- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

The annual dinner dance that takes place during the high-end Washington Antiques Show was known (seemingly forever) as the Young Collectors Ball. That it got redubbed the "Dutch Renaissance Ball" this year didn't change the most important thing about the inevitably sold-out affair: It's always more about having fun than being fancy.

Organizers didn't want the "young" in the title to scare off the thirtysomething-plus set at the Omni Shoreham Hotel Saturday night. "Some people were confused," co-chairwoman Gari Lister said. "They thought it meant 20- to 25-year-olds," when actually "there's a good mix of single and married people" of different ages.

Some of the more mature ball-goers included Karen Paul and her husband, Michael, who have been coming to the show for 20 years. "We're actual collectors," Mrs. Paul said.

Unlike the Pauls, the majority of the 340 guests looked as if they might be more comfortable shopping at Pottery Barn than at major antique emporiums. There was far more discussion about the silent auction which featured a ski trip to Crested Butte, Colo.; three sessions with a personal trainer; and an ivory satin wedding gown than about Staffordshire teapots or Chinese export porcelain.

Among the other objets, a remote-controlled Tyrannosaurus-rex toy worth $35 definitely in the lowly "collectibles" category seemed to attract the most attention.

Tickets were only $100 for a night of dining, drinking and dancing in black-tie that benefited Thrift Shop Charities, the 70-year-old secondhand store in Georgetown that funds programs at Children's Hospital, the Ladies Board of the House of Mercy and St. John's Community Services.

The ball's patron, Dutch Ambassador Joris Vos, was the reason behind the party's Dutch theme. Tables were draped in green velvet and labeled with names such as "van Gogh," "The Hague" or "de Kooning."

Mr. Vos was not on the guest list not that the partying crowd seemed to notice, because the cause was the reason most were there. "We were going to hire three couples to dress up in period costumes," co-chairwoman Kim Summerfield said, "but it's more important for the funds to go to the charities."

The popular, not-so-silent auction brought in about $18,000, almost twice as much as last year. Everything sold except the wedding dress (understandable, said Ms. Lister. "What if you buy it and it looks terrible when you try it on?").

There also were bargains, of a sort: a $6,500 mink coat went for $2,500, the minimum bid, at the very last minute.

Sen. Fred Thompson, was spotted along with Jonathan Ledecky, co-owner of the Washington Capitals and a man-about-town-with-many-blondes. Mr. Ledecky, looking slightly tanned and relaxed after a recent vacation in St. Barts "with Puffy Combs and Martha Stewart" came as the guest of last year's ball coordinator, Daisy Ridgway. He also was one of the many who didn't seem interested in acquiring anything, old or new.

"I already collect sports teams," he said with a grin.

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