text, proving you can get people beautifully dressed but cannot get them away from their devices.
The class photo: Meridian Ball and White-Meyer co-chairs Rep. Steven Horsford, Sonya Horsford, Rep. Ed Royce, Marie Therese Royce; Maxmillian Angerholzer III and Lindsay Angerholzer, Janet Blanchard, James J. Blanchard, Edilia Guitierrez, Carlos Gutierrez, Gwen Holliday, and Meridian CEO Stuart Holliday.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

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