- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Ask the typical Washingtonian socialite to choose between black-tie or "exotic" attire for a top-notch

event and the result is predictable enough. The ladies will make an effort at the unusual, choosing a splash of color, a bit of plumage or an extravagantly flowing robe or frock picked up during that fabulous trip to Marrakech or Mandalay a few years back. But the men? Forget it. Few will stray from the tried-and-true tuxedo, except for the rare, dashing type who might turn up with a raffishly splayed silk pocket square or daringly patterned socks.

Give him credit, for Greek Ambassador Alexandre Philon was wearing both as he greeted guests at the fund-raising dinner he and his wife, Helene, hosted for Athens´ Gennadius Library at their residence last Thursday night. His sportsmanlike aplomb was soon upstaged, however, by the arrival of William A. Nitze in a bright red pasha´s robe and matching turban (purchased for the occasion during a recent trip to Istanbul´s Grand Bazaar.)

The sight of an "Ottoman Turk," however ersatz, may have given Greek Embassy staffers a jolt, although Mrs. Philon couldn´t have been more pleased at the effort benefit chairwoman Ann Nitze´s husband made to enliven the scene. "I´m an Islamicist," the erudite Asian art Ph.D. said from the sidelines, laughing as Mr. Nitze countered inevitable ribbing from fellow guests.

There was a direct link between costume and cause, of course, which Mrs. Nitze was sure to explain before guests took their seats in the drawing room for a pre-dinner concert of Greek Sephardic music played by Hesperus on traditional instruments. The library, which houses books, archives and art documenting the post-antiquity Hellenic world, also includes many treasures from the eastern Mediterranean, including Turkey.

About $30,000 was raised at the dinner (mostly from "Americans who love Greece," library president Catherine Vanderpool reported).

Among the benefactors who paid either $550 or $1,000 per couple to attend, were Albert and Shirley Small (she in a colorful LaCroix), Sandra Payson, Plato Cacheris, Eric and Mary Weinmann, Marlene Malek, Dr. LaSalle and Ruth Leffall, Arthur Houghton, Richard Howland (who first visited the library in 1932) and Leo Daly, making the scene in a multi-colored striped coat that reminded John Mason of a rabbi´s robe.

Not even close. "It´s Indonesian," Mr. Daly replied, shortly before relegating the garment to the back of his dinner chair — where it remained for the rest of the night.


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