British elegance, the gift of music, and a global fight to cure cancer
By Gail Scott
Embassy Row Glitters
Anyone who thinks major embassy dinners are a relic of a bygone era should have been at the British Embassy on June 1st when Sir Nigel and Lady Sheinwald feted Librarian of Congress James H. Billington on his 80th birthday along with such stellar and eclectic guests as Justice Samuel Alito, Donald Graham, Marta Istomin, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and the Russian, French, and Danish ambassadors. Former Rep. Jim Leach (whose nomination as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities was announced the following day) joined Sir Nigel in praising the honoree’s many outstanding qualities and achievements (Rhodes scholar, Harvard and Princeton history professor, author of numerous books on Russia), and most especially his 22-year tenure at the library, where he has overseen the placement of more than eight million items on-line that are free-of-charge to users.
Other recent all-star evenings hosted by the British include the launch of HBO’s “Into The Storm,” with Irishman Brendan Gleeson playing Sir Winston Churchill. In attendance: the legendary prime minister’s granddaughter, the Hon. Edwina Sandys Kaplan, who praised the production – but with one exception. “My grandfather never wore PJ’s,” she told guests, “he always wore a white nightshirt.” In mid-June, heralding the Royal Ballet’s week-long Kennedy Center engagement, the Brits once again gathered social and media luminaries to celebrate the company’s dancers, including departing American star Alexandra Ansanelli.