- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

If clothing choices worn by guests to the White House millennium dinner are any indication of trends to come, then more men will be wearing more colorful hats and more women will be in strapless dresses with shawls.
Fabrics were luscious. Jewels were eye-catching, especially when seen atop a generous bosom. Designer dresses garnered the most attention as usual.
In other words, extravagance may well be the theme of next century's fashions.
The economy booms on as mere mortals continue to ape celebrity attire.
Jack Nicholson arrived at the White House East Wing entrance dapper and smiling, as did Will Smith, the titular host for the late-night gala. Mr. Nicholson had on a black fedora above his signature bad-boy grin, Mr. Smith a porkpie.
Even better, Mr. Smith was wearing a sparkling coral-colored vest made to order for the occasion by Donatella Versace to match the knockout clinging chiffon number worn by his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The couple proudly paraded before the press as they hurried into the pre-dinner reception being held under a tent in the sculpture garden.
Next to draw gasps of surprise and admiration was the low-cut black Armani gown chosen by Sophia Loren to show off her diamond and ruby necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels. (Whether borrowed for the occasion or a gift from admirers, she didn't say.) Elizabeth Taylor showed up later in shimmering burgundy velvet with a feather shoulder wrap in a lighter shade, escorted by photographer Firooz Zahedi, nephew of former Iranian ambassador to the United States Ardeshir Zahedi, with whom Miss Taylor was linked romantically in the 1970s. President Clinton, no fool he, chose Miss Loren and Miss Taylor to be his tablemates at dinner along with Mr. Nicholson. (Hillary Rodham Clinton sat beside District Mayor Anthony Williams, with a national labor union official Dennis Rivera at the same table.) Conversation was "very strong," Mr. Nicolson reported later in typical wise-guy manner.
Perhaps mindful of unexpectedly benign weather conditions, singer Kathleen Battle and many other women had on equally colorful strapless taffeta or satin gowns under furs and stoles. Miss Battle's was a light pink, worn under an enveloping cape of quilted white satin. Actress Lara Flynn Boyle of TV's "The Practice," who was Mr. Nicholson's date, looked alarmingly thin in her strapless pink creation worn without cover. Mary Tyler Moore chose a jewel-encrusted baby blue gown with tiny sleeves. Lynda Johnson Robb was a standout as well in a red and black brocade smoking jacket that she said had once belonged to her father, the late Lyndon B. Johnson.
Singer Mary Wilson, entertainer for the early-morning post-gala White House party, hit all the right notes in her brilliant sweeping red satin gown and sequin-trimmed Coke bottle purse. She was both elegant and sassy at once.
It certainly wasn't an occasion to be modest or mercenary. Bring on the glad rags. Internet entrepreneur Vinton Cerf, senior vice president for Internet architecture and technology at MCI WorldCom, said he had looked forward to the evening if only because of the opportunity to wear the top hat given him along with an honorary doctorate from the University of Lurea in Sweden. "I've been waiting for more than a year," he said. "I'm celebrating the 21st century infrastructure. It is all going to immerse us in a sea of connectedness."
With 360 guests, to be joined later by some 500 others frolicking in two dining rooms and two outsized tents, closeness and connectedness were certainly the evening's themes. No wonder a former White House communications official Don Baer suggested jokingly that the best invention of the last century was "roll-on deodorant it made us all more social."
Ann GeracimosRevelers at the Kennedy Center danced the waltz, polka, bunny hop and other steps in the Grand Foyer beginning at 11 p.m. after attending shows or eating dinner in the pricey Rooftop Terrace Restaurant.
KenCen officials reported their performing houses were more than 90 percent full. The Washington Opera gave a sellout performance of "I Puritani" in the Eisenhower Theater; the new musical "Martin Guerre" drew not-quite-sell out crowds to the Opera House; Billy Taylor's Trio and "Friends" filled the Terrace Theater's 500 seats for a night of jazz; and Music Director Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra delighted the audience by having local journalists read verses they created for Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" in the Concert Hall. In the Theater Lab, the long-running whodunit comedy, "Shear Madness," played on.
New Year's Eve is the one time of the year when the women of the NSO get to wear colorful gowns. Also contributing to Concert Hall color were star-shaped balloons at the front. Mr. Slatkin, conducting for the first time on New Year's Eve since his arrival with the NSO, chose to perform with friends and family: His wife, soprano Linda Hohenfeld; and pianists Joseph Kalichstein and Jeffrey Siegel, who were his classmates at the Juilliard School in New York.
Jazz lovers jammed Mr. Taylor's concert he's KenCen's jazz artistic adviser to hear him play with his trio and singer Marlena Shaw, guitarist Russell Malone, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. National Public Radio broadcast the show live.
Kennedy Center's diverse crowd, clad in everything from tuxedos to sneakers, streamed to the Grand Foyer after the performances, with their party favors in hand (KenCen staff had stuffed 6,000 bags, which included tiaras with "2000" atop and small glass crystal boxes). In front of the Concert Hall, the Salon Orchestra of Washington which usually performs at the center with six to eight pieces but brought 16 played Viennese waltzes and other traditional music. At the other end of the foyer, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra held forth with big big music, alternating with the Salon Orchestra. Its leader, Bill Tole, who led the New Year's countdown, was a member of the original Dorsey orchestra.
