ancy Pelosi took my seat; it's
okay, she's Speaker of the House
- I'm sure Tom Delay felt worse.
It happened soon after I settled
into my chair at National Italian American
Foundation's VIP dinner at Cafe Milano. There
was an "open seating arrangement" that night,
which is slightly akin to scouting the cool
lunch table in high school but on a more A-list
level. BehavioraUy speaking, however, the same
human dynamics apply.
Two sips into the best Sicilian red I've ever
tasted, my plus-one received a hurried tap from
Speaker Pelosi's secret seating service, who informed her that Madame would soon assume
control of my seat. If one must be usurped, let it be by the first female Speaker of the House.
On my way up and out, I chatted quickly with her about the Mother's Day piece her daughter,
Christine penned for our May issue this year. In the article, Christine relayed how her mother
delivered five children in six years ... no wonder she can handle neo-cons with steely resolve.
Any temporary sadness I felt at missing an opportunity to dine with legendary singer Dion,
CNN's Bill Schneider, and one of the most powerful women in the world quickly vanished
at my next self-assigned table where I found Reliable Source's Roxanne Roberts cooing with
La Bohbne tenor Vittorio Grigolo and Washington Times social editor Kevin Chaffee wooing with a
James Bond-like command of Italian and French.
I'm convinced Chaffee is a spy and his "luxury travel reviews" merely a clever ruse.
After dinner the crowd thinned quickly as all rushed to catch 1960s Italian crooner Neil
Sedaka ("Calendar Girl" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do") and his "Salute to the Martini" at
the Washington Hilton and Towers. I remained at Milano with Hollywood on the Potomac
columnist Janet Donovan and the Examiner's Patrick Gavin. We held our own salute to the
remnants of the afore-mentioned Sicilian wine just long enough to spy Billy Crystal arriving
for a late dinner with Joe Robert and friends in Milano's private side room. I realize Ted Leonsis
and Dan Synder are noted local film producers, but Robert, with his Hollywood celeb cachet,
seems more like D.C.'s defacto studio bigwig.
Back to Gavin: a week later, he and partner-in-scribe Jeff Dufour ran an item about the
dreaded WL "Embassy Row jinx" in their Yeas and Nays column. Apparently, some of the
ambassadors we've featured in our Embassy Row section over the past two years have left
Washington (except for Russian Amb. Yuri Ushakov and Italian Amb. Giovanni Castellaneta,
of course). In a related story, readers of Audubon magazine expressed outrage over the publication's
"Canadian Geese jinx." It seems every time they feature the birds on the cover they leave Canada
and fly south — a concerned group of bloggers have been following the story in between sessions
of Half-Life 2.
The $77 million Harman Center for the Arts has patrons flocking downtown. Opening night
was billed as the social event of the season. It might have been. The evening had a wonderfully
upbeat energy ... and not because of the superfluous fireworks and costumed jugglers.The
positive vibes came from the pride supporters felt knowing that the Washington performing
arts scene had just taken a monumental leap forward. As Sydney Harman, whose $15 million
cornerstone gift helped launch the project, addressed the black-tie audience in the state-
of-the-art auditorium, I tried to put myself in his shoes. How much pride must he and Jane
Harman feel? I hope one day to make such a monumental contribution to the arts. Hats off
to both Harmans — their legacy will be forever linked with the suspended bridges and glass
facade of this cultural diamond (as in architect Jack Diamond.)
The good feelings were shared by Washington Ballet artistic director Septime
Weber, whose troupe stole the show opening night. So impressed with the modern
choreography set to classic Beatles songs, I later tried to coax Chelsea Clinton (who has an
impressively firm handshake, by the way) into attending the Jete Society's "Beer and Ballet"
viewing of Where the Wild Things Are. She thought I was joking. I wasn't. The next one is
in January. You have to go. What could be better than beer and ballet in January ... besides beer
and a playoff game at FedEx field?
One last note: Paul Wharton — the next time we have drinks at Fly Lounge, please don't
chastise us for never putting you on the cover, oh, and ... I prefer Veuve Clicquot.