Around Town

with Donna Shor  

Capable Mary Ourisman outdid herself as general chairman of athree-pronged marathon event, (morning-to-night) that was one of themost historic and prestigious held here in several years.

The Blair House Restoration Fund Gala began with an excellent luncheonat Blair House, and continued with a White House reception hosted byPresident and Mrs. Bush, after which guests were bussed directly to the StateDepartment for dinner. The art-and antique-filled Diplomatic ReceptionRooms looked more stunning than ever for the beautifully appointed dinner.

Guests at The Blair House Gala, which included a luncheon at Blair House, acocktail reception at the White House afterwards, and a dinner at the StateDepartment’s Diplomatic Reception Suite, came from many states as well asoverseas. The Blair House Restoration Fund was established in 1985 to raisefunds from the private sector for the complete restoration of Blair House, thePresident’s official guesthouse.

Clockwise from above: Mary Ourisman & Secretary of State Colin Powell; JudgeJohn Baily of Ireland, Alyne Massey (Blair House Restoration Fund Trustee),Senator Paul Laxalt and his wife Carol (Blair House Restoration Fund Trustee);Mac and Donna McLarty (Blair House Restoration Fund Trustee), and RichardFisher. Photos by Karin Cooper

Blair House,one of the treasures of Washington, is not open to public tours.“The President’s Guest House” serves as a home away from home for visitingchiefs of state and other VIP guests; thevice president and cabinet secretariesentertain foreign leaders there.

It was redecorated fittingly and handsomely fourteen years ago with the latefamed interior designer Mark Hampton leading the work in collaboration withMario Buatta (one of Buatta’s rooms is the exquisite Lee drawing room, amasterpiece of subtle-hued chinoiserie.)

History has been made there from before the Civil War to the present era.President Harry S. Truman lived in the house while the White House wasrenovated, the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine were drafted in the Lee Diningroom, and the assassination attempt on President Truman’s life was made infront of the building.

The 110 -room complex is the result of the joining together of the Blair andthe Lee mansions and two adjoining dwellings. Under the care of the federalgovernment, private funding by individuals, corporations and foundations hasgreatly aided Blair House to become a magnificently furnished showplace. Toacknowledge and augment these donations was the purpose of the gala, whichwas underwritten by former state department official Richard W. Fisher and hiswife Nancy.

Supporters came from many states as well as overseas: Eric Hagen and ChrisSveesa, two wealthy Norwegian businessmen, arrived from Oslo especiallyto attend the linked events at Richard Fisher’s invitation. Seen: Catherine B.Reynolds, who through her foundation was one of the $500,000 endowmentdonors, along with Roger and Victoria Sant, the Annenberg Foundation, andseveral corporations.

Fifty friends from Girls’ Night Out, a group of women professionals, descended on the chic newGeorgetown boutique Mint Julep’s for the group’s first fall get together. Theprivate shopping event on Sept. 24 featured manicures, makeovers, palmreading, and lots of good food and drinks, including Mint Juleps.

Clockwise from left: Mint Julep’s Owner Katie Poitevint and MegGregory; Nina Halper and Tuni Singh; Cynthia Dipaquale and Julia Kupfer;Ingrid Zimmer and Alis Clyburn. Photos by Lili Iravani

Celebrants included several members of the Blair House Board RestorationFund Board of Trustees, under the leadership of Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt(dubbed the “First Lady” of Blair House).

Seen: Protocol chief Donald B. Ensenat, who welcomed guests to theluncheon, the Joseph Allbrittons, the Arnaud de Borchgraves, Britty Cudlipwith John Damgard, Nina Pillsbury, Lolo Sarnoff, Marc and JacquelineLeland, Gay Gaines, the Lloyd Hands, Mary Weinmann, Ruth BuchananWheeler, Garnett Stackelberg, C. D. Ward, Kevin Chaffee, Spottiswoodand Blair Dudley, Ann and Henry Dudley, former chief of protocol JosephVerner Reed, and down from Boston, Muffie Brandon Cabot, who served associal secretary under the Reagans.

At the State Department, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife Almagreeted the guests, as did gala chairman Mary Ourisman (resplendent in a dreamof a black dress) and husband Mandy. As usual, Powell’s witty welcoming addressadded to the warmth of the evening.