The Grand Foyer was packed with dancers including families beneath the arches of silver and black balloons. Valerie Beard, 10, of Galesville, Md., danced with her dad, Jeffrey. "It's a great night," she said, noting that she and her family had listened to a jazz sextet on the Millennium Stage before attending the opera.
"It's a class way in Washington to do New Year's Eve," said Harold Burman of Bethesda, who first had attended "I Puritani" with his wife, Sally, and stepdaughter, Sharon Breggin, also of Bethesda. "This is our third year," he said.
A few of the revelers wandered out onto the terrace at midnight to watch the fireworks set off on the Mall. The crowd thinned considerably after ushering in 2000, but those who waited for another set of fireworks about 1 a.m. were dazzled by the display.
Sue BevingThose desperately in need of a megaparty to fulfill their New Year's Eve expectations got exactly what they were looking for at the New Year's Eve bash at the Grand Hyatt, where more than 3,500 guests gathered to drink, dance and celebrate the big moment at $199 a pop.
The mostly twenty- to thirty-something crowd was exuberant from the start, good-naturedly enduring the long lines at the ticket check-in and coat room before gaining access to the party on the hotel's main floor and three subterranean levels. Many had been keeping a close eye on their TV sets all day long and were "psyched" by the merriment and stunning visuals of parties in Sydney, Paris, London and other major capitals around the world.
They were ready to party, and party hard.
Fifty "top-shelf open bars" kept spirits high throughout the night as guests paraded from one floor to another, constantly whizzing past each other on the escalators in "creative black-tie" finery that included bangles, boas, sequins, day-glow tiaras and cleavage on the ladies, and collarless tuxedos, funny bow ties and athletic footwear (for the Woody Allen look) spotted on the men.
Then there was the real entertainment, a dizzying timetable of appearances by nationally known bands (Emmet Swimming, Marvellous 3, 2 Skinny J's) on radio station WHFS's stage in the Independence Ballroom, local groups echoing from a separate stage in the hotel's cavernous 12-story Atrium, and DJ sounds in the Constitution Ballroom.
And at midnight, what was billed as "the largest balloon drop in the D.C. area."
"It's very much what people want to do, and there were very few options," said Rachel Gautier of Lindy Productions, one of the event's promoters, who noted that a sudden upsurge in ticket sales took place in the 48 hours before the party. Cancellation of other large-scale events at the Reagan Building and MCI Center were partly responsible, she said, although others made last minute decisions to come after concerns about security problems and computer glitches faded away earlier that day.
"I wasn't going to count down New Year's Eve with Dick Clark on TV," said Kate Springer, 27, a public relations account executive at Porter, Novelli who found out about the Grand Hyatt party on the Internet after her plans to go the the MCI Center went bust on Wednesday night.
Like many of the other guests, Miss Springer chuckled at the thought of the "weenies" who played it safe by celebrating at home.
"They can sit in their arks with their bottled water and imperishable K-rations. I'm gonna have a good time tonight."
Kevin ChaffeeThe well-heeled Georgetowners and Euro-Latino-Arab types turning up at ever-trendy Cafe Milano got exactly what they wanted on New Year's Eve, as well: gourmet food, fine wines, attentive service and a plenty of pretty faces to liven things up until well after the clock struck 12 in Times Square and on the Washington Monument grounds.
Exquisite lobster medallions and a generous scoop of Beluga caviar was the perfect way to start celebrating the new year for this crowd, who paid $300 apiece for an additional four courses (bean soup with white Alba truffles, sauteed Kobe beef with foie gras and milk chocolate Bavarian in Mandarine sauce), along with a champagne toast and a performance by a Gypsy King-style band called Manolo & Lido.
There were horns, bells, whistles, party hats and lots of airborne streamers and glitter dust ready for the big moment, which guests observed from TV monitors over the bar. After the whoops and cheers faded, it turned into one long, steamy embrace, with prolonged lip lock on the dance floor as slicked-back young investment bankers swayed their Prada-clad dates to a strong salsa beat and the sound of glass breaking somewhere in the rear. Even the waiters got into the action, double-cheek kissing their favorite customers before they boogied back to the kitchen for more champagne.
The multilingual crowd bellowed the words to "Volare" and "Besame Mucho" and adjusted their hip movements to "Mambo Number Five" at two different speeds with relative if somewhat wobbly ease before a 2 a.m. "supper" appeared. Die-hards sipped Fernet Branca, the well-known Italian hangover "remedy" or waited until breakfast was served at 7.
For Terry Bell, one of the owners of Ilo, the Wisconsin Avenue NW hairdressing salon and spa, it was the perfect spot to spend New Year's Eve. "My house is only two blocks away," Mr. Bell said. "I know I can walk here, get drunk and still be able to make it home."
Kevin Chaffee

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