Around Town

with Donna Shor

Tailgate Time: It was off to the races- and the parties, with the Fairfax Hunt at Belmont Plantation. The picnics ranged from folksy to super-sophisticated, with guests roaming the length of the rail, from one friend's tailgate to the next.

True Davis, assisted by Ann Sofikitis, welcomed pals at his usual finish-line spot. Nearby were the Marion Smoaks' party, and Trudy (Mrs. John) Davis whose guests included Alexander, her dimpled grandson, and parents Geoffrey and Elizabeth.

Dogs leapt in the sunlight and babies abounded (mostly in their parents' arms). Denise and Brad Alexander brought their daughter Braden; Tandy Dickerson carried her tiny new pooch, who it seemed was more demanding than any of the infants present.

[The benefit buzz is that Denise, who is Chair of the Choral Arts Gala-without which it would not be Christmastime has some innovations up her sleeve, including many pre-parties. Even the "donkey work" part will be fun; Saks-Jandel's Peter Marx is seeing to that. The women's committee's laborious hand-addressing will be done at his Chevy Chase store, with brunch starting at 11 a.m., sliding into a lav-ish tea served later. There will also be a fashion show of their latest goods (and a generous discount to all the willing workers who choose outfits there).]

The most elaborate tailgate party was the one hosted by the law firm Katz and Stone which was really a "catered affair," with a posh tent, flowers, and a team from Sutton Place Gourmet in attendance, if you please. Seen at the Races: Wyatt Dickerson, Brad and Natalie Stoddard, Lana Parvizian, George Paley, Margaret Heckler, April Georgelas, Mary Frances Smoak, Bob Corby, Jackie Arango, Mary and Collins Bird, Jackie and Jorge Carnicero, and David Goodman (who retained his reputation for sartorial splendor with a spectacular hat).



Watergate Resartus: Once more resplendent, the Watergate, now known as Swissotel Washington-The Watergate, was the scene of a party hosted by General Manager Alfred J. Matter to show off the renovation of the historic landmark. Some lucky guests won European trips in a drawing of "passports" showing they had visited the redone rooms on the twelfth floor; others munched. Munchers could travel the globe sam-pling the Peking duck and dim sum at one table, the sushi spot, or the tabbouleh, hummus, and almond-showered pilau at the Middle-Eastern table, by way of the paella platters, and the dessert trays. Seen: Margaret Hodges, social arbiters Evelyn and Tom Murray, Anna and Leonard Pfeiffer, Jean Young, Beatriz Fakler, as well as Evelyn Davis. There was also a belly-dancer with an apparently motorized mid-sec-tion, who rivaled the Energizer Bunny as she kept going…and going…and going . . .



Pushkin in Place: Check out the George Washington University corner at 22 nd and H Streets: There's now a statue of Alexander Pushkin, sculpted by Alexander Burganov. Balalaikas played as Bill and Ariadne Miller, Jim and Sylvia Symington, and Steve Strickland welcomed guests to a warm-hearted gala celebrating the 200 th anniversary of the birth of Pushkin, the great Russian poet and literary figure. Marshall Coyne provided the hospitality at his continental-styled Madison Hotel.

Other greeters were the George Washington University President Dr. Stephen Trachtenberg, Professor of Slavic literature at the University Dr. Juris Ryfa, and Alexander Potemkin of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Federation. Auction items were Russian-inspired: Gertie d'Amecourt won a sketch of Pushkin. The top-price bid ($300) captured a tea for six at the memento-filled apartment of Garnett Stackelberg, whose late husband Baron Constantine "Steno" Stackelberg grew up in the court of the last czar.

Dynamic Virginia Williams, one of whose nine children is D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, was asked to speak. She is an operatically-trained pro-fessional who once sang for Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House. As the niece of Roland Hayes, the first Black man to sing with a major U.S. symphony, Mrs. Williams knows about tolerance.

Considering the often shaky U.S.-Russian bloc relations, she spoke appropriately, urging greater understanding and love as the true paths to peace.

Alexander Brown, a G.W. student, sang a Pushkin lyric, accompanied on the piano by Sylvia Symington. Her husband former Senator Jim Symington rendered (in Russian) a "Moscow Nights" as evocative as if Jim had been a true son of the Steppes. Seen: Prince Alexis Oblensky and Princess Selene, Prince David Chavchavadze and Princess Eugenie, J. Carter Brown, Sandra Payson, the Martin Feinsteins, Evelyn Stefansson Nef, Mary Ann Lundgren, Rosemary Bogley and Richard Leachman, and Renee and General Wallace Robinson.