It was a fun party for a cause, especially since several interior systems inBlair House need repair work. At the dinner, Senator Bill Frist, there withhis wife Karen, sat at Mary Ourisman’s right. At her left was Mario Buatta, infrom New York. All who knew him there and anyone knowing him fromhis stint here, can attest that he is one of the most unpredictable jokers of alltime. More than once during the day’s festivities, a small switch of dark hairjumped from his pocket to appear either as a sudden sprouting of curly locks onhis dome, or a rather horrendous goatee. And then there was that Buatta spoonwith the three-foot long handle that suddenly made its foraging appearancein one’s plate …

A L A RUSSE: Mariana and Brandon Grove, Jr. hosted a remarkable partyto launch “A Year of Russian Feasts,” a uniquecookbook by Brandon’s daughter Catherine Cheremeteff Jones. The book is manythings: a colorful travel memoir, a bravely careful cookbook thatsimplifies complex recipes (and eschews the banal ones,) and atreasure trove of lore gleaned during a three-year Moscow sojourn and from her Russianmother and grandmother.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was one of the guestsat a “Smiling Pizza” backyard party at ArgentineAmbassador Diego Ramiro Guelar’s Dupont Circlemansion in late September. The ambassador is tryingto help the Duchess avoid foreclosure on the farm leftto her by her late mother Susan Barrantes and stepfather Hector Barrantes.Photo by Roxana Bravo

Walking in the door to the party, one might have asked oneself why the setting wasso perfect? The answer: good dark wood and the rich reds of the decor —of course, even thename “Maxim’s” gave a clue. It echoed famed “Maxims” in Paris, beloved haunt of theRussian nobility who quaffed champagne there (traditionallya sweeter version to correspond to Russian tastes), and of the fictionalPrince Danilo of “Merry Widow” fame.

Maxim’s is the creation of a remarkable woman, Alexandra Costa, on thesite of the famed old restaurant, “Maison Blanche.” Her story is as dramatic as anywork of fiction. Over twenty years ago, when she was married to thefirst secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, she fled with her two smallchildren, becoming the first woman to defect from that embassy. What happened nextis fascinating, but to know more, read her book “SteppingDown From the Star”, which won praise from both former CIA Director RichardHelms and from author Tom Clancy.

Mariana, no wicked stepmother, went all out to arrange the book launch.Around the big tables laden with zakuski, sampling the appetizers with vodka fromthe restaurant’s 118 varieties, was gathered one of the mostcosmopolitan crowds in town. Seen: Svetlana Ushakova,wife of the ambassador of the Russian Federation, Julio Heurtematte,Vladimir Tolstoy, Aniko Gaal Schott, the Walter and Didi Cutlers, Pamand Mike Peabody, Paul (the former Florida congressman) and BeckyRogers, Willee and Finley Lewis, Ann and William Nitze, Alexandra andNatasha Potemkin, author Catherine’s husband, Paul Jones,and her brotherPaul Grove with his wife Martha, and Lucy and Kempton Jenkins.

The Washington Redskins launched the Redskins Youth DevelopmentProgram at AnacostiaHigh School in Washington, D.C. in late September. A collaboration with the National FootballFoundation’s “Play it Smart” program, the program’s goals will center on placing academiccoaches in designated schools to work closely with student-athletes on an academicgameplan, and to renovate and upgrade football fields at 10 local high schools in Washington,D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland. Pictured: D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams andRedskins owner Dan Snyder.

Also there were Jane and Jonathan Sloat, Nina Straight, Steve Strickland,Marta and Martin Dunetz, and James Symington (who has done so much forcementing U.S. Russian relations). One guest who had called to say she couldnot make it was Sandra Day O’Connor, and another guest knew the exact reasonwhy. Jan Sheppard had just returned from seeing the Supreme Court justicein her native state, Arizona, where she had injured her leg.

They had gathered for a dedication at the Sandra Day O’Connor FederalCourt House in Phoenix. Her just- installed statue that stands before itbears a secret on its judicial robe, the signatures of Sandra’s grandchildren,set in bronze.

The sculpture is of a nine foot tall Sandra Day O’Connor, and given thepower of her intellect, and the height of her accomplishment, it is fitting that herstatue is larger than life-size.

