During the last few weeks of the Washington "season" before much of social Washington split for the summer, there were impressive galas and a few dynamite parties, but the biggest success of them all, the 45th annual Washington Opera Ball, at first seemed doomed to disaster.
Leaders in the diplomatic, social, government, arts and corporate communities usually flock to support it; yet only a few weeks before the event, more than two thirds of the tickets remained unsold. This year the ball was hosted by the Embassy of France, and the fundraiser seemed hopelessly jinxed by the frosty bilateral tensions brought on by world events. Remember "freedom fries," "freedom toast" and boycotts? Happily enough, subsequent developments helped rescue the situation, first an open letter from Ambassador Jean-David Levitte to the U.S. Congress disclaiming some of the negative reports in the press, then the handshake photo at the G-8 meeting between President George Bush and French President Jacques Chirac (to whom Levitte was a self-styled "Sherpa" from 1995 until he was posted here last fall).
In an unusual step for an ambassador, Levitte decided to personally seek support for the ball, going to some of the glamorous French companies doing business in the U.S, and gaining cooperation of LVMH Moët-Hennessy (which produces luxury goods ranging from champagne and Cognac to Louis Vuitton Luggage), L'Oreal, Airbus and Hermes, among others. (As a stunning exit gift, Hermes gave each woman a magnificent scarf twinning both of the red, white, and blue flags, the French and our own, on its silken surface. If you haven't priced one of these huge Hermes squares lately, they are around $300.) All these factors, plus love of music, and support for the opera-which depends heavily on proceeds from the annual ball-helped the ticket sales finally take off.
Technology company InPhonic celebrated its third anniversary with an intimate
dinner for 40 at Café Milano on May 30. Among those at dinner: board
members, investors, clients, and other distinguished guest including former
president Bill Clinton, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Jack Kemp, John Sculley,
and Mark Ein.
On the big night, 550 guests arrived at the embassy residence's blossom-bedecked door, to find the lawn sparkling with more than 4,000 votive candles. Inside, the warmth and welcome of a most romantic evening was apparent amidst the towering floral arrangements and flowing champagne. Designer Philip Baloun's garden fairyland was bathed in soft pink light, and a second New Yorker, Mike Carney and his orchestra, provided the "oh-lala" factor that helped make the evening a major hit.
A group of actors imported from Versailles and clad in 18th century costume created lively tableaux of court scenes: elegant courtiers around a gaming table, a mannered "liaisons dangereuses" seduction scene, dueling men-atarms, swords clashing, interspersed with American actors portraying George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.
There was another beautiful sight to behold: the sumptuous dessert table. Not that it was truly needed, as 25 embassies had hosted ball-goers at pre-ball dinners: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela.
Incoming guests were greeted cordially by the Ambassador and his attractive and spirited wife, Marie-Cecile, and his remarks later in the evening moved many when he spoke of our historical ties with his country. He stressed two dates especially: this year, which marks the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, when we acquired from France land amounting to a third of our nation, and the June 6th date of the gala, which coincidentally fell on the 59th anniversary of D-Day. He spoke of the U.S. soldiers 'who gave their lives to save the people of France and all Europeans," saying "We will never forget."
AOL-cofounder Jim Kimsey, whose Kimsey Foundation contributed $1 million toward the evening, is chairman of the Opera's board of directors. He urged both Americans and French to focus on those qualities which unite us. Kimsey's donation matched the $1 million given by the Edward and Betty Knight Scripps Foundation and by Betty Scripps Harvey, who in her third year as the ball's chairman racked up yet another triumph. (The evening brought in over $3 million.)
She never rests on her laurels but is an activist, hands-on chairman. A stickler for details, known to possess unlimited strength in striving for perfection, she nevertheless looked fairy-princess fragile in a pink flounce-tiered gown by favorite designer Arnold Scaasi, topped by a blazing diamond and ruby necklace itself fit for a queen.
The Washington Humane Society's annual Bark Ball on June 28 raised a record
$110,000 to benefit more than 14,000 abused, homeless and neglected animals
that WHS takes in every year. Approximately 800 guests and 400 of their canine
companions came dressed in black tie and ball gowns for an evening of dining
and dancing that included a special buffet of doggie hors d'oeuvres. Ah, the
Dog Days of Summer.
"I've spotted a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners so far!" one of the party-goers exclaimed at Fred Dutton's 80th birthday celebration. (In fact, there were 15 there.) The handsome black-and-silver Art Deco invitations heralded that this dinner for 110, which took over K Street's "Prime Rib" restaurant, was going to be something special, and it was. Seated among the raw bars and endless cuts of prime beef were media "sparklies" on every side, both rivals and colleagues, and several husband and wife media teams: Marianne Means and James J. Kilpatric, Jim and Mollie Dickenson, Neil and Susan Sheehan, Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh, and Dan Morgan and Elaine Shannon to name a few.
