Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Washington Social Diary

Getting the Season Started
by Stephanie Green

The St. Andrew's Society, like most established American institutions, tries to strike the right balance between centuries-old traditions and 2011 political correctness.

I learned about this tug of war between past and present first hand when I attended my first St. Andrew's Society Tartan Ball, an annual highlight on the fall social calendar and a benefit for the society's scholarship fund.

Times may be a'changin', but Washingtonians never miss an opportunity to don a kilt or gawk at politicians wearing kilts.
Scotch flowed freely throughout the evening.
As you've probably gathered, the St. Andrew's Society celebrates all that is Scottish. The Washington chapter was started around 1760, and since that time, has promoted Scottish culture, educated the region about our Scottish heritage and founders, and done their fair share of charitable giving.

Due to their dazzling events, like the Tartan Ball, and a long list of dazzling names on their membership roster, the Society is firmly in the top tier of Washington organizations.

To become a member, one must prove lineal Scottish descent, be sponsored by two other members, and be male, a requisite that does not seem to rankle their members or the women in their life who happily attend events in his and her matching tartans. Just last year, the New York St. Andrew's Society, which I hear is even more prestigious than its Washington counterpart, voted to allow women to join their illustrious ranks.
The cocktail hour started at 7, and as people perused the silent auction items like ruby pendants from Adeler Jewelers and luxurious trips to the mother country, I had a chance to check out the guests.
Bagpipers leading guests into ballroom for dinner.
In a statement, Robert "Rab" W. Ker, III, their president said, "We were faced with a wonderful opportunity to revitalize ourselves. The admission of women was difficult to embrace for some of our members, who were comfortable with the Society's all-male tradition ... the overwhelming majority has now spoken."

When I asked a few of the Washington members about this decision, they seemed resigned to the possibility that their organization might very well follow suit, but in the meantime, no one is losing any sleep over it.

If there was an elephant in the room at the Tartan Ball, he was drinking scotch and kicking up his heels as brogues, bagpipes, and baubles collided at the fabled Mayflower Hotel on November 19.
Event Chairman Roger Libby with Congressman Mike McIntyre. Society Member Brian Mabry with wife Catherine.
Congressman Mike McIntyre with Robin Naysmith of the Scottish Government and lady guests.
Representing political Washington was Rep. Mike McIntrye, North Carolina Democrat, the co-chairman of the Friends of Scotland Congressional Caucus, who wore the "black tie" of the evening, highland evening dress, and gallantly twirled a number of pretty young things around the dance floor later in the evening.

From diplomatic Washington: Robin Naysmith, the Scottish Government's "ambassador" at the British Embassy, who told me that the embassy's incoming ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott, scheduled to arrive in January, will be accompanied by his Iranian-American wife, Susie.

We are eager to see how having a Yank in the Ambassador's residence will influence entertaining at one of the hottest spots in town.
Spirited scenes at dinner in the Mayflower Hotel's ballroom.
From the business side of town: Kert Rosenkoetter, the general manager at Chevy Chase's Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the major corporate sponsors of the evening, who took time for a night on the town before bracing for Black Friday.

I had the pleasure of sitting at Mr. Rosenkoetter's table next to the evening's guest of honor, Peter Johnston, a hot Scot known for his career in luxury men's clothing design.

This fall, Saks and Johnston joined forces to bring Johnston's courtly, yet modern aesthetic to Saks stores in Chicago, New York, and Chevy Chase where there is a high demand for Johnston's Scottish tweeds and his nuanced eye as a former Savile Row tailor.

Fortunately for us Washingtonians, we will be seeing more of the dashing Mr. Johnston as he plans to make monthly visits to our local Saks for appointments with clients.
Speaking of local charm in luxurious surroundings, stationery artist to the stars R. Nichols was back in his hometown to debut his first collection of Christmas cards inspired by Washington, DC scenery.

The Sidwell Friends graduate had a champagne reception on November 16 at Neiman Marcus on Wisconsin Avenue to celebrate his new designs.

He is based in Los Angeles where his retail and online business makes cards and stationery for the likes of Sheryl Crow, but one can tell from his spirited creations that the nation's capital is still close to his heart.
R. Nichols debuted his first collection of Christmas cards inspired by Washington, DC scenery.
"Spirited" is the adjective that springs to mind when I think of Cirque Du Soleil's Quidam, which came to the Verizon Center last week.

As with most Cirque shows, Quidam tells a narrative through acrobatic, musical and visual effects that boggle the human mind.

The story here is centered around a lonely little girl named Zoe as she descends into her limitless world of curiosity where characters teach her to "free her soul".

Just think Alice in Wonderland goes to the Circus with a French accent and you've got a handle on Quidam.

Quidam is certainly not the best Cirque show I've seen, but it came along at the perfect time of year when the child in all of us roams free.
Tartan Ball photographs by JOSEPH ALLEN.