Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Around Town
with Donna Shor

The upcoming Washington social season is jammed with interesting events to attend, but it seemed to arrive upon us with no letup after the razzmatazz weeks of the Olympics, the political conventions, and the chaos of backto- back hurricanes that filled our TV screens and our thoughts.

An impromptu team of Cristina (Mrs. John) McLaughlin, and publicist Janet Donovan were all around town at the convention. Janet produced for Congressional Quarterly the daily buzz sheet at both conventions, delivered as a New York Times insert. She contributed such gems as the sighting of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flipping zucchini pancakes in the Willams- Sonoma kitchen during Time Warner's blast, and George (“Norm” of Cheers) Wendt's acute observation during an acrimonious political session that “Politicians need kindergarten teachers to break up the squabbling by interfering just when it's time to let the other side have the ball.”

WHERE THEY WERE: Esther Coopersmith scheduled her return from Mexico to arrive in time for the party she was to have hosted at her home for former President Bill Clinton —on what turned out to be the day after his heart bypass …Mary and Mandy Ourisman spent a swank summer which included a stint in London dining with Prince Charles and Camilla Packer Bowles at benefit for the Prince of Wales Foundation. A black-tie dinner at Buckingham Palace was stellar, as well as the dinner at the Tower of London and another at Clarence House, where Prince Charles moved after the death of his grandmother, the late Queen Mother Elizabeth. He also had lived there from the age of one to three, when his parents, Prince Philip and the then-Princess Elizabeth, made it their home.

Mary says Camilla, who was at his side at all these events, proved to be a smiling and gracious hostess. Prince Charles, a man of varied interests ranging from architecture to organic gardening and healthcare, participates in over 300 charities and causes, but the foundation is especially dear to his heart. Money raised by the American branch of the Foundation, ably administered by Robert Higdon, comes right back to America for various projects, including an integrated health facility at George Washington University Hospital.

The Ourismans spent time at the St. Tropez villa of California's Kati and Don Koll, with a stop by Saint Jean Cap Ferrat to visit Doug and Susan Bennett before going on to finish the summer in California…The Bennett villa was a busy place with guests that included Karon Cullen; Rima Al-Sabah, wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador; Lisa Gordon Hagerty, the CEO of USEC, the worlds largest uranium corporation; Debbie Sigmund; David Connelly; and Bolivian Ambassador Jaime Aparicio and wife, Pamela… Tandy Dickerson visited Pam Armstrong at her house on Nantucket, then bopped off to Southhampton with Katherine Wood. They stayed at the Meadow Club, where Gilbert Meem, Tandy's cousin, was doing a book signing for his humorous A Senior Moment. Less amusing: she returned to Wyatt and the Watergate only to drop a mirror on her foot, an injury that will slow her down until Christmas…Hampton fans deplore that three to four hour commute from New York, and await the completion of the expressway that will shear off some time. Karen and Bob Dunn (he's with the Carlyle group) have it solved: thirteen minutes by helicopter from NYC….Ann Telnaes, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist (and only the second female editorial cartoonist to win this award) was given a show of her work at the Library of Congress… Aniko Gaal Schott and husband Nash Whitney Schott were off on their wideflung wanderings, with Aniko excited at tracking down important paintings in her native Hungary...Fred and Gail Scott Hubig were in Sweden, happy to catch up with Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson and his wife, Kerstin. They journeyed to Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic, and the medieval walled city of Visby, home to Gotland University College, one of the Swedish institutions that falls under Kerstin Eliasson's purview as deputy minister of higher education. They hopped over to Oslo, as Gail will be doing extensive coverage of Norway's upcoming centennial in 2005, but missed seeing Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek and his wife, Ellen, caught up in preparations for their son's wedding. Gail is writing another book, and presenting an “Embassy Chefs” series at the Smithsonian. Historian husband Fred is also doing an all-day program there on October 30th with the Tunisian Ambassador, Hatem Atallah, “The Legacy of Hannibal.” This year's black tie Hannibal Club dinner, presented annually by Ambassador Atallah and his wife, Faika, was exceptional, in large part thanks to George Washington University President Stephen Trachtenberg's witty discourse on Hannibal.. He managed to give an account of the Punic wars—the bane of every bored schoolboy—that was entertaining.

TRUFFLES, TRUFFLES EVERYWHERE: If, like me, you feel there are never enough truffles in the world, you would have met your match at Chef Marty's gathering at the Watergate's Grand Ballroom. This patriarchal figure in a white chef's tunic runs a sort of floating crap game among his gourmet followers. There were all sorts of dishes, infused oils, unusual seasonings, wines ranging from Malbec to Shiraz, (and that's a leap), and platter after platter of foie gras and terrines provided by D'Artagnan; but the star of the show was Urbani Truffles USA, the American arm of the old Italian company, and the dishes produced by Christian and Peter Urbani.

Specialty winners were the truffled ice cream (delicious!) and above all, the truffled bonbons. These marvelous nuggets had nothing to do with the usual so-called “truffles,” the chocolates candies we all know and love. Like the ice cream, these contained real out-of-theground rare trufles, incorporated into dark chocolate bon bons with wondrous results. Somehow the woodsiness of the truffles and the richness of the chocolate blended perfectly. We can't wait to hit their web site and astound our friends with our discovery.

A VILLAGE FEAST: The Lebanese Taverna celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in the plaza next the restaurant in Pentagon Row behind Macy's, and what a celebration! It didn't seem possible that the owners could rope off the area for their invited guests, and in fact they couldn't and didn't even want to.

Three buffet tables held every kind of Middle Eastern dish and sweet one could dream of, and the dishes kept coming as long as people were lined up. A group of surprised backpackers who had wandered into the square munched happily along, hardly believing their good luck.

This family business was started by Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm, and each of their five children has grown up working in the restaurant, which has now expanded to include yet two more, at Tyson's Corner and in Silver Spring New Town Center, as well as the one in Woodley Park and the original Arlington location.

There was a lively band, and an even livelier belly-dancer, Yasmeena, a knockout, with a sense of humor and the ability to keep dancing despite the children and dogs that surged around her feet in the square. Her perpetual motion remained just that.

One momentary puzzle: the apartment balconies lining the square above the shops were all deserted. Strange, with all the noise rising up from the plaza. Then light dawned—they had all decided to join the party too.

“Not to worry,” said Grace Abi-Najm, when asked if she realized the Taverna was feeding the whole place, “We expected that, and there's lots more in the kitchen where this came from,” as she made her way by one of the buffet tables with her arms burdened under a tureen of food.

WORTH WAITING FOR: Just about now, buyers should be receiving their copies of the stunning book, Tennessee, a commemoration of playwright Tennessee Williams, which was previewed in June at the home of arts patron Judith Terra and her husband, Israeli lawyer Naftali “Tali” Michaeli.

Why so long in production? The answer is the craftsmanship needed to produce this outsized volume, housed handsomely in its 16-inch by 22-inch presentation box of gold-tooled Tuscan leather. The classic letterpress edition, limited to 1500 copies, features a handsewn, hand-tooled leather binding, hand painted details throughout, and original artwork hand-printed in Florence by Italy's most prominent master craftsman in the book arts.

All this magnificence—harking back to the workmanship of Renaissance days—does not come cheap. It is $3600 per copy, but in addition to the beauty of the book and the art you get the full text of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie and the never-beforepublished Williams'play These Are the Stairs You Got to Watch, the latter seen at the Kennedy Center in Michael Kahn's Shakespeare Theatre production of Five by Tenn.

Kahn, who was a friend and collaborator of Williams, wrote the preface. The introduction is by David Bruce Smith, the editor in chief of Georgetown's Librix Continuum, the publishing company known to collectors for its fine binding and printing of books, albums and leather articles. On October 14,the firm's three principals will be honored at the American Consulate in Florence for their achievements in a cultural coalition between that Italian city and our capital. Washington artist Clarice Smith was commissioned to create six full-page original works, Tennesee's Women, three of which are bound into the book, and three enclosed in the suede-lined presentation chest.

You'll recognize her name from her philanthropic contributions to this area: the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, and with her husband, the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Auditorium at Mount Vernon, and the Reading Room at the Thomas Jefferson library in Charlottesville, which also bears their name.

Clarice Smith is the mother of David Bruce Smith who is a partner in the firm, along with Stephen Vanilio and John Paul Greenewalt. The latter developed the process for hand marbleized leather used so effectively on one of their first projects, a gold leaf-edged volume named Continuum.

That book, with Clarice Smith's Venetian paintings and text by David, was commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Museum of Women in the Arts, marking a step forward in Washington's cultural growth. 1.Fred Fielding, William Webster and Collister “Terry” Johnson 2. Alexandra Fielding, Clay Johnson III, Ronald and Pam Kessler and Fred Fielding Lynda and William Webster hosted a party in their home to celebrate the publication of Ronald Kessler's newest book, “A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George Bush.” The book was listed on the New York Times Bestseller list a number of times throughout the month of September. Children with their new backpacks The Central Union Mission held their annual Back-to-School Party on August 14 and presented over 300 needy children with back packs filled will grade-specific school supplies to start the new school year off right.

Do you have an item “Around Town” should know about? Send it to me at donnashor@aol.com.

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