Mariana and Brandon Grove hosted a party at Maxim Restaurant inNorthwest on September 24 to celebrate the release of Catherine Jones’sbook, “A Year of Russian Feasts.” In the book, Jones explains theregularly occurring Russian Orthodox feasts, those traditional dishesassociated with them, and the holidays’ significance in the life of the churchand people.

Clockwise from right: Mariana Grove, Donna Pflieger & Jane Sloat;James Symington and Svetlana Ushakova; Eschi Warwick and Garnett Stackelberg.Photos by Martha Grove

OLE! Screen beauty Sandra Bullock made a stunning and genial honoreeat the black-tie Noche de Gala of the National Hispanic Foundation for theArts at the Mayflower Hotel.

The star seemed a little puzzled at winning the 2002 Raul Julia Award forExcellence, “After all, I’m of German descent, not a Latina,” but Foundationdirectors knew they had the right woman. On the other side of the camerathis time, Sandra is helping them meet their aim of expanding career openingsfor Hispanic talent in media and entertainment fields in her real life role as theexecutive producer of ABC’s hit sitcom “The George Lopez Show.” The show’sstar George Lopez, who in real life is a well-known stand up comedian, is alsoan endearing actor with a lot of quiet charm, and the first Hispanic sinceFreddie Prinz to find success in such a show.

Spearheading the evening were actors Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales(familiar faces from television’s “NYPD Blue”) who were founders of the group alongwith Sonia Braga (so memorable in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”) The latterjoined them onstage at the last minute, making a heroic effort to get here fromBrazil where she was working.

Soledad O’Brien of NBC News and Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News wereon hand, and singers Daphne Rubin-Vega (Tony-nominated from theBroadway Production of “Rent”) and Daniel Rodriguez (a former NYPDofficer) entertained the crowd.

Special Love held their 20th Anniversary Celebration Camp at the Bethesda homeof Dianne and Alan Kay on September 27. More than 200 guest “campers”ate s’mores, sang campfire songs and bid on auction items, raising more than$140,000 for the charity established by Tom and Sheila Baker to honor theirdaughter and aid other children in their battle with cancer and HIV. Barry F. Scher,Vice President of Public Affairs for Giant Food, Inc., was honored for 35 years ofcommunity service to children; Special Love’s co-founders John Dooley and Dr.Phil Pizzo, and camp physician Dr. Steven Chanock were also recognized for theirdedication and commitment.

Above: Maggie Shannon, Barry F. Scher and Robert Keefe;Below (left to right): Dr. Steve Chanock (Special Love physician) and Alan Kay; andSpecial Love co-founders Dr. Phil Pizzo and Tom Baker. Photos by Jeffrey Snyder Photography

Seen (and in some cases, heard): HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, SenateMajority Leader Tom Daschle,(so witty he could do stand-up himself,) PeaceCorps Director Gaddi Vasquez, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, andSenator John Kerry.

The night before the gala, Esther Coopersmith gave a dinner for 120 ather Kalorama home to honor the celebrities. Two guests, Nora Boustany,international political columnist of the Washington Post, and Rima Al-Sabah,wife of the ambassador of Kuwait, reminisced over their days as politicalcorrespondents during the war in Lebanon when they had offices across the hallfrom each other, Nora, for the Post, and Rima, for UPI. Both said they duckedunder their desks whenever the bombs were too close for comfort.

Lebanese-born Rima received her degree in journalism from the University of Beirut.

“When I was just a freshman, my husband was a senior, and we becamethe “sweethearts of the campus,” said Rima.

A few nights later, the Al-Sabahs sponsored a film evening, but a verysobering one. “Dreams Without Sleep,” from Kuwaiti filmmaker Walid Al-Awadi,came about while he was traveling last year between Los Angeles, D.C. andNew York to work on a feature film and found himself on September 11th near the World TradeCenter with a camera.

Neiman Marcus Mazza Gallerie was lit up in pink for the Think Pink Benefit forThe Breast Cancer Research Foundation on September 30. A cocktail receptionpreceded the illumination event benefiting the Foundation and honoringEvelyn H. Lauder, its founder and chairman. A minimum of eighty-five percentof all funds raised by the Foundation goes directly to breast cancer research.

