Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Around Town
with Donna Shor            

First Lady Laura Bush’s straight-forward style and quiet senseof humor won the hearts of everyone (including the hardest-heartedDemocrats) at the American Heart Association Women’s Board’s 55th annualValentine luncheon and fashion show at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

Peter Marx of Saks Jandel presented the spring collection of handsomesuits and soft dresses by designer Rena Lange as well as Saks Jandel eveningwear. To her surprise, Mrs. Bush discovered that her own red suit was a RenaLange design earlier that morning as she donned her jacket for the luncheon.

Event chairman Elizabeth Huffman, who was seated next to Mrs. Bush on theplatform, remarked how warm the First Lady was, especially when she won everymother’s heart by reporting that her daughters would be happy she was theresince their sighs of “Oh, MOTHER!” indicated her wardrobe needed Major Work.

Mrs. Bush spoke of the risks of heart disease for women, and urged them toreach out to others to encourage them to visit their doctors. This Women’s Boardluncheon has raised over $3 million so far, and is the oldest continuous fundraising eventof any nationally recognized non-profit group.

Present were Donna Marriott, Judy Woodruff, Kathleene Card, the wifeof White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Ann Mueller, wife of thedirector of the FBI.

One especially lively table was headed by Evelyn Murray (of GreenBook fame), and included MaryAnne Panagos, Laurie Naylor, Joy Hagel,Kathy Best, Beatrice Boesch and Giovanna Wood.

Nineteen lucky women won “Valentine’s,” door prizes as varied asa trip to Cancun or a stay in the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas. One of the mostunusual had everyone intrigued. It was an ostrich egg made into a handbag witha watch attached on top, and covered with over 3000 freshwater pearls.It was the work of Mrs. Frank (Mitzi) Perdue, (sound familiar?) who refersto herself as —what else — “The Egg Lady.”

In Palm Beach even the unusual cold and the intermittent drizzle couldn’tdampen the spirits of the faithful attending The Big One in this gala-sated city —the annual International Red Cross Ball at The Breakers.

This year ’s ball,which raised an estimated $1 million, was a real kick-up-your-heels affair, and the music was a big factor.

Diana (Mrs Llwyd) Ecclestone, in her third year as General Chairman, goteveryone up and dancing by pairing two winner orchestras.

The band of multi-platinum Peter Graves (who has worked with artistsfrom Frank Sinatra to the Bee Gees) played especially danceable music in theearly evening. Later multi-lingual singer Sammy Goz and his orchestra heatedthings up with pop, jazz, salsa —you name it, even The Twist. Diana had himfly in from Paris with his group, which the New York Post has called the “BestDance Band in the World.”

Dinner was a crowd-pleaser, too: smoked salmon tartare with caviar andcrème fraiche; toasted fennel-and mustard seed crusted rack of lamb, ending withcalvados ice cream crowning an apple and chocolate dessert. It wasserved on gauzy, gold-touched tablecloths with crystal vases of red tulipsand roses, white hydrangeas and white orchids, all under hanging globes ofmore red roses.

In the Gold Room’s formal receiving line ballgoers were introduced to ambassadorial couplesdown from Washington for the weekend (each standing before his respective flag) then to honoraryinternational chairwoman, Celia Lipton Farris, clad in a dramatic gown in hersignature white.

The Red Cross Ball tradition of flying the foreign ambassadors to PalmBeach (where they stay in the homes of ball supporters) began with MarjorieMerriweather Post and her private plane. She did this because she firmly believedthat every intermingling of the envoys with Americans during their postingin our country “helps build a bridge of understanding among nations,” asshe put it. And that, of course, is one reason why other countries try to sendtheir most personable ambassadors to the U.S.

Ambassador Salem al-Sabah of Kuwait underscored this truth when hetold the Washington Post, before leaving for the event-packed weekend, that hesaw the trip as a (new) opportunity to explain his country’s position to others.

Luckily, the Murphy’s Law problems connected with any three-part event ofthis magnitude all happened earlier and out of sight. First, the 727 of DonaldTrump, who flies the ambassadors down with him, was not available this year,what to do? Diana got in touch with Richard Santulli, the owner of NetJets, and lo,a plane was produced.

Next, several ambassadors cancelled because (as in the case of Turkey,involved in minute-to-minute negotiations over having U.S. troops on theirsoil) they were needed in Washington that weekend; but those remaining morethan made up for it.

The popular ambassador of Afghanistan, jovial Ishaq Sharyar and hiswife Hafeza even did an impromptu ring-around-the-rosy with another couple on thedance floor. It was that kind of a relaxed evening, despite the titles and tiaras.

It all starts with a fanfare of trumpets, as the traditional processional begins,and, Marion “Joe” Smoak the erstwhile former chief of protocol announces eachin turn as chairmen, ambassadors and vice chairmen sweep. down the red carpet into theVenetian Ballroom. It’s a pageant of couture gowns and occasional colorful native dressworn by ambassadorial wives. Blonde Rima Al-Sabah of Kuwait wore a cloth-of-gold caftan,and brunette Faika Atallah, wife of Tunisian ambassador Hatem Atallah, wore oneof flame red. Miledy Guiliani, wife of Hugo Guiliani Cury,the ambassadorof the Dominican Republic, opted for modern dress, as did Andreja Kracun of Slovenia.Hungary’s Nora Simonyi donned a striking ensemble with a wide v-shaped plastron downthe front, and Hafeza Sharyar of Afghanistan wore sweeping celadon satin.

