Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Washington Social Diary

David McCallum, Jennifer Isham, John Tyler, Karen Tyler, and Chris Isham.
by Carol Joynt

When arriving at a party at the Cleveland Park home of Jennifer and Chris Isham there is a comfort — of being in good hands, of the certainty that inside will be a lot of interesting people and that more than just being the hosts’ guests they will also be the hosts’ friends. Add to that the warmth of coming in out of the rain on a chilly Friday night and the friendly hello of Jennifer and Chris, backed by one Susan Gage’s catering staff, who smilingly takes away coats while asking for a drink order. That would have been enough, but, then, secret agent Ilya Kuryakin walks up to say hello.
Susan Gage Catering staff, at the front door.
Ilya, as some of you may know, is actor David McCallum, and he was “The Man from U.N.C.L.E,” one of two, in the hit '60s TV spy show. (Last year it was also a stylish film reboot directed by Guy Ritchie). In its first iteration, though, and also stylish, it landed in living rooms here and abroad at the height of the James Bond frenzy. McCallum starred with Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo. They were the two top agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement, and they fought THRUSH. Haha. Oh, to have back those simpler times. 
David McCallum in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
David McCallum and Robert Vaughn, in a publicity still, as secret agents Ilya and Napoleon. 
Here he was, less golden blond and more sandy-haired, and having a chat with British Embassy Social Secretary Amanda Downes, a unique Washington star with many admirers and aspirants but no match. What did they talk about? I wish it I could say the Washington book she’d write — because we’d all devour it — but that’s never going to happen. They did talk about being British, though technically McCallum is Scottish, a native of Glasgow, and the changing of the guard at the embassy, with one ambassador having just headed out and a new one headed in. 
Amanda Downes and David McCallum.
McCallum is very in the moment, rather than living in the past. “I’m still hoofing it,” he said. At a quick-witted 82 years old, he’s still in the television game, as one of the cast of the successful crime franchise "NCIS," in which he portrays Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the erudite Chief Medical Examiner and Forensic Psychologist. I confess I’m not an expert on the show, but when I looked up the series webpage it said this about Ducky: “Dapper, with a large collection of bow ties. Gentlemanly, granddad figure, always pleasant.” The gentlemanly and pleasant part could well describe the actor, too. Elsewhere it said, “Female colleagues show a particular fondness for the doctor.” That also applies in real life.
David McCallum on "NCIS."
The party was to celebrate McCallum’s new, and first, book, the crime novel “Once A Crooked Man.” It was just published last week to upbeat reviews that called it “good-natured,” “zany” and “quirky,” a welcomed contribution in the genre of crime and espionage and a worthy homage to the masters of the form.

Isham, a seasoned network journalist and the Washington bureau chief for CBS News, praised the book as “really, really good. I highly recommend it. It’s a great read.” He noted the obvious: “It’s amazing that he is able to do that and everything else he does at the same time.” He also raised the question he’d been asked quite a lot by his friends: “Why are you having a party for David McCallum?” Well, it’s all in the family. David’s wife of almost 50 years is former Vogue model Katherine Eaton Carpenter, and her mother, Ktty, and Chris’ mother, Sheila, are sisters. There’s another sister, too, Bobbie, and Bobbie’s son, John Tyler, was also at the party. In other words, a whole mess of first cousins.
Isham answers the question: Why a party for David McCallum? It's family.
Isham pointing out the various Eaton family members in the room, all first cousins.
Katherine Carpenter and John Thorne.
George Stevens listening to remarks; Susan Thorne is beside him.
The 1967 wedding of Vogue model Katherine Eaton and TV star David McCallum.
Making the tabloids ...  "Kathy's made David's life more complete in every way. She accompanies him on locations and trips. Here they are shown attending a screening of The Graduate!"
Jennifer, by the way, holds her own among all the family stories. (Actually, she tells many of them). She’s on the board of directors of the Tribeca Film Festival, is its former president, and is the executive producer of their Disruptive Innovation Awards. Here in Washington, she’s the brand and strategy director for the wonderful Union Market (http://unionmarketdc.com). If you haven’t been, well, please correct that. I confessed to Jennifer I go just to see what’s going on there, and always come away with something — a bottle of milk, a piece of meat or fish, fresh bread, produce or cheese, an empanada or Korean taco, wine.
The party filled three rooms, including the living room. On the sofa: Elizabeth Keffer, Margaret Carlson, and Pam Stevens.
McCallum, who also spoke, seemed tickled to be the center of attention as an author. He recalled that NCIS creator Don Bellisario tells his writers, “I want surprises.” McCallum said “coming here and having a book signing of something I wrote is the biggest surprise of my life, without any doubt, in all the 82 years I have been wandering around this planet.”

McCallum said he started writing as something to do and in many ways as an appreciation of the kinds of books he likes to read. One of the NCIS writers took a look at it, and said, “You’ve got to do something with this.”  And so, “I did.  And we’re here, and that’s the extraordinary thing.”
Scott Simon and David McCallum.
There were many pods of conversation and each seemed worthy of eavesdropping (or perhaps an espionage novel). Liz Stevens and Susan Blumenthal, head to head; former FBI Director Bob Mueller and former House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers, who is now a CNN national security commentator, and Rogers wife, Kristi Clemens Rogers; Lara Jakes, deputy managing editor of Foreign Policy, who has a commuter marriage between Washington and Rome, catching up with former Ambassador to Italy David Thorne and Susan Thorne; Kevin Chaffee introduced around Flavius Mihaies, a World Bank consultant with stories of a recent Syria trip; Sen. Ed Markey and George Stevens, were holed up in the kitchen; and plopped on the sofa, relaxed as it should be on the Friday evening of a holiday weekend, Elizabeth Keffer, Margaret Carlson and Pam Stevens.
Lara Jakes and Bill Plante, both former war correspondents.
Susan Blumenthal, Liz Stevens, and Kevin Chaffee.
McCallum sat and signed books at a table in a middle room, with Katherine looking on and nice touches all around: candle light, bowls of Satsuma oranges, glass jars of pretzel sticks, interesting art, the hum of conversation broken only by laughter, and at the front door, a basket of swag — "NCIS" pens for the taking.
McCallum signs a book for Ward Sloane.
Also at the party, in no particular order: Bill Plante, Bob Schieffer and Pat Schieffer, Ann Mueller, Scott Simon and Caroline Richard, Elizabeth Keffer, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jonathan Martin, Don Baer, Ward Sloane, Nancy Cordes, Marcus Brauchli, Julianna Goldman, Jim Lehrer, George Casey and Sheila Casey, Leo Daly and Grega Daly, Leslie Dach, Amanda Moose, Michael Morell and Marybeth Morell, Elissa Rubin, Lebanese Amb. Antoine Chedid and Nicole Chedid, Douglas Maguire and Kate Maguire, Pierre DeLucy and Jodie McLean.
"NCIS" pens for the taking.
ENDNOTE: I regret missing a party for the debut of "The Real Housewives of Potomac" (NYSD 11/16/15), as I appreciated the invitation and wanted to meet the cast. In truth, I was writing the above. However, I did see the first show Sunday night, plan to watch future shows, weigh in here with some thoughts. And, hopefully, be invited again to, at the very least, hear more about "Potomac etiquette." It's about time that lux suburb got some manners.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

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