Let the Season Begin
That smart girl, Lynda Webster, again brought together a crowd of friends at the Chevy Chase Club just after Labor Day. Her annual "back-from-vacation" coffee gathering kicked offWashington's fall season and gave everyone a chance to compare summer travels while nibbling on pastries.
Gilan Tocco Corn's summer was probably the most dramatic, as her beloved cousin, Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, was released from a Tehran prison. Gilan and her sister, Goli, had spent their school days in Vienna with Haleh, who is now director of the Middle East Program at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. She is a strong advocate of a U.S.-Iran dialogue as a means to end the mutual hostilities.
After traveling to Iran to visit her aging mother, Haleh was denied an exit permit for four months, then was jailed on spurious espionage charges. Denied a lawyer or contact with the outside world, she was held for 105 days in notorious Evin Prison, where political prisoners have been tortured and have died. Thankfully, at the moment this is written, Haleh has returned to her Potomac home, and Gilan is en route there for a reunion.
Other Washingtonians spent happier summers, like the adventurous Connie Carter, who toured Yosemite on a Harley, and then flew to a wedding in historic Kelso (which Sir Walter Scott called the most romantic place in Scotland); Alexine Jackson was off in Jamaica; and Alma Gildenhorn and her husband Joseph (our former ambassador to Switzerland) spent time in Aspen, where Alma is a trustee of the Aspen Institute.
Donna Pflieger and husband Jack were all over the map, from Quogue, Long Island to Nantucket to Paris. Then, they accidentally found themselves watching two major summer fires. In Greece, where they rented a home (complete with infinity pool) on the Saronic Gulf, across from Poros, they and their guests watched the fires savaging the Peloponnese. And if that weren't enough, in Sun Valley, they stayed with friends in a home with views of the Idaho fires.
"Luckily, they had their own jet," said Donna, "so we could have gotten out quickly if the fires had been closer."
Those are the right kind of friends to have when disaster threatens.
Debbie Sigmund spent time in Nantucket, where she said the smashing party given jointly by Grace and Morty Bender and TV's Barbara Harrison and her developer husband John Pyles was a high point. Finally, the much-traveled Ina Ginsburg stayed home. She closed the door and took advantage of a quiet summer to get caught up with herself -fulfilling many a work-addled Washingtonian woman's dream - sorting out her paperwork and rearranging her closets for the busy season ahead.
Others glimpsed in the coffee-crowd were Cynthia Fehr, a few days before a wedding anniversary trip to Mexico, where she and hubby had honeymooned; Denise Alexander, up from Palm Beach; and Nini Ferguson, just back from a Colorado fishing trip with her son and daughter; Vicky Sant; Shaista Mamood; Anna Maria Via; Tandy Dickerson; Ellie Merrill; Ann Jenkel; and ambassadors' wives from several countries, including Shamim Jawad (Afghanistan); Lady Manning (United Kingdom); Laurel Colless (Finland); Svetlana Ushakova (The Russian Federation); Hannah Reiter (Poland); and Kathleen El-Maaroufi, the wife of the former ambassador of Morocco.
That dedicated international charity, Friends Without a Border, gave a memorable program of dinner and performances at the French Embassy's La Maison Francaise, to benefit Cambodia's Angkor Hospital for Children. "The Night of the Apsara," as the evening was called, celebrated the exquisite sculptured Apsara dancers portrayed on Cambodia's temples. While imposing Angkor Wat is the best known of the district, the massive "fourfaced" Bayon heads of Angkor Thom are renowned (and fun, if tricky, to climb around); yet it is at the little jewel of Banteay Srei that these dancing divinities come into their own. Accompanied by Khmer music throughout the evening, young Cambodian women, Apsara-clad, performed the classical dances. Photographer Kenro Izu began this charity only ten years ago, and already his labor of love has helped the children of Cambodia to a better future.
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