A Sunday reception at the French Embassy honoring legendary actress Jeanne Moreau, some guests were asking, “Who is he?” when a man dressed in a v-necked sweater, slacks and tennis shoes enveloped the elegant diva in a warmly received bear hug.
Those who had seen Michel Legrand’s recent appearance with Patti Austin in a jazz evening at the Kennedy Center (as a part of the Center’s Festival of France) could quickly identify him, though most would have recognized his songs. Stars ranging from Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles to Kiri Te Kanawa have sung Legrand’s melodies, and entire films have been built around his ballads. (Try “Windmills of Your Mind”, “Brian’s Song”, “I Will Wait For You” for starters.)
He has three Oscars and five Grammys to his credit, and is a composer of movie and stage musicals, film director, performer and arranger of music from le jazz hot to Eric Satie.
Moreau was here to celebrate the French Film Festival, when a dozen of her most famed movies were shown among the festival’s offerings. Responding to Ambassador Jean-David Levitte’s spirited introduction, she spoke of the friendship her country and the U.S. have always enjoyed saying, “We must all resist the domination of the ‘Kingdom of Fear’, and stand together with mutual respect and love to fight against it.
Moreau brought greetings from Bertrand Delavoe, the mayor of Paris, to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who in his reply dwelt on the importance of the arts in our daily life. He singled out Dorothy McSweeney among the guests when he spoke of all she does as the city’s arts commissioner. (A month earlier he has presented a special Mayor’s Award to one of the Festival’s organizers embassy cultural attach Roland Celette. Williams had praised him for his contributions to the D.C. arts community, and lauded his willingness to work with local groups by welcoming them to cultural events in the embassy’s Maison Francaise, which Celette directs.)
Moreau confessed that she was supposed to be on set to begin shooting a new film in Rome that very day, but that she wanted so much more to be here, that she decided to play hookey. Would you call that “French leave”? Just asking.
Meanwhile, over at Café Milano, the mayor’s mother, Virginia Williams, held sway, having more fun than anyone, attracting people to her table like a magnet. She often represents him, and does it well, at gatherings he cannot fit into his schedule.
It was Superbowl Sunday, and ubiquitous blonde Chris Warnke had taken over the restaurant as a benefit for the Butterfly Foundation, a charity she founded to help disabled children.
The television sets were huge, the buffet was fabulous (owner Franco Nuschese, who always rises to the occasion, had outdone himself) and the bartenders were kept busy from 6 p.m. until after the game ended, serving the crowd, who had all kicked in $150 apiece. It was the place to be for the Superbowl in D.C.
Spotted among the celebrants; architect Dean Philpott and his wife Cathy; Marilyn Melkonian of Telesis, a company providing badly needed housing to the city; Vera Emmerij; Dr. Christine Brooks in a wild and wonderful cowboy hat; Adrianna Manouski of Alexandria’s “Taverna Cretakou”; Bill Burke of the Washington Center that finds slots for internships; Patti Cummings and two Olympic gold medalists, Lacy O’Neal and Ron Freeman. The Bearing Point Corporation (the contractors doing rebuilding in Afghanistan) were evening’s corporate sponsors.
On hearing a huge cheer during the game, the irrepressible Virginia Williams called out, “Who cheated?” but nevertheless seemed able to call the plays. Asked how she was so knowledgeable about football she answered, “There was always a lot of football talk around the house, because two of my sons made All-American-but it was Tony who made mayor.”
Another fabulous event for a good cause was the black-tie Mission Possible evening, an off-beat but effective mixture of scientists and spies held at the International Spy Museum to benefit the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), which raised a huge amount of money for a new event in this benefit-weary town.
Milton Maltz, the founder and chairman of the board of the Spy Museum, and his wife Tamar are two of the movers and shakers of the cause, and for this first NARSAD fund-raiser in Washington they served as co-chairs along with Bonnie and Alan Hammerschlag. The party began with a reception at Zola, the adjacent restaurant which is part of the Spy Museum complex, and moved on to the main building.
Every cent of the $1.4 million raised will go directly for NARSAD research grants, because costs of the evening were underwritten by sponsors including locals Herbert Haft and the Abe Pollins, and Karen and Jerry Callaghan of New York and Florida and the Hammerschlags and Maltzes along with a score of others. NARSAD is the leading private sector organization devoted exclusively to supporting research on mental illness. It has given $144.5 million in the last 17 years to scientists throughout the world, including researchers who have won the Nobel Prize.
NARSAD is funded solely by individuals, families of the mentally ill, foundations and corporations, and receives no government subsidies. Two families underwrite NARSAD’s administrative expenses so that 100 percent of money raised goes to research, including other illness such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and sleep disorders, ADHD, autism and epilepsy.
Consider this: Abraham Lincoln, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Beethoven, Eugene O’Neill, Vivian Leigh, Red Sox player Jimmy Piersall, Patty Duke and Charles Dickens all suffered from mental illness. Suicidal depression ended in death for Ernest Hemingway, poets Sylvia Plath and Vachel Lindsay, Vincent van Gogh and modern artists Nicolas de Stael, and Mark Rothko, to name just a few.
The evening’s silent auction prizes ran the gamut from medicine to espionage: Jonna and Tony Mendez, both formerly Chief of Disguise with the CIA conspired to design a custom disguise for the high bidder, and to share tricks of the trade; Sylvia Nasar, author of the book and consultant to the Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind offered lunch; as did Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, while Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, suthor of An Unquiet Mind, offered lunch and a tour of research facilities at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin (Ret.) who was also a member of the Russian Parliament, offered lunch at Zola and a tour of the Museum, (which many guests explored that evening.).
General Kalugin, a museum board member and the former head of counterintelligence for the KGB had an interesting dialogue with David Major, also a Museum board member and also a former head of counterintelligence for the FBI. They were discussing Robert Hanson, the FBI agent arrested for spying for the KGB.
When David Major told him he had supervised Hanson day after day for 15 years and never guessed he was a spy, Kalugin answered “Yes, he worked for you days, but the nights he worked for me.”
The Peace Foundation awards were presented at the Norwegian Embassy during an evening of warmth and good fellowship. Ambassador Knut Vollebaek and his wife Ellen are admirable hosts (and they have an excellent) but peace was the piece de resistance of the occasion.
Former Rep. Lee Hamilton presented the Peace/Maker Peace/Builder award to the Ambassador, honoring the government of Norway. (Hamilton, who represented Indiana for 34 years in Congress, is now the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and serves also as the vice-chairman of the “ 9/11 Commission,” the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Hamilton spoke of Norway’s long record of defusing international conflicts, specifically in the cases of Sri Lanka and Sudan. He pointed out Norway’s good example as a precept: that “outsiders should strive to support and maintain institutions, not seek to control the process.”
National Peace Foundation President Sarah Harder presented a Lifetime Achievement to board member and past president Dr. Stephen Strickland. Marcia Blakeway was honored for her work in furthering conflict resolution in D.C. City schools.
The powerful paintings of artist Gabriel Gross were much in evidence at the benefit held to raise funds for the treatment of the burned children of Chile. His paintings hang in prestigious museums and are dramatic statements of his innermost feelings. Chilean-born Elba Molina who also has paintings in many collections saw her canvas “Innocence” quickly bought when the art show began. Chilean ambassador, Andres Bianchi addressed the guests, who were busy buying huge firm steaks of Chilean salmon to take home.
A few nights later, there was again a confluence of Latin Americans and canvases when the Inter-American Economic Council honored businessman and philanthropist Gustavo Cisneros, held at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium.
Barry Featherman, president and CEO of the Council, organized a smashing evening, that included the presentation of the Leadership Award to Mr. Cisneros, a floorshow and dancing after dinner. Yvonne A-Baki, the former ambassador of Ecuador and now the minister of commerce there, was back in town and glamorous as ever, acquitting herself well on the dance floor when she suddenly found herself part of the show.
Her daughter Tatiana, Harvard-educated, was the painter of “9/11 Agonistes” a dark and intense painting of “hands that uplift and hands to benefit the work of the Council.”
Guests included the ambassadors of Ecuador and Spain with their wives, as well as Thomas McLarty destroys humanity.” Renowned artist Humberto Cruz, who exhibits all over the globe, created the other striking painting hanging in the silent auction, Deborah Sigmund, Patricia Sagon, Jamilla Thompson, Yvette and Otto Schultz, and Pablo Yanez.
Beautiful, wearable styles were presented by Saks Fifth Avenue at the Marriott Wardman Park for “An Affair of the Heart” benefiting the American Heart Association. Mrs. Irvin Crawford II and Mrs. Powell S. Lindsay co-chaired the Valentine luncheon, which always draws a capacity crowd, and President Mrs. Lawrence Gibbs addressed the group.
On hand were Donna Marriott, Mrs. Anne Camalier, Marleen Malek, Mrs. Charles Hellmuth, Jane Lingo, and Evelyn (Mrs. Thomas) Murray. Mitzi (Mrs. Frank) Perdue donated one of her bejeweled ostrich eggs as prizes, She now has a brand new item, a smaller rhea egg, on which she will hand paint from a photo the face of your beloved your dog or cat. The large eggs are $1600, the animal portraits are $600, and she asks that you not give her the money, but send it directly to a designated charity instead.