Above: Judy Esfandiary, Carol Lascaris, Sheila Johnson and PamHooker; Below (left to right): Neiman Marcus generalmanager Martha Slagle, Tanya Snyder, Raul & Jean Marie Fernandez; Dolly Kayand Anne Ferenz. Photos by Bartholomew Franz

True to his profession, he kept rolling as events unfolded all about him. (Thenewspapers later recorded suspiciously that “an unidentif ied Muslimphotographer” was taking pictures during the calamity).

Al-Wadi filmed for seven days and nights, “focusing on the people in thestreet,” recording their reactions as they watched for a loved one to come out ofa building alive. He says that during the Gulf War he “saw firsthand waste, deathand destruction. I never thought I would see another scene like that …until thatday in September.”

Esther Coopersmith hosted a dinner for 180 guests in the garden of her Kalorama homeon October 6 to welcome Queen Sirikit of Thailand, an old friend, back to Washington.

From left: Esther Coopersmith with Queen Sirikit of Thailand; Princess Ubol Ratana

The screening at the Museum of Natural History became even morepoignant when the audience realized that sitting among them were some of theheros of the cinema verité film, such as Dan Walker, the young fireman whopointed out that fate, and chance, ruled at each moment: “There are a lot ofstories about two guys standing together, one went left, one went right. One guy’sstill here, the other guy’s not.”

The movie is a striking testimony to the acts of self less courage and loyaltythat the people of New York –just average people —showed one another in themidst of disaster.

While admitting that as an Arab and Muslim he was afraid of beingmisunderstood as he filmed on Manhattan’s streets, Al-Wadi kept on,saying that he cared “only that this story was told, thatit needed to be given to the world.”

Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar presided over festivities at a reception at the AfghanEmbassy, its first since reopening in July of this year, to celebrate Afghanistan’sIndepndence Day. The event, which officially marks Afghan independence from GreatBritain in 1919, now has added cause for celebration. A number of guests wore traditionalAfghan clothes and performed the Atan, a traditional Afghan dance.

Above: Guests in traditional Afghan attire. Below from Below: Dr. Abdullah, Ministerof Foreign Affairs for the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, Amin Arsala, VicePresident for the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense DonaldRumsfeld, Ibrahim Lutfi, and Afghan Ambassador Ishaq Shahryar.

One audience member, Betty Ann Tanner, was congratulating FaikaAtallah, the wife of the ambassador of Tunisia, who that same morning had justopened another door to deeper understanding of theArab world when she gave a dynamic “tour” of Tunisia and its people to members ofthe International Neighbors Club #1, hosted at her country’s embassy. Mrs. Tanner,the wife of Tennessee Rep. John S.Tanner, was aboutto head off to their homestate to campaign for her husband.

It is not often that two ambassadors marry, but in the case of Penne Korth(who was our ambassador to Mauritius for three years) and Andrew Peacock(the former Australian ambassador to the U.S.), wedding bells were ringing ona recent Saturday.

After the reception many guests went on to the Historic Georgetown Club tohelp tawny-locked glamour girl Tandy Dickerson celebrate her birthday. (“Asensational party” said Mary Ourisman, and who should know better?)

School Night ’02 on October 3 raised nearly $3 million to aid area youth inreceiving an outstanding education. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Fight ForChildren Chairman Joseph E. Robert, Jr., and Sallie Mae Vice Chairman and CEOAlbert Lord were joined by local and national business leaders for the fundraisinggala. Since its inception in 1998, the charity has raised $15 million to provideaccess to better educational opportunities for D.C. students through the funding ofprograms that support children —from preschool through high school to college.

From left: Albert L. Lord, Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Fight For Childrenchairman Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Photos by Tina Williams

The mix of Georgetowners, out-of-towners and ambassadors who gatheredincluded her first cousin Langhorne Hutter Meem II. Tandy’s maiden namewas Meem and both are distantly related to the legendary Virginia-born NancyLanghorne, who went on to become the fiery Lady Astor. When her husbandinherited the title of Lord Astor, he had to give up membership in the British Houseof Commons, and move to the House of Lords. Nancy ran for his vacant seat andwon, becoming the first woman ever to be a member of the British Parliament(and American-born, at that).

Outspoken and fiercely independent, one of Lady Astor's most quoted remarkshad her saying that she didn't pass judgement on the actions of others "as longas they don't startle the horses in the streets."

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