The processional includes Palm Beach social leaders and major benefactors who helped byserving as chairmen and vice-chairmen. To name a few: Mrs. Henry (Anya) Bagley, Mrs. James(Susan) Keenan, who was once married to former Rep. Barry GoldwaterJr.), and Mrs. Howard Kessler. Other guests included U.S. Ambassador toHungary Nancy Brinker (whose busy day included the morning Race for TheCure for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, named for her sister who died of thedisease), Mrs Lee Munder (Laura Munder, who was clad in red Vicki Tiel, is the gifteddesigner of her line of jewelry seen in Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman’s), andPatrick Park (a benefactor who gives the magnificent dinner each year the nightbefore the ball with Mary Fairbanks as hostess, and whose handsome house wassold to the Bill Tiefels).

SHINING THROUGH: The stage of the D.A.R.’s Constitution Hall will shinea little brighter this year, for an unexpected reason. Placido Domingo, theartistic director of the Washington Opera, will present six operas therewhile the Kennedy Center Opera House is being renovated, but some high-techduds will make the somber hall a bright spot.

A shimmering (in every sense of the word) Technology Fashion Showand cocktail reception was hosted by the Ambassador of Italy and Mrs.Ferdinando Salleo and the Washington Opera, and chaired by Jane Sloat to giveus a heads-up on some special operatic innovations and the American premiereof a sensational new fabric treatment useable on many different types of cloth.

In the dimly-lit Italian Chancery, the fiberoptic Italian fabric “Luminex” lit upthe room, whether in garments, or sofa pillows. Models floated about either inlight-as-air Domo Adami bridal gowns whose ruffles were edged with glowingLuminex points of light, or in breathtaking self-illuminating costumes forthe opera “Aida” done by the designer who produces everything from furnishings to handbagsin Luminex.

Red-haired, Prague-born and Rome-based designer Zuzana Kurtz, hadarrived that day from India, though it could have been from half a dozenother countries she visits constantly in her work.

“We are now developing items using Luminex that will change colors, froma palette of 256 different hues.” she explained,“the horizons for this fabricare limitless.”

Ina Ginsburg, a long-time opera supporter, said “It will be really exciting to see allthis on stage, lighting up Constitution Hall.”

Seen: Phil and Nina Pillsbury, the Ambassador of Finland JukkaValtasaari and his wife Etel, the Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosaand his wife Maria-Ignez, Robert and Jamie Kraft, Bitsey Folger and Dr.Sidney Workman, Chris Hunter, Jonathan Sloat, and Leo and GregaDaly. Also on hand with her mother was Aniko Gaal Schott. Irene Reberwas visiting from her Sarasota home to attend the Feb. 10 ceremony at theBrazilian Embassy when Aniko (who lived in Brazil a few years back) receivedthe National Order of the Southern Cross, the country’s highest decorationfor a non-Brazilian.

Lest we forget, best news of all from this fashion show is for anyone who hasever fumbled in her handbag for hard-to-see items. All is now made clear,thanks to Zuzka’s unique handbags, lit from within by a lining of Luminexfabric.

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE: At the Kennedy Center’s 15th annual choral tribute honoringMartin Luther King, Jr., local choral groups appeared onstage with the Kan Kouran WestAfrican Dance Troupe, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, under the batonof Norman Scribner, and the Howard University Choir under Dr. J. WeldonNorris, (who was pivotal in developing this annual musical tribute presentedthe week before the national holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday.)

Rev. King’s work and achievements, tinctured with the non-violent influenceof Gandhi in his life, were explored in a moving program.

SEEN: Dorothy and Bill McSweeney, Dr. Aaron and AlexineJackson, and Maxine B. Baker, the vice president of community relations forFreddie Mac, and president and CEO of the Freddie Mac Foundation, who chairsthe Tribute Committee.

RUSSIAN DRESSING: “Madder music and stronger wine,” set thescene for the 33rd Annual Russian New Years Ball, where —as if the 36-member WashingtonBalalaika Society and Sydney’s Orchestra weren’t enough —a wild gypsy troupe set everyone’s headspinning in this three-part musical salute.

The always popular event combines elegance with the excitement of a three-ring circus. Vodka and beef stroganoff upheld gastronomic tradition, and at thestroke of midnight, the Old Calendar New Year was ushered in with a champagne toast.Prince Alexis Obolensky was ailing this year, and he was missed,but his wife, the ever-enthusiastic Selene, kept the torch burning.

Each year she and a few others don the kokoschnik pearl-trimmed headress and thedistinct dresses of Czarist times, and this year twice as many weredressed for nostalgia. You only need play “Moscow Nights” once more and we’llcollapse in a heap of sentimentality —just as on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’sIrish, on this night, even the Irish imagine themselves Russian.

Is there an item you think “Around Town” should know about? Send an e-mail todonnashor@aol.com


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