- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

The partying was very proper indeed at British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer's bash for the American Museum in Britain Thursday night.

It came as no surprise the event would be a radical departure from previous years, when Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms orchestra jollied up the scene with big band sounds and a bevy of feather-and-sequin-clad chorines leading guests in a conga line through the dimly lit ballroom.

This time, however, organizers decided it was time for a change, especially after an unfortunate incident at the 1998 affair when a 95-year-old Georgetown dowager tried to join in the fun following what was said to be a few too many post-dinner sherries. Hilarity quickly came to a halt when she crashed to the floor and had to be carried out by a team of paramedics.

"Some of the regulars wanted a quieter evening this time," said the event's co-chairman, interior designer John Peters Irelan, who, like most of the 130 guests (including Ruth Wheeler, Eric and Mary Weinmann, Lucky Roosevelt, Warren and Claire Cox and Robert Higdon) seemed rather pleased by an understated opportunity to chat with friends during cocktails and a formal, seated dinner with no musical entertainment save for a solo pianist tinkling Cole Porter tunes.

Not that the evening was lacking in cultural import.

"This year we're going downmarket with [a lecture by] J. Carter Brown," Ambassador Meyer joked after expressing his relief at not having to "blow bubbles" with female vocalist Chou-Chou onstage.

For his part, the emeritus director of the National Gallery of Art delivered the goods to the largely Anglophile audience during a pre-dinner talk featuring reminiscences about his own school days in England, parties in London during the "Swinging 60s" (where he was often one of the few guests preferring alcohol to other substances) and having to deal with some of "the most eccentric lenders on Earth" while organizing the gallery's massive "Treasure Houses of Britain" exhibition.

No speaker can lose with a personal Princess Diana anecdote, and Mr. Brown certainly did not disappoint with his humorous recollection of her arrival for that show, when he was compelled to chase down one of her enormous hats after a strong wind caused it to "develop its own aerodynamic lift."

Like the ambassador, Mr. Brown paid tribute to the "special relationship" between America and Britain. He also used the occasion to promote the controversial World War II veterans memorial he proposes to build on the Mall.

"It was America's finest hour and the veterans deserve a place in history," he said, adding that most of the objections were being "created by an out-of-work professor at American University with nothing else to do."

An excellent dinner of grilled sea bass, rack of lamb and passion fruit charlotte topped off the evening which raised approximately $30,000 to support American history and arts exhibits at the museum's headquarters at Claverton Manor, just outside Bath, England.

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