Among Washington's intriguing aspects is its renown as an international meeting place, with diplomatic missions representing more than 165 nations contributing their share of cosmopolitan allure.
However, this has a down side. Just as our ambassadorial neighbors get established and make friendships, orders come from their capitals that it is time to move on. It may be after the unusual leverage of four years has passed, or upon shifts in their government 's leadership.
A reception a few weeks ago at the Embassy of Spain introduced that nation's new ambassador, Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza, and his wife Amaya, replacing Ambassador Javier Ruperez and his wife Rakela.
The latest couple to be recalled is another popular pair, Hatem Atallah, the Tunisian ambassador, and his wife Faika, became quite assimilated into the local scene. That was made easier as he spent his high school years in Wisconsin, before Harvard, and she earned her Masters degree at George Washington University.
The round of farewell parties for them began with a luncheon given by Rima Al-Sabah, the wife of the ambassador of Kuwait. The women-only gathering included among others the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky; Mary Jo Myers, wife of Gen. Richard Myers, U.S.A.F. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Lynn Pace, wife of the vice-chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, U.S.M.C.; Linda Sonnenreich whose husband is president of the Washington National Opera's board, Daniela Mineta, wife of the secretary of transportation; Betty Ann Tanner, wife of Tennessee Sen. John Tanner; Ann Johnson, whose husband Clay is the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; Middle Eastern authority Nora Boustany of the Washington Post; Esther Coopersmith; Dina Powell, the new face at the Presidential Personnel Office; and (no relation) Jane Powell, wife of the FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Colin Powell. the secretary of state, and Alma Powell.
The latest farewell event for the Atallahs was a dinner for forty at the Kalorama residence of French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, and his wife Marie Cècile.
Ambassador Levitte also said that he and his wife had chosen Tunisia as the ideal place for their honeymoon, and that they returned many times.
Among the guests were Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, and (with her husband John O'Connor) and Justice Anthony Kennedy (and his wife Mary), Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek, the Ambassador of Gabon Jules Marius Ogouebandja, Ishaq Sharyar, the former ambassador from Afghanistan and his wife Hafizah, Renée and Gen. Wallace Robinson, Grace Bender, Susan Hurley Bennett, Ann and Philippe Rollier, Shirin Ghareeb of the International Film Festival, and Peter Saleh and his artist wife, Sheila.
Peter was back for a brief pause from his State Department mission working for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He is a colleague of Bill McCampbell, also on pause from his appointment in Afghanistan whom this writer had met just the week before while cruising the coast of Spain.
That trip, a fabulous one, was the National Museum of Women in The Arts annual Endowment Cruise. The sailing dates conflicted with still another dinner for the Tunisian couple which some of us had to miss at the Portuguese Embassy. Ambassador Pedro Catarino and his wife, Cheryl, are excellent hosts, and Garnett Stackleberg reports it was also a magnificent evening. Garnett's name was evoked on the cruise in connection with the Spanish royal house. More on that anon.
The trip began with a visit to Frank Gehry's spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, with a detour to the caves of Altamira, to see the artwork of prehistoric man.
Next stop: Madrid's Ritz Hotel, and a cocktail reception at the U.S. Embassy hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, George Argyros, and his wife Julie. Ambassador Argyros announced that they were so impressed with the group that he and his wife were giving $10,000 to further the goals of the Museum in celebrating the artistic achievements of women throughout history.
Our ship was Seabourne Cruise Lines' sleek and beautiful Legend. The crew seemed to outnumber the passengers, as someone was always at your elbow to hand you a glass of champagne. Caviar, too, was unlimited, and some sybaritic souls even ordered caviar for breakfast each day. One thing is sure: the champagne-fueled dancing got everyone up on the floor. We raised anchor in Barcelona after two days admiring this magical city, its comprehensive Picasso Museum, its echos of Picasso's early years there, and so many of Gaudi's inspired architectural didos to bewonder.
Among the 185 voyagers were several familiar Washington faces including, of course, the Museum's visionary founder, Wilhelmina Holladay, and her husband, Wallace, who during the trip was always ready with a quip or a literary reference.
Greatly responsible for the success and the complicated planning of the busy program were the design team of Carol and Climis Lascaris. Carol is president emeritus of the Museum, Climis is the Endowment Chairman and they are best known for the many palaces they have beautified, and the homes, fanning out from their McLean studio, that they have designed here and abroad. They were so enthusiastic when they discovered the aims of the Museum while working on it as a project, that they have become two of its hardest-working supporters.
Washington friends of Dr. Antonio de Oyarzábal and his wife Beatrice were delighted to find them on the cruise. He was formerly the ambassador of Spain, posted in Washington. Beatrice is the daughter of a former ambassador to Spain from the United States, the late John Davis Lodge, who was not only an esteemed public servant (he was governor of Connecticut) but was the star of several movies, including “Little Women” and “The Scarlet Empress.” Her mother Francesca, a great beauty, was an actress and a ballerina. Beatrice said that when her father was appointed to Spain by President Eisenhower, she went to live in the American Embassy as a girl of 16. In the same building she met the man who is now her husband, and who was encouraged by her father to follow a diplomatic career.
