Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Washington Social Diary: “This Town” Syndrome

Raising sparklers at the Dîner en Blanc, on the lawn of The Carnegie Library.
by Carol Joynt

A few weeks ago we reported that the estate of Paul and Bunny Mellon in Upperville, VA, after failing to sell as a 2,000 acre intact property, had been broken up to be sold in parcels. The most prized parcel was The Brick House, built in the early 1940s, with a price of $7.25 million for the house, 285 acres, and several outbuildings. Here’s the news: it is under contract, according to multiple sources. They say the buyer is Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, an ethics and campaign finance lawyer, who represents much of the “hunt country” in the Virginia State Senate.
The "Brick House," under contract.
Another view of The Brick House.
Vogel, according to her bio, is the managing partner of HoltzmanVogelJosefiak PLLC, a law firm with offices in Warrenton, VA, and Georgetown. She formerly worked at the Department of Energy as deputy general counsel and is active in the GOP. She is married with a blended family of six children. Vogel is in her second term in the Virginia Senate, representing parts of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick and Loudoun Counties, and the city of Winchester.
Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel.
Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, husband Alex Vogel, and their children.
If the sale goes to closure it leaves eleven parcels, ranging in size from 75 to 500 acres, including Rokeby, which has a landing strip suitable for your G650. The executor and realtor for the estate – who were not the sources for this latest news – had hoped the buyer of The Brick House might also buy the landing strip.

There’s a lot more information here in my original NYSD story.
The Piedmont Hunt, visiting the Mellon Estate on Thanksgiving is a tradition.
Whatever the contract price, it is a savvy buy; prime hunt country turf, with protected land all around and, in the annals of wealth, some fine history, too.

After Paul and Bunny Mellon married they lived in The Brick House while they built their own adjacent home and converted the Brick House into an art museum. It needs to be transformed from a museum back into a home. While The Brick House may need renovation, it is not due to disrepair. It’s not like the Mellons didn’t keep things up.
A high rise view of the Mellon property.

Imagine a Washington dinner party where the guest list of 2700 doesn’t boast a VIP list of power brokers, socialites or elected officials. What? How could that be? First of all, refreshing. It was the Dîner en Blanc DC, at the other end of the spectrum from “this town” syndrome, meaning, in other words, no stifled yawns or guests racing for the exits before the dessert course. Instead we had fabulous.

On the lawn of The Carnegie Library, the row after row after row of revelers at the DEB represented everything – the neighborhoods of DC and its suburbs, colors of the skin, colors of the rainbow – with a fashion forward flare that could earn nods of approval – and some shade – from Bevy, Derek J and Miss Lawrence (the “Gossip Queens,” if you don’t know).  And so it went until the music stopped and the last sparkler shot its sparks.
Let the party begin! Guests pour out of cars, buses and the subway to arrive at the Dîner en Blanc.
The DEB requires that all guests wear white and bring their own food and gear ...
The absence of cynicism among the guests makes it impossible to be cynical about the occasion. You may arrive a little miffed but you leave feeling happy with the world. That includes the rule about having to wear white. All that blanc matchy-matchy is a harmonious sight on a summer evening in an urban hub against a backdrop of trucks, taxis and buses rolling by.

While it is occasionally called the white party, it has no connection to that other, gay circuit white party, or the Puff Daddy/P.Diddy Hamptons white party.  It is a white party that started in Paris 26 years ago, when founder François Pasquier hosted a small al fresco dinner in the Bois de Boulogne. He asked his guests to please wear white so they could be seen in the dark. All these years later it is big business, global, equal parts foodie flash mob and traveling circus.
Getting set up.
The Carnegie, near the convention center, was a good choice for the second year.
"Social media" winner Tiani Lagrone, enjoying her dinner even though no cruise included.
Caroline Cunningham and Lauren Joseph, on the job for Washingtonian magazine.
Looking inside the "picnic" bag that was at the seat of each guest of Celebrity Cruises.
Some of the Celebrity spread. The food is elaborate. This woman brought a whole roasted fish.
She's happy with her meal, he looks skeptical.
The second Dîner en Blanc DC was in the heart of downtown; part of the charm.
It's a tradition: waving the white napkins en masse.
Last year was Washington’s first, at Yards Park on the banks of the Anacostia River, with 1500 guests. The Carnegie, near the convention center, was a good choice for the second year. The organizers already have committed to a third year in 2016, though by the tradition of Dîner en Blanc secrecy, the location won’t be announced until an hour before it begins. That’s how it works: you don’t know where you are going until you are almost there.

The guests pay $37 per person for tickets, which sold out quickly. While affordable, there are the other expenses of clothing, food, beverages, gear (table, chairs, tableware, linens) and transportation. As important as the rule of all-white clothing is the requirement that everyone helps to clean up all of it, and completely, when the evening comes to a close; the location must look like it never happened.
Bring on, and put on, the party masks ...
First a spin ...
Then a close up. 
This year’s sponsor was Celebrity Cruises, and we were their guest and sat at one of their long tables of a few dozen other guests. We were served a “picnic” dinner of various salads, dips, patés, cheeses and desserts, plus wine and Champagne.

Seated beside me was Tiani Lagrone of Clinton, MD, the evening’s “social media winner.” She won a Facebook contest and brought her mom, Patricia Morgan of DC, as her guest. They had a good time; only Tiani thought that in addition to the two dinner tickets she also won a Celebrity cruise. A company rep stopped by to break the news: “unfortunately, no.” She let the disappointment pass with a shrug, and focused instead on the food and wine, and the traditions of waving white napkins in the air and lighting sparklers. Not a cruise, but a good party nonetheless.
After dinner, it's time for dancing and posing ...
Photographs by Carol Joynt

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