Lunch Bunches: Betty Ladmer, visiting from Palm Beach, was guest of honor at a luncheon given by Gerda McGrath at K Street's Prime Rib. Among the guests were Dorothy (Mrs. Leonard) Marks, Pat Dixson, Trudy Davis, and Laurana Reed. While here for the George Washington Weekend, Audrey Zauderer del Rosario and her husband Enriquillo, the former Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, hosted a luncheon at the Jockey Club. Guests included Betty and Arthur Scott, down from New York, and Margaret Hodges. Audrey told of a recent fire in their New York apartment house, with no injuries, but which had all of the inhabitants doing a pajama parade into the small hours…That's one way to get to know your neighbors.



Embassy Row: What can you say about an annual benefit where you meet everyone you've ever known in Washington, which blossoms anew each fall at a different embassy and which-though apparently grown to the bursting point -- takes yet another leap in attendance a year later? The embassies are generous with their hospitality, and the cause is worthy. Since Lolo Sarnoff founded AFTA (Arts For The Aging) in 1998, art in all its forms has been enriching the physical and emotional lives of seniors in this area, with the help of dedicated volunteers and senior centers. This year, the Ambassador of Spain and his gracious wife Beatrice opened their home and fed the multitudes. Mrs. Benjamin Ladner, wife of the President of American University, chaired, with Co-Chairs Cathy Philpott and Anna Maria Via.



The Ambassadors Ball: As the Ball annu-ally welcomes new Ambassadors to Washington, it always has an international fla-vor, which was heightened this year by the presence of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Among the Ambassadors' wives, one especially chic stand-out: Pacharin (Pat) Pibulsonggram, wife of the Ambassador of Thailand. Co-Chair Patricia Oxley was accompanied by her husband, Rep. Michael Oxley of Ohio. Wife of Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, Senior Advisor to the Surgeon-General, was Patricia's Co-Chair.

There was a dramatic moment at the event this year, which took in $600,000 to help fight multiple sclerosis. Everyone felt a tug at the heart when television talk-show host Montel Williams broke down at the mike as he told of being diagnosed with MS earlier this spring



Viva Hispania: Almost every Hispanic offi-cial in town turned out for the national His-panic Foundation for the Arts Gala. Al and Tipper Gore were enthusiastic participants, and John Secada sang. Jimmy Smits and Sonia Braga outlined a program to gain more roles for Latin actors. William Kennard spoke as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates where many of the jobs are in television, cable, and radio. One of the commissioners, Gloria Tristani, striking in a black gown and scarlet satin shawl, could have sat for painter Velazquez as The Infanta. FTAA: What can you say about an annual benefit where you see everyone you've ever met in Washington, which blossoms anew each fall at a different embassy?



Bringing In the Votes: It was an early-bird fundraiser for George Allen, the former Virginia Governor who plans to run against Chuck Robb for the Senate next year. Mary Frances Smoak hosted it at the family's ten acre McLean property. Her parents, Francie and Marion "Joe" Smoak (the former Chief of Protocol) have expanded the 1850 farmhouse, planted acres of flowers, and built stables for their horses. The walls, halls, and even the lampshades are covered with equestrian ribbons won by Mary Frances; the senior Smoaks have theirs at their in-town home.

The crowd was a group of 30 to 40-plus local achievers on the financial and social scene. Among them: George Dunlap and Becky Norton Dunlap, Michael and Liz Farnum, Italia Frederici, Evelyn Keyes, Renee Loren, Tom Medaglia, and Bill O'Keefe, the Executive Vice President of the American Petroleum Institute, who Allen says is a godsend as advisor on policy issues. Others included Andrew H. Card, Jr., Bob Beck, lawyer Bert Pena, Randy Randol, Fred Singer, Bob Corby, Randal Schumacher, Chris and Katherine Wilson, Colman Jackson, John Firestone, and Susan Juroe.

As an added touch, four members of the Northern Virginia Youth Orchestra, ages 9 to 13, played chamber music during the evening. When the group was asked by George Allen if they could play "Turkey in the Straw," the youngest, already skilled in political compromise answered, "No, but I can play 'The Orange Blossom Special.'" And she did. Pizzicato yet . . .