- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

“This is like a big Hollywood party,” exclaimed NBC’s Chris Matthews after the entertainment at the Kuwaiti embassy dinner Tuesday celebrating Marvin Hamlisch’s birthday.

Truth be told, it was actually more like a night on Broadway.

And the capital’s VIPs loved it.

What’s not to love: Hostess Rima Al-Sabah’s dinner of lobster and artichoke tower, veal piccata and a scrumptious creamy meringue dessert was a hit, and Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah’s witty speech, incorporating titles of the honoree’s songs (“Nobody Does It Better,” “Ordinary People,” “Sunset, Lollipops and Rainbows”) introduced the show. Plus, there was Roberta Flack singing the birthday song (she also told those seated at her table that she’d be doing three shows with Mr. Hamlisch Sept. 27-29 at the Kennedy Center).

Saying how much he and his wife treasured their friendship with Mr. Hamlisch “and his beautiful wife, Terre Blair,” Mr. Al-Sabah noted how hard it is to honor such a musical genius “because even if you think you’ve found a way to even the score, you find that Marvin is the one who wrote the score.”

Reminding the crowd that Mr. Hamlisch, a child prodigy, entered Julliard at age 7 and has won all four of the entertainment industry’s top awards — the Oscar, the Tony, the Emmy and the Grammy— Mr. Al-Sabah added that it’s not easy to impress a man who “has Barbra Streisand on speed dial?and can get away with putting her on hold.” (Later that night Mr. Hamlisch, who used to be Miss Streisand’s rehearsal pianist, said “For the record, I’ve never put Barbra Streisand on hold.”)

From Broadway, singers J. Mark McVey and Brian d’Arcy James sang medleys of the birthday boy’s greatest hits culled from his amazing body of work — eight Broadway musicals, 50 film scores and a Pulitzer Prize for “A Chorus Line” — and they also noted that he sang the lyrics to himself as they sang. The finale was a hilarious parody tweaking Mr. Hamlisch on his work ethic, success and home life, crediting “a certain someone with helping us out on some details” while his wife, the culprit, hid behind her hand.

Fashion note: Mrs. Hamlisch wore a Gianfranco Ferre she got in Milan, Evelyn Lauder in Naeem Khan, while Mrs. Al-Sabah (who is five months pregnant) looked smashing in a Jean-Paul Gaultier transformed into a maternity dress. Mr. Hamlisch referred to the expected Al-Sabah addition by saying “I’ve been trying to help them out with a name. I’m suggesting Marvin Al-Sabah, and if it’s a girl, Marvina.”

No one had more fun than the guest of honor, and when Michael Sonnenreich (who incidentally is planning a production with Mr. Hamlisch) asked him if he could give a reporter an intelligent quote, the reply was “impossible.”

The guest list was as gilded as the roses on the golden meringue dessert, with four Cabinet secretaries and their wives —Henry Paulson (Treasury), Carlos Gutierrez (Commerce) Alphonso Jackson (Housing and Urban Development) and Michael Certoff (Homeland Security) — plus Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and husband Paul, Karl Rove and his wife, Darby; Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito; D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his predecessor Anthony A. Williams; Chief of Protocol-designate Nancy Brinker, Rep. John Dingell (Michigan Democrat) and his wife, Debbie; Librarian of Congress James Billington, and Bill and Buffy Cafritz.

From New York came actress Julie Hagerty and her husband Richard Kagan. Others included Leila El-Merhabe, the ambassador’s mother (who manages to look more like a sister) and his cousin, Dr. Talal Nsouli, a Bethesda allergist.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Jim Kimsey, George Stephanopoulos and his wife, Allie Wentworth; and Tom and Ann Friedman were among the 110 guests who went home with a gold-framed color photo of the composer — in edible chocolate.

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