Monday, March 7, 2016

Washington Social Diary

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan entering Statuary Hall in 2009 on the occasion of the unveiling of a bronze statue of former President Ronald Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda.
by Carol Joynt

The death of Nancy Reagan yesterday is a significant event for the nation as a whole but also Washington in particular – she was a very visible presence in the capital during Ronald Reagan's eight years as president, and to some extent, also, before and after.

The former First Lady with "Ronnie's" statue. Here she is with her Capitol Police escort Adam Descamps.
Once he had the GOP nomination, they relocated to the east and rented the Wexford estate near Middleburg, VA, once owned by President and Mrs. Kennedy, to be able to be near Washington and the airports. Elizabeth Taylor, who lived one farm over, greeted the Reagans in the driveway when they arrived. In the White House Nancy performed all the official First Lady duties, but she also was a First Lady, and maybe the last, who used social life as a tool to help her husband. Those cozy lunches at The Jockey Club with George Will or Nancy Dickerson were about more than mere idle gossip; like a CIA operative, she knew how to get information.

When President Reagan died in 2007 she returned, of course, to participate in the first part of the official farewell, a state funeral with a procession, lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, and a service at the Washington National Cathedral, before his body was returned to Simi, CA, to be buried at the Reagan Library, where she will join him.

Nancy returned again for the installation of a statue of her husband in the Rotunda, and to host a memorable dinner in Statuary Hall. I was invited to that dinner, and wrote it up for New York Social Diary, and it says as much as I can possibly say about Nancy Reagan. "Nancy was in charge of the two days of festivities down to the last detail; as much as ever, a force of nature." Please read the full story here.

Two parties to share: one, a fresh breeze on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the other, for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a stomping good time that’s become an annual sure thing.

It's fitting, of course, that the CBF would offer us the fresh breeze, in the form of their first-ever Washington fundraiser, called “DC on the Half Shell,” where the many buffets of shucked oysters added a beautiful scent of brine to the almost open air. It was a balmy-for-winter night and the doors of the Union Market party space were flung open.
The setting for the DC on the Half Shell party, with guest check-in around the back.
One of the several bars.
Chesapeake Bay Bloody Marys from Susan Gage Caterers. The DC on the Half Shell party had a shoreside feeling.
A fitting party centerpiece — an aquarium of oysters at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's “DC on the Half Shell."
David Litt with a True Chesapeake Oyster purveyor.
There were 9 Oyster Stations in all at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation party.
Smell the brine! Oysters from True Chesapeake Oyster Company of Maryland.
Allen Parks oysters of Tangier, Virginia.
More fresh shucked oysters.
The buffet of Chesapeake bay cuisine from Susan Gage Caterers.
Catherine George Cakes and Smith Island Cakes.
One of the guests, in the middle of the room, in an aquarium display of oysters.
The march of the buffet from Susan Gage Caterers.
Some 500 guests, paying from $500 individually up to the many thousands for a table, filled the huge space, where a jazz band led by Mark Meadows helped heighten the party mood. Throughout the room were Oyster Tasting Stations that represented 9 producers from the Bay and its tributaries, including Rappahannock River Oyster Company, War Shore Oyster Company, and James “Ooker” Eskridge of Virginia, and The Choptank Oyster Company, Hooper’s Island Oyster Company, and Dwight Marshall of Maryland.
Mike Hankin, Susan Aplin, and Will Baker.
Cheryl Campbell. Mark Walsh and Wick Sollers.
Lee Satterfield and Patrick Steele.
Louisa Duemling.
Simon Sidamon-Eristoff with his daughter, Susan.
Don’t care for oysters? Not a problem. Susan Gage Caterers, in addition to circulating a Chesapeake Bay Bloody Mary cart –  colorful tumblers of tomato juice and vodka, spiced with okra and Old Bay – also put out a spread of blackened flank steak, seared Rockfish, mushroom tart, salads and, of course, crab cakes. Toasted Pimento cheese sandwiches, hushpuppies, fried oysters and spiced grilled chicken were passed. Desserts included a delicacy rarely, if ever, offered at a Washington party: Smith Island Cake, made by the “Cake Lady” herself, Mary Ada Marshall of Smith Island.
Mike Hankin and Will Baker.
The evening’s host was CBF president Will Baker, who cited his organization’s famous slogan, “Save The Bay,” as “three little words that have changed my life – and just might change the world.” The emcee was David Litt of Funny or Die, and the big moment of the evening was Baker honoring Michael Hankin as the “Conservationist of the Year.” Hankin is president and CEO of the Baltimore-based global investment firm Brown Advisory and also is chairman of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. “Don’t make a excuses, make a difference,” was his admonition to the happy crowd.

It was a pretty party, well done, exuberant with a “hail fellow” vibe of people who share a love for the Chesapeake Bay, which makes complete sense because it is a treasure. I include a couple of photos of a sunrise on the Bay that I photographed from the Western Shore only a week ago. It is sometimes a revelation to people that the Chesapeake has both an Eastern and Western shore, but it does, and they share the same Bay!
Just after 6 o'clock in the morning in late February. The floating object is a crab pot that's come loose from its mooring.
Geese at dawn.
Here comes the sun.
The guests at “DC on the Half Shell” included Virginia’s U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, House members John Delaney of Maryland and Chris Gibson of New York;  Kathleen Matthews, candidate for the U.S. Congress from Maryland; Susan Aplin, the evening’s chair; David and Katie Leavey, Alan and Irene Wurtzel, Jill Daschle, Nathan Daschle, Robert Raben, David Mercer, Marc Bunting, Melissa Maxfield, Kim Horn, Stefanie and Mirhan Erkiletian, Peter Romero, Arnie Sorenseon and Ruth Sorenson, Nancy and Simon Sidamon Eristoff, Carolyn and Ed Nordberg, Brad Jenkins, Byron Marchant, Louisa Duemling, Kate Sheckells, Lee Satterfield, Wick Sollers, Tricia Pinkard, Bob Pinkard, Patrick Steele, Cheryl Campbell, Kara and Keith Zelinsky, Kathryn Hanley, Mike Hanley, Sandra Taylor, Franklin Moore.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Will Baker.
Tricia Pinkard, Mike Hanley, Kathryn Hanley, and Wally Pinkard.
Katharene Snavely, Mirhan and Stephanie Erkiletian, and Leo and Ben Jardot.
Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.
Byron Marchant with friends.
Jill Daschle, David Mercer, and Kate Sheckells.
Keith and Kara Zelinsky with David and Kate Leavy.
Sandra Taylor and Franklin Moore.

It seems the Alvin Ailey gala can’t help itself – it just keeps getting bigger, year after year. The 2016 turnout exceeded the year before by almost 100, with tables going for $10,000, and the 2016 event raised more than $870,000 to benefit the vivacious New York-based dance company.

The gala is a late night, too, but no one minds. They come for the Opening Night Performance in the Kennedy Center Opera House, followed by a seated dinner, and dancing, on the Roof Terrace. It seems to always happen on one of the coldest nights of the year – if not also snowing – but there’s plenty of body heat on the dance floor as it fills almost from the first tune. It helps that the Ailey dancers, amazingly not the least fatigued by the show they just put on, strut on to the dance floor, too.
Gala co-chairs Debra Lee on the left and Gina Adams on the right — both on the board of Alvin Ailey.
It is considered one of Washington’s few “fun” parties – as opposed to obligatory – and also one of its most diverse. Both these factors are part of the draw. 

This year the Ailey company performed two Washington premieres, Open Door, choreographed by Ronald Brown, and Exodus, choreographed by Rennie Harris. Artistic Director Robert Battle, during dinner of field green salad, beef short ribs and banana crème brulee, made the rounds, stopping by as many tables as possible to thank his guests, and in some instances continuing the courtesy on the dance floor.
Deborah Kennard and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.
Melvin and Eulada Watt.
Italian Amb. Claudio Bisogniero, on one of his last official duties, with Daria Wallach.
Alvin Ailey dancer Chalvar Montiero, Michael Melton, and Dancer Sarah Dailey.
Robert Battle, AA Artistic Director, with Rep. James Clyburn.
Larry Duncan, gala co-chair Sela Collins, and Robert Battle.
Rawli Andrews, Rep. Joyce Beatty, and Edna Kane Williams.
Mercer Cook, Joanne Dowdell, and Rep. James Clyburn.
Rep. Charles Rangel, Gretchen Wharton, and Paul Wharton.
Who was there? DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, as well as many members of Congress. This year they included Corrine Brown, Yvette Clarke, William Lacy, James Clyburn, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Elijah Cummings, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks, Charles Rangel, Bobby Rush. Also, FCC Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, Jim and Mai Abdo, Gina Adams, a co-chair, Karen Anderson and Lyndon Boozer, Ray Dempsey, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman, Karen Campbell, Kaya Henderson, Robert Hisaoka, Karina Mallona, Ronnie Gathers, Deesha Dyer, Ann Jordan, Sarah and Mark Kimsey, Debra Lee (also a co-chair), Paul Wharton, John Mason, Bennett Rink, Clyde Penn, Deborah Rutter, Peter Ellefson, Reginal Van Lee, Sheryl Watkins Wilbon, Eulada and Melvin Watt, Christopher Womack, Robyn and Andre Wells, Septime Webre, Almaz and Mark Strachan, Laurie Ellington, Cheryl Haywood.
Dancing to Sound Connection.
Atty Gen Loretta Lynch and Robert Battle.
Atty Gen Loretta Lynch and Stephen Hargrove.
Karyn Campbell and Reggie Van Lee. AA Dancers Ghrai Devore and Sean Aaron Carmon.
How to make an entrance at a party: the Alvin Ailey dancers.
Dancers Megan Jakel and Renaldo Maurice. Wendy Graham with AA dancer Sam Roberts.
JAMES V. KIMSEY (1939-2016)

Jim Kimsey, a well-known and well-liked Washington philanthropist, who was one of the co-founders of America Online, died last week from cancer at the age of 76. He was there at the earliest roots of AOL, in 1983, when it grew out of a video gaming enterprise and put him in business with Steve Case and Marc Seriff.
Jim Kimsey, arriving at Nathans, where he was a loyal regular.
In addition to using his fortune to support a number of entrepreneurial businesses, good causes little known and well known, such as the National Symphony Orchestra, and helping to found the nonprofit Refugees International, Jim was also very loyal to his military roots as a Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger. He was a 1962 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he will be buried this week.

His many friends gathered on Saturday for a memorial mass at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington, after which his sons – Michael, Mark and Ray – hosted a reception at Jim’s home on the banks of the Potomac River in McLean, Virginia.
Kimsey at lunch at Nathans with Linda Fairstein, looking over one of her new books.
Also at Nathans at lunch, Kimsey with sports anchor Lindsay Czarniak.

On February 16 I wrote on NYSD about my Q&A Café interview with Diane Rehm, in which we discussed her new book, “On My Own,” and her career as host of NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.  The full interview is now available here on YouTube

Our next Q&A Café interview is Thursday March 24 with “rocket man” Scott Altman; former astronaut, four-time shuttle mission commander, and F-14 stunt pilot for the film “Top Gun.” At the George Town Club. Reservations 202-333-9330. Join us.
Photographs by James R. Brantley (Alvin Ailey); Ben Droz and Carol Joynt (DC on the Half Shell)

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt