Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Around Town
with Donna Shor

Russian Easter was celebrated twice at the Embassy of the Russian Federation— even though it was already May; “Scheduling difficulties,” explained gala chairman Jane Sloat, who masterminded the manyfaceted evening drawing participants from afar. Under the patronage of Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov and his wife, Svetlana, it was a benefit for the future Fabergé Museum to be installed at St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.

In keeping with the theme, there was a traditional beet-red hardboiled egg at each place, which guests were told to crack against tablemates' eggs until a clear winner emerged intact. During cocktails, guests admired the exhibit of objects designed by Carl Fabergé, the jeweler to the czars, who fled his home city of St. Petersburg for exile in Switzerland when the Russian revolution broke out. He never designed again.

McKinney Russell, who chairs the Fabergé Arts Foundation, spoke of the master's works, as did Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum, who emphasized that the creation of this museum-within-a-museum will inspire and nurture new generations of young Russian jewelers and artists.


Pianist Van Cliburn played Chapin and that old favorite “Moscow Nights” for the crowd of 300. A Kennedy Center Honors award winner, he has been world-famous since his 1958 victory in Moscow's First International Tchaikovsky Competition. His recording of the Tchaikovsky's “First Piano Concerto,” the first classical recording to “go platinum,” selling three million copies.

The main course was a coulibiac of salmon, a traditional Russian dish often attempted, but not often as successfully done as there. After dessert, 45 members of the 240- voice Cathedral Choral Society of Washington intoned a selection from “John of Damascus,” Tolstoy's narrative-in-verse put to music by Taneyev.

Present were former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, who spoke briefly; Prince and Princess Alexis Obolensky; former ambassador to Russia Arthur Hartman and his wife Donna; Joyce Lasky Reed; Donald Kendall, former CEO of PepsiCo, who introduced Russia to Pepsi about the time Van Cliburn was triumphing there; Pam and Mike Peabody; James Lilley, our former ambassador to Taiwan, China and Korea; Prince and Princess David Chavchavadze; Carmen and George Denby; Pie Friendly; Fred and Marlene Malek; Georgetown University's John Farida and Irina Abarinova; and Albert and Shirley Small. Among the evening's especially appreciative music lovers were Jim and Sylvia Symington; Nuala Pell; Michael Cantacuzene; John Pohanka, chairman of the board of the Washington National Opera, and his wife Lynn; as well as the former opera president Bob Craft and wife Jamie. Also present Esther Coopersmith and son Ron, Jim and Henrietta Randolph, Phil and Nina Pillsbury, Isabel and Ricardo Ernst, Janet Solinger and Patricia Sagon. Adding a grace note to the event was Jill Thorpe, chairman Jane's daughter, who helped mother by rounding up five tables (50 guests) among her friends, to encourage future art philanthropists.


KALEIDOSCOPE: You can't beat the Dutch! Once again at the annual flower reception at the embassy of the Netherlands, social and diplomatic Washington turned out to admire the breathtaking floral cascades and, as an added attraction this year, royal Dutch silver decorative pieces with price tags for ordering. (One item everyone seemed to covet was “Wave,” a long silver bowl, at $14,000.) The flowers, flown in from Holland, were arranged dramatically by Manhattan's René Hofsteder, originally from Holland, a designer for DonatellaVersace and a host of other fashion designers and fashionistas. His next project is the celebration for the new Tom Cruise movie, a “War of the Worlds” remake…President Richard Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation inaugurated the restoration of the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home in a moving ceremony. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss evoked the melancholy president, to whom this cottage was a “Camp David retreat,” and to which he traveled the three miles from the White House whenever he could, by horse or carriage. The cottage is now open to the public, and you may go through the house and sit in the gazebo where Lincoln passed so many hours overlooking Washington…. Amid candlelight and Strauss and Lehar waltzes, Aniko Gaal Schott and the Hungarian-American Coalition organized a dinner in the Cosmos Club ballroom honoring His Highness Dr. Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Austro –Hungarian emperor, Karl II. Hapsburg was one of the initial architects of the European Union and at age 93 remains a key supporter of EU expansion. Among a host of very titled-titles attending were his wife, Archduchess Regina von Habsburg, his daughter, Archduchess Gabriela, and his son, Georg von Habsburg, Hungary's ambassador to the E.U. The benefit evening raised funds so that students of the new EU countries can study here….Inveterate partygiver and star lobbyist Juleanna Glover Weiss has just joined forces with former Attorney General and Senator John Ashcroft, who has put out his shingle on K Street to open the Ashcroft Group consulting firm…Mimi Logoglu, the wife of the ambassador of Turkey, invited guests one recent morning for a fascinating lecture by Nurhan Atasoy, professor emeritus of art history at Istanbul University, and an authority on the Topkapi Museum collections, who showed slides of paintings depicting the Imperial Festival of 1582 in Istanbul.

FROM ASTRONAUT CONRAD TO JACKIE O: Two major book parties were held one recent night. Nancy and Fred Dutton hosted a reception for Vicky Moon that brought out a crowd of politicos and press. Her handsome coffee table book, “The Private Passion of Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Portrait of a Rider,” gives an entirely new view of the former First Lady, chronicling Jackie's life as an equestrian, a personal identity that was a source of peace in her often tumultuous life. Moon has covered local murders and prominent lives, hunt balls, steeplechases races and parties in her hometown of Middleburg for People Magazine, the Washington Post and Town and Country. Guests included the Frank and Marcia Carlucci; Polly Kraft; Jim and Mollie Dickinson; Barbara Harrison and John Pyles III; Garry Clifford; Phillip and Ellie Merrill; Melody Miller; Myra McPherson and Jack Gordon; Helen Thomas; Mark and Ann Shields; and Mary Frances Smoak.

Over at Teatro Goldoni on K Street, a TV and print crowd toasted “Rocket Man: Astronaut Pete Conrad's incredible ride to the Moon and Beyond,” by his widow, Nancy Conrad, and Howard A. Klausner (Howie is also a screenwriter, i.e. “Space Cowboys” with Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones). Buzz Aldrin wrote an introduction that evokes laughter and possibly tears, for his colleague Pete was a merry prankster always ready to joke, although dead serious about flying and space. The frontispiece says it all: “He was the third man to walk on the moon, and the first to dance on it. He was the rocketman.” He was also a test-flier of every supersonic jet the Navy developed, and the commander of Apollo 12 who commanded the Skylab as well.

Nancy Conrad serves on the board of directors of the California Air and Space Center at NASA Ames Research Center, and has co-founded a program to prevent injuries and deaths occurring from medical error in emergency rooms. Pete died after the faulty evaluation of his injuries (from a motorcycle accident that did not at first appear serious), that kept him waiting in the ER instead of being taken to a trauma center.

Present at the book party were Zoe Wolf, the features editor of the new Condé Nast magazine “Domino”; Dan Crane, Nancy's son, the author of “To Air is Human, to Air Guitar is Divine”; Time Magazine's Matt Cooper; Wendy and Peter Gowdy; Bob Merry, Congressional Quarterly's publisher and author of “Sands of Empire”; Katherine Wood; Danielle Decker Jones of the National Journal; Jill Smart Gore; Chris Berry, president of WMAL/ABC; Channel 9 anchor Mike Walter; political analyst and author of “Attack the Messenger” Craig Crawford; Lisa McCormack; Pamela Armstrong and Bob Baron; Linda Roth; political analyst and talk show host Bill Press; Maggie Shannon and Bob Keefe.

Flying in just for the party were Gwen Griffith from Houston, whose father was Pete's mission control; Lois Lacy, whose husband was an aviation pioneer; and Mark Calkins, who flew with Pete and broke the world speed record with him.

MEDIA-GO-ROUND: Two standout parties bookended the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. The first was a garden brunch preceding the dinner at the home of Tammy Haddad and her husband Ted Greenberg, with Hilary Rosen, Elizabeth Birch, Barbara Comstock and Russ Hodge as co-hosts The second was the garden party the following day on the Hay-Adams rooftop terrace given by John and Cristina McLaughlin. Both events featured the same guests and same celebrities. Dennis Hopper came to the McLaughlins' bash with his actress wife Victoria; as did “The Sopranos” Joe Pantoliano. Ron Silver and comedian Al Franken sat together, and James Denton, the hunky plumber/detective of “Desperate Housewives” was seen deep in conversation with Tandy and Wyatt Dickerson.

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

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