Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

LA and DC spring from the same DN A… I've seen both at their best and worst

By Michael Strange

I'm a California transplant. Here 6 years. Blew in with the Bushies after my husband said part of the "I do" deal was me pulling up stakes in Santa Monica to "try" the nation's capital. But, darlings, it's not all hardship. I may have given up Agent Provocateur as outerwear, but recently at the Cafritzes (Buffy not Conrad) I sat next to CIA Director Porter Goss, who confided to me what his agents find provocative in Fallujah. Soon after, more stimulation came from all those moody writers at the Cafritzes (Conrad not Buffy) for the PEN/Faulkner 25th. And do I need to mention the anticipation surrounding my favorite recently retired spy's little "coming out" dinner later this month? Trust me, these folks aren't on the guest list at Paula Abdul's. I'll take international spies over Melrose Avenue agents any day.

My husband, a senior partner at O'Brien, O'Stein and Strange, has been my guide to the Byzantine, though fundamental, rites of the most important city on earth. "While it's the capital of the free world," he tutored, "it's also the capital of stealth social climbing." Supposedly in record speed we got the Green Book listing, me onto the right women's committees (the Corcoran Ball was a score), expensively fast-tracked at the Chevy Chase Club (a first); he's in at the Metropolitan Club and me at the Sulgrave; they love us at the Folger and the Kennedy Center; we are adored at local art galleries (the new ones for the Damien Hirst in the den, the old ones for the Bierstadt over the sofa). Next year I'll let Frida Burling use our Georgetown Federal for the House Tour, and maybe I'll give Sally Quinn a challenge with my own New Year's party. I've got Robert Higdon, Bitsey Folger and Kevin Chaffee on speed dial, but will drop anything for lunch with Katharine Weymouth because she's cool and my age. I've acquired Cave Dweller cred, but I still have a pulse. My name is on the list at Smith Point, and know my way up and down Columbia Road after midnight. I'd tell you which Supreme Court justice cozied up at the Rusty Powells' lively Mardi Gras party, but then my secret social spy gig would be kaput.

If I miss anything in L.A., other than warmth, it's the tension of sex and romance. Here, men too often treat romance as an option, not essential; nothing to do with sex, they have their first-tier affairs with other men! In fact, it's the gayest population of straight men I know, and the straightest community of gay men. Perhaps that's why my married girlfriends are having passionate affairs with the old school flair that was once the exclusive sport of husbands. These welloff women take their boy toys to dark, intimate places, like Montmartre on the Hill, upstairs at Bistro Le Pic, or Indebleu. There are plenty of straight, young, unencumbered men available, too-trainers, artists, bartenders-and while they dress up nicely, they're happy with dinner and a beer. Mistresses were never so affordable. Me? I've been good. However, for a little taste of Vernon Jordan or Patrick Fitzgerald, I might throw it all over.

Do I miss L.A.? Nah. I had a fix over Oscar weekend at Graydon Carter's slimmed down Vanity Fair soiree (too slimmed down, if you ask me. What good is that party without the B-list riffraff?) I do miss the beach. I do miss the beach, honest botox, a haul of strappy sandals, parties that are about nothing and earnest debates about how Janet Jackson changed her industry rather than how Jack Abramoff changed his. Or didn't. But still, if we're comparing ponies to ponies, or ICM to the CIA, I'd have to say I'm enjoying the ride better on Dumbarton Avenue … and I'm saving bundles on sun screen and lingerie.

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