- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

Woe betook the perennial partygoers who didn’t have a personal digital calendar or personal-private-and-executive assistant to keep them organized this week.

How else could social swells have managed the dizzying round of galas, openings, benefits, literary dinners and other glam-o-ramas that had them racing about madly so as not to miss a single one?

The very merry go-round started Sunday with the National Symphony’s gala, boasting the highest-priced ticket for the most number of people ever — a record-breaking 1,000 guests paying a minimum $1,000 apiece. (How will they top that at the orchestra’s 75th anniversary next year?)

#”Jim Johnson said, ‘I’ve got it,” was how Roger Sant, who co-chaired the gala with his wife, Vicki, remembered the former Kennedy Center chairman announcing his idea for setting the $60,000 price for top tables. The magic number, of course, referred to maestro Leonard Slatkin’s 60th birthday celebration, a three-step fling (cocktails, concert and dinner dance) that began at 5 and ended six hours later.

The birthday boy’s reaction? “I have some really nice friends,” was Mr. Slatkin’s remark after an all-star performance by Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman and Sir James Galway (among many others) that ended with pal Marvin Hamlisch’s wildly inventive classical take on “Happy Birthday” in the manner of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.

The event also was a debut opportunity for newly installed KenCen Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman to press the flesh and hype the center’s wares by boasting that the evening had “more genius, more artistry, more talent than anywhere in the world tonight.”

Mr. Schwarzman said he expects to be in town every two weeks at least, using his own helicopter to commute from New York. Fortunately, he doesn’t need more than a few hours’ sleep a night.

The occasion was something of an insiders’ gathering. Supreme Court justices mixed with senators, Bush administration heavyweights, corporate titans and on-air personalities, including Fox-TV’s Chris Wallace (who celebrated his new book, “Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage,” at Ted Leonsis’ McLean home the next night).

About 800 philanthropic friends answered the call to preview the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian Monday as well, taking advantage of an early opportunity to tour the grand limestone edifice and enjoy an evening of American Indian performances and cuisine.

Alma Powell organized the event with Dorothy McSweeny, Sharon Blackwell and Jan Smith Donaldson.

Guests sporting American Indian dress or accessories drew admiring glances from those in standard “business attire,” especially Marlene Malek (wearing a fantastic turquoise necklace designed by her daughter, Michelle du Pont), Toni Gore (in an Eskimo parka from her home state of Alaska) and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, whose jewelry designs are known and admired throughout the world.

“What used to be my full-time living became my therapy after I went into politics,” Colorado’s senior solon said as he showed off a silver, coral, lapis and mother of pearl bolo clasp not too far from a 40-year retrospective of his work on temporary display.

Douglas E. Evelyn, the museum’s deputy director, made special note of the 3,000 visitors who toured the building during its all-night open house Sept. 22 and the hundreds of thousands who witnessed a native folk festival that took place last week on the Mall. He wasn’t shy, either, in saying that the building, which he tagged “our hemisphere museum,” has been paid for “on budget,” all $35 million of it.

No less earnest and insightful was the gala celebration of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction taking place concurrently a few blocks north in the Folger Shakespeare Library. About 180 guests paid $400 for the feast of words — the food came later — with Roger Mudd introducing 13 “writers of excellence” in the library’s Elizabethan Theatre. The theme was “Beginnings,” giving each writer an opportunity to speak about his or her introduction to the profession, in a mere 450 words.

Among the more notable reflections, sober-voiced Colin Harrison# said writers are “drawn to revelations.” Jim Lehrer# spoke of becoming a sportswriter when he realized he couldn’t play professional baseball. Joyce Carol Oates# called her beginning “modest, even pre-literate” because she began in childhood by “obsessively” drawing cats and chickens. Ann Patchett# paid homage to mentor Grace Paley, who couldn’t attend because of illness.

“They were on time,” a pleased Mr. Mudd noted just before hungry guests, including Sens. Patrick J. Leahy and Thad Cochran, National Endowment for the Humanities chief Bruce Cole, Liz Stevens, Willee and Finlay Lewis, Robert Bennett and Hodding Carter#, headed off to dinner in the Great Hall.

Leonore Annenberg, Jo Carole Lauder, Alyne Massey and Kay Allaire were among the well-heeled ladies of substance and style who jetted in for Friends of Art and Preservation’s festivities Tuesday, including a luncheon at the National Gallery, cocktails at the residence of German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger and dinner hosted by Colin and Alma Powell in the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

Buoyed by meetings with 70 delegations in four days during the U.N. General Assembly in New York (including the first official talks with a Libyan foreign minister since 1979), Mr. Powell complimented Friends of Art and Preservation’s 18-year effort to showcase American art in the hundreds of U.S. embassies, missions and diplomatic residences abroad.

Sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly and Louise Bourgeois, he proudly noted, were commissioned recently for the new embassy to be constructed in Beijing. Large-scale works by Sol LeWitt are promised for the massive embassy that soon will rise next to the Brandenburg Gate “in the heart of Berlin, the heart of Germany.”

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