Wife Nancy Dutton planned the "this is your life" parade of people who came to honor him from various stages of Fred's legendary career as a major American political broker, and advisor to (Democratic) presidents. Most of the evening's ties were long-reaching: he was a POW in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge; Frank Mankiewicz was a high school pal; Jerry Brown, now mayor of Oakland, was formerly governor of California (Fred ran his father's campaign in that state.) It was to another former governor, later a U.S. senator and environmentalist, Gaylord Nelson (there with wife Carrie Lee), that Fred sent a memo proposing what would later become Earth Day. Here was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who with Ethel and other members of the Kennedy family chose Fred as founding director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation. There David Halberstam, who acknowledged Fred's shrewd help in developing the media-as-transformer-of events theme of Halberstam's book "The Powers That Be." The list went on and on.
Daughter Stacy Dutton chronicled this in lively and loving words as she divulged an obscure parlor game she and her friends-children of Washington power lawyers, journalists and politicians-often played. They liked looking up their parents in books written about those times, many of whose authors were included in this super journalism evening.
Also seen: Ann Compton, Haynes Johnson, Liz Stevens, Stanley and Annette Karnow, Sander Vanocur, Bob and Geraldine Novak, Myra McPherson and husband Jack Gordon, Ambassador of Egypt Nabil Fahmy and Nermin Fahmy, Rim Abboud, wife of the Ambassador of Lebanon, Paul and Janet Duke, Barbara Gamarekian, Jack Germond and Ambassador William McCormick Blair, Jr.
PARTY-GO-ROUND: William McCormick Blair and his wife Deeda were also guests at what is always one of the year's nicest parties, presaged by a green-bordered invitation saying "Mary and Eric Weinmann, at Home in the Garden" and the date and time. From that simple harbinger the party, framed by a setting which includes weeping willows reflected in a pond, seemed to flow along effortlessly…Mary and Mandy Ourisman gave a cocktail party that included such guests as Britty Cudlip and John Damgard, Lynda Webster, Blair and Spottiswood Dudley, John and Cristina McLaughlin, Becky and Paul Rogers, and up from Palm Beach, Bill and Norma Tiefel, en route to Italy…A few nights later another group of partygoers, including many of the same people, arrived at Susan and Doug Bennett's soiree, where everyone was fascinated by the chic and delicious little crystalline cones containing an exotic amuse-bouche, trying to guess the contents before tasting them.…John and Giselle Theberge Jeppson hosted a cocktail buffet to bid farewell to Eduardo and Teresa Aninat, a couple that have enlivened Washington during their stay here. We all know Giselle as a top D.C. realtor, and hostess (her tables are always loaded with delicacies made "en casa") but she proved also to be a spirited extemporaneous speaker as she outlined Eduardo's career, saying he is going back to Chile to run for the senate, and that many see that as a serious step toward a later bid for the presidency of that country…As 2004 approaches, election fever is everywhere.
Carlota Pardini-Ellrodt, who has been shuttling between Panama and her D.C. home, reports that when her great-grandparents came to Panama in 1903, all her relatives from Lucca in Tuscany brought names like Pardini, Martinelli and Dutari, establishing an "Italian Tribe" in the colorful town of "Sona" Veraguas. Now in Panama, she finds that two of her relatives have tossed their hats into the political ring (Does that make them Panama hats?): both Ricardo Martinelli, and her niece Vicky Dutari, whose husband Jose Miguel Aleman has served as secretary of state there, and whose father was formerly posted here as ambassador.
LADIES WHO LUNCH: Forget the inference, the ladies who came to Anna Maria Via's lunch honoring Magda Vento, the wife of the Ambassador of Italy, are all busy women of accomplishment. Guests included Brenda de Suze; Carmen Ducaru, wife of the Ambassador of Romania; Indira Mansingh, wife of the Ambassador of India; Susanne Blickenstorfer, wife of the Swiss Ambassador, Willee Lewis and Lolo Sarnoff…Lolo's recent theatre party to benefit Arts for the Aging (AFTA) , brought a crowd to the stateof- the-art Round House Theatre in Bethesda for the sprightly musical "Pippin." She is a sculptor whose art is exhibited in several galleries, and serves on committees for several charities.
Seen at "Pippin": Benefit chairman Amanda Hobart, Jan Du Plain, David Harrison, Mat Hastings, Fred and Gail Hubig, Vibeke Loft, Bill and Dorothy McSweeny … It's hard to keep up with.Willee Lewis, another over- achiever who wears so many hats. Among otherprojects, she has been busily organizing PEN/Faulkner events, most recently a fascinating theater presentation at the Folger Theater, "One Sunday at the Fitzgeralds," with F. Scott Fitzgerald portrayed by George Plimpton, Zelda by Oscar-winning actress Lee Grant, and her psychiatrist by Timothy Hutton. The dialogue was taken from records of actual sessions with Zelda's psychiatrist (a fact which irritated one audience member to the point of speaking out against it) and cast F.Scott as a tyrant determined to keep Zelda from writing, no matter what the cost. Terry Quinn developed the idea with input from Plimpton, and served as director of the performance. It was an unusual bit of theatre,and as Plimpton said, "This is its first, and perhaps only presentation." Willee's book, "Snakes," an anthology she has compiled of pieces on these slithering subjects by an astonishingly wide-ranging group of writers, has just come out, and will make its debut in D.C. this fall.
As for George, he is about to celebrate in New York the 50th anniversary of that beacon of literary accomplishment, The Paris Review, which he founded as a a lad in love with letters so many years ago.
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