Antonio's nightly lectures, ranging from historic Spain to the present day, greatly enriched the trip. The night he spoke on modern Spain, and the rule of King Alfonso XVIII in the last century he spoke of Alfonso's wife, Queen Ena, who was the godmother of Garnett Stackelberg's son, Sandy.
Garnett's late husband, Baron Constantine (“Steno”) Stackelberg was related to the Queen, who was a Battenberg (Mountbatten) princess.
Washingtonians aboard included Judy and Ahmad Esfandiary, and Ahmad's cousin, concert pianist Gilan Tocco Corn, with her husband Dr. Milton Corn. Gilan, along with Linda Slatkin, is co-director of the Museum's “Women in Music” series. From the Watergate, in addition to the Corns, the Lascarises and the Esfandiarys were Karen Kaub, Jean Schepers and Bill and Jamelle McCampbell.
In an impromptu speech to an interested group one morning, Bill McCampbell answered questions on Afghanistan, aided by his knowledgeable wife “Jamie.” He spoke of the necessity of turning the farmers of Afghanistan away from the drug trade, as that country at present supplies 70% of the drug used around the world.
Other Washington voyagers were Pat Bush, Betty and Paul Elicker, Roger and Nancy Stephenson, Shirley Pearson, Harold and Nancy Zirkin, Sally Von Summer, Robert and Eileen Mulligan, Sharad and Mahinder Tak, Bob Ungar and Chryssa Wolf , Marjorie Wasilewski, Leslie Westreich, Ashok and Hariastuti (“Tuti”) Kaveeshwar, Peter and M.A. Brickfield, Ramsay Potts, Michael and Julie Connors, Edith Crutcher, Peter and Wendy Gowdy, Jaqueline Knepshield, James and Zoe Moshovitis and Marsha Shiff.
Virginians included one-womandynamo Mary Mochary and Philip Wine, Gerry Waldman, Philip and Susan LePore, Tom and Dina Leris, Dr. Pierre and Darlene Asmar, architect-developer Lola Reinsch, J. Almont Pierce, Cathie Bennett, Fred Frailey, Nicholas and Eleanor Chabraja, Jeanne Reid and A.J. and Silvia Veitch.
Among the 30-strong Texas contingent was banker Bill Fouts and his wife, Katherine; Tom and Jo Stribling; Ann Webb and her daughter, Jane Eck; financier Spencer Brown and his wife, Margaret; and Caroline Rose Hunt, the hotel tycoon who controls some of the world's most prestigious properties.
Frequent Washington visitor Holly Coors, always as bubbly as the beer, came from Golden, Colorado with a party of five, including her daughter and granddaughter. From Germany came much awaited Peter and Helga Keílbach, who joined the tour from their Berlin home. He represented Daimler Motors here for several years and they have many friends locally.
Next Valencia, Cartagena, and Murcia and Gibraltar. Sir James and Eleanor Morris flew down from Scotland especially to get us into the Valderama Golf Club (home of the Ryder Cup) and invite us to tea on the 18th tee.
In Cadiz, we were invited by Princess Beatriz de Orleans-Borbón to El Botanico Palace, owned by the descendants of Spain's Royal Family. After tea she gave us a tour of the portraits of her ancestors. The ladies were gowned in satin and lace court dresses painted so sumptuously you felt that if you reached out, you would be touching fabric. (Mary Mochary, whose mother knew the mother of the Princess, helped arrange this very special stop.)
BLOCKBUSTER: Buffy and William Cafritz and Robert Higdon gave a cocktail party to celebrate the publication of “Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House—1911 to 1980,” the latest book from Bob Colacello, long a special correspondent for Vanity Fair.
The first surprise is the cover photo, by Slim Aarons (famed for the magic in his camera) in which Nancy Reagan, in a wide white straw hat with draped white fabric, looks as beautiful as any of the great screen glamour girls.
Second jaw-dropper is the amazing accesses Colacello had not only to Mrs. Reagan and her private papers, but to her friends as well, who were clearly asked to cooperate. It is an honest book, and as a special selection of three of the major book clubs, it is sure to be a blockbuster best-seller.
At the party were Justice Scalia, Lynda and Bill Webster, Nancy Ruhe, Ina Ginsburg, Arnaud de Borchgrave and Librarian of Congress James Billington, who had just come from a three and a half hour conference with Vladimir Putin. One special joy was to see brainy and beautiful Terri Hamlisch, wife of Pops-Meister Marvin, who is staying in D.C. while she takes a university course here.
Do you have an item “Around Town” should know about? Send it to me at email@example.com.