Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Around Town

"Spy Night", the KIPP DC: Key Academy benefit, which featured espionage and intrigue author Tom Clancy , began with a reception at the International Spy Museum, and then moved across the street for dinner at the handsome Hotel Monaco, housed in the old post office building. At the museum, guests checked out the espionage-related tools of cloak and dagger missions so special they were formerly known only to intelligence community insiders.

The KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) DC: Key (Knowledge Empowers You) Academy is a public charter school located in Southeast D.C. The program has spread across the nation since its Houston beginnings a decade ago. It holds both teachers and students to a high level of performance, targeting inner city children, as Washington's KIPP DC: Key Academy illustrates.

Supporters include organizer Lynda Webster and her husband Judge William Webster , who formerly headed both the FBI and the CIA; Senator Kit Bond and Linda ; Ann Allen of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; AOL's Jim Kimsey , investment banker and his son Mike Kimsey , who co-chaired the event with GAP Inc. chairman Donald Fisher ; George Ferris and his wife Nancy ; former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and Mark Ein , CEO of the Venturehouse Group.

SOCIAL GRACES : The phrase could describe attributes of three hostesses, Dr. Susan Blumenthal Markey , Esther Coopersmith and Renee Robinson , of a recent baby shower, but it also fits the style of the honoree, Carmen Ducaru , for a special reason.

The shower for Carmen, the wife of Romanian ambassador Sorin Ducaru, was held on a Thursday. Knowing that the baby was to be born that Sunday, the hostesses announced that Carmen must absolutely not use this busy time to write thank-you notes, and that her verbal thanks to gift-givers at the shower was all they would "permit" her to do.

Nevertheless her friends, happy to learn that baby Maria arrived on schedule, were amazed to find Carmen's written thanks in their Monday mail.
Now that's a benchmark for laggard souls who let time slip by on the niceties, (and we know who we are!)

HUSH! It isn't often that a hostess has to quiet a dinner guest as prestigious as Robert Duvall , who is one of Hollywood's finest actors, but Esther Coopersmith did.
Duvall was so pleased to see his buddy, fellow actor James Caan , that he switched place cards to sit next to him, and was chatting away, oblivious that Esther had risen to introduce the evening's honored guest, "if Robert Duvall will stop talking." And he did as bid.

The two hark back to the set of "The Godfather" when Duvall, according to Caan, mentored him in his role of Sonny Corleone.

Fashion note: one of the most soignée women in the crowd was Robert's chic Argentine girlfriend, brunette Luciana Pedraza . (Black satin and diamonds will do it every time.)

Dinner was served in the magnificent garden, where conversations ranged over a myriad of topics within this clued-in crowd. Judith Terra reported she is still locked in her legal battle to bring the magnificent Terra Collection here from Chicago, so that Washington and its many visitors can admire the paintings.

The party celebrated the accomplishments of Dr. Robin Farias-Eisner , the recipient of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund's Liz Tilberis Award, who is nearing a breakthrough in early detection methods. He is almost two years ahead of his goal for the three year National Institutes of Health grant that he and his small UCLA research lab received. He emphasized at the dinner that three of the most important health factors that decrease the risk of cancer were things that women themselves could control: improving one's diet, seeking to lessen stress in all aspects of life and exercising regularly.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson , was among the 140 guests, who included legislators, ambassadors and other luminaries.

Thompson had a busy week, that included helping to install Margaret L. Ryan as the 45th president of the American News Women's Club in a ceremony at the City Museum of Washington.

The museum is housed in the former Andrew Carnegie Library (that annoying building blocking us as we want to whiz down Massachusetts Avenue). It is a fascinating spot, with exhibits chronicling Washington's history from its earliest days. The museum floor is a lit-from-below clearly defined map of the greater Washington region, stretching across the Metro area. Cries of, "Oh, look, I'm standing with one foot on my house!" answered by "I'm standing on the Kennedy Center!" rang across its second floor.

Margaret received the symbolic key to the club from outgoing president Karen James Cody at an evening of fine food and fun organized by former president Nancy Lang , emcee Lucy Spiegel and manager Randi Dutch .
Margaret, an editorial director at McGraw Hill, has a secret passion. She has a motorcycle license, and rides a Suzuki Intruder 800.
For this, she took a bit of chaffing from Tommy Thompson, who did not approve of her Suzuki and declared that as a four-time governor of Wisconsin, he couldn't visit the club again until she traded it in a Milwaukee-made Harley.

MUSIC IN THE AIR: It was a rare treat when celebrated harpsichordist Blandine Rannou appeared here through the combined efforts of the French-American Cultural Foundation; Roland Celette , director of the Maison Francaise of the French Embassy; and Henry Wong , the neurobiologist whose Baltimore music store "An die Musik"is a mecca for collectors.
Rannou's performance was dramatic in its power and in the emotion she drew from the seldom heard instrument, built by Washington specialist Marc Adler .

She also proved to be an engaging sprite, quickly endearing herself to audiences who demanded repeated encores after concerts at Baltimore's Walters Art Museum and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She even explained to the curious the "shove-coupler," the particular double set of keys of the harpsichord that permits both sets of strings to be sounded together.

BREAKING THE FAST: During the month-long fasting time of Ramadan, Muslims conclude each day with an iftar, the evening meal, not to begin before 5 pm.
Ambassador of Egypt Nabil Fahmy and his wife Nermin, invited guests for a Sunday iftar, saying they were pleased to welcome them so that they could break bread together during these holy days of purification.
Those enjoying the spread of Middle-Eastern delicacies included supporters of the "Friendship Caravans", a delegation of carefully selected Israeli teenagers who travel across the United States to share their passion and knowledge about Israel through song and dance performances. Delegation President Michael Kirtley spoke of the greater understanding of cultures resulting from these traveling goodwill groups.

HERO HANNIBAL: The Hannibal Club award dinner at the Mayflower is always a lively affair, drawing lawmakers, cabinet members and diplomats. This year, it was hosted by Hatem Atallah , the ambassador of Tunisia and his wife, Faika . The couple has moved easily into the Washington scene since his posting here. Hatem commented at the dinner that he would be leaving town a few days later to make a speech in Wisconsin where he attended high school before Harvard.
The club is a forum for enhancing American understanding of Tunisia and the North African region, and is named for the Carthaginian general who nearly defeated the Romans.

CASTLES AND CLUBS: Invitations for the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Award Gala suggested "Kilts and Tiaras". Grace Bender looked regal in her strapless gown as she walked onstage after making the winning $40,000 bid for the 2004 Lexus RX300 luxury SUV.
Guests were piped in to dinner by kilt-clad bagpipers. The door into the ballroom was through a crenelated Scottish castle "wall," where guests found the huge room illuminated with chain-hung braziers holding the illusion of flickering flames, mimicking the lights used in castles of yore.
The tables were decorated with chimney lights and simple twigs twined with red and green plaid ribbon that evoked the gorse of the Scottish Highlands.
The stupendous number of auction items included stays at Scotland's St. Andrew's resort (historic in the world of golf), as well as golf clinics and vacations that offered a chance to unpack the clubs.

Margaret Hodges
, the founder and driving force behind this fundraiser for the past 18 years spoke of how the loss of both her husband and her daughter to cancer impelled her to begin this event.
She obviously has done it right, because it drew a blockbuster crowd of 1400 this year.

BUILDING DEMOCRACY FROM THE GROUND UP: Economist Hernando de Soto of Peru was the inductee into the International Graduate University's Hall of Fame during a luncheon at its Capitol Hill campus.
De Soto discovered that 4 billion people were excluded from the global economy (despite having accumulated an estimated $9.3 billion in assets) because property laws prevented them from using these assets to produce additional wealth. De Soto also discovered that in 1980, it cost 31 times the average Peruvian monthly salary to set up a small business.
Brilliantly, De Soto convinced the Peruvian government that when poorer citizens were given rights to the land, they could then use that land to take bank loans or trade on it, thereby becoming productive (and tax-paying) members of their national economies. As a result, over 300,000 Peruvian businesses have been formalized. De Soto is now helping officials in Egypt, Haiti, the Philippines and Mexico to change property laws.
Seen: Dr. Jean and Dr. Walter Boek (he is the university's president), and longtime supporters including Hon. Louise Gore, John Cosgrove, George and Betty Beale Graeber, Ernest and Betty May, Edith Edson, Dr.Alfred Lilienthal, Carlota Pardini, Ursula (Mrs. Edwin) Meese, and Jill Smart Gore.


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