Monday, April 13, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Patrick Gavin's "Nerd Prom"

It's moved from location to location over the years, but still one of the coveted party invitations.
by Carol Joynt

Each time I write about the White House Correspondents Association annual spring dinner I want it to be the last time. Not because it is kicking a dead horse – there’s still a heartbeat – but because the horse is lame and deserving of rehab and a refreshed pasture. There are legions of earnest Washington reporters who host the event and believe in it, and I respect that, but there’s no escaping the fatigue that’s set in, prompted by the bloated and soulless fanfare, and all the kicking of that poor lame horse by the people who do and don’t go to the damned thing.

Patrick Gavin, during breakfast at The Four Seasons.
We could say the WHCA dinner is Washington’s answer to The Golden Globes because, as with the Foreign Press Association gala, it is run by the White House press corps to fawn over the people they cover, plus, in the last 20 years, a swarm of imported Hollywood famous faces.

The Globes, though, have improved with age. The WHCA dinner has not. Even the celebrities seem to know it; at least the big stars, whose numbers have been in decline. If it matters, The New York Times does not attend.

There are a boatload of related parties that bookend the event, but few are standouts. An exception is a pre-dinner hosted by Katherine and David Bradley, founders of Atlantic Media. Last year a surprise entry, hosted by LA talent manager Eric Podwall, owned the weekend. There's also a party hosted by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg, but it's become being in the goldfish bowl with the goldfish.

The gala may be running on hype and hot air, but it is a bona fide industry, and it’s the only time Washington gets live, televised red carpet coverage. This year it also gets it’s own documentary film, director Patrick Gavin’s just released “Nerd Prom: Inside Washington’s Wildest Week.” Patrick brought to the project the cred of having covered the dinner for several years for Politico. Before that gig, for a few years, he was one of the capital’s top gossip columnists. He’s been there, done that.
David and Katherine Bradley's at home seated dinner, on the eve of the WHCA gala, is still one of the event's stand out parties — as in, if you are only going to do one, do this one.
Patrick gave up his day job last year to get started making the film. He curated clips of the dinner and the five days of parties that come before and after. He invited a number of people to come to his home studio in northwest DC to sit for an interview. I was one of them. I was happy to do it for a friend who I first met a decade ago, when for a year we had a regular weekly breakfast at The Four Seasons Hotel – to dish.
In 2014 the best WHCA party was hosted by a Californian, talent manager Eric Podwall, at Fiola Mare. It was off the radar, and with A-list guests, and thus a sensation. Here is Eric, on the left, with Renee Puente and one of his clients, Matthew Morrison.
At the Eric Podwall party, Tony Romo on a banquette with Matthew Morrison.
So, I’m in no position to review the film, but here’s a sampling of others’ opinions: Washingtonian magazine’s Andrew Beaujon declared the film to be “surprisingly bad-ass.” Author Kitty Kelley gave it a blurb: “this movie is unauthorized by not untrue.” Kendall Breitman at Politico says it as an “unsparing look” at the WHCA dinner, including a glimpse inside the 17-pound swag bag that is given by one media organization to guests at a pre-party.
The White House Correspondents Association dinner. The capital's Golden Globes — sort of.
Lindsay Lohan at the CBS News party before the WHCA dinner.
Eddie Scary of The Washington Examiner called it “an indictment of the incestuous culture” of the Washington media and the officials they cover. He cites one five-minute segment as “cringe-worthy.” Why? Because it captures the introduction on stage of scholarship winners – a purpose of the dinner – and shows the students’ big moment going unnoticed by the yakking and schmoozing audience.  But hey, it is a famously rude crowd.
Schmoozing. Actor Paul Rudd with Jake Tapper.
Actress Sofia Vergara with White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard. Goldie Hawn and Barbara Walters.
The Washington Post’s Emily Heil, who covered the film’s premiere last week, noted that many of the guests at the screening also attend the dinner. The film may mock them, but it won’t “keep anyone in this town away – or up at night, really.” It’s a famously shameless crowd, too.

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove griped about the film’s 90-minute length, though said the pace “certainly captures the inevitable tedium of the affair.” He wanted more of the advertised wild behavior. But tedium is something Washington does well. Our “wild” is House Republicans welcoming Bibi Netanyahu to their chamber.
At the WHCA dinner, the celebs hang with the reporters. Here, actor Chace Crawford with CNN's Pamela Brown.
Pandora's public affairs director, Dave Grimaldi, with Jeremy Renner.
At the 2012 WHCA dinner, David Arquette among guests.
While he may not be a fan of the film, Grove does give Patrick his due. “And yet, first-time filmmaker Gavin deserves respect for his ambition, industry and moxie—he quit his job for this project—in raising the money and shedding the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to complete a feature-length movie. That alone is an achievement.”

This year’s dinner is Saturday, April 25. You don’t have to go. You can watch it live on C-SPAN and you can also download the documentary, here: Nerd Prom.
Patrick Gavin, discussing his documentary film, "Nerd Prom."

I wish the “F” word didn’t mean what it means. I wish it could be de-sexualized so it could take its rightful place as the go-to expression for all rage, anger and anxiety.  The modern master of human angst, and expressing it with the “F” word, comedian Marc Maron, host of the insanely good “WTF” podcast, came to Washington last week to launch his “Maronation Tour.”
The Warner is a wonderful venue for a night of F-bombs, very then and now.
A view of the Warner Theatre ceiling. 
Loyal WTFers filled the Warner Theatre to laugh, applaud, and stomp our feet through two straight hours of his unique and very blue humor – lacing his signature “what the ____?” into commentary on every deserving WTF scenario, from cars (“the best place to lose your s**t”) to hotels (“it doesn’t matter which hotel”) to kale (“I don’t love kale”) to TED talks (“I listened to exactly one, about fungus.”), yoga (“Why?”) and romance (“I’m 51, twice divorced, live alone and I’m beginning to think I win.”).
An audience of loyal WTFers.
Marc Maron got on my radar through his podcast – recorded in his garage in L.A. – and I was won over by his remarkable interviewing skills. Maron and Howard Stern are the most gifted interviewers of our time, especially of the celebrity genre. Maron’s podcast can be downloaded off iTunes. I load up on them for long walks, long drives, long waits, insomnia. I can’t pick a favorite – they’re all good – but if it’s your first, try the one with Louis C.K. from 2010 or, more recently, Harry Shearer.

He’s a great conversationalist and now I know, thanks to Thursday night at the beautiful Warner, he’s also a great stand-up comic.
Marc Maron hunkers down for some deep blue comedy at the Warner Theatre.

Waiting for Maketto to open became a thing in DC. There was even a story written to recount how many times the opening date was postponed over three years. And then when it did finally open last week it had the added drama of its street – H Street northeast – being partially closed due to a police investigation of a high speed chase and shooting.  It adds to the legend.

Even with yellow police tape, and local TV broadcasting live from the crime scene, Maketto fans showed up at the early opening time, 7am, to take in the splendor of Washington’s first mash-up of high end coffee bar, French pastry vendor, Asian street food restaurant, clothing store, indoor/outdoor gathering space, and a groovy vending machine.
Maketto on H Street NE (and Bullfrog next door).
The main floor of Maketto. Fashions to the right and left. Bar in the middle. Seating, too. Kitchen through the courtyard in the back.
Maketto co-founder Erik Bruner-Yang, on the right, on the scene for the 7am opening.
The co-founders, chef Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground and clothing designer Will Sharp, who owns Durkl, were up all night preparing to debut their stylish production. So it took three years. It was worth the wait. There’s nothing else like it in the city. Bruner-Yang described the sleek, minimalist décor as “Japanese modern.” It’s not a hall of vendor booths. It’s a seamless experience. Their collaborators include Vigilante Coffee and Frenchie’s Artisan Pastries and Desserts.
It's all about style at Maketto,  from the latest shoes to the cult looks from Will Sharp's Durkl men's clothing line, plus food and drinks.
Need socks? Maketto has them.
At the ground floor bar, fresh croissants from Frenchie's, baked on the premises at Maketto.
Sharp, whose cult men’s fashion business was born in his mother’s suburban Maryland basement, is a wonderful local success story. I interviewed him (here) in 2011. Bruner-Yang, easily one of Washington’s top chefs, is one of six national nominees for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of Year,” which will be announced at the group’s annual gala on May 4, this year in Chicago. 
Maketto, the kind of place where you might come and go with your Razor Scooter. 
The stairs lead you up to the coffee bar and more dining spaces. The view from upstairs looking down on the communal table and the adjacent kitchen.
The day's brews from local Vigilante coffee. Pour over, the only way to go.
The upstairs vending machine holds an assortment of irreverent toys and everyday necessities like condoms, cell phone chargers, Happy Labbit, Lucky Cat, Hello Kitty. 
Maketto 1351
1351 H Street NE

When you go to Maketto be sure to also stop in next door at Bullfrog Bagels, which has evolved from a buzzy pop-up. We had a warm “everything” with salmon, red onion, capers and a schmear. If there’s such a thing as melt in your mouth bagel, that’s what this was.

Bullfrog Bagels 
1341 H Street NE
Bullfrog on H Street NE (and Maketto next door).
The bagel bar at Bullfrog.
New York Style. Once upon a time DC was a bagel wasteland. No more, thanks to places like Jeremiah Cohen's Bullfrog. (Soon we'll be able to shut down the Acela).
Fresh and warm, these "New York style" Bullfrog bagels melt in the mouth.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt