Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Flat Iron Building. 4:30 PM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
January 20, 2009. Inauguration Day for President Barack Hussein Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at our nation’s capitol.

Here in New York, it snowed for a good part of the day yesterday, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday rendering the city fairly quiet and peaceful.

The action, of course, was in Washington. Originally we planned to travel to DC to take in the pre-Inaugural festivities (we were not invited to attend the actual inaugural or any of the official activities around it). However, the more I read about the crowds that would be filling the city (millions was the estimate), and the more we considered the realities of gridlock getting around going from party to party, the more we decided that Carol Joynt, our Washington Social Diary correspondent who lives right in the heart of Georgetown could more effectively cover everything and leave more room on the lines, the trains, the planes, the roadways for the millions who would be making the trip.

What we missed, from what I can gather, were lots and lots of parties. Carol emailed last night to tell me that “the excitement here tonight is so strong you could chew on it.”
Esther Coopersmith, Vernon Jordan, Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the ballroom of the Fairfax Hotel at a party hosted by Buffy and Bill Cafritz, Robert and Kelly Day, Phyllis George, and Vernon and Ann Jordan.
The big one last night was hosted by Buffy and Bill Cafritz, Robert and Kelly Day, Phyllis George, and Vernon and Ann Jordan in the ballroom of the Fairfax Hotel. The guestlist was huge and Triple A by New York and Washington standards.

The only way there could have been a better party in town would be if it were in the White House, and as we know, that was awaiting the new President and his family who move in today.

The new face of Washington social power: incoming White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers
Looking over the list I noticed a lot of New Yorkers did make the trek to the Fairfax. Such as: Joe Armstrong, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bernstein, David Adler, Roger Altman and Jurate Kazickas, Harolyn Blackwell, our Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Diana Taylor, Tina Brown and Harry Evans, Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton (now referred to as Secretary of State designate), Nancy Collins, Bob Colacello, John Coleman, Virginia Coleman and Peter Duchin, Jeff Greenfield, Terre Blair and Marvin Hamlisch, Andre Leon Talley, Deputy Mayor Pat Harris, Richard Holbrooke and Kati Marton, Cathy Horyn, Joe Carole and Ronald Lauder, Diane von Furstenberg, Ann and Bill Nitze, Peggy Noonan, Jessye Norman, Billy and Kathy Rayner, Deborah Roberts and Al Roker Charlie Rose, Kevin Sheekey, Stan Shuman, Ron Silver, George Soros, Karl Wellner and Deborah Norville, David and Sherrie Westin, Eileen and Jim Wolfensohn, Aerin and Eric Zinterhofer, Mort Zuckerman, Rick Stengel; and that’s just for starters.

What was that like? Without even being there, I can tell you. The crowd was beside itself with the excitement -- so many familiar, sometimes distinguished, often prominent, occasionally powerful, charismatic, rich, famous, beautiful (at least in the eyes of the beholder) faces, old friends, new friends, could be friends, wanna be friends, and all in the same room. Think Class Reunion, Homecoming and Christmas all in one event. You can tell that the Obama Administration will be replete with entertaining in a way that Washington hasn’t seen since Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

However, Carol Joynt is on the scene and will fill us all in on those details tomorrow, along with the complete eye-popping guest list.

That was far from the only party in town, however. There must have been dozens, maybe hundreds. Over at a new club, The Rookery at 2519 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, owned by Bo Blair, Luke Russert was hosting his own pre-Inaugural party for the younger set (“from 8 pm to 4 am, 8 hour open bar”).

Yesterday afternoon I received the following memo from Carol Joynt:

I've started to get warnings like this one. (Scary):

The District is advising motorists to detour away from the downtown area, particularly around 7th and H near the Verizon Center, as the influx of vehicles and pedestrians are causing traffic gridlock in this area.

The centerpiece at the Artists and Athletes Alliance evening party
I saw Barack Obama for the first time today as I left the "Artists and Athletes Alliance" lunch -- at which there were very few artists and no athletes. ("They'll be at our second event this evening at Cafe Milano."). I think perhaps some inauguration fatigue is setting in. At the lunch people talked quite a bit about wanting a glass of champagne and a nap after.

Afterwards at the corner of 17th I got stopped by the familiar lock down that foretells a motorcade about to come by. Living here, we're used to it. But the people on the sidewalk with me -- most of them tourists -- were hoping -- no, actually certain -- it would be Obama.

The motorcade approached, something like 10-15 advance DC motorcycle cops followed by Secret Service armored SUVs and then two armored limos zigzagging back and forth. The first one was a decoy, the second was Obama, sitting alone in the back seat. He whizzed by, a familiar profile behind darkened bullet-proof glass. Behind his car trailed a communications van and more security. I imagine they were on their way to Blair House.

And this is what I thought: There he is, already massively shielded from us. A lone man, a man of our time, hauled from place to place in this caravan of security. I wondered how strange it must be for him, a person not yet fully indoctrinated to the isolation of the Presidency, and who still tries to resist the boundaries and barriers, a leader of the free world who has to beg for permission to keep his Blackberry. Will he succumb or will he break free and redefine what it means to be our leader and among us in an era of threat and paranoia?

The people on the sidewalk with me jumped with joy. They shouted "there he is! there he is! We love you! We love you!" They ran along the sidewalk, waving, yelping, snapping photos with their little cameras, hugging each other. "We saw him! We saw him!" It all happened inside of 10 seconds.
Ricky Schroeder at the Artists and Athletes Alliance lunch George Lopez at the Artists and Athletes Alliance lunch
Alicia Witt Christopher Hitchens
Sitting down to lunch at the Artists and Athletes Alliance lunch at Decatur House
At the Artists and Athletes Alliance evening party ...
Holidae Hays David Arquette
Queen Noor Fran Drescher and Rachel Pearson
Hometown superstars: Chris Cooley and Jason Campbell of the Washington Redskins Washington gets dressed up

Comments? Contact DPC here.