Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine
Around Town with Donna Shor

Dramatic lighting and armloads of magnificent roses created a stunning setting for the Fifteenth Anniversary Lombardi Gala at the Washington Hilton on November 4. Despite the record-breaking throng of more than 1300 supporters, the hotel succeeded in serving a dinner worthy of the décor.

A goodie-laden silent auction preceded the dinner. With the dessert course, popular Washington Post columnist Bob Levey led the live auction of five super items ranging from dinner with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra in his Skybox (which was won with a bid of $14,000) to a 2001 Jaguar, donated by Rosenthal Jaguar and Manhattan Jaguar, which was captured with a $55,000 bid.

Margaret Hodges, as tireless as she is gracious, founded the gala to benefit the Lombardi Cancer Center of Georgetown University's Medical Center which receives 100% of the funds raised. New York Yankees manager Joe Torre was this year's recipient of the "Lombardi Symbol of Courage" Award presented annually to sportsmen who have faced cancer and who possess the inspirational qualities of Coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the Center is named.

Mrs. Don Nickles, wife of the Oklahoma senator, chaired the event, where guests made up a "Who's Who" of Washington: Joy and John Safer (he designed the two awards presented), the Larry Burtons, Brad and Natalie Bunker Stoddard (who in fall defied the weather to give one of the last and best barbecues of the season. "Rain doesn't dare wreck the party when Natalie picks the date," said Brad. Indeed it didn't, a very slight sprinkle fell on the tent in mid-barbecue, and left before the guests did). Supporters included Betty and Paul Elicker, Jackie and Jorge Carnicero, Randy Rouse, the Maximo lugelmans, Aniko and Nash Schott, the Clifford Alexanders, fashion authority Nancy Chistolini, Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Zazulia of Hecht's, who underwrote the evening, Shirley and Al Small, Donna and Jack Pflieger, William Nitze, Maggie Wimsatt, FBI Director and Mrs. Louis Freeh, the Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn, Bob and Mary Haft, Brandon and Mariana Grove, Toni and Peter Marx of Saks-Jandel, Suzanne Singer and John Bergin with brother Michael Bergin and his wife, Virginia Amos of the publishing world, Capitol Hill pyschiatrist Joseph Tarantolo and his wife Elissa Feldman of the EPA, lawyer Robert Capell and Dr. Dawn Reed-Jones, Maria (Mickey) Nedelcovic, the Simon Serfatys (Gail is Director of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department), Connie and James Stewart, Maurice and Joan Tobin, JoAnn Mason, Susan and Neil Sheehan, and the ambassadors of Hungary, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Netherlands.

RACHMANINOFF AND RUFFLES: Guests waited expectantly in the Music Room of Bonnie and Edward Wilson's art-filled home, not sure who would be performing at the promised concert, sure only that in this house, it would be worth hearing. Shyly crossing to the piano was a 12-year-old girl dressed in ruffled cotton-candy pink, her long dark hair held back by a pink ribbon. She could have been on her way to a doll's tea party.

Instead, once seated at the Steinway, the bobby-soxer first traversed the intricacies of a Chopin etude with quiet artistry, then produced a Rachmaninoff of thundering chords (it must have required a stevedore's strength to draw from the piano) while never once turning a hair--or a hair ribbon.

She is Ira Arbatskaya from the Ukraine, fresh from winning the Vladimir Horowitz Gold medal, and from concerts performed abroad and in Philadelphia and Boston.

Then another young overachiever, wavy-haired, blue-eyed Hobart Earle was introduced, and it began to look like "Kids' Night Out." While still in his twenties, former Princeton music major Hobart had taken over as conductor of the Ukraine's languishing Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. Despite the habitual lack of funds (his salary was $50 per month), freezing rehearsal space, and woefully inadequate instruments held together with prayers, his success in re-forming it into a world-class symphony orchestra was the subject of an admiring Reader's Digest article. The Odessa Philharmonic has now toured the globe, and their Odessa String Quartet section has done the same.

Guest Tatiana Dominick delighted Ira by speaking with her in their native Russian. Tatiana, a former ballerina said she would give her own piano to Ira.

Among those enjoying the music and the Ukrainian dinner specialties were Kempton and Lucy Jenkins, John and Suzy Bennison, and Charles and Mary Louise Seilheimer. The group at the dramatically lit swimming pool included Dr. Martin Dunetz, lonely because wife Marta (daughter of the late "Scooter" and Dale Miller) was away in Spain.

On Wings of Song: At the National Museum for Women in the Arts concert, Roberta Peters' voice soared so magnificently, through three languages, it seemed incredible she was celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Metropolitan Opera debut. Like a classic movie cliché, but true: 19-year-old Roberta, who had never sung professionally, stepped in six hours before curtain time at the Met to replace an ailing diva-and started on the road to fame.

The museum, through its founder and chairman Wilhelmina Holladay, honored Mrs. Peters' life-time achievements: more than 500 performances with the Metropolitan; 2000 concerts here and abroad; the first American-born artist to receive Moscow's Bolshoi Opera Medal, and the first American to perform in the People's Republic of China after the Cultural Revolution; she has also sung in the White House for every president since John Kennedy.

Peters' appearance was nostalgic for Lynda and William Webster because she sang at their wedding. Lucky Roosevelt and Judy and Dr. Ahmad Esfandiary listened enraptured. (Judy in a lovely ciel-blue pantsuit topped by a Chanel wrap that was also pure heaven.) Carol Lascaris, who has done so much for the museum, was there with husband Climis, as was Carol's sister Frances, who came with her husband Dr. Alfred Luessenhop. Others included Alexine and Dr. Gordon Jackson, Allison LaLande in a sophisticated black lace pantsuit, and Willee Lewis in a fetching black lace dress, Channel 9's Andrea Roane , Marcia Carlucci, Ginger Green, and Marcia and Martin Feinstein. The ethereally beautiful France Graage, in basic black with a pashmina shawl, was there with her husband Walter. Co-Chairs for the evening were Nini Ferguson and Loraine (Mrs. Chris) Wallace, whose mother-in-law Kappy Leonard, also attended.

Turkish Delight: The Ambassador of Turkey and Mrs. Ilkin are two of the warmest hosts in town. They understand the fine art of putting everyone at ease without fussing, as their recent National Day celebration demonstrated. Among the happy crowd enjoying the fine Turkish food and the hospitality were Dr. Jean Henschel, Garnett Stackelberg, Allison LaLand, Anna Maria Via, and Gail Scott, author of Diplomatic Dance: The New Embassy Life in America, who had just returned from a trip to Cuba with the Washington Ballet a few days before. In town from Ankara was an embassy couple who are sure to be very popular, new Turkish consul Mehmet Ali Bayar, and his beautiful wife Ayca.

Very Cuba Libre! Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, director of the Cuban Interests Section hosted a reception for the Washington Ballet, which recently concluded a smashingly successful engagement in Cuba. The trip was managed under the State Department's People-to-People program as a cultural exchange. "The Cuban people took us into their hearts," said Ballet chairwoman Kay Kendall. The group was welcomed by the legendary Alicia Alonso of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Considered a national treasure there, Miss Alonso, who once danced with the Washington Ballet and toured with them in the Dominican Republic in 1956, was reunited with Washington Ballet's founder, the beloved Mary Day, who has launched so many careers. Among those at the reception were dancers, choreographers, ballet buffs and patrons who 130-strong had made the trip. Septime Weber, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, whose mother was Cuban and father American. His work was a major factor in the plaudits the young dancers received. "Septime really conveyed his vision to the Cuban people" said Kay Kendall. "They were entranced by his innovations against a solid background of traditional ballet."

Neighbors United: Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, there are hopes that a presently rather bleak strip of D.C. will be transformed to grace the city. Mitchell Park in the Sheridan-Kalorama district is the target. The plans were revealed at a cocktail reception given by the Ambassador of France and Madame Francois Bujon de l'Estang. Landscape architects Jim van Sweden and Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden, Inc. explained what they hoped to achieve, and appeals were made to secure the funds by Friends of Mitchell Park president Holly Sukenik, and Betsy Santarlasci, the fundraising chairperson. Supporters include Esther Coopersmith, Mary Bird, Julie and Lee Folger, Betty Malarkey, Russell and Eileen Train, Barbara de Franceaux, Wayne and Lorraine Tyler, Barbara Davis Blum, and Lynn and Joseph Hornung, the developer who is spearheading the Tivoli Theatre area renewal.

Is there an item or event you think "AROUND TOWN" should know about? E-mail me at: donnashor@